Experts, the press and a sloppy approach to evidence based reporting

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.

19 thoughts on “Experts, the press and a sloppy approach to evidence based reporting

  1. How dare you the media saw the reports , channel 4 are doing a programme about it . Another psychiatrist who was my consultant at the time told me it was a matter for the gmc who have taken 3 years to investigate . I am the person the story is about and you should know the press cannot go into huge detail when their is a gagging order in place.

    • I am not suggesting that the complaints are baseless – I simply do not know. And if the GMC have taken so long to investigate something so serious that in itself is a matter of serious concern. However, what I am saying is that the press coverage has not been very illuminating. If they cannot report it properly they should forbear until there is something that they can properly report.

  2. What I find striking about your rant here is the obvious bias you show. I think you left out a few facts. But there is an obvious bias frequently found in Family Law Blogs.

    Hibbert immediately tried to resign to prevent a GMC investigation. Wouldn’t an innocent man vigorously defend himself?

    You have no mention of the Channel 4 report into these “Experts”, 90% of whom are unqualified according to Dr. Ireland’s review of these “Experts”. Or the Book “Whores of Court” which makes an interesting read.

    I wont be happy with just a GMC review of Hibbert, I want to see a Police investigation into all of these “Whores of Court”, isn’t perjury and swearing false evidence a crime?

    Why are you not concerned about the criminal aspects? I want to see Meadows and Southall being investigated also, chances are the GMC will reinstate Hibbert as they did this pair.

    As the mask is slipping on this system, the public are becoming concerned, and rightly so. Hemming isn’t even stratching the surface of how bad this system has become. Why is it that the vast majority of parents who have lost their children to Forced Adoption, have never been charged with a crime?

    Why did the numbers of white and healthy infants being taken for adoption skyrocket when Tony Blair started paying bonuses to LA’s?

    Why do UK subjects flee to other countries and when investigated there, the authorities have no issue with them?

    Why don’t the Government want to admit that 1 in 4 of these Forced Adoptions breaks-down? the child is then handed back to the system.

    Or that if a parent was in “Care” of the State, that they are 66 TIMES more likely to have their children removed and placed in “Care”.

    Even Martin Narey admitted to the BBC that there are 30 to 60 gross miscarriages of justice a year as children are wrongly adopted. He was trying to counter Hemming’s contention that there are 1000 wrongful adoptions a year and said “no, it’s only 1 or 2%)

    It will all come-out-in-the-wash soon, the children who have been harmed will expose this wicked system for what it really is, an industry for the best interests of the people who drive Porches paid for by the misery of others.

    You can of course choose to censor my comments but I will publish them elsewhere.

    • Joe Burns, I did mention the Ireland report and am planning to write a blog post on it. But I was not writing about the systemic problems that are alleged, rather about the reporting of one individual case and the quality of that reporting. You ask for criminal prosecutions – how do you think this kind of reporting would affect the ability of the CPS to prosecute? If there were to be any prosecution it raises the spectre of the defence arguing that the right to a fair trial has been prejudiced. Remember the poor bloke accused of the Joanna Yeates murders and the prosecutions of the press for contempt of court?

  3. I love the comment “the three strikingly similar articles I have seen” isn’t that what the “experts” do all the time, piggy back views from each other’s reports? I’ve read enough of these reports and challenged them in court.

    Big trees from little acorns grow. Unless this terrible behaviour of an “expert” is reported and dealt with, then what hope is there for families who do have rogue “experts”. There needs to be hope for these families, this provides that hope.

  4. Familyloo, while I find your point of view very interesting like I do with all your posts, this one I find very bias, I have had personal dealings with a lady whom was suppose to have been an “Independent” Social Worker by the name of [edited], I can put her name as it is pretty much common knowledge now and she has not threatened any kind of legal action so I am free to tell all and sunder,

    She was the woman along with [edited], and yet the interesting thing here is that she was never registered with the relevant authorities, still is not in some cases about what she still attempts to put herself forward as, which I am not putting it here but she did not register with the GSCC (ever to use the wording of the email I have when I checked with them) until 23rd August 2010 which my eldest son’s case was 2008/2009 and he was adopted near xmas 2010,

    I am at this moment in time in talks with the ex lawyers about it but if they don’t actually sort out the mess that they created then I shall be making it Media knowledge and sending it viral because it is no longer in the Courts and they employed the Bint without checking her out in the first place, which cost me my son and any children in the future, for what the maybe £25,000 she was paid for the assessments and Court appearances that she did, how can you put a price on a child.

    Anyway logically here is another one, so really you should research before you put something like this bias stuff that you have, I usually agree to a degree with you and actually appreciate you as a barrister but in this case nope because you have not research and have only put a “Professional View” instead of your usual way of been impartial 🙂

    Colby

    • Thanks Colby – I’ve edited your comment slightly for legal reasons. I hope that my post was not biased – I haven’t expressed a view about whether or not the allegations are true, although I have been clear that if they are true they are very serious. What I have questioned is how helpful the reporting style is.

  5. Northern Lights

    After Hemmings’ support for the wretched Vicky Haigh, I’m sceptical about anything he touches.
    Lucy, first you upset the angry dads brigade; now it’s the forced adoption conspiracy theorists.
    Have you taken to wearing a flame-retardant suit?

  6. Familoo, A young Solicitor by the name of Sally Clarke who tragicly lost two infants to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was persecuted by two of these “Experts” Meadows & Southall. Sally never received any justice.

    I pray that you or your family never fall afoul of this evil system.

    The facts of the case are Top Secret, the Media have not and cannot report anything predujicial and his trial (if he is ever brought to justice) will likely be the subject of a media blackout.

    Most of the people affected by his decisions have suffered immensely. Your argument that only people who feel agreived by his decisions will complain, needs to be balanced by the fact that he was paid enormous sums of money to produce reports favorable to the people who paid him. And the fact that the subjects of his reports didn’t have the opportunity to oppose his reports or get a second opinion.

    I have been in contact with many people who have been assessed by many “Experts” until the LA’s can find ONE negative report to use in Court. This at least proves that there are some honest “Experts” but the “Whores” are destroying a lot of lives and apparently getting away with it up until now.

    If what Dr.Ireland says is true, then surely this is reason enough for a major enquiry into the practice. I would have thought that Meadows testimony in over 5,000 cases would have been cause enough but apparrently not. Meadows never even met any of the people he testified against, 99.9% of whom were women.

    As long as these “Whores” are allowed to present findings in Family Court with testimony that wouldn’t be allowed under the scrutiny of a Criminal Proceedings, then the injustices will continue.

    I predict that Hibbert will be struck off by the GMC and then re-instated on appeal, history repeats itself.

    • Joe Burns,
      This is not about Meadows & Southall or Sally Clarke, its about a completely different person.
      The subjects of his reports will have had the opportunity to challenge them in court and to have their lawyer cross examine him. Indeed only today I was talking to a colleague who did just that for a client.
      I agree that if what Dr Ireland says is true there should be a thorough investigation of whether there is something systemic going wrong, but I think that what Dr Ireland is flagging in her report – poor quality reports – is something qualitatively different from this case which is said to be an example of corruption and dishonesty.
      Your use of the word whores as a general descriptor for all experts is unnecessarily offensive so I will delete any future comment that uses such terminology.

  7. Hi Familyloo, I expected you to edit names out so I put it on my website and blog and Facebook anyway so it is out 🙂

    Back to this, to be honest I have been fighting now for 4 years as well as doing an LLB Law Degree through the OU 🙂 and holding down a job, the system we have in place is suppose to be in a child’s best interest which is actually rather ironically a Mojo Word that Adolf Hitler created when he was wanted to removed children that were not blonde haired and blue eyed, check it if you do not believe me, but to point this system we have in place is failing in so many way, it is made to break parents so that they in a lot of cases end up with mental illnesses or kill themselves, and the children it removes them and then they are lied to by the adoptive placements saying a mix of things inclusive but not exclusive of “Your Parents did not want you” “They abused you” “Your parents are dead” I have seen many pieces of paperwork written by they so called Professionals in my 4 years not just of mine but others (is that Contempt??- on well sh** happens, if they did not lie and did not be so bias then I would not be researching nor would others) as well,

    While we are only a small number that dare to speak out against the system because of the illegal kidnapping of our children there are more coming out everyday, what will Sir Wall do or the other money making creeps called Judges, slam us all in a prison cell, I cant see it to be honest, besides I know that if anyone of the ones I know of personally then like myself they would make sure all the information is made viral and also that the media would know, fact is now us parents cant be beaten, we have had enough of the abuse that is the Social Services, Family Courts that rubber stamp any kind of rubbish that the SW want to put down and we are sick of the Psychologists that will give you a title of a Personality Disorder because you have the testicular Fortitude to stand up to the SS and their minions, and we are sick of local Lawyers that are always on the side of the LA while pretending to be working in your child’s and your best interests ..

    It is about time that all Lawyers were nothing to do with Local Authorities which at the moment there is a MASSIVE Conflicts of interest because of this very fact, and if a SW is wanting to be one then they need to have some life experience and a parent, not some NLP’d drone uni leaver that will write any cock and bull into their reports to get further up the career ladder, they need to realise that one day it could happen to them so they should not do it to anyone unless there is “Proof” not “Risk Of” something happening because kids do not ask to be removed from their parents, a parent is for life not for as long as the Government believe it is OK for you to be, if you have no past that is abusing a child (or not that is just mere here-say) then you should have your child at home, I mean these so called professionals don’t know what it feels like to look forward to your child been born then while your partner is delivering the placenta the SS take your child! how the hell would they like it, in fact I may do what these cranks have done and make up some qualifications and then analyse all of them and either have their kids removed or get them locked up or given a Personality Disorder just because they argue with me (which any caring parent in their right mind would argue) and also so I can make the same money as them, I mean look at him above, 2 Porches and a farm all to him and his Lawyer wife, wow , were we are left to struggle!

    Thanks

    Colby.

  8. Seeing as there is not a lot in the public domain at the moment that is substantive about these allegations, I will confine my comment to admiration of your patience, familoo.

  9. Discombobulated

    I am unimpressed and unwhelmed by the GMC as an organisation and a regulator.

    I am not at all surprised it’s taking a long time.

  10. i think your report is biased as you well know as a barrister you and your colleagues will lose work like i said before i have irrefutable evidence my solicitors firm after 30 yrs of trading has gone into administration and another hired gun involved in my case is now under investigation

  11. By your own admission,you do not know either way if these allegations are true or not so your way out of your depth making any comment on this.for some of us,an article like this in the media was a little glimmer of hope though,a comfort.even without publishing too much information,it served a purpose for those who were Ill treated by dr hibbert and the LA.family courts treat you like nothing,you speak but no one listens,your powerless and have to sit and watch with no control.this article shows that someone listens,that the fight isn’t over,and there’s much more to what you knew all along.the article didn’t need to be overly informative,well written,it didn’t even need punctuation in the right place because those who have lost children because of dr hibbert only apreciatate the fact that now he is being dealt with.clearly you have no idea of the real scale of this matter and just how many families are effected by just him,without even looking at any other so called expert.clearly you have just no idea to even write this,and clearly you should have engaged your brain,as something material like a Porsche may not seem relevant to you,but to people who do know more than you,also know that those porsches,and that nice house,were purchased with an equivalent to blood money,from that evil evil man taking things from others that money can’t buy.I wish you all the luck miss a,and I commend you on your strength to come this far

  12. […] It’s been a few weeks since the Ireland report regarding expert evidence in family proceedings was published. Apologies for not getting to it before. It coincided of course with a rash of articles about George Hibbert, one such expert who is the subject of outstanding complaints and disciplinary proceedings. I wrote about the George Hibbert coverage here. […]

  13. The inability of commentators to engage with the actual subject of Lucy’s posts is strking.

    Her post is on a very limited subject – the poor quality of reporting of allegations concerning a single individual. What she says seems entirely innocuous to me. Yet it still manages to produce outraged responses.

    I’m so glad I don’t practice in family law. Commercial is so much easier.

  14. […] Other relevant reading on this blog: Experts Upon Experts, and Experts, the Press and a Sloppy Approach to Evidence Based Reporting. […]

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