We knew he'd be back didn't we. We knew that somehow he would bounce rather than splat, and we knew he'd be just as unblinkingly confident of his own rightness.
Also this week, Mr Booker is back with more tales of injustice, more drama and intrigue. I, Cumberbatch-like, shall remain emotionally detached and analytical. I shall use my powers of deduction and leave you ignoramuses (ignoramusi?) to work it out... I have had to meditate in my mind palace for some time before achieving this state of external calm. I have the last of the Xmas 2013 sloe gin in my mind palace*.
But first, I do want to note something rather different from the Telegraph, because here at Pink Tape we love a bit of balance and to give credit where it is due - and before I had to retire to my gin palace I had resolved to flag it up as an example of some good journalism from a newspaper I have sometimes been critical of. The Telegraph ran today a rather excellent explanatory article about the criminal bar "strike" tomorrow : Criminal Barristers Deserve Justice Too. A rather sobering piece for the start of 2014, but it is recommended reading for those wondering what on earth the bar are complaining about (and those, like my brother, who wondered over Sunday lunch how barristers can strike at all - answer, they can't really so they will have a mass day of non-attendance, for which they will very probably be subject to professional conduct disciplinary proceedings).
So, back to the latest from Mr Booker : The Lunatics Take Over The Asylum In 'Caring' Britain. I am not going to make any positive assertions about this case - because this is not a case where there are extant proceedings or any other publicly available information to rely upon - the only information we have is that which is set out in the article. But I think it is worth taking a careful look at what we do have and seeing how far that takes us. Read the original article first, and then read it with this observations in this post in mind - consider this as context rather than commentary. It is too early in the new year for ranting...
- Booker's article refers to the italian c-section case as the one where the mother was "forced to undergo a caesarean section so that her baby could be sent by social workers for adoption", from which it can be inferred that he does not take on board criticism of the early reporting of that story.
- This mother's children appear to have been removed about 4 years ago and she is still having contact with at least one of them. We are not told, but they are probably in a foster placement or with extended family (inferred from age and fact of ongoing contact).
- The children appear to have been removed four years ago but we do not know the reason for that, although the article implies that her mental health or fabricated autism may have been part of the picture. There may have been other reasons.
- We do not know if there was an appeal. If there was we can infer it was not successful since the children remain away from the mother.
- That the mother appeared "sane" (to use Booker's terminology) a week ago, and that at other times she has been considered to be well by various professionals does not tell us how ill she may have been around the time of removal nor what the prognosis or risk of relapse might have been. That is to say it does not, in itself, tell us that the removal of the children was not necessary and proportionate. Nor does it tell us that it was.
- Booker's source for the assertions about the current and past sanity / mental well health of the subject of the article appear to be based entirely upon her account / assertions and his unqualified observations of her. Her accounts appear to be significantly at odds with the views of others.
- Similarly, his source for the history of the removal of the children and of the mothers' treatment by mental health services appears to be the mother herself. Her accounts appear to be significantly at odds with the views of others.
- The fact that the Mother has a law degree and has held down responsible jobs tells us little. People with mental health difficulties are often intelligent and are often able to continue working and functioning perfectly well during or between episodes.
- We do not know what sort of mental illness the mother suffered / suffers from as it is repeatedly described as "insane". This generic and rather pejorative terminology is not as far as I am aware a term in current use amongst mental health professionals, and diagnoses of psychological or psychiatric problems are considerably more complex and nuanced than this. There are references to psychotic, cannabis addiction and to Factitious Induced Illness / Munchausen's By Proxy but the picture is pretty unclear.
- If the mother is or has been as profoundly unwell as medics appear to have described her to be (particularly if she is psychotic or delusional) her account may be plausible and apparently credible without being reliable, complete, objective or accurate. Even if she has not been as unwell as medics appear to have thought her to be her account may not be reliable, complete objective or accurate. That is not to say that her account is not largely or completely accurate, but taken in isolation it has potential to lead us astray.
- There appears to be a dispute about whether or not one child suffers from autism or not (with mother saying he does, professionals saying not). It is not unheard of for parents who are struggling to attempt to explain behaviour through attributing it to a condition, rather than environmental factors like poor or inconsistent parenting or a chaotic or neglectful household. It is not unheard of for parents to seek (unconsciously or not) to have their own emotional needs met indirectly through presenting their child as having particular needs above and beyond those they actually have. This can stifle their ability to become independent and can give them a warped sense of things. That said, Munchausens by proxy or Factitious Induced Illnesses are controversial diagnoses. I do not know whether any of these scenarios applies in this case, but one can infer some professionals may have thought so in the history of this case. We do not know if they were right or wrong.
- The fact that the child was diagnosed in 2003 with a condition does not necessarily mean that the child suffered from the diagnosed condition. Diagnoses can be wrong and can be revised. They are based upon the information available to the diagnosing professional at the time, and the state of medical knowledge at the time. In the case of children, professionals are heavily reliant upon parental descriptions of the child's behaviour and difficulties.
- Cases of FII are notoriously difficult to identify and to prove. They are the kinds of cases it is easy to get wrong (in either direction).
- One cannot obtain information about individuals through a Freedom of information Act request. It is therefore unsurprising (and not at all mysterious) if those repeated requests were turned down. A subject access request under the Data Protection Act could have been made. Perhaps the applications were DPA requests that have been misdescribed by Booker. Perhaps in appropriate applications have repeatedly been made and properly rejected.
- The events of December last year (detention when stopping for a cigarette) cannot be the entire story. There MUST be further information we are not privy to. I don't know what it is. Two options are that there was further evidence suggesting that the Mother had become unwell again, or that there was not and there was some conspiracy to detain her in the absence of such evidence, for reasons unknown. There may be other scenarios I have not thought of.
- The Mother's home was apparently burgled - and only materials relating to the children and the case were taken. Again, it appears that either it was burgled by persons unknown whilst she was detained (the implication being there is some connection to the case and presumably either a professional conspiracy or the involvement of some other person involved) or that the psychiatric team were correct and the mother was responsible, knowingly or not (presumably prior to her detention) - or was simply saying that the items were missing, perhaps as a feature of her illness. We have no way of knowing which is right. There may be other scenarios I have not thought of.
- The Mother is said to be a cannabis user, and that is said to be related to one of several chronic health problems. It seems possible from the information that we have that professionals may be skeptical about whether or not the mother's physical symptoms are connected to her mental health or psychological issues. That may be a legitimate inference to draw, it may not.
- If the mother was in fact psychotic when detained it may well have been necessary / justified to sedate or medicate her forcibly in order to stabilise her condition either to assess or to treat her.
- Patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act are entitled to legal advice and representation and to have their case reviewed at a Mental Health Tribunal. Parents who are detained under the Mental Health Act are entitled to legal advice and representation within any care proceedings concerning their children and will be able either to instruct their solicitor directly or, if they lack capacity to do so (not always the case just because they are sectioned), will have their interests represented by the Official Solicitor. Their children will be separately represented in any event.
- The mother has only very recently been authorised for indefinite detention, and the legal process concerning that has begun to kick into action - she has been given paperwork to enable her to exercise her right to legal representation / a tribunal.
And in the wise wise words of Forrest Gump (I have been topping up on feelgood films): "That's all ah gotta say about that." Over to you, Watson.
Post script :
Of course, it just may be that for those of us without Sherlock-like powers of observation and deduction, it is impossible to draw any solid conclusions at all from this news story with its striking headline and dogmatic language, still less safe to draw from it sweeping conclusions about systemic dysfunction. (Sorry. Couldn't help myself...)
* I bought my mind palace with my fat cat legal aid income btw