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Trial by Expert

The link is to a well argued article about the over use of experts in Family Proceedings. The only key point it misses out is that the courts tendency to allow the Local Authority to exclude experts from giving evidence (the single expert system) leads automatically to an unfair process.

If parents cannot even ask an alternative expert about a case without permission from the judge they are unreasonably hobbled in their defence.

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John Hemming blasted by top family law judge
May 8 2008
Birmingham MP John Hemming has been slammed by one of the country’s top family law judges over his criticism of the Family Justice system and for abusing his position as an MP.

Rounding on John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) over his approach towards helping a woman in court proceedings after her child was taken into care Lord Justice Nicholas Wall said: "As to Mr Hemming, my judgment is that his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system is gravely damaged.
"Speaking for myself I will not be persuaded to take seriously any criticism made by him in the future unless it is corroborated by reliable, independent evidence."
Hemming had been allowed to take part in the Appeal proceedings. The judge said he found some allegations made by Hemmings without evidence to support them "not only unacceptable but shocking" given the fact he was an MP.
"Mr Hemming has been willing to scatter unfounded allegations of professional impropriety and malpractice without any evidence to support them," he said.
Referring to criticism Hemming levelled against a clinical psychologist involved in the case - identified only by the initials HJ - Lord Justice Wall they were allegations which represented in his judgment "a wholesale and entirely unwarranted attack on the professional integrity of HJ for which, once again, there is no evidence what so ever."
The judge also referred to a Parliamentary petition in which he said Hemming indicated he believed the psychologist was in the pay of the local authority and that he considered the system under which the woman’s case was being handled was "evil."
"In my judgment, these comments are not only wrong and ill-informed. The simple fact remains that they have no foundation in the evidence presented either to the Nottingham County Court or to this court. That they are made publicly by Mr Hemming once again strikes me as an abuse of his position," said the judge.
Turning to general criticism of the family courts the judge said : "Since the Family Justice System is frequently criticised for its alleged secrecy - an allegation often combined with suggestions of corruption and malpractice û this case offers an opportunity to demonstrate just how ill-informed those criticisms can be."
Lord Justice Wall was giving judgment at London’s Court of Appeal in a case involving a woman who gave birth prematurely at 27 weeks, only shortly after she discovered she was pregnant.
The Court rejected the latest round of her legal battle for the right to care for her seriously ill child.
Lords Justices Wall who gave judgment with Lord Justice Matthew Thorpe ruled today that Nottingham City Council was right to take the girl, now two-years-old, into care.
After her premature birth in May 2006, the child remained in hospital until care proceedings were instituted by the Council in September 2006. In November 2006, she was discharged from hospital into the care of foster parents, where she remains.
The judge said that she was taken into care because it was considered that neither the mother, aged 23, the father, aged 66, nor any of her family were capable of caring for her.
Lord Justice Wall said today that the girl, identified only as KP, remains in foster care while the Council tries to find adoptive parents willing and able to take on a child with "many very serious medical conditions".
In his decision today though Lord Justice Wall slammed John Hemming, who has been a fierce critic of the family justice system and who had stepped in to help the mother, identified by the initials RP, to present her case.
He said that the MP had concentrated too much on the rights of the mother and failed to take into account the welfare of the child.
The mother had claimed her human rights had been breached by the court orders placing KP in care, and by the stance of the Official Solicitor û whose job it is to represent the interests of the child in care proceedings, and who did not oppose a care order in this case.
However, Lord Justice Wall ruled that the evidence was "overwhelmingly in favour of care and placement orders" and that the Official Solicitor had behaved "entirely properly".
He added: "The Official Solicitor was right to concede that a care order was in KP’s best interests. The judge was plainly right to make care and placement orders. Such were plainly in the interests of KP. It follows, in my judgment, that RP’s rights have not been breached."
He said that orders made later Judge Butler QC at Nottingham County Court backing the stance taken by the Official Solicitor and challenged in the appeal were "plainly right and inevitable."
"At the heart of this case, as with so many family cases, lies a human tragedy: the premature and unconsidered birth of a disabled child, and a mother who is plainly incapable of caring for her, however much she may want to.
"However, the danger of the mother’s approach, reinforced as it has been in my judgment by Mr Hemming’s partial and tendentious advice, is that it has been entirely adult focused. Not once in his argument did he mention the welfare of KP. His emphasis, and that of RP, was entirely on her rights and the alleged wrongs which had been done to her.
"The court’s focus, of course, is on the child, and if one stands back from this case and asks oneself what is the best interests of KP, the answer is self-evident."

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