Today’s Family Court Reforms Will Never Address Systemic Family Court Problems

July 31, 2012

The reforms of the Family Court unveiled today by Mr Justice Ryder are likely to be a case of re-arranging the deckchairs:-

Inquisitorial judges at heart of family reform proposals Tuesday 31 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The longstanding problems with the Family Court will never change until control over the Court and its cases is taken out of the hands of Judges appointed from the English Bar and out of the control or influence of their colleagues at the English Bar.

The Family Court has a reputation amongst the public, practitioners, politicians, expert witnesses and journalists for administering injustice. Ryder reform plans will likely not bring about change to that reputation.

We need a new system to break up the incestuous organic and social relationships behind the English Bar’s system of Barristers’ Chambers and appointments to the Judiciary – mainly from its own members.

There is an unhealthy relationship between the Judges, predominantly from the English Bar and their friends and former colleagues at the Bar who appear before them. They in practice control most of what takes place. The problems with the Family Court are systemic and organic. So it is unlikely any judge appointed to deal with the problems will ever go to the heart of the matter.

The Family Court is and will continue to be a Court whose Judges fail to observe basic principles of procedural fairness and justice. The long abandonment of pleadings means issues are introduced on spec in Court instead of being defined in advance. Litigants can be and are taken by surprise and faced with a litany of invention and accusation introduced “on spec” during the course of a case which they have to try to answer and when least fitted psychologically to do so.

This is at the culmination of a long process during which they have been softened up by unpalatable conduct of some lawyers and when they have been are subjected to considerable stress, not knowing what invention and accusation they may face at the next hearing before the trial.

The position is compounded by the Judges of the Family Court who appear to do nothing whatsoever about improper litigation conduct by the lawyers who appear before them as Officers of the Court and who may be their former colleagues, current friends and social peers.

It is a Court system which rewards the wrongdoer and punishes the victim. Those of the lawyers who fail to observe accepted standards of conduct in Family Court cases and routinely act in contravention of their obligations to the Court and under the rules of Court go undealt with, save to the extent they are rewarded with the outcome they seek by such conduct.

The worst aspects of course are when it comes to children and the false evidence presented by social workers from some local authorities and the consequent cases which some members of the English Bar present. There has long been complaint about these abuses and nothing has been done. Ryder will never address that. The litigants cannot do it – it is the lawyers who do it for them and the Judges who make it all happen. And the Judges just let it go on day in and day out.

The Family Court thus operates and maintains a Cheats Charter. Under the auspices of the Court wrongdoers who play the system and break the rules are rewarded and victims of that wrongdoing punished. The Judges do nothing about sometimes rampant impropriety taking place daily within the walls of their Courts and even under their noses. And nor do other members of the English Bar despite it being their duty to report it.

Regrettably of course it is a self-perpetuating system in that those members of the Bar who do operate unscrupulously and unlawfully may eventually be recruited to the ranks of the judiciary. Not all members of the English Bar behave improperly and likely many or most do not, but one too many do and they are allowed to get away scot free by their colleagues and Judges alike. The public as always pay the price and the lawyers collect.

We could clean up litigation in this country in six months if improper conduct were to be dealt with at source at the time in the Court. With the current social and other relationships between Judges and the English Bar that will of course never happen.

We can see from the report in the Gazette yesterday that the claimed high ethical standards of the English Bar are a myth, which go unpoliced by any effective system of regulation:-

“Review slams ‘systemic failures’ in bar’s disciplinary system” Monday 30 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Solicitor Judges and Solicitor Advocates are a step forward in breaking up this cosy insidious cartel in British justice controlled by Judges appointed predominantly from the English Bar and by the Bar. But that is hardly even a pin-prick on the carbunkel.

The Bar Council better start looking at its own ranks before it has any standing to attack the only relatively recent phenomenon of Solicitor Advocates.


6 Responses to “Today’s Family Court Reforms Will Never Address Systemic Family Court Problems”

  1. owen smith Says:

    this article displays a clear bias on the part of the author, it also appears to be completely unwarranted and is inaccurate the author suggests social workers ‘bear false witness’ in the criminal courts namely perjure themselves which is a criminal offence so the author is saying that the entire English Family courts system is a corrupt one which doesnt comply with the rule of law and what qualifies the author to come to this conclusion I do wonder..? They are it would appear not a lawyer namely a Judge, Barrister or Solicitor as they attack all of these professions unreservedly so they cant be a member of one of these professions unless they are hypocritical the other possibility and they cant be a social worker again they attack these unreservedly so what is their experience which justifies them to make such an attack? I suspect they lost family proceedings and now seek to attack the system which they blame for their loss rather than recognising their own failures. However if I am wrong I would love to hear from the author as to their experience and qualifications.

    • Owen Smith says “I would love to hear from the author as to their experience and qualifications.” Mr Smith would find from The About Clifford Miller link [rhs of page] that I am a lawyer.

      I stand by what I wrote: “The Family Court has a reputation amongst the public, practitioners, politicians, expert witnesses and journalists for administering injustice. Ryder reform plans will not bring about change to that reputation.”

      Consider the two cases mentioned here [without breaching reporting restrictions]. The Family Court system facilitates horrendous outcomes in other cases which other professionals I know directly involved in the Family Court system have experienced and witnessed themselves.

      My first experience of the Family Court system, but not my only one, was in the successful defence of a medical doctor who gave evidence as an expert witness in the Family Court which contradicted the entrenched views of those who support the interests of the drug industry.

      Another experience in a professional capacity albeit not acting in the proceedings concerned regarded a 7 year-old child taken for adoption on the basis of evidence which was false and important evidence which had been withheld by social workers that they knew and had recorded the family had been the target of 5 years of malicious complaints to social services.

      In the case in which I acted, my client was charged by the GMC with serious professional misconduct and presenting misleading evidence to the Family Court. This was following her evidence being described by Lord Justice Sedley in the Court of Appeal as “junk science”.

      After three weeks of hearings before the GMC involving approaching 400 medical and scientific references and the reports of 5 experts being minutely examined my client was not simply found not guilty. In an unusual finding her defence was found proven to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

      The GMC prosecutor’s main expert witness, a hospital consultant in a leading hospital, admitted in cross-examination that his criticisms of my client’s reports were “quibbling”.

      The panel stated regarding my client:

      “The Panel were sure that at no stage did you allow any views that you held to overrule your duty to the Court and the litigants.” “the Panel is sure that in the reports you provided you did not fail to be objective, independent and unbiased.” “You demonstrated to the Panel that your reports did not derive from your deeply held views and your evidence supported this.” “You largely used what was available in refereed medical journals.”

      So how can Lord Justice Sedley’s remarks in the Court of Appeal be squared with that? And of course those remarks were made when my client was neither present, a party, represented nor given any opportunity to answer.

      These kinds of cases can only happen because of the positive actions of the lawyers and the judges – the clients cannot do it by themselves – they need help of the highly paid and highly skilled and educated “professionals” to achieve these kinds of outcomes.

      I am quietly confident others can produce far far worse examples, that is if they are not gagged by the reporting restrictions which were meant to be but have not been relaxed in practice. So basically, the Family Court can carry on business as usual as if nothing has changed and ignore what Parliament decrees is the law.

      Another Act of Parliament will make no difference. We have seen them before. We also have voluminous tomes of Family Court Rules for decades but they don’t seem to make much difference either to whether they are taken notice of or not by the Family Court.

      • Owen smith Says:

        I’m glad you responded you are of course a lawyer however I see you specialise in competition (anti-trust), IT law and related matters not family thus I again question your experience of the family courts. You use two cases but as your a specialist in another field I wonder how much time you could have actually devoted to an area you do not practice in even in the two samples you provide one is not something you were personally involved in, so your attack is based on it would appear an anecdote and one case you represented a client and I would point out the GMC is not a court it’s a professional body it has disciplinary powers of course but does not normally require the same standard or level of evidence as would say the court of appeal you suggest the evidence was found to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ but that is a suggestion I am sceptical about that is not the standard the gmc require so why would they’ make a finding to that standard nevertheless even if that was the case one case does not represent a system

      • Mr Smith,

        You are perfectly entitled to your views. That the Family Court is in a mess is long known and not just to me. You wanted examples from my direct experience and I gave them, in addition to the evidence I have had from professionals who have experience of the Family Court. Now I have given examples they are not enough for you – and one of the examples – a real case which I saw first hand – you dismiss as anecdote. No Mr Smith it was not a funny story a cab driver told me whilst taking me as a fare to my destination. But if it makes you feel better and more secure in your belief the Family Court is not in a mess and that it is not in a mess because of the lawyers and the judges who run the show then that is fine for you. It does not represent the reality however.

      • Owen smith Says:

        I did not dismiss as you suggest your experience first hand as anecdote I dismissed your other example as anecdote unlike you apparently I can tell the difference, secondly I am not suggesting that the there are no problems with the family court system merely that your attack on it contains many claims which are not ones which would normally be recognised, and indeed I would go further and suggest that you haven’t even read the reform proposals certainly rather than conducting an analysis of the reforms you dismiss them completely if the system is as bad as you suggest then surely some reform would be an improvement..? After all it can’t get much worse on your account

  2. Should the Family court be used to gag the family of a victim of paedophilia in order to hide child sex crimes?
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx in London last week decided to go ahead with xxxxxxxx awards to the two serial paedophiles in their employ.

    [This has been edited. Cannot comment on this but anyone reading who wants more details may want to go to the website:
    http://tinyurl.com/csh5vhv ]

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