Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tim Veater.
For those following this most disturbing case of alleged child abuse and the way it has been handled by the authorities, the recent news that an appeal from the decision of HHJ Pauffley in the family division of the High Court, has been refused, comes as yet another unbelievable set-back.

More detailed information on the case can be viewed here:

If the reader is unaware of the case, the basic facts are these: two young siblings – a boy and girl of eight and nine – alleged in numerous videoed interviews to different people at different times, including six police interviews, that they had been seriously abused by their father and a group of teachers and parents, based on the church and primary school known as Christ Church, Hampstead. This was neither hollow or inconsequential with multiple supporting personal and locational information told in a transparently honest manner.

When these were brought to the attention of the police at Barnett Police Station on Friday 5th September, 2014 the children were brought in for questioning that lasted until well past eleven at night. When the seriousness and apparent voracity of the claims became clear, the interviews were abruptly suspended for consultations on the best way to proceed.

They were reconvened on the 11th September, when very strangely it must be said the same male detective police constable again interviewed both children who repeated and expanded on their horrific experiences. ‘Strangely’, on several counts: first because despite time to prepare and an earlier specific mention, no adult ‘friend’ or representative was provided to support the children and witness what was happening; second because a male officer was interviewing a young vulnerable girl; third the Met. has specialists in child abuse that were not brought in; fourth the videos prove that these were evidentially sham interviews that were not interested in following up specific ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’ questions; fifth, the decision had already been taken two days previously, not conveyed to either children or mother, to apply for a Police Protection Order that had the effect of removing the children to local authority ‘care’, from which after nine months, they have still not been returned!

This unnecessary and deceitful action was taken by the Police Inspector who had been appointed to head a team of experienced serious crime officers including five detective sergeants who came it seems from Colindale Police Station – not it should be noted the Met’s child abuse team – despite objections from a Camden specialist social worker. It was unnecessary because the children made no complaint about their mother with whom they had a residence order from a previous court hearing. All their allegations focused on their father and others from whom they were protected at that stage.

(The police ‘CRIS’ report can be found here:

The inhumane decision to remove them from their only secure environment, was then compounded by giving access to the one who for good reason, they had a mortal fear – their father, who it should be noted has a very dubious past business, social and violent record.
All this and much more is quite inexplicable from a human or rational point of view but what makes it even worse, if that were possible, is the way in which the family courts have dealt with the matter, first in the County Court, then the High Court and now latterly by a decision to refuse an appeal, despite abundant evidence it is both deserved and essential.

On the face of it, it appears injustice piled on injustice; inhumanity on inhumanity; cover-up on cover-up.

Serious efforts have been made to prevent the Russian mother being represented in court and she was forced to flee the country as a result of a heavy handed police attempt to arrest her; her ‘Makenzie Friend’ has similarly been forced to flee on threat of immediate arrest; the authorities attempted to censor any attempt at fair reporting and to wipe all Youtube material; the newspapers and BBC were somehow persuaded to replicate a clearly unbalanced and prejudiced judgement; recently the children’s unimpeachable and educated grand-parents have even been denied access unless they concur with the judgement – a clear case of official blackmail.

This miscarriage of justice has been replicated and exacerbated by the recent refusal to allow an appeal.

At this point I am rather afraid I am on less firm ground, as I have not been provided with further details or viewed the transcript. All I have is that the decision was taken by a judge by the name of ‘Black’. Clearly we shall have to await his/her reasoning for the decision and whether it was made by the High Court or Court of Appeal.

In the meantime I have located three judges by that name, any of whom may be the person referred to: His Honour Judge Jonathan Black sitting as a Crown Court Judge in Basildon (so it unlikely to be him); Her Honour Judge Black sitting it would seem in the Portsmouth family court; or, and I think most likely Her Honour Lady Justice Black who sits in the Court of Appeal. The latter would appear to have been the most likely on the available information to have been the person responsible for turning down the appeal.

(If I am wrong I make fulsome apology for misleading and being misled, however without deciding on the matter, information in the public domain, is not without its interest or application to the Hampstead case.)

First as regards Her Honour Judge Black, she appears to have attracted a certain degree of criticism. In 2010 for some reason she was given (spoof I assume?) the “Paul Randle-Jolliffe Britain’s Worst Family Judge Awards 2010. October 7, 2010 nominated Her Honour Judge Black Portsmouth”

This may have had something to do with a much more serious and important matter, when one of her decisions was criticised and overturned by the Court of Appeal the following year namely, LADY JUSTICE SMITH and LORD JUSTICE WILSON overturned and criticised her decision to give contact to the father at his mother’s house.

See: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed87298 
Case No: B4/2011/0302
Neutral Citation Number: [2011] EWCA Civ 1147
(Lower Court No: PO10F01088/P00474)

Their comments were particularly applicable to the Hampstead case, where it would appear analogous mistakes have been made and therefore may be of assistance in any appeal, insofar as they are binding on lower courts, in the Hampstead case. In particular judgements made on the placement of children without the opportunity of giving the mother adequate notice or seeking her considered opinion; or of properly taking into account the previous (criminal) history of the person with whom the child was to be placed, neither of which have been fulfilled in the Hampstead case. The relevant excerpts are reproduced below.

“21. The solicitor who represented the mother before the judge and who is present in court today, sitting behind Ms Magee of counsel, realistically and courageously accepts that, in retrospect, her advocacy was insufficiently robust. I hope that it is not impertinent for me to suggest that she might have made a final submission along these lines:

Your Honour I respectfully submit, with all the force at my command, that it would be wrong at this juncture for your Honour to vary the arrangements for contact so as to make the grandmother the supervisor or supporter of contact. I rely on the following 13 features:”

(1) it was agreed between the parties as recently as at the hearing on 20 September 2010 that contact needed to be supervised at a contact centre;
(2) my client’s statement, to which I have already referred in passing and which I hope that you may have had time to read, raises serious issues of domestic violence against the father but also issues of collusion on the part of the grandmother with the father which would, if established, make her an entirely inappropriate supervisor of contact;
(3) it is (I suggest) important to note that, long before any proposal was made that the grandmother would be an appropriate supervisor of contact, my client was, in that statement, making allegations against the grandmother which turn out to be highly relevant to that very issue;
(4) the father has never filed a statement, whether by himself or by the grandmother, in answer to my client’s statement;
(5) the police have seen fit to charge the father with offences of assault, including indecent assault, upon my client and we understand that they are due to be heard in less than three months’ time;
(6) it was agreed between the parties at the hearing on 20 September that the father should take part in an anger management course and a domestic violence perpetrators’ programme but he has not yet begun to do so;
(7) this hearing was set up by the district judge simply as a review of contact and I had no notice that at it there was to be any suggestion of a change in the nature of the supervision of contact;
(8) in particular I had no notice, prior to walking into your Honour’s court, that my friend was intending today to contend that the grandmother should become the supervisor or supporter of contact;
(9) I have had no time in which to prepare cross-examination of the grandmother and no statement has been filed by her by reference to which I might have taken instructions and formulated my questions;
(10) only 30 minutes have been allotted for this hearing and such has been an entirely inappropriate period in which for us to argue, still less for your Honour to determine, what is an important point in relation to the safety of T during contact;
(11) your Honour has, with respect, had no time even to hear from my client about her concerns and, in particular, to hear her cross-examined by my friend if and insofar as, which is unclear, the father disputes the matters contained in her statement dated 25 August;
(12) as your Honour so well appreciates, where there is a history of substantial domestic violence, the question whether contact arrangements will generate anxiety and distress for the mother, indirectly damaging for the child, is itself an important feature, which your Honour has today had no time to address; and
(13) your Honour’s own, few, questions of the grandmother uncovered a bombshell, namely that her former husband had sexually abused — or as she said in evidence had ‘apparently sexually abused’ her two daughters and that she had been cleared; on any view the sexual abuse of two daughters in her home raises serious questions about her ability to act as a protector of children in her care or temporary care; and the suggested enquiries into whether the grandmother has previous criminal convictions, or indeed whether, now that the former husband has left the home, the local authority are presently involved in relation to the daughters, would in no way answer them.”

The result was that the Court of Appeal judges overturned Justice Black’s decision and criticised both it and the mother’s legal representative with these words:

“22. Yes, such is along the lines of what the advocate might in retrospect have submitted. But this circuit judge is extremely experienced, and highly respected, in the despatch of family proceedings. Her function under the Act of 1989 was quasi-inquisitorial. Irrespective of the abilities, on the day, of the publicly funded solicitor to collect her thoughts so as to present argument to her along those lines, the circuit judge ought to have been well aware of the sort of arguments which I have collected above. The fact is that, notwithstanding the very wide discretion which she enjoyed in relation to varying the arrangements for the father’s contact with T and to her very conduct of the investigation into the issue (see the classic exposition of Butler-Sloss LJ in Re B Minors Contact [1994] 2 FLR 1 at 5F-H), the judge in my view went well outside the boundary of her discretion in allowing the grandmother to become the supervisor or supporter of contact in the above circumstances, taken together. The judge simply failed to weigh at all many of the relevant considerations.

23. I would allow the appeal and direct that, until the hearing on 5 May, which with respect should in the circumstances not be conducted by the circuit judge, the arrangements for contact at a contact centre should remain in force. Were my Lady to agree with this disposal, we should no doubt hear argument in relation to whether it should be the centre in Havant, in Waterlooville or indeed in Portsmouth itself.”

Lady Justice Smith added this pertinent observation: “In short the judge’s willingness to change the basis of the agreed contact to a basis which was not agreed and without any real evidential investigation of the mother’s objections and concerns was a step much too far. These issues were not in my judgment suitable for summary disposal.”

Let us hope this is a glimmer of hope for the Hampstead appeal.
Now as to HHLady Justice Black I found this that may or not be relevant to the present case. She has apparently voiced concern regarding the additional workload imposed on judges by virtue of litigants appearing in person or with ‘McKenzie Friends’.

(See: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/litigants-in-person-make-life-infinitely-more-difficult/1/5041178.article?PageNo=2&SortOrder=dateadded&PageSize=10#comments )

In this particular discussion there appears to be a lot of dissatisfaction from within the legal profession itself, tending to blame a complacent judiciary and government for the present situation.

Anonymous comments on the 9 May 2014 12:09 pm:

“Well, the chickens are coming home to roost ! All those New Labour judges must be regretting their slavish adoration for Tony and his mates who brought this all on us. The days of solicitors for the parents and social workers and guardian ad litems coming to an agreement at the gates of the court and presenting a fait accompli to the judiciary are gone. The judges now have to do “the heavy lifting”. They jumped into “the purple lifeboat” for a relaxed and magisterial overview not to get their hands dirtied with solicitors work. I don’t think this situation is tenable at all. Sooner or later a judge is going to find a way of appointing and paying solicitors out of state coffers to help LIPs and that will be much more expensive than legal aid.”

Michael Martin10 May 2014 12:41 pm contributed this pithy observation:

Oh, right, Paul Howard. How stupid of me to think that the ‘justice’ system is for the benefit of citizens and not the convenience of practitioners. But then, my cynicism about our incomparable, millennial system that I learnt about at school nearly 60 years ago has declined ever since, and not for sour grapes reasons. It is precisely the plight of children that is most egregious and entirely the fault of our senior judiciary. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that children, almost always without funds, were not automatically entitled – by judicial decision at common law, before there was legal aid, for which they are still dependent on an adult – to representation. Judicial acceptance of this is contemptuous. How can they assert/accept that a convicted foreign criminal has a right to representation (ECHR?) but not a child? It is, of course, utterly depressing that Liberty and Justice and even those voluntary, let alone official, organisations set up to represent or help children seem utterly unconcerned about it. Once again, the defenders of animals are readier and louder in their protests than are those of children.”

If it is true as has been reported, that the latest appeal against the Pauffley judgement has been rejected, it is final confirmation that Family Courts have failed in their task to apply the law fairly and do JUSTICE, not to mention as Michael Martin suggests above, have catastrophically failed the children into the bargain. The sooner this stain upon metropolitan policing and British justice is admitted and corrected, the better it will be for all concerned. Until it is, the stain will only get larger, darker and more indelible.END.

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