UTTERLY SHAMEFUL !

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WHY ARE SCHOOLS AND OTHERS IN DESPERATE NEED OF EDUCATION ABOUT EMOTIONAL HARM AND PA?

At NAAP it is our aim for our members to be as well trained, if not better trained, than the ‘professionals’ we are often told we can trust and rely upon. We think that our members are entitled to know just how inadequate and deficient the training is that schools recieve on PA and emotional harm. Remember that schools are in the front-line of child protection. Furthermore, they are regularly asked by social workers, including CAFCASS to provide comments and observations for inclusion in their reports. These reports are afforded a great deal of weight and the ‘expertise’ of teachers is respected and highly valued by our family courts. The input of schools and teachers to court determinations is often key to their outcomes and rulings. School input can tip the balance or heavily influence courts when they make life altering decisions about our children.

Therefore we are entitled to expect the training they receive to be beyond reproach, comprehensive and of the highest order…RIGHT??

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

Below is a specimen of the training actually given in one of the English counties. The information was provided to us by someone that was attempting to tell us ‘how well trained’ our teaching professions are when it comes to recognising signs of parental alienation and emotional harm. PA is not even mentioned. Emotional harm gets a few superfi. Unless other authorities are doing MUCH better there will never be a better illustration to show how poorly equipped our schools are to spot signs of PA and emotional abuse in order to provide even a barely acceptable level of safeguarding for our children. PA demands better treatment and more detailed coverage because of its counter intuitive nature.

Here is the first extract:

Emotional Abuse

  • Is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.
  • It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.
  • It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate.
  • It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on the child. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child from participating in normal social interaction.
  • It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another.
  • It may involve serious bullying (including cyber-bullying), causing children to frequently feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.
  • Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

 

Here is the second extract:

Signs and indicators

Emotional Abuse

  • Failure to thrive
  • Attention seeking
  • Over ready to relate to others
  • Low self esteem
  • Apathy
  • Depression/self harm
  • Drink/drug/solvent abuse
  • Persistently being over protective
  • Constantly shouting at, threatening or demeaning a child
  • Withholding love and affection
  • Regularly humiliating a child    

 

So there you go. That is the sum total coverage of emotional harm in the training. Once you have finished reading this short list of bullet points, reward yourself with a Mars bar. In at least one UK county you will have the same amount of expertise in emotional abuse as most teachers. Learn a little about PA and you will have a far superior knowledge. Enjoy your studies: they’ll be over in the blink of an eye!

Non-Mols, Legal Aid…Women’s Aid

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Let’s start at the beginning because, to quote Julie Andrews, ‘that’s a very good place to start’.

Yesterday saw the publication of this article by the BBC following claims by FNF that, ‘…parents are being encouraged by some solicitors to file for non-molestation orders – injunctions used in urgent abuse cases. ‘

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-44628179

The BBC naturally sought comments from FNF, the MOJ, the incoming and outgoing presidents of the family division, and, Women’s Aid. Like any formidable campaigning group, WA are never shrinking violets when it comes to opportunities to spread their message. However, as in this instance, they tend to undermine their message when any relationship between facts and expressed feelings turns out to be a coincidence.

Their CEO, Katie Ghose made a number of bland assertions that, just like most people who make false allegations, she did not include any supporting evidence for. She stated:

“Non-molestation orders are only granted by the courts in cases where a judge is satisfied an order is required to keep a victim of domestic abuse safe.”

and

“We are not aware of any cases where mothers have falsely applied for non-molestation orders.”

Perhaps Ms Ghose does not get outside her echo chamber much, perhaps she does not read the papers, perhaps she has memory difficulties or perhaps she has trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. Whatever the reason, there can be no excuse for a person, who trousers a lucrative six figure salary — largely funded by the taxpayer, to get her basic information so wrong by promoting a view that in some cases prejudices the safeguarding of the very children her organisation purports to protect and in some cases actually succeeds in prolonging their abuse. She is a public figure whose opinion and views have been treated by the BBC with the same credence and credibility of our most senior family court judges. She owes all of us a duty of care to be accurate and do her homework. Slogans and soundbites do not make compelling arguments regardless of how loudly they are expressed.

Both of her initial sweeping, strident and grossly misleading claims are squarely rebutted in a well known judgment from HHJ Peter Jackson in R v R (Family Court: Procedural Fairness) [[2014] EWFC 48. Sadly, Mr R’s experiences are by no means unique. Our experience is that parents are consistently placed in situations where they face having to prove why they should not be the subject of a non molestation order whereas the burden of proof actually rests with the claimant.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2014/48.html

The Telegraph coverage was typical of the headlines and reports at the time.

Father treated ‘like Kafka character’ by Family Court – top judge

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11294438/Father-treated-like-Kafka-character-by-Family-Court-top-judge.html

Indeed, due to the “Draconian way” this case was handled, the true victim in this case actually turned out to be the person (Mr R) whom the court had granted a non-molestation order against. The children, whom the court was supposed to be protecting, can also be considered victims. The sole beneficiary was the lawyer.

“All in all, Mr R could be forgiven for feeling like the hapless protagonist in Kafka’s ‘The Trial’,” 

‘The Trial’ is a famous novel in which the character of Josef K is prosecuted for a crime which is never revealed to him or the reader. 

The reports and the judgment are well worth reading. The case illustrates graphically how easy it is to obtain a Non-Molestation Order or Non-Mol. It also provokes serious questions such as, ‘How can such injustices happen in the post Magna Carta years let alone 800 years after?’

Having got the court to grant one of these orders, with the minimum of rigour beyond rubber stamping by judges and professionals, the case shows in clear terms how HHJ Peter Jackson had little hesitation in granting permission to appeal and allowing the appeal, ‘…setting aside all previous orders, on the basis that each of the following steps in the process was wrong. He found that:

‘1. A without notice application should not have been made.

2. A without notice order should not have been granted on this evidence.

3. The order that [which] was granted did not reflect the judge’s intention.

4. The orders preventing access to the street and banning direct communication were unnecessary and disproportionate.

5. At the first hearing attended by both parties, the court did not review the without notice order to ensure that there were no obvious errors of the kind that existed here.

6. The date given for a contested hearing of Mrs R’s application was too distant to be meaningful.

7. Mr R’s request for extra time to file his statement should have been granted at the outset.

8. The hearing date for Mrs R’s application should not have been cancelled.

9. The application for relief from sanction should have been considered on paper and granted.

10. The date given for a contested hearing of Mr R’s application for relief from sanction was again too distant to be meaningful.

11. The District Judge did not correctly apply the rules governing relief from sanction. Had she done so, she would have concluded that there was no good reason for refusing to admit Mr R’s statement. ‘

For any judgment, at any level of court, that is quite a ‘rap sheet’. It is the equivalent of managing to get ones name right, but nothing else, on an exam paper.

Furthermore, the orders were granted in virtual secrecy and the accused was effectively prohibited from speaking with others about his plight: What an absolute nightmare. It only saw the light of day because HHJ Peter Jackson took the increasingly rare step of actually allowing an appeal arising from a lower family court which obliged him to publish his findings. This is therefore the sanitised shop window of the family justice system. Our work at NAAP informs us that the areas hidden from the public gaze are equally, if not considerably more, unattractive. Had Ms Ghose done her job then she could easily have been less misleading and more factually accurate.

Furthermore Ms Ghose typically states, “We are not aware of any cases where mothers have falsely applied for non-molestation orders.”

This is a highly disingenuous and misleading statement from Ms Ghose because, most of these cases are heard behind closed doors in the lower courts and effectively barred from discussion by confidentiality rules. Therefore, she will be aware that, although they may not be recorded, that does not mean they do not exist. However, here is a selection of recorded intractable cases which made findings that allegations were false. But, as already stated, this is effectively the tip of a very large iceberg. However, as R v R illustrates, the evidential requirements for granting these orders are dismally poor. Therefore there can be little doubt that most, if not all, of these cases could have involved non-mol orders even when they are not specifically mentioned.

Re M (Intractable contact dispute: Interim Care order) [2003] 2 FLR 636

A v A (Children) (Shared residence order) [2004] 1 FLR 1195 Wall J

V v V (Contact: Implacable Hostility) [2004] 2 FLR 851

Re A (Suspended Residence Order) [2009] EWHC 1576 (Fam), [2010] 1 FLR 1679 FD

Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 496

A v A [2013] EWHC 3554 (Fam)

H (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 733

W (A Child) [2014] EWCA Civ 772

Williams v Minnock, Case No: VS13P00027 In the Bristol Family court

Re Q (A Child), [2015] EWCA Civ 991

AS v TH (False Allegations of Abuse) (Rev 1) [2016] EWHC 532 (Fam)

Q v R (intractable contact) [2017] EWFC B35

Gibbs v Gibbs [2017] EWHC 1700 (Fam)

“We know from our work with survivors that non-molestation orders can be difficult to obtain and the court process itself can be distressing for victims.”

As R v R demonstrates, the granting of a non mol is far from a non-eventful walk in the park for falsely accused victims of manipulative fantasists either.

Following, the Henriques report and recent miscarriages of justice, Cressida Dick’s revision of her police force’s policy to ‘investigate’ as opposed to automatically believing accusers came as welcomed news to anyone that appreciates fundamental principles of British Justice. Ms Dick expressed a reasoned view when she stated,

“You start with a completely open mind, absolutely,” she said. “It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed. Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate.”

By automatically believing accusers, children have at times been unnecessarily left in the care of abusive parents, subjected to prolonged abuse and suffered harm as a consequence of believing accusers as a default position. I am sure that is something which Ms Ghose would not wish to support.

The facts are that the case law highlights the following:

  • Applications for Non Mol orders are made and granted when they are NOT justified,
  • Judges sometimes make orders that do NOT reflect their true intentions,
  • Non mols are sometimes unnecessary and disproportionate,
  • In practice, systems for reviewing orders do not always work,
  • Non Mol orders sometimes operate for periods longer than intended,
  • Sometimes court proceedings are not conducted fairly,
  • Proceedings sometimes carry on for longer than is needed,
  • court appearances are not always necessary,
  • The rules concerning Non Mols are not routinely followed.

It does not appear to disclose anything like the picture Ms Ghose is attempting to paint. Ms Ghost’s charity conflates itself with the welfare of children of all genders.

ie ‘Women’s aid – until women and children are safe.

It would be a welcomed development if they did not regard the child victims of their current rhetoric as collateral damage.

I agree that FNF have done a good job in highlighting these issues. But, having achieved an initial impact it is far too early to sit back and admire one’s handiwork. The responses, particularly when they are so far off beam, need to be challenged unless the intention is to merely travel together without ever arriving.

#Parental Alienation, The New President, FNF and Women’s Aid

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Let’s not get carried away

The speech of the incoming president of the family division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, at the NAGALRO conference was uplifting and gave good reason to feel optimistic. Here is a link: 

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/speech-by-lj-mcfarlane-nagalro.pdf

Sir Andrew joined a growing list of senior judges who have drawn our attention to how drastic a step it is to sever a relationship between a parent and a child. On one hand he described the situation when severance was carried out by the state, through adoption orders in public law, where there are strict steps and doctrines to follow when ‘nothing else will do’ BEFORE such drastic steps can be taken. On the other hand he contrasted this with the private law situation where the severance of the parent child relationship is accomplished with far less care, rigour and attention to detail.

In the FNF address Sir Andrew drew comparisons between how we deal with domestic abuse in the family court and how we deal with parental alienation. Here is a link:

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/speech-lj-mcfarlane-fnf.pdf

This sounded like another remake of an already lame judicial script. It sounded like, ‘he said she said,’ revisited and an attempt to position FNF and Women’s Aid shouting in vain into the wind at each other from either side of an apparently wide and even deeper chasm. For reasons I’ll explore later, this is a false dichotomy. He should really have stuck with the central and universally accepted issue of severing a relationship between a parent and child and made the triangular comparison between when a parent / child relationship is severed:

  1. By the state in public law;
  2. By the state in private law;
  3. Slowly by another parent without any consideration for the law or the welfare of the child(parental alienation).
  4. Quickly by another parent without any consideration for the law or the welfare of the child (child abduction).

Although 1 and 2 are both carried out by the state, Sir Andrew has already described, in his NAGALRO speech, how the state is far less rigorous in 2 whilst producing the same devastating result as in 1 for both the child and the parent victims of a state intervention.

However, in 3 and 4, the severance of the relationship is carried out unilaterally with absolutely no consideration whatsoever for the welfare or personal sovereignty of the child or other parent. In 4, where abduction has an international element there are established procedures for restoring contact and there are also preventative measures that can be taken.

Furthermore, whilst the parent in 3 abuses the human rights and autonomy of both a child and a parent (as does 4) they are ironically assisted and rewarded by the state in their abusive and coercively controlling endeavour.  Either by accident or by design, the state offers a helping hand to the emotionally abusive alienator by facilitating the isolation of alienated children.  Unnecessary and time consuming hurdles are placed in the paths of a targeted parent whose best course is to get their case before a judge at the earliest opportunity. The unhelpful requirement to attend MIAM meetings — when mediation is useless in cases of pure alienation — the inordinate time taken to get a case to court, even more time squandered getting cases elevated from the magistrates court to an experienced district judge, the fact that so many district judges and FCA’s are so poorly trained and the fact that so many district judges seem unable or simply unwilling to manage alienation cases robustly and the fact that too often the lower courts do not order the involvement of appropriately qualified and experienced experts at an early stage. The fact is that all of these factors have been highlighted ad nauseam by various judges since 2004 when the last president Sir James Munby first enumerated them in F v M in the matter of D [2004] EWHC 727 (Fam)(http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed56). Sadly, his time is up as president and we are all now hoping yet again that the new incumbent will finally come to terms with the plaintive calls of too many judges before him during the last 14 years of pleading from the bench.

Sir Andrew has given us all a glow and a warm feeling but when I read of his desire to encourage ownership amongst judges in the lower courts my heart sank and my optimism faded rapidly. The lower courts are still largely clandestine and populated by far too many prima donna judges and little closet despots who must have even unhappier home lives than most alienated parents to want to project their misery onto dejected, downtrodden and demoralised targeted parents. The lower courts are also home to some of the best preserved fossils of legal attitudes that most people thought were extinct. That is, until they went to court in order to see their kids. The daily reports that we get at NAAP indicate that, 800 years after Magna Carta, arbitrary justice is indeed still live and kicking!

Anthony Douglas described the lived experience of an alienated child as being ‘akin to living in a cult’. It was a good description because, like a cult leader, the alienating parent thrives when they can isolate their prey in order to get to work on their undue influence of their victims. The job has been made easier still by the state which has made it a simple matter to obtain a non-molestation order based upon the flimsiest of allegations. Provided the accuser is destitute enough they can reap further rewards in the form of state funded legal aid for the court proceedings. Besides operating as a passport to legal representation the present system encourages and incentivises false allegations which skew the scales of justice in favour of those who dishonestly work the system to cause emotional harm to their children. The irony is that they do this in the name of parental love. It is a sickening spectacle.

Accusations of harassment can also be very easily made to adhere firmly to any targeted parent. They also provide a gateway to state funding and a balance that is also loaded unfairly in favour of the accuser. Provided ones income is low enough this is an area where honesty certainly does not pay. In fact the more dishonest one is the greater the potential rewards. And, it does not stop there. In some parts of the UK, ‘enterprising’ legal professional will gladly assist the would-be abuser to ride roughshod over targeted parents and the children they abuse. Even at reduced legal aid rates this is money for old rope that solicitors can safely delegate to less well qualified and remunerated members of their teams.

Sir Andrew painted a picture of FNF and Women’s Aid being opposite sides of the same coin. This is fundamentally misleading for a few reasons. Apart from being problematic for the reasons Sir Andrew mentions ie the women’s aid study sample comprises, ‘…a self-selecting cohort of individuals. In reality, a great deal of women’s aid research is badly done, statistically invalid and draws upon a remarkably small and shallow gene pool of like minded researchers. As such, it is self serving and lacking in both academic and scientific rigour. I can’t understand why this should be required reading for active members of FNF as Sir Andrew enthuses. Surely, exaltations from our most senior family judge should be predicated upon evidence and not ill conceived dogma from a minute proportion of women’s aid beneficiaries that could actual be bothered to respond to their survey. Sixty-seven respondents is a pretty dismal response to their survey given the volume of their public address system and the vast resources at their disposal. Nonetheless, I followed Sir Andrew’s advice and It was depressing to read such a shoddy document. It was even more depressing to read of the presidents enthusiasm for it. 

It was remarkable that research from the domestic abuse industry used similar methodology to that used in the world of PA but the PA research review by Julie Doughty criticised the PA literature for engaging sometimes identical methods.

https://gov.wales/docs/cafcass/publications/04052018AReviewofResearchandCaseLawonParentalAlienation.pdf

It is also remarkable that the Cardiff ‘study’, which the Welsh minister Huw Iranca Davies AM described as authoritative, was equally as one eyed when it came to looking at the findings of the courts in cases where PA was alleged. They listed and summarised 9 cases where allegations of parental alienation were made but not upheld by the courts. By way of ‘balance’ they listed only 2 cases where there had been a transfer of residence. To compound, what appears to be their good old fashioned prejudice, of these 2 cases one had been allowed to wallow in the lower courts for such a long time that the failure of the transfer was a self fulfilling prophesy. Well done! We are currently taking a close look at some of the claims made in this report but a cursory or ‘rapid’ look at the cases where a transfer of residence has been successful there are in fact at least 17 published judgments from the higher courts that the report could have discussed and indeed should have to avoid fielding allegations of prejudice and bias.

Furthermore there are the published academic papers of Dr Kirkland Weir, that describe his formidable experience of reunification in PA cases and Claire Sturge’s commentary on one of them which are also notable for their absence from this study. We are also aware that practitioners such as Karen Woodall have carried out over 30 changes of residence ordered by the courts. However, the report has appeared to cherry pick much smaller numbers that resonate with their agenda and skew the impressions given to the readership.

These are the sort of things which are commonplace in the weird world of post modernism and family law research. If Sir Andrew wants to make a splash then he needs to look no further than predicating the family court upon evidence. After all, isn’t that what the law is supposed to be about? A deeper gene pool of contributors would also support the paramountcy of children’s welfare.

Sir Andrew, the system needs an enema. It’s a rather messy job but are you the man to administer the dose Sir?

Q – What happens when Social workers + Attachment theory + ‘Expert’ witnesses + Poor earlier judgments + HHJ Mostyn are brought together…?

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A – BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM !!

Introduction

This judgment relates to a mother’s application to have a care order discharged and an attachment assessment played a part in the local authority case until HHJ Mostyn took over.

If you read the conclusion first then this will prepare you for what lies in store. HHJ Mostyn drew the judgment in GM v Carmarthenshire County Council & Anor [2018] EWFC 36 to a close with the following statement. At para 39 he says:

…The objections to the success of the application are inconsequential, trivial and insubstantial and have been, in my judgment, advanced to give effect to a predetermined end. If this application does not succeed then we might as well scrap section 39.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2018/36.html

Hmmmmm… I think this case may have just struck a nerve with HHJ Mostyn. As a matter of fact it should strike a nerve with anyone that gives a damn about justice in the family courts.

To give a little bit of background: Court orders made under Section 39 of the children Act 1989 deal primarily with the discharge and variation of care orders and supervision orders. Readers should note that this judgment relates to an application made in 2016. In other words, it has taken almost 2 full years to determine a mother’s application to discharge an order that it appears should never have been made in the first place. In that time a child, who had been placed in foster care, should not have been there and whilst he was in foster care his parents should have seen him regularly.

Key elements of the case which led to HHJ Mostyn issuing this stern rebuke were:

  • the admissibility of ‘expert’ evidence, and;
  • the legitimacy of ‘attachment theory’ to inform the court and make recommendations to the court;
  • the making and discharge of care orders;
  • the dismal quality of the ‘evidence’ relied upon by the LA.

Up to paragraph 9 HHJ Mostyn gives readers a guided stroll through the circumstances of the case, the law relating to the imposition and discharge of care orders under s 39 of the Children Act 1989, what parliament intended the Act to do and how case law has added to the existing rigour of the Act. I would recommend that anyone entering the family court arena gives this judgment a thorough reading. Even if your case does not involve any public law, it is well worth the effort to read these paragraphs because there is a lot said about attachment theory which is a very popular topic amongst social workers. Cafcass rely heavily upon attachment theory in their reports and they do give practitioners some training in this area.

The importance of the child / parent relationship and the significance of severing it

HHJ Mostyn’s clarity and economy of language is a great example of how to present one’s case. The judgment should be read in full. Readers will observe the ways in which various judgments in the domestic and European courts have bolstered the significance of and the human rights of citizens to a parent / child relationship. This body of case law evolved in a way that led Lady Hale, the current president of the Supreme Court, to remark. (See Re B (a Child) ( 2013] UKSC 33, [2013] 1 WLR 1911 ) para 198.

‘”Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the test for severing the relationship between parent and child is very strict: only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child’s welfare, in short, where nothing else will do.”

Anyone that has been reading these pages will note that the relative seriousness of severing a parent / child relationship is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. In some quarters it is appreciated: but, sadly, in others it certainly is not. It is great to know that I am not the only one and I seem to be in pretty good company in holding these views. The outgoing president of the family division, Sir James Munby observed:

‘…it must never be forgotten that, with the State’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which judges of this Division are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make.’

The new president of the Family Division also concurred with this view,  as did HHJ Baker at the recent Transparency Project seminar. ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZV66F4LRTSOTakAD9i2zcg ) Indeed the new president opined that:

‘Adoption orders are, rightly, regarded as the most Draconian orders that a family court, or indeed any court, can make. The adoption decision in every case is therefore afforded corresponding respect in terms of time, resources and judicial concern. Based on the evidence provided from the four recent cases that I have cited, I fear that the same cannot be said of potentially intractable contact cases.’

(Sir Andrew McFarlane Nalgro Conference 2018, https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/speech-by-lj-mcfarlane-nagalro.pdf)

Notwithstanding the seriousness attached to severing a parent / child relationship the incoming president of the family division has stated unambiguously that there is inequity in the family courts in the comparatively casual way that relationship severance is perceived and dealt with in private law proceedings compared with the highly regulated and relatively carefully considered manner with which relationships are severed by the state in public law proceedings. Para 9 of the judgment sets out the tests the local authority’s case must pass if it is to succeed. The bar is set high for a reason. Parliament never intended the severance of a parent / child relationship to be easy. To reiterate Lady Hale’s words;

‘…it is quite clear that the test for severing the relationship between parent and child is very strict: only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child’s welfare, in short, where nothing else will do.’

The above quotes serve as tasters of the many examples of this universal view being publicly expressed but there have been many more occasions when judges have made this point. Once should have been enough to state the obvious but, as this case demonstrates, these fundamantal principles have yet to penetrate the skulls of large numbers of court ‘ professionals’. If any read this who have taken these sentiments on board after a single reading then please accept my apologies as you are probably worthy of being known as a court professional (note the absence of quotes).

Was this expert evidence necessery, reasonably required or not needed?

The local authority and the guardian placed a lot of weight on the independent social worker’s  assessment of the child ‘L’s’ attachment profile.

But, before appointing any expert, The Children and Families Act 2014 requires that family courts must be satisfied that expert evidence is ‘necessary’ in order to assist the family court. Whereas, in civil proceedings, it was merely necessary for the civil court to be satisfied that the expert evidence was ‘reasonably required’. Prior to the act the standards for the appointment of expert witnesses were the same. Therefore, “The test of what is “necessary” sets a hurdle which is on any view significantly higher than the old test of what is “reasonably required””. (Re TG (a child) [2013] EWCA Civ 5 ) at para 30).

Furthermore, ‘… in order to be admissible in civil proceedings the expert evidence must be:

  1. contained within a recognised body of expertise governed by recognised standards and rules of conduct relevant to the question which the Court has to decide; and
    ii) of such a nature that that a person without instruction or experience in the area of knowledge or human experience would
    not be able to form a sound judgment on the matter without the assistance of a witness possessing special knowledge or experience in the area.

HHJ Mostyn concluded that the attachment evidence was not needed. He stated, ‘With the greatest respect, I have concluded that this evidence does not satisfy the new test. Indeed, in my judgment, it does not even satisfy the old one.’

The quality of evidence based upon attachment theory

Referring to a lengthy quotation from the ‘experts’ attachment evidence. HHJ Mostyn concluded:

17. A number of points may be made about this description of the theory. First, the theory, which I suppose is an aspect of psychology, is not stated in the report to be the subject of any specific recognised body of expertise governed by recognised standards and rules of conduct. Indeed, I asked the advocate for the guardian whether he was aware whether a student could undertake a degree in attachment theory, or otherwise study it at university or professionally. Mr Hussell was not able to answer my question. Therefore, it does not satisfy the first criterion for admissibility as expert evidence.

18. Second, the theory is only a theory. It might be regarded as a statement of the obvious, namely that primate infants develop attachments to familiar caregivers as a result of evolutionary pressures, since attachment behaviour would facilitate the infant’s survival in the face of dangers such as predation or exposure to the elements. Certainly, this was the view of John Bowlby, the psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst and originator of the theory in the 1960s. It might be thought to be obvious that the better the quality of the care given by the primary caregiver the better the chance of the recipient of that care forming stable relationships later in life. However, it must also be recognised that some people who have received highly abusive care in childhood have developed into completely well-adjusted adults. Further, the central premise of the theory – that quality attachments depend on quality care from a primary caregiver – begins to fall down when you consider that plenty of children are brought up collectively (whether in a boarding school, a kibbutz or a village in Africa) and yet develop into perfectly normal and well-adjusted adults.

19. For my part I would say with all due respect that I do not need a social worker to give me evidence based on this theory to help me form a judgment about L’s attachments.

Speaking of the ‘expert’s’ executive summary HHJ Mostyn opines:

‘This opinion is based on supposed expert evidence, but it seems to me to be no more than a standard welfare officer recommendation, and one that does not place any weight at all on the principle of proportionality, or on the right to respect for family life, as explained by me above, let alone on the positive duty of the local authority to take measures to achieve a reunification of the blood family. Indeed, it is noteworthy that on page 15 of her report the very first matter relied on by the independent social worker against the mother’s case is in these terms:…’

And, at para 21 he concludes:

I cannot say that this so-called expert evidence has assisted me in reaching the decision I must make.

If anyone thought that this was the end of a severe roasting they would be wrong. For anyone thinking of sneaking in some ‘evidence’ from their pet attachment writer, HHJ Mostyn issued a clear warning. (para 22)

‘In my judgment, in any future case where it is proposed that expert evidence of this nature is adduced I would expect the court to determine the application with the utmost rigour, and with the terms of this judgment at the forefront of its mind.’

Before rounding up, HHJ Mostyn turned to a challenge that he had issued to one of the social workers during the proceedings (para 25):

‘…I required Ms Tommason-James to identify in the witness box her top four criticisms of, or concerns about, the mother. These were given as follows:

i) The mother’s questionable ability to meet L’s emotional needs.
ii) The dynamics of M’s relationship with L.
iii) The dynamics of the relationship between L and his siblings.
iv) The mother’s questionable ability or willingness to work with the local authority.

It was rightly pointed out that as generalised statements, or tropes, these were easy things to say, but that concrete examples of the individual concerns were very hard to come by.

Ending

These ‘tropes’ form the basis for much of what followed. For the remaining 16 paragraphs the judge outlined and critically analysed the social worker’s accounts of a mother’s perceived parenting faults and misdemeanours. I’m afraid you will all need to read this for yourselves. Having been an alienated parent for far too long I got used to hearing a perspective with views of accounts that were embellished, minimised and gaslit in ways that questioned what I had seen, touched, heard, smelled, tasted and felt with my own senses during one of the worst periods of my entire life. The way that people suffering from severe personality disorders paint a picture of your world that would make Boris Johnson’s memories seem rational and measured is not something I want to experience again therefore I decided to pass on the opportunity.

Suffice to say that the world for most of the social workers in this case is not a place that I recognise and I thank God for that.

I wonder whether these people would benefit from training or whether they really need deprogramming first.

 

Parental alienation amounts to child abduction done slowly.

alone child children close up
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b5sqk8

Parental alienation amounts to child abduction done slowly. Both involve severing the relationship between a parent and a child. In abduction the severing of bonds is achieved by a single cut. In parental alienation there are usually many cuts and sometimes years of preparation before the cutting begins.

This Radio 4 program, entitled ‘The Untold: Child of Mine’,  tells of a mother whose child was abducted. It could just as easily been a father having his child removed. It’s a dreadful experience whether the mother or father is left childless. Please do not waste our time or, anyone else’s, pleading that it is worse for one than another. There are plenty of places where you can have that pre-school, he said / she said spat, and this is not one of them.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b5sqk8

Anne -Marie Hutchinson, the specialised child abduction lawyer interviewed in the program stated: 

‘The behaviour of removing a child, whatever the rights and wrongs of the legal position, in a way where the other parent does not know, is always reprehensible and damaging to the child.’ 

Later she added:

‘The longer a situation goes on, where a child is estranged or isolated from its other parent, the more difficult it will be to reestablish the relationship between that parent and the child. Sometimes, to the extent that it becomes self fulfilling, because the opposing parent will then say, “ Well, the child has not seen the other parent for x number of years and does not know that parent and therefore contact and the reestablishment of the relationship would be damaging unless it is dealt with in a particular way using, you know, supported psychiatry or some other paediatric professional”. 

‘So delay in this situation is going to damage the child.’

The law also agrees S 1 (2) of The Children Act 1989 states unequivovally that:

‘In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.’

However, the reality is that these lengthy delays are accepted by the courts as part and parcel of normal everyday life. Most of us who enter the family court system, and have to wait months for a first hearing, will quickly reliase that much of the Children Act, although well intentioned, is actually optional. One of the biggest contributors to estrangement and the irretrievable breakdown of child contact is therefore the family justice system itself. Indeed, courts frequently fail to wake up to the fact that a parent’s alienating behaviours are responsible for the breakdown of a parent / child relationship until it dawns upon them that a particular case is intractable. There is an easy way of demonstrating intractability but unfortunately, and all too often, this involves years of delay until the point is reached where the court, in its wisdom, concludes that it is the lesser of two evils to leave a child in the clutches of an emotionally abusive parent than to change residence to a healthy normal range parent ! It does sadly appear as if some courts would rather wait until a child can be said to be autonomous rather than make awkward decisions.

The pain parents experience when a child is torn from them is apparently appreciated when it is done by the state. Lord Justice McFarlane is the most recent president of the family division to state this but he also effectively added that the same cannot be said of cases featuring PA. The abduction scenario provides another example where severing the parent / child relationship is automatically considered wrong.

However, Parental Alienation is the Cinderella of these two very ugly sisters. The only difference is that it is slower. In other words it is severence by a thousand cuts.

Severance is severence no matter what you call it and no matter how one defines it and whether it is done by another parent or the state. Whoever does it, whatever the process and regardless of whther it is done in a single cut or many,

it hurts like nothing else.