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Penetrating the Wall of Secrecy
December 3, 2011 permalink
In two British cases the seizure of children has left their parents in jail awaiting trial on criminal charges. Christopher Booker says these oppressive charges may come with a silver lining — the more open process of criminal court may allow the public to learn about the child seizures.
Behind a wall of secrecy, parents who lost their children are now in jail
Lord Justice Wall has personally taken over two curious and troubling cases.
There have been more disturbing developments in our secretive family protection court system. Two cases involving parents whose children were taken from them by social workers have been so curious that I have reported on them here more than any others. Each, having previously been heard by more junior judges, has now been taken over personally by Lord Justice Wall, head of the Family Division.
In one case, involving a mother who had escaped to Ireland to avoid having her unborn child seized at birth, Wall in September delivered a public judgment, based on his reading of two hearings by earlier judges, whose judgments he ordered to be published. (They have still not appeared.) Recently, the mother returned from Ireland, leaving her baby behind, to face criminal charges which she imagined were so odd that she would be acquitted. Instead she was remanded in custody by magistrates, to await trial in the new year. Until then she must remain in prison, separated from her seven-month-old child.
The husband and wife in the second case, whose children were removed last year, recently appeared before Lord Justice Wall, after dozens of hearings in the family courts – never with proper legal representation, up against a whole battery of lawyers bent on keeping their children from them. On leaving court at the end of the latest hearing before Wall, they were arrested and sent to separate prisons. Last week they were charged in a magistrates’ court with a string of criminal offences and are also being held on remand without bail.
Thus all three parents, separated from the children they love, are now in cells, on charges against which they have not yet had the chance to defend themselves. The only advantage of this is that these people will at least be appearing in criminal courts, where they may at last be legally represented, and where evidence can be tested according to the very different rules that apply in such courts, where evidence based on assertion and hearsay is not normally allowed.
It may also be possible, therefore, to report rather more of these unhappy stories than has been possible under the claustrophobic rules of the family court system, which fiercely protects itself from public view behind such a wall of secrecy (no pun intended). As Jeremy Bentham wisely remarked, “publicity is the very soul of justice … only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks, applicable to judicial injustice, operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.”
Source: Telegraph (UK)