So. In a fight between a Father’s Rights Campaigner of your choosing* and Christopher Booker – who would win?
It’s not entirely hypothetical, although it is (I hope) metaphorical (let’s face it, if it were real fisticuffs the you’d get better odds on the superhero). But, in this metaphorical fight the Father’s Rights Campaigner would not be possessed of super powers. That would be entertaining, but would give an unfair advantage. However, they are allowed to wear tights and a cape if they so wished. Empowering from the inside, undermining from the outside.
I’m only asking (which is better? etc) because although the respective stances of the Father’s rights corner and the anti-forced adoption corner are, on any sort of inspection, mutually incompatible, they tend on a day to day basis to travel in parallel, never directly confronting one another. And in the impossible middle is the judge. Wrong in all directions.
It goes like this (muster up your WWF imagery here to make the most of this guys):
In the purple corner, Super Dad! (I’m picturing Big Daddy here) Fighting for justice for underdog dads, who are routinely discriminated against by pro-mother traditional family judges, and against alienating false-allegation-making mothers.
In the blue corner, the Curtain Ripper! (I’m getting Nic O’Teen) Fighting for justice and transparency and advocating for mothers who are victims of the evil childsnatching family destroying family courts. Advising women not to report domestic or suspected child abuse in case they are accused of alienating or being non-protective.
You get the popcorn. I’ll plump the cushions.
It’s unusual for Booker to stray into private law territory, to comment on a dispute between parents and involving no evil state agents (apart from the judge, natch). But in covering the case of RS v SS  EWHC B33 (Fam) he’s done just that. But he’s given it the usual Booker treatment so if you read it in the usual breathless way I imagine many of his fans do, you might not notice the absence of the “SS”.
So, whilst you have one corner of the press / social media crowing about how this case is a triumph for fathers, victims of malign alienating mothers (with a few mavericks pointing out it is probably too little too late), across the ring you have Booker and co shrieking about the awful snatching of a child from his mother on Xmas day morning, and all for a spot of overindulgence on the xbox. And in a mark of its true crossover potential as a piece of family court newsworthiness adoption and care guru Martin Narey has popped up to chuck in a few pence worth about a topic not quite his usual “bag”.
I commented on it last week here, and I observed that “It is quite possible that the transfer of residence will fail, or at any rate will not run smoothly“. Sadly I was right, because the transcript of RS v SS has now been updated to reflect that it has indeed not run at all smoothly. And if Booker is right it has all gone very badly. However, the case is on appeal now (according to Booker) so it would be sensible to await the outcome of that appeal before commenting further upon the substance of the case. That is not what this blog post is about, and I’m not in this tongue in cheek post making light of the family’s situation.
Of course, it is axiomatic that every case that Booker is involved in is a case of hideous injustice. I suppose if it weren’t he wouldn’t be interested. Such is the self-selecting bias of the journalist, and a fortiori of the campaigning journalist. But it is interesting isn’t it, that even in this private law dispute the paradigmatic wronged mother who has her child wrenched from her, and the child-snatching family severing judge are still central motifs. This very case which, for fathers’ rights campaigners is said to break the mould of extreme reluctance to remove children from mothers who, in the eyes of the court can do no wrong.
In an earlier article, Booker said this of the case in question :
“Why is it that, in so many cases I have followed in recent years where complaints of abuse are made against a father, judges seem so keen to remove children from the mother who has brought them up, to hand them over to the care of the father? This has become such a common pattern that, if only the new head of the Family Division, Lord Justice Munby, can succeed in his admirable campaign to expose the workings of our family courts to “the glare of publicity”, it may come to be recognised as one of the more disturbing features of how this system seems too often to have gone off the rails.“
which, although it has always been apparent to those who pay attention to the themes of argument employed by the various camps, brings the argument between these two camps into stark view in a way I’ve not seen articulated this clearly before.
They can’t both be right, can they?
And if the appeal goes the other way will the purple corner be lamenting it as more proof of how the institutional bias towards mothers is still dominant, whilst Booker parades it as a victory over interfering judges, always poised to sever the unique mother-child bond at the mere hint of harm?
As ever, the facts and the nuances always seem to get lost in the mele. Calm down boys and read the judgment over a nice cup of tea.
*I’ve lost track of which of them are currently not engaging with the press, or are distracted arguing with whoever is seen to be a splitter this week. And they get all mardy with me if I refer to them by name, so you can choose your own.