In The Courts

It’s been a really good day for Britain’s glorious judicial system.

Today, Brenda Hale – who has featured on this blog previously – has been sworn in as the first female President of the Supreme Court. Brenda was the ‘youngest Lord Chief Justice for 50 years’. Brenda is a mate of Helena Kennedy – yes, the Helena who is a good friend of Professor Nigel Eastman of St George’s Hospital Medical School, who ignored the most damning evidence of abuse of patients and criminal misconduct in the north Wales mental health services when he came face to face with it (see post ‘Eve Was Framed – As Were A Lot Of Other People’). Brenda Hale is a member of the Athenaeum Club – the club favoured by so many Top Doctors. Jimmy Savile was also a member and it was following a series of meetings at the Athenaeum between Savile, civil service Mandarins and Edwina Currie that Savile and his mate Alan Franey were offered jobs running Broadmoor – where Savile raped and sexually assaulted female patients.

Today also sees Justice David Lloyd-Jones sworn into the Supreme Court, as its first ever Welsh member. Justice Lloyd-Jones went to Pontypridd Grammar School, then Cambridge University. He was a visiting Prof at City University 1999-05. He became a Recorder in 1994 and was appointed a High Court judge in 2005. He was the Presiding Judge on the Chester and Wales Circuit of Corruption and Chair of the Lord Chancellor’s Standing Committee on the Welsh language 2008-11. In Oct 2012 he became a Lord Justice of Appeal.

In 2009 it was revealed that Justice Lloyd-Jones was paid more than £1 million for his work on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Another event taking place today is the swearing in of Sir Ian Burnett as Lord Chief Justice at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Burnett acted as counsel to the inquests of Diana and Dodi. Which says it all really.

 

Just to confirm how terrifying the UK justice system remains, the Guardian is reporting on the case of a woman with learning disabilities who has had her children removed from her. This decision was made by Judge Richard Melville who ‘analysed the evidence’ in a hearing in Plymouth. Edward Devereaux QC who led the legal team representing the mother took the case to Appeal, arguing that Melville failed to carry out sufficient analysis. James Munby, the President of the Family Division of the High Court, has dismissed the mother’s appeal. She will lose her children.

As with all cases in the Family Court, the hearing will have been held in secrecy and no-one will be allowed to publish any details. The only information in the public domain is that the children lived with their mother and their maternal grandmother, that social workers were ‘concerned’ and that it was ‘social service chiefs’ at Devon County Council who made the decision to remove the children from the care of their mother and grandmother.

James Munby gained a lot of good publicity recently when he absolutely slammed the UK’s mental health system for failing to stump up any provision at all for a teenaged girl with serious mental health problems.

The outcome of this case from Devon rests entirely on the ‘analysis’ of the ‘evidence’ presented to Judges Melville and Munby. This blog has not published anything negative concerning these two judges. They might be intelligent, sensible, compassionate people. But they can only act on the evidence presented to them. In this case evidence from Devon Social Services.

I’ll outline a previous case of child welfare involving Devon Social Services. Some twelve years ago a woman known to me was involved in a relationship with a man from Devon. She moved in with him, became pregnant and subsequently received a letter from Devon Social Services informing her that the man with whom she was living – the father of her unborn baby – has previously had a child removed from his care after physically assaulting this child. She ignored the letter – because at that point she had seen no signs of violence from her partner. She also came from a family which did not set much store on the opinions of social workers. After the baby was born, this man became phenomenally violent towards his partner. On one occasion he tried to strangle her in the shower. She was injured and forced to go to hospital, where, hats off to them, they suspected domestic violence and questioned her about the way in which her injuries had been sustained. She told them and they very firmly explained to her that living with this man was putting both her and her baby in danger. They took photographs of her injuries and the matter was reported to the police – the abusive partner was prosecuted. He was ‘supported’ by the probation service, who reassured him that they would ‘look after him’. He took to taunting his partner that he would not be going to prison. Indeed he didn’t.

His dreadful behaviour towards his partner continued and her sister was told about it by a relative. The sister – who lived elsewhere – rang Devon Social Services to express her concern at this man’s continued aggression. The sister had enough knowledge to know how Devon Social Services should have conducted themselves in this case and was surprised to be asked her name when she made the call. She knew that such calls can be made anonymously, so simply told Devon Social Services that she was a relative.

A few weeks later, the sister who had contacted Devon Social Services rang her mother, who angrily demanded to know whether she had contacted the social services about her sister and her little boy. Devon Social Services had contacted the family, told them that a ‘family member’ had contacted them, but had taken absolutely no action at all to protect the mother or her young child. The family involved had no understanding of how child protection services are supposed to work and presumed that the small boy’s aunt had wanted him removed from their care. A few months later, the aunt who raised concerns with Devon visited her sister. The most enormous row erupted over the matter of the aunt contacting the social services and the mother of the small boy tried to assault her sister. The woman who tried to gain protection for her sister and her nephew from a man whom Devon Social Services knew to be violent and a danger to children had no further contact with her family. Christ knows what’s happening now, but whatever it is, Devon Social Services will not be helping.

Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 this morning were banging on about judges needing more training in cases of domestic violence. What ever would be the point when they still have to base their decisions on fuckwits like the employees of Devon Social Services? Judges do not make bad decisions because of a lack of ‘training’. In my experience, outrageous decisions by judges are made because they have been lied to, misled or are frankly corrupt.

Brenda Hale made her name as a Family Court specialist. Admirers like Helena Kennedy will tell you that Brenda is a feminist and has greatly improved justice for women and children in the Family Courts. Unless of course you are a mother who lives on the patch of Devon Social Services.

Author: Sally Baker

I am a writer and a sociologist, originally from Somerset, but I've been based in Wales for most of my life. I had my first encounter with a mental health professional in 1984 at the age of 21. My GP described this man to my then partner - who also became a sociologist - as someone who had experienced 'considerable success'. My meeting with this psychiatrist was a disaster and we attempted to complain about his insensitivity and highly inappropriate behaviour. That was the first time we were threatened and pressurised to withdraw a complaint against a mental health professional. This man is long dead - he was a retired psychiatrist from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, T. Gwynne Williams, who was working shifts in the student health centre at University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). We discovered years later that this 'successful man' was notorious - he had been an enthusiastic lobotomist...

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