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Children: The Voice of Reason

25th Sep 2008 | in Legal, Justice & Court

The spousal power struggle within the family unit is a phenomenon that is not new; whether we think of women in the home prior to their emancipation or today’s stay-at-home fathers who are now fighting for the right to be viewed as primary carers, the notion that roles within the family are diverse is a fascinating one.

Although men and women’s roles have varied in relative degrees throughout history and in different countries, the role and rights of the child have always come a distant second in this evolutionary cycle. As legislation has primarily been used to protect and to conserve fundamental human rights, it is a helpful place to start when considering a child’s status not just in society but in the breakdown of a relationship.

In the past, the courts traditionally supported the notion that children were the property of the father and with this highly paternal philosophy being cemented in court, mothers were relegated to mute observers in the system and children the silent victims of an unenlightened era.

As is often the case in the courts, once it became apparent that this approach was not in the best interests of the children that came before them, the legislative pendulum swung violently the other way and mothers were considered to be the primary carers as of right, rendering fathers almost completely redundant, except as a means to maintain the fractured family.

Today, seemingly unable to learn from its aggressive knee-jerk reactions to Group pressures and economic constraints, the pendulum in the Family Courts again continues to swing maniacally from mother to father without reasonable explanation. The pressure that the Courts have felt under due to Father’s rights groups have also had an effect on how the courts have reacted to the concerns raised by disgruntled fathers and again mothers who have given birth to children out of wedlock have also placed a great deal of pressure on the courts, so that today men who father children out of marriage are still not considered fathers in the legal sense thereby entitling them to have contact with their children in a way that reflects their parenthood. These crude concessions do not do justice to the varied forms of parenting we see in practice today nor do they take into account the most important person in a vulnerable family: the child.

The desire to protect children can be a double-edged sword: on the one hand, our belief as adults that we know best can sometimes work in favour of a child but by the same token, if we were to just allow children, with their finely honed instincts, the right to voice their concerns and their perception of their own dilemmas, we might just learn something. Children and their well-being incite a strong reaction in most of us and in 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This piece of legislation is the most widely implemented document of its kind and came into force in 1990. Just one year after that, Britain ratified the Convention and has also now begun to shift its attention towards the child’s right to be heard, a truly wonderful step forward for the courts.

However, Britain is not at the forefront of recognising the voice of the child by any means and although they have adopted many laws that emphasise not just the best interests of the child but the need to include the voice of the child in that process, other countries are pragmatically pioneering the way forward, rather than just paying lip service to it.

In 2003, Israel began to look in-depth at the child’s place in family law proceedings and not just with a view to allowing these children the ability to express their desires in relation to contact and other agreements involving them but also to give their sentiments the long overdue weight they deserved.  The new regulations in place in Israel state that the Family Court “will give children the right to express their feelings, opinions and desires in the matter before the court…..and will accord them the proper weight in its ruling, in keeping with the child’s age and maturity”. The legislation in Britain echoes these sentiments but one distinct difference is visible: the extent to which the voice of the child may be heard. In Private Family Law proceedings, the consensus is that a child would probably need to reach nine years of age before their views would be considered (and here consideration does not mean that the child’s wishes will be granted as of right). The President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter is himself of the view that the age limit would do well to encompass six year olds and upwards (and those of us who are parents are well aware that most children can talk for England at an even younger age and with dogged clarity), but again, it is Israel at the forefront of this age limit and they have already enthusiastically taken on-board 6-18 year olds as part of their new pilot scheme to improve the decision making process in their family courts. Both Israel and England then have understood the significance of establishing the child’s right to be heard but for now, Israel has steamed ahead with its highly innovative regulations.

This however, is by no means the beginning of the end; allowing more verbal input of any kind into a process which relies heavily on statement based evidence does carry with it problems. Many parents are anxious about whether the process will impinge on their parental authority. There are already cases which are causing parents to feel that England has turned into a Nanny State, with the advent of laws allowing children of a certain age to acquire medical advice without their parents’ consent. Some parents are also worried that the other parent involved may try to manipulate the child into expressing feelings that are not actually their own and where children are considered too young to speak (either because they are not yet nine or because they still dribble when you point to the fruit basket and say “Apple!”) there is the fear that the child’s needs will get lost within the combative nature of the process.  Add to this the lawyers’ concerns about the legitimacy of evidence which not only comes from a small child but as in Israel, may one day be acquired in the Judge’s chambers and therefore despite being recorded appears on the surface to offer no immediate indication as to the weight the conversation had on the judge’s ruling and at once a new dimension of concerns become apparent.

Much like any complex system, for the voice of the child to be effectively heard, free from manipulation and ill conceived assumption , the courts themselves need to run smoothly and once again, the Family Courts in England, heavily burdened with an enormous case load and no visible streamline to its copious departments finds itself struggling to fully implement these new regulations.

Sir Mark Potter gave a very insightful speech in May, 2008 which he named “The Voice of the Child: Children’s Rights in Family Proceedings”. In this speech, he explained how the United Kingdom was doing its best to champion the voice of the child and continued on to mention the effort the Family Courts were making to achieve this and with great honesty, the continuing difficulties our courts face in relation to putting the child’s best interests first.  Sir Potter acknowledged that in both Private and Public Family Law, the desire to protect children in the court process coupled with the adversarial nature of the courts meant that the voice of the child was not given due weight and was in fact stifled by the current court climate. Sir Potter also astutely recognised the need, especially in Private Family Law proceedings, for judges to speak face to face (or face to knee, depending on the age of the child) with the youngsters involved rather than to rely on CAFCASS reports as a general starting point. This would have a dual effect; the child in question would get to meet the person deciding their future, which would lend a personal and positive quality to the experience and give the child a relative feeling of control and it would also allow the judge to gain a deeper understanding of children. Well, who wouldn’t want to see a judge wearing a Cowboys and Indians outfit and throwing paper peas at the ten year old who has just finished his chat in chambers?

Comments

  • On 29th Sep 2008 at 08:58 AM Barbara said...

    My son gave his views to the Cafcass officer and his views were twisted and ignored. He wanted to go to court and speak to the judge himself but he was not allowed to. He asked me what had happened in court, and I told him that the Cafcass officer had told the judge that he wanted to see his dad, which was not true. My son does want to see his father, but only to ask him what he is playing at, dragging his mother to court at every opportunity. The Cafcass officer twisted what my son said into something completly different.

    So the Cafcass officer came to our house again, and my son asked our neighbours and friends to witness, and in front of them all gave her such a telling off for lying to the judge that she was off work with stress related illness for three months. I was not in the room at the time, yet the judge still tried to blame me, and sent her round to our house again, with a stipulation that there were to be no witnesses called by my son.

    I could hear my son from the room next door. My son, again, very forcefully but without swearing or agression told that woman that he was completly fed up of not being listened to, that he had said the same thing over and over again and would continue to do so until it sunk in! He was magnificent!

    Now, I think this is an absolute disgrace. These people tried to force my son to visit a rapist against his wishes - this man is his father because of what he did to me, because of a crime that he committed 12 years ago. I was not even able to tell my son that he was concieved through rape until after this disgusting court case was over, and I certainly would rather not have had to tell my child this until he was older at least, but these people forced me to tell my son this, because he heard me weeping and talking to a friend about it and he wanted to know what rape was. My son should have been able to have an innocent carefree childhood, but these evil courts have forced me to speak to my son about things that I would rather have not spoken to him about until he reached puberty. I have been as brief and sensitive about it as I can, and not described the actual act itself, but it was such a difficult thing to have to do. I have also had to constantly re-assure my son that I would not be going to jail - I’ve been threatened with jail so many times during this seven years, NOT because I have committed any crime, but just in case I commit “contempt of court”. They threaten women like me at every opportunity, it’s disgraceful how we are treated. I’ve also had to reassure my son that I won’t commit suicide - he heard on the news about a mother committing suicide because of the family courts and was terrified in case I did the same. I had to keep telling him over and over that no way would I do anything like that. I’ve had to force a smile on my face when my heart hads felt so smashed up and pounding with fear because of these family court bas*ards. My son has been waking up crying in the night, I’ve had to sit by his side and hold his hand, and crack jokes with him to re-assure him that I’m ok and not going to kill myself. Cracking jokes at 3.30am, not easy, I reckon I deserve some kind of a medal for bravery. It’s been like hell for our family, I’ve tried to shield my son as much as I can, but it’s been like slow torture for me. .

    Rape Crisis have confirmed that rapists can take their victim to court as the law stands. It is a loophole that needs closing, and fast. It’s a terrible thing to be a victim of rape - it’s incredible that the victim can be further tortured by her rapist stalking her through these illegal kangaroo courts. It has to stop.

  • On 29th Sep 2008 at 12:41 PM Natasha said...

    Thank you so much for expressing your sentiments about an experience which is arguably the most painful for any human being. The courts have not yet understood the difficulties the system poses by placing undue pressure on parents, and the brave faces and the jokes and the constant re-assurance are a trademark of mothers like you who have had to endure the less than perfect process, (which makes SAS training look like a day out at Chessington smile I promise you that your bravery will be rewarded; your son’s love for you is stronger than any court imposition. Although my experiences have been different to yours and perhaps less traumatic, the desire to protect our children as good mothers means that we will always break into that smile, soothe our little one’s hearts and muster up the courage to keep going. And the next time that you nurse your son to sleep or reaffirm that you will always be there, please remember that you are not alone; there is a lot of work to be done to revive the courts, but we will do it! I wish you lots of wonderful days with your son and thank you for your comment, it was truly inspiring.

  • On 29th Sep 2008 at 04:01 PM michaelmac said...

    Hi Barbara A truely horrible story, Those who put you though all the heartack should pay dearly

  • On 29th Sep 2008 at 06:40 PM Barbara said...

    I’ve told them all that I forgive them all. I know I probably sound bonkers, but it’s the only way I can think of that the cycle of abuse might be broken.

    Perhaps if I do that, they might all realise how horrible they have been.

    I’ve even forgiven the rapist. I wrote him a letter, not wishing harm on him, but begging him to repent of what he has done, for his own sake, and he brought it up in court and told the judge I had written him apoison pen letter. The judge asked me if it was true, and I said that I had written to him, but that it was not a poisonous letter, and please could it be read out in court by the rapist. But the judge would not let him do that, the matter was discreetly dropped. I guess the judge, who has relentlessly persecuted me, did not want that letter read out in the court because there were far too many uncomfortable home truths in it. 

    I’m not going to be bullied by these people any more, but I do not wish them to hell, and that is where they are headed, the way they are acting. It’s evil what they are doing. They have persecuted our family relentlessly for no reason at all, and done it to other families as well. They’ve done it for money. 

    I won’t be taking any of them to court. I’ve told them that if they continue to persecute me then God will deal with them. God has been taking very good care of our family, and I think they realise that. Every trap they set for me has been overturned, and I don’t know how, except that I keep praying and somehow the traps that they set for our family kept coming to nothing.

    So I have forgiven them all. God will take care of our family.

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 02:36 AM michaelmac said...

    Barbara, My thoughts on what should happen, All those involved should be removed from working with children, As they are a danger to the welfare of other children, A few years ago i was involved in a case before the family courts, And because of my and one other persons actions we got a judge removed from working in the family courts, I got arrested for witness intimidation, But was not charged because it would have come out in an open court, The judge and cafcass officers supported a rapist instead of the mother of two children.

    I am also on a different incident going to Crown court in the near future with a witness against a social services department, Because they left two children to face abuse after they took into care their older sibling and knowingly left the younger ones with the abusive father despite the eldest being put into care because he was abusing her, If i can i will makes sure they never work with children again

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 06:27 AM Barbara said...

    Michaelmac, I agree with what you say. The problem is, the whole system is crook, there are some terrible people working in the family court system, but there are also a large amount of people who are put under massive pressure to deprive the innocent of justice by their superiors.

    Most of the people who have hurt our family were not malicious, but felt that they were powerless to do anything to help us. I do not think that anyone is really powerless, but most people are too afraid to tackle really big bullies, they think that if they look the other way, it will all go away, but, of course, it never does.

    The wicked ones who hurt our family will certainly be brought to justice, but it won’t be through my hand. The family court system is falling apart at the seams. I know that whistleblowers are going to come forward, so many people witnessed what they did to me and my family, and they have also witnessed what was done, and what is still being done to other families. Witnessing evil corruption day after day does not sit easy on the human soul, it causes stress and sickness. These social workers are under almost unbearable stress because of the wicked things they are being pushed into doing, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the breaking point will come very shortly and the whole sorry tale will come tumbling out.

    It’s going to cause so much anger and chaoe when the people of this country finally realise the full extent of what has been going on in this country. I’m a Christian, not an anachist, and I’ve certainly not got any desire to be a martyr. I love this country, and I absolutly hate what is happening to families, the fear of control freakery is destroying family life for a lot of people, pedophiles are getting away with murder whilst good parents are being falsely accused of child abuse aka MSBP and PAS.

    There are so many of us, that these things have happened to, and the media have treated us all in the same way, individually we have told them our appalling stories, and instead of plastering these miscarriages of justice all over the front page, we have all been individually told that the paper cannot take on our individual story! It’s dishonest, the way the media have acted, they have supressed the news and put the whole nations children at risk by doing so. We are finding out the full extent of this now, as we share our stories and correspondence with each other, comparing the way we have been treated by this agency and that agency, and realising that we have all been given the big brush off in exactly the same way.

    Removing one wicked judge won’t fix this, the whole shabby system needs to be dismantled, because these family courts are using a syndrome which was invented by a pedophile - that is at the very heart of the whole festering system.

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 06:52 AM michaelmac said...

    Barbara, There is only one way to beat the system, That is the family courts and thats attack naned members of Cafcass and put their names in the media, I have posted on news papers all over the world, I have attacked Prime Ministers, Presidents and others, I have had comments posted about the Popes sorry, I called it a con and said why

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 07:22 AM Barbara said...

    Totally agree! Don’t apologise to me about that - I’m with you on that one! I’m a Christian, not a complete idiot. The group of establishments that call themselves the church will not raise a whisper about the institutional child abuse that is happening, that they are completly aware of. I’ve written thousands of letters, I’ve made data CD’s and shown them to bishops, archbishops, heads of this and that and been completly astonished at their attitude about the scandalous goings on in this country. The church farts about toadying up to all kinds of wierd pressure groups, but will they lift a finger to protect children from institutional child abuse on a grand scale? Will they eckers like! They do not want to know!

    So don’t apologise to me about your comntempt for the church, because I feel the same way as you do. From what I have personally experienced of the established church of all the big denominations, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, none of them give a monkeys about stopping institutional child abuse. They could stop it - they have the power and authority to do this if they wanted to do so. But they do not have the will. Gay rights, yes. Children’s rights, we’re too busy! Grrrr!

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 02:37 PM michaelmac said...

    Barbara, I have known Teresa over two years and we speak on the phone quite often, So if you want help to high light what happened to you i know Teresa will help so will I, Each of us suffered in different ways and i use what happened to me to try and make a difference yours michael

  • On 3rd Oct 2008 at 05:04 PM Barbara said...

    Yes please! Our 1st December T shirt pledge!

    I don’t want any personal help - I won my secret kangeroo court case, and with all the things that these people did to me during those seven years of secret family court torture chamber hell, plus the abuse I suffered as a child whilst in local authority “care” and the dispicable way the police have treated me, I really don’t think I will have any more trouble from any of those people, who have maliciously vindictively persecuted me for so long. I have sent letters informing various agencies that I have no intention of taking any action against any of them - but if anyone dares so much as to even breath on me, well, if they’ve got any sense at all they will leave me well alone, it is a bad idea to pull the tail of a lioness. I’m a very nice woman, very kind, very forgiving, but I’m a crafty sod as well, and I’ve got the measure of all of them and their secret boys club games. I want a quiet life now, a bit of peace and quiet, without getting got at from one quarter or another, and I’ll be blown if I’m not going to have it, because I’ve had enough hassle to last ten lifetimes.

    We are having a T shirt protest day on December 1st, to try to get the message accross to people that there are secret courts all over this country, and other countries as well. Here is the link, I’d love it if you could sign up and tell as many people as possible. I might have won my own case, but I care passionatly about keeping other families safe as well.

    http://everywhere.pledgebank.com/NOSECRETCOURT

  • On 4th Oct 2008 at 02:58 PM michaelmac said...

    Barbara, I wore a t shirt with these words on in london, Labour approve the abuse of children

  • On 11th Mar 2010 at 09:55 PM rachel morriss said...

    child protection need exposing Kevin williams child and adolecent trust. I didnt show up for court at the royal courts of justice so judge ulstien order a child protection conference with kevin williams and kensington and chelsea borough in 2001 they issused a warrent and locate order they new were l was but then l went travelling international team went looking for me it was seen as child abduction they use new tactics to remove children illegaly but you cant prove it so they sectioned me for 2 days saying l had a serious mental illness but was discharged 2 days later no one would help me not even solicitors its been 1yr and l am in court for 5 days in march the 22nd l feel for all the other mothers who are suffering at ss hands pam brookes cafcas has lied in court so has the sw chantele gilander and chil psych neil harris and the parenting assesers everytime l speak in court they try to belittle me bcuz they couldnt get me on a serious mental illness theyve now put me down as personality disorder they dont show up for contact they sabatage every effort l make and twist what i say my children are suffering in silence there trying to give my children to my sons father who he doesnt even know. judge bond plus other judges throughout england are taking children of mothers for minor anonamous tip offs which is are social workers it needs people who arnt afraid to speak up for what the believe in l hope this could help some one as l know how painful it is to mourn the loss of your children lve had no help or support from social services .

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