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The Courts - particularly the family courts

One area I have campaigned on in the past and would intend to campaign on after the election (whether I win or not) relates to the judicial system.

There are particular problems within the Family Courts.

As it currently stands the courts rely for public family law proceedings on expert opinion.  That expert opinion is provided mainly by employees of the local authority.  Additionally from time to time other experts are appointed who are theoretically independent, but in practice can be on real or effective retainers from the local authority.

Inevitably the recommendations to the court are driven by the management priorities of the local authority.  Those management priorities are driven by Ofsted who are required by central government to get more children adopted.  Hence we have a system where a key priority is to remove children from one family (for whatever reasons) and place them with another.

It may not seem rational, but that is the case.

Parents should have the right to have truly independent experts.

There are many other issues with the Family Courts.  One of the problems is that there is often very little actual law in the family courts.  The judges have a very wide discretion which leads to different judges making very different decisions on the same facts.  That causes a wider problem.

The secrecy, of course, adds to the difficulties.   One of my more successful campaigns was to get a reduction in secret imprisonment.   Injustices, however, are still hidden away by the threat of locking people up for talking about them.  I know of a number of cases where people have been imprisoned by the Court of Protection on wrongful expert opinion.  However, it is a criminal offence for them to be allowed to speak out.  These are cases where the court decides that someone does not have the capacity to decide where they live - see for example the imprisonment of Kathy Danby.

Hence greater transparency is needed so we know what is being done even if parties remain anonymous.  In theory the courts are doing this, but in fact they mainly don't.
Cases
These sorts of cases worry me: this case is where a father's views on abortion and homosexuality - not ones I agree with, were considered relevant.
This case is another one where I disagree with the mother, but don't think the possibility of expressing racist terms is sufficient or relevant to care proceedings.
In a wider sense there is too much toleration of false allegations throughout the judicial system.  I managed to get three successful criminal appeals allowed whilst I was a Member of Parliament.  This included seeing how the system is resistant to considering that allegations are false.  This is a particular problem also in public law proceedings where social workers who mislead the court have actually been promoted. It has to be recognised that from time to time false allegations are made by all sorts of things for malicious reasons and at times these allegations are also made to the police. The idea that it shows prejudice against victims to recognise this truth is absurd.


I accept that I am not popular with some in the legal profession for being critical of how the system operates.  However, the law should serve everyone and not just the legal profession.   You will identify a number of ranting lawyers from time to time who make vague and unevidenced assertions against me.  However, they will not shout me down and I will continue to campaign against injustice.





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KING’S BENCH DIVISION

R v SUSSEX JUSTICES ex p McCARTHY [1924] 1 KB 256

November 9 1923

Editor’s comments in bold.

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