Continuing with our Interview series, we speak with a father who has been denied contact with his son. The case was processed through the Court of Protection, and raises Child Rights concerns as well as persisting difficulties in assessing capacity.
We would like to thank this father for his courage in sitting for this interview.
In line with reporting restrictions and the protection of child privacy, interviews which focus on individual cases are anonymous and edited to avoid identification of minors.
Which court did you experience?
It first was in Family Court but, was later moved in the Court of Protection by a family member. The case involved my son. [Referred to as A in this interview].
How did you find yourself and your family going through the system?
A family member brought these Proceedings in 2006. Her conduct during the process was dishonest but the social care professionals believed her and sided with her. I only went to these Hearings for a “battering and a bruising”, while I did nothing wrong. No Judgements have any criticisms of me except the last one which states “I interfere with [my son’s] Capacity and that has to be protected”, while the family member got unsupervised contact.
What was it about the process that you did not feel was right?
They forced my son out for a Trial which failed badly (Obesity, bad behaviour, Poor Care, Violence and losing contact) and once I complained, that was a crime and I was then branded and treated like a criminal, While the Neglect was all covered-up. He came home for the weekends but was stopped by the social worker and the family member, who got yet more contact. The Proceedings were always about Best Interests and everything pointed to my son returning home but, the family member concerned continued to be dishonest and then the OS, the prejudicial Judge and the LA decided to use Capacity in order to prevent him from coming back home. How can he make the decision to see us, if he lacks such capacity and if he was to make that decision and tell the social worker, how is she going to allow it if she criticizes the family member for “encouraging” him to speak to me on the phone?
Once the adult family member in this case said that my son told her he did not wish to see me again, that was taken as fact but, that was not true. The Judge now bewilderingly refuses to make an Order for Contact to resume while we “always” sent him back to the Placement after he spent the weekends with us. I made three Statements with all the Facts and Evidence but, they were never read or responded to. Care Home Staff and their Advocate made Statements but, they were never cross-examined about the contents were taken as fact. My son was not involved in the Proceedings. He did not come to Court. All we had was “hearsay” evidence.
What observations did you make, good and bad, about the process?
Once the Proceedings started in 2006, they could not find anything wrong with my son’s Care and Residence. They decided to allow him to stay with us in 2009 but, the family member continued being dishonest and that fooled the Independent Social Workers, Social Workers, Advocate, The Official Solicitor and the Judge. The Independent Psychiatrist made the correct Findings on Capacity but, it was refuted by the Judge. This Social Worker did not study the mind and brain and the NHS Psychiatrist works alongside the Local Authority Staff in the same building every day. This Assessment is full of wrong responses allegedly given by my son. Why was it not carried out in a Neutral Venue? Why was it done during a time when we had No Contact? Where is the “recording” of this Assessment to confirm that my son said these things? My son said negative things about us to the Independent Psychiatrist but, could not explain why he said them, he therefore, cannot understand “empathy” and I believe he was told to say these absurd things. Now I can be arrested if I meet my son and take him home, even if he was to come home on his own. It is absurd.
Do you think the system was supportive of your family and understood the issues involved in your case?
From this one-sided experience in the CoP and after chatting with many other Families on Social Networking Groups, we have no confidence in the manner in which inhumane injustice is delivered upon us. Judges needs to make their own decisions based on “factual evidence” rather than accept “hearsay” and not follow the OS, the LA and dubious character assessments of individuals involved, while breaching children’s, and our Human Rights. The OS made many disproportionate statements which were accepted by the Judge; one was “When A lived with his father, his father had an Article 8 Right but, since A does not live with him anymore, he has no Article 8 Right any more”.
How child friendly did you feel the system was?
In my view, Family Law needs reforming with Family involved and Human Rights being respected as my son was not involved in these Proceedings. His voice was muted. The Judge never saw him at all and I fail to see how can a Judge make decisions for him without his views or voice being heard. That cannot be Best Interests. We Alienated Families have voiced this in our responses to the Dept. of Health Publication ‘No Voice Unheard- No Rights Ignored’ and this is being reviewed by the Law Commission before being sent to Parliament to consider, in reforming Family Law.
Was the system able to understand the needs of any children involved?
I do not believe that the System is fair and just. Judges seems to take the “easy route” rather go on a “fact finding” mission. For far too long Local Authorities, Official Solicitors and CAFCASS all collude and the Judges went along and it is only when things go horribly wrong, like a child dies, or some higher Body complains or it is exposed on the Media, then the Case is handled properly. For example, the Stephen Neary Case. G&E, the Bournewood Case and the Winterbourne Abuse.
Did you feel you experienced any forms of bias or prejudice during the process?
Off course the Judge was “biased and prejudiced” as she refused to make an Order for Contact to resume and refused Appeals on grounds I didn’t feel were right. I believe that Proceedings should be overseen by an impartial Body or even the Press for the right outcome to be delivered.
How efficient did you find the administrative side of the process?
The Publishing of Judgements needs to be more open especially to the Press. In my case, it would have been helpful to publish earlier Judgements which speak very positively about my conduct. This seems to have be hidden from the public domain. The Public should be able to know that I’m not a criminal so, so why treat me like one?
What would you like to change about the system?
The Findings from the Department of Health, “No Voice Unheard and No Rights Ignored”, and Findings from ‘Monitoring the Mental Health Act 2014/15 by the Care Quality Commission and the United Nation Committee on Disabled People Human Rights is overwhelming in Family favour. Almost every aspect/clause points unanimously in Family Involvement, Nearest Relative, Human Rights respected, a Plan to return home and or live closer to home while on the other hand we are Alienated from our loved ones forever and we are told “all is well” while, the poorest of care and abuse is delivered behind our backs. The ‘Secret Behind Closed Doors System’ has to go. The Press must be allowed in and truly independent Bodies involved in order for a Fair Trial to be delivered.