Not long after the press reported publication of a damning study about experts in the family courts the focus zoomed in onto a closer range target: Dr George Hibbert. Dr Hibbert and his porsches have been plastered all over the internet and in newspapers – the Daily Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. I have no idea of what truth is in the allegations that are replicated in each of the three strikingly similar articles I have seen, but I do know one thing – there is precious little evidence disclosed in those reports. What it boils down to is this: Dr Hibbert has two porsches and a nice house. He has made a lot of money from his work. One person has alleged that he fabricated a diagnosis in order to produce a result favourable to an LA. Proceedings are due to be issued, but have not yet been issued in relation to this. A complaint has been made but has not yet been determined. John Hemming MP has told the press that he has been told by “three or four” other families (out of several hundred) that similar things happened to them.
Most of the families who are assessed by an expert in the course of proceedings and who find themselves faced with a negative report have a grievance with that expert. This sadly is the case even where the negative report is based on good evidence and a rigorous, independent and professional assessment. That a person with a known agenda for reform of the family justice system and an entrenched view that the system is corrupt has been sought out and told by such parents of their grievance in numbers as low as “three or four” does not take us very far in establishing whether or not there is a legitimate issue here.
I would like very much to know whether or not the sort of corruption that is being described in these hysterical pieces of journalism is in real, because it is really serious and really concerning. I think it is so serious and so concerning that it warranted really serious journalism, not pictures of porsches on gravel drives, throwaway remarks about “millionaires” and sloppy writing that might lead some readers to think that the allegations were far more numerous than in fact is the case.
The clamour about the poor quality of expert evidence is such that it would be easy not to notice the paucity of evidence produced by those who report it. Mr Hemming is a public official and should know better. He should let the proper complaints processes and investigations run their course rather than engaging in this rather unseemly process of feeding the press with unsubstantiated allegations that seem likely to have ruined the reputation of this expert and quite possibly put him and his family at risk regardless of whether or not they turn out to be true. There may well be good solid evidence to back up these claims – if so it should be reported when publicly available.
I don’t know anything of about George Hibbert or his wife, other than that he is an expert who seems not to be used much around these parts since I arrived in 2008 (and an article I wrote that referred to him in 2008) – I have no interest in whether or not the allegations are true other than the obvious public importance. If he is guilty of these awful allegations then Hibbert deserves to be left with a career in tatters and much public criticism. But if he is not? Then I suppose the press and Mr Hemming will just shrug and act like they weren’t instrumental in this witch hunt.