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Panorama - "Emigrate to get a fair trial"

The advice for pregnant women to emigrate to get a fair trial is nothing new. There are many cases of people who have emigrated (particularly pregnant women). I would highlight two cases (although there are others on my blog).

A. Michelle Freedman whose case was reported here. It is important to note that she is a family court barrister. I tabled an EDM about her case here which says:
That this House notes the withdrawal of care proceedings against Michelle Freedman by Barnet Council; further notes that Barnet Council has caused psychological harm to Michelle's elder daughter; further notes that had she not left UK jurisdiction both her daughters would have suffered further psychological harm; further notes that Ms Freedman is a family court barrister with over 10 years' experience and she left the jurisdiction because she was aware through her experience of similar cases that any local authority in this situation would be likely to invent allegations against her in order to win the case had she remained; further notes that legal proceedings were initiated because Ms Freedman had made a complaint against a social worker; further notes that Barnet's case included a criticism of Ms Freedman that she had done what she had been asked to do by Barnet Council which it then claimed put her daughter at risk and that the rules of estoppel should normally have prevented this being used against Ms Freedman; further notes that the Government intends to reduce the access of parents to truly independent assessments which will make it easier for local councils to win cases by making things up; recognises that if a barrister has so little confidence in the system that she leaves the jurisdiction to avoid being subjected to false allegations by a local authority there are serious difficulties in the system; and calls for parliamentary committees and the Government to review this issue.

The second is the Cootes family. Their case has been reported in lots of places. Here is a Daily Mail story.

It is important to remember that there have been a number of suicides (one a fortnight ago) as a result of the trauma of proceedings in the UK.

My advice is always to ensure that people take their paperwork and talk to the authorities whichever country they go to. Many countries already know how silly things are in England and are sympathetic. Also remember you need to be self financing and don't go to Ireland.

Emigrating when pregnant is not illegal. The situation is different if court proceedings have started.

There are lots of reasons why people don't get a fair trial. The secrecy has allowed a lot of bad practice to develop. However, the fundamental problem is with the nature of the evidence. The assessments and care plans are normally done by the local authority. Hence they are subject to the managerial policies of the local authority.

There is a european court of human rights case Lashin v Russia that explains why this is procedurally flawed.

The underlying question is whether Local Authorities are so perfect in their analyses of situations that parents should not expect any independent opinion. The system operates on the principle of the infallibility of local authorities. At the same time LAs have adoption targets to hit. This results in managers telling social workers not to return baby to their parents. And in one leicester case that I have documented firing a social worker because she recommended the return of a child against managerial dictat.

It is also worth reading This Birmingham Post Article

I must stress that this option is not one for everyone to consider. If court proceedings have started it is futile and counter productive. Also the finances are really difficult and need to be well thought through. However, it has been successful for a number of families. The Webster case (aka Hardingham) started with the family going to Ireland. Effectively it is form of forum shopping rather than evading justice.

Ireland is now a bad place to go as so many people went there that the authorities now push people back to England.

Can I please stress, however, that the above cannot be taken as advice to stay or advice to go. Before I advise an individual as to how best to respond I need to see all the case paperwork.


Marian Clarke said…
John why do you say not to go to Ireland?
Jerry said…
I am shocked to read the "Blasts" from Cathy Ashley at Families Rights Group, surely insteat of protecting the system surely she ahould be supporting the much needed change, slating you John serves no purpose only ends up driving a bigger wedge between us and them,

I have just pointed Cathy to the most significant Judgment of LJ Thorpe in 2010 where he went on to say about non co-operation with the Authorities

"15. Mother's hostility to social workers raises a problem which is all too familiar in the family courts. A parent whose capacity to care for his or her children is put in question is likely to resent it. Social services on the other hand have a duty to inquire and in some circumstances to take action. Often there will be an important question whether with a measure of support the parent or parents can achieve good enough parenting. If the parent has become resentful of the social workers, whether for good cause or for bad, it will for that reason be that much more difficult to provide support. This very often leads to the parent being criticised for lack of cooperation with the social workers, and, in turn, to the parent's resentment of the social workers' intrusion growing rather than diminishing. It becomes a vicious circle. It can sometimes then be easy for social workers to think that an uncooperative parent is for that reason also an inadequate parent, but the one does not follow from the other. The judge was accordingly right to say that a refusal to do the social workers' bidding or even to be polite to them, whilst it may be regrettable, is not by itself any justification for the making of the care order. It may of course contribute in some cases to the unhappy conclusion that there is no scenario in which the parent can be supported to the extent that he or she needs. In other cases it may contribute to the yet more unhappy conclusion that the anger displayed towards the social workers is simply an example of generalised angry violence to which the children are likely to be subject as well. But neither of those conclusions are necessary ones. It all depends on the facts of the case. It is not uncommon for hostility and lack of cooperation to be confined to those who are perceived, however unfairly perceived, to be wrongly interfering in the family; and if that is the case it is quite often possible to find other agencies who can establish a working relationship with the parent and provide the necessary support. To try to do that is part of the job of the social worker.

There is no law of this land or other that forces a parent/family to work with the Authorities and co-operate, in order to have this ironed out it would take the Authorities to co-operate with the parents/family first and not deceive them like we see day in day out, why is it when we shout foul the Ref gives us the red card
Felicie Lucas said…
As a practising and very experienced family law barrister specialising in care proceedings and who represents local authorities, parents and the children themselves, I am shocked that an MP can make such outrageous and frankly dangerous comments. Perhaps you would be better placed using your energy to resist the changes to legal aid which hugely restricts the ability of extended family members to become parties to proceedings and thus gain the benefit of excellent representation. I am offended by your inaccurate and misleading comments, particularly in relation to assessments when it was your government who implemented the current changes to the FPR thus curtailing the use of independent experts. I hope you can sleep at night when the first child dies as a result of your grossly irresponsible advice.
Felicie Lucas said…
As a practising and experienced family law barrister, specialising in child protection law, I am aghast at your grossly misleading, irresponsible and frankly, dangerous comments. I regularly represent both local authorities and parents and, on occasion, the child concerned. One of your complaints is that all assessments are all conducted by the local authority. This is not accurate. It is however correct that the use of independent experts has been severely curtailed. As you will be more than aware, this is as a result of the implementation of the new FPR introduced by your coalition government. I note you fail to mention this. Perhaps also, you should at least give a nod to the harsh cutbacks to legal aid, also introduced by the government of whom you are a part. This restricts the ability of extended family members to become parties to proceedings and avail themselves of representation. Perhaps your efforts would be better spent resisting the annihilation currently being perpetrated upon the family justice system by your own government., rather can giving such spurious and ill advised advice. I hope you sleep well when the inevitable news emerges of the first child to die as a result of your irresponsibility and clear lack of knowledge.
I should point out that parents have been leaving the UK in similar circumstances for at least fifteen years but it is only in the last couple of years or so that this has been publicised here and on the continent. I suspect that the numbers who have left are now in the thousands.
New rules were introduced in 2004 which included a section relating to expert evidence. With the introduction of the the Joint. mp pointed expert. Witness.. From comments made by family Lawyers at the time it was seen as a major step in eliminating cost and conflict in the Family. Law Jurisdiction. A single appointed expert witness of necessity should give comprehensive in on-biased evidence however there are numerous cases which can be seen as examples where this has not happened. With the losers invariably being the parents.
sue said…
i found panorama very balanced. It
illustrated extremely well
any parents could be caught up in the family court. It was particually poignant regarding how grandparents are affected as well.

sue said…
i found panorama very balanced. It
illustrated extremely well
any parents could be caught up in the family court. It was particually poignant regarding how grandparents are affected as well.

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