I came across a chap called David Gale recently when he posted a comment on my blog, and in one of my more idle moments I clicked through to find out about who he was. David Gale it seems, is a UKIP activist, an unsuccessful candidate for Police Commissioner, and the man behind a campaign called "Kids for Cash Court Scandal" - and it's this campaign which interested me (I don't usually spend much time trawling UKIP websites).
I'll just give you a flavour of the article in which this campaign was launched, as a plank it seems of the unsuccessful bid to become Police Commissioner for Derbyshire (a plank not entirely consistent, I note in passing. with his promises to focus police resources on anti-social behaviour and gang related crime):
"Judges and lawyers will go to jail if a new Police Commissioner has his way.
David Gale, UKIP’s candidate to become Derbyshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner, is setting out his stall to tackle what he says is corruption and criminality within the family justice system. Accusing judges and lawyers of routine involvement in perverting the course of justice, Gale says that where parents are encouraged to fabricate allegations and the court turns a blind-eye, there must be a formal criminal investigation."
Alright. Let's take this piece by piece shall we? Are you sitting comfortably?
This is not the usual stuff about women making up allegations of domestic violence in order to shut out their ex partners from the lives of their sons and daughters. No, this is something beyond that mundane plea (and of course sometimes such pleas are correct, whilst other times they are the desperate denial of a guilty conscience). No. This is a suggestion - nay, a campaign built upon a suggestion that: the judges and the lawyers know this, ignore it, encourage it. In ways that amount to criminal offences by conspiracy. These are not general allegations that we all know something is rotten, the system doesn't work, doesn't get to the bottom of it. No. These are allegations that individual judges know about individual fabrications and do nothing (or presumably make findings they do not believe to be true), and that individual lawyers know that individual clients are lieing (know, rather than just suspect), and that individual lawyers directly tell their clients to lie.
Well these are pretty serious allegations, so where is the evidence?
"Gale said, “I’ve received detailed accounts from professionals and parents both in Derby and further afield that large parts of the family justice system are being run like an organised crime racket. There is an epidemic of mothers being advised by their lawyers that if they make false statements against partners attesting to domestic violence they will be fast-tracked to legal aid, will be able to testify unopposed to gain a Non-Molestation Order, and will not be held to account even if their perjury is uncovered. Women are being advised of this legal mechanism as a means of severing the relationship between a father and his children.”"
Ah ha. Some parents have told you that something is rotten. That their exes have made up the allegations, the judge won't listen to them and its all very unfair? Rock solid evidence that. All at the wrong end of such fabricated allegations were they?
But professionals? Who are these professionals? Are they telling you about their own clients and thereby breaching legal professional privilege and exposing themselves to all sorts of nasties? Doubtful. Or are they giving your their cynical view about what the other lawyers say, in privileged conversations they know nothing of? Are these professionals whistleblowing or talking big over a whisky? Are the "professionals" even lawyers?
Of course I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But that is rather the point. It's a bit thin. And a bit broad. And in a system where there are approximately 30,000 children who are the subject of private law disputes alone (England & Wales, Jul-Sep 2012) there are bound to be a few examples of things gone wrong. But these allegations are that this is systemic and widespread not a few bad apples. Epidemic to be precise.
Let's look at this epidemic. If we take out the word "false" it reads like this: "there is an epidemic of mothers being advised by their lawyers that if they make
false statements against partners attesting to domestic violence they will be fast-tracked to legal aid, will be able to testify unopposed to gain a [non-mol]". And your point is? It is factually correct to advise that a woman (or man) who makes allegations of domestic abuse will probably be eligible for legal aid, their solicitor will be able to devolve powers to grant legal aid in an emergency and may be able to obtain an ex parte injunction. Because that is how the system must operate in order to protect genuine victims of domestic violence in the short term until there can be a proper hearing where the accused can put his side. In the longer term the allegations will either be upheld - if the evidence of the alleged victim was more compelling than that of the alleged perpetrator - or not: if the evidence did not stack up. Allegations that are totally fabricated have a nasty habit of unravelling when tested. That's why we have things called trials. And things called lawyers to pick at the loose ends and pull. Well, we did have lawyers picking at the loose ends but that's another blog post.
Gale also suggests that the makers of false allegations are told they won't be held to account when found out. Well, if you mean they may have been advised that the enforcement powers of the court are difficult to make effective and they are unlikely to be sent to Holloway for a short spell, quite possibly - although in extremis such consequences have flowed from malicious allegations (See Vicky Haigh case) and if they have had good advice it will have included the risk of a transfer of residence or of a teenaged or adult child rejecting them if they have been prevented from knowing the truth or from having a relationship with their other parent. They will also be routinely advised that if they pursue allegations and fail to prove them they run the risk of losing the protection of their injunction and will have to face the fact that their bid to prevent the kids from seeing their father has failed. They will be advised if their evidence is thin or inconsistent, and if they are likely to fail to prove their allegations. Many a case has been compromised following such perfectly proper advice about risks and possible outcomes and consequences.
Of course all this talk of false allegations is part of a mindset that conceives of the narratives of family life as being either truth or lies. I am aware of cases which are referred to the authorities for a decision on prosecution following findings that a witness has lied - so there are consequences in some cases - but the truth is that many (most) cases are not black and white - the court may be able to make findings on the balance of probabilities but the criminal standard is far higher, and many will be the case where the evidential threshold for a prosecution would simply not be met. And of course it is one thing to say an allegation is not proved, and quite another to say it was fabricated. People's experience of the same relationship is often profoundly different to that of their ex. Many is the time that a family lawyer or judge watches evidence where the parties give accounts of their relationship which cannot both be correct - and yet they appear to be saying it how they saw it. Memory is a funny thing.
The article goes on:
“Judges are routinely turning a blind-eye to uncorroborated, fabricated witness statements made by women seeking to abuse the legal process. The family law industry’s lawyers are milking this for all it’s worth, with judges in some cases allocating completely unnecessary court hearings that ramp up costs, acting like brokers in an insidiously corrupt scam that defrauds the public purse.”
I think that this sweeping remark is probably a poor description of the system of the granting of ex parte injunctions - which has its basis in statute rather than judicial whim, and where in order to be article 6 compliant a return date hearing is always listed. I wonder rhetorically what Mr Gale thinks of the "Go orders" recently piloted in several Local Authorities. Are they also unnecessary? And why is this cabal of mainly male judges colluding in active discrimination against their own kind?
"Gale continued, “I will make it clear that the current response from police when presented with evidence of perjury ‘that it is a court matter’ will not wash. If evidence of a criminal offence committed within civil proceedings is presented to Derbyshire Constabulary officers, they will investigate it thoroughly. Those guilty of perjury should expect to go to jail, along with lawyers or judges who have participated in perverting the course of justice. It’s been eighteen months since Christopher Booker exposed the reality of the family justice system, citing it as “callous, corrupt and staggeringly expensive”. I see no evidence to suggest that the problems are isolated to just Children’s Services.”"
One suspects that any investigation would be rather compromised by the small inconvenience of legal privilege. As might the welfare of any children unfortunate enough to find their parent in clink. And possibly Mr Gale's aspiration to focus police resource on street crime and anti social behaviour might itself be rather compromised by the amount of energy that would need to be spent on such matters which are routinely complained of but less often provable to the criminal standard (google Vicky Pryce for an example).
Note that the further evidence cited is the opinion of a journalist. And note the presumption of guilt applied to professionals working within the system. Like a breath of fresh air this not-police commissioner, isn't he?
I'm particularly fond of this passage:
“Increasingly, we’re seeing adolescent boys being left fatherless with positive male role-models being replaced in some cases by gang culture. There is a significant on-going cost to the public purse that continues long after unscrupulous legal professionals have dipped their snouts into the legal aid trough.”
And thus the evidential link between fat cat lawyers and hoodie culture is made. WE ladies and gentlemen of the legal profession have BROKEN BRITAIN. And in fact, the whole campaign against "the system" is an indirect way of tackling street crime.
The article ends with an olive branch...
“It isn’t the politically correct thing to do to identify women as potentially being the instigators of an abuse of domestic violence legislation but telling it like it is is not about being part of a popularity contest. I will have an amnesty for those women who come forward to testify on their lawyers’ illegal advice but I have a duty to the people of Derbyshire to root out this institutionalised corruption once and for all.”
And, does a police commissioner even have power to direct the police to investigate some cases and not others, to grant "amnesties" or to direct the CPS to prosecute some cases and not others? I don't know, but I'm guessing not. This sounds a tiny bit like a policy whereby some criminal acts would be ignored in order to secure conviction of the lawyers. Such conviction being dependent on the evidence of someone who had perjured themselves. Can't see any problems with that at all... And it sounds like a policy which would, one imagines, cause a rather severe difficulty for victims of domestic abuse seeking the advice and representation of lawyers. It's pretty fundamental that a lawyer is able to fearlessly defend his client precisely because he is not responsible for the decisions or instructions of his client. That he must fearlessly defend his client because he is not the arbiter of her case, he is merely the framer of that case.
Anyway. That's the initial post in Dec 12. It gets better. On the facebook campaign page here, you can see an entry on 7 Jan suggesting the LSC are also colluding in criminal activity.
There is a lot of strong language in all of this. Strong language applied to the whole legal profession and the judiciary at large - not just in Derby. From reading this material one might form the impression that for Mr Gale everything is a potential criminal offence, except when women are making allegations of domestic abuse. He'd have made a smashing police commissioner. Did I mention he didn't win?