John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Saturday, June 14, 2008
  In re B (Children) (FC)
The link is to Bailii for this case.

The case was one where the Guardian ad Litem asked for the standard of proof to be a "real possibility" of a "risk of significant harm" for the S31 A threshold rather than "balance of probabilities".

Had the Guardian at Litem won then it would have confirmed that parties to a Family Court case need to prove their innocence rather than the state prove (even on a balance of probabilities) their guilt.

It is important to note that the local authority supported the Guardian (as did the mother). It is a fact that frequently decisions are taken by local authorities on the basis of "real possibility". That is one reason whey they get so many decisions wrong.

Getting this right, however, will take some doing. It requires firstly for the threshold to be actually tested in the lower courts. We got a refusal of permission for the court of appeal judgment transcript this week which confirms that many parents are advised to consent to threshold in the lower courts only to find that this results in them losing their children to adoption.

There was a saga in April in Birmingham FPC which resulted in me being evicted from the court because I wished to encourage a mother to contest threshold and not consent to the local authority's demands. That particular saga has not yet completed.

It has been argued that practitioners at times avoid the more difficult cases and make themselves busy with cases where threshold is not really met. By the process known as "advocating for the child" they pressurise experts into writing reports to suit their objectives (this process is also known as perverting the course of justice). The single expert system (that I hope will get some challenge soon) then traps parents in a kafkaesque world in which they are required to prove their innocence against an expert opinion, but are not allowed to talk to any other experts about their case. A hopeless system.

We should not be surprised at the campaigning of F4J. I take the view that their campaigning goes a bit further than I would support. However, I fully understand why they are so upset. The Family Court system randomly chews people up and spits them out without a proper commitment to justice, equality of arms and all the components of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights - a point I made when being evicted from the FPC in Birmingham. The people who suffer the most are the children - those for whom the system is supposed to be beneficial.
 
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