The British Family Courts are quick to reach for the hammer. Why not use it to protect the right to full disclosure of evidence? Picture via Dreamstime
The Witchfinder examines another disturbing case in which hated circuit Judge, ‘His Honour’ Judge Cardinal withheld vital evidence from a woman desperate to be re-united with her disabled daughter, only to be overturned once again by a higher court.
In Christopher Bond’s well known stage version of Sweeney Todd, there is a character called Judge Turpin. One of the play’s best known scenes has Turpin passing sentence of death on a criminal for repeated crimes. Only once sentence has passed is the identity of the miscreant revealed (in the movie, by a dramatic camera pan). It is a frightened, crying, cowering child.
Of course all fictional characters have a basis in reality and, but for accident of timing, Turpin could have been inspired by the jurisprudence of Birmingham Judge HHJ Cardinal. Regular readers of the Witchfinder will recall Cardinal’s previous works –
- sentencing a woman called Wanda Maddocks to prison for (amongst other things) taking her father to see a lawyer, and gagging her (gagging overturned, condemned in Parliament and excoriated in the Daily Mail)
- making a wasted costs order against a solicitor acting pro-bono for a vulnerable destitute woman (overturned by the Court of Appeal)
Bob really should have thought more carefully before being rude to his social worker
Astonishingly, the Court of Protection is considering formally giving social workers the power to declare someone lacking Mental Capacity without pesky doctors getting involved.
It has been a bad few weeks for the Court of Protection. Back in February this blog revealed the sinister jailing of Wanda Maddocks for taking her disabled father to see a lawyer and being rude to social workers. Because of course the most serious threat to the vulnerable today is family members trying to assert their Article 6 Rights and improve their care.
If she had instead groomed him or raped him for years as happened to vulnerable children in Oxford then presumably social services would have turned a blind eye.
The utter head-in-sand-unreasonable refusal of the system to recognise its failings has gone on for years. This blog is largely concerned with the rights of the vulnerable and of course the iniquities of Labour’s outrageous legislation so I was delighted to see recently that Chris Grayling had asked for a review of the powers of the Court of Protection.
The Witchfinder muses on a case in which a kindly solicitor acting pro-bono was unjustly punished.
This is the cover of a book by Charles Dickens. It’s … like .. about how *NOT* … to do it. Do not use as a guide to legal practice.
I was flattered when the Daily Mail picked up my story on the jailing of WM – a woman who can now be named as Wanda Maddock. Their work is impressive. However her case is by no means the only injustice perpetrated in the Birmingham Family Courts.
The legal system is undergoing cuts. Not as some left wingers and vested interests say, for the purposes of undermining access to justice nor for some other pernicious reason but instead because this country is short of money. It helps that there are bloated and inefficient reaches of our legal system that may have benefited from a little judicious slashing anyway, but the grim truth is that resources are scarce indeed.
In this new environment where lawyers, like many professionals, must put up with falling revenues those who take time out to do pro-bono work should be praised and recognised.
Sadly, in Birmingham the saying that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ seems to be truer than elsewhere. I write again on the unfortunate topic of HHJ Martin Cardinal. This time I refer to a Court of Appeal case where he was humiliatingly smacked down after wrongfully making a wasted costs order against an innocent solicitor. The judgement is available on BAILII, and is well worth reading. As ever the Witchfinder provides no more information in this article than is available in the public judgement.
An article about a terrifying judgement of the Court of Protection in which a man’s daughter was imprisoned for contempt for taking him to see a lawyer to challenge his placement in a care home by the local authority. And for witchcraft. Yes really, witchcraft.
If your local council places you in a care home and you or your family object can you talk to them about it? Can you talk to a lawyer? Or would that be contempt of Court punishable by imprisonment? What if your family helps you? Would they be in contempt?
Most reasonable people would say a resounding “No” to the question of Contempt. Step forward HHJ Cardinal – the circuit judge with the courage to say “Yes!”
The case of SCC v JM, and ors is reported on Mental Health Law Online and is an anonymised public judgement. The Witchfinder publishes no information other than what is already in the public domain. The document has been missed by the national media so far, which is a shame as it is a horrifying and clear cut scandal. The case concerns an elderly man, JM, who suffers from Alzheimer’s syndrome and has been placed in a care home. There is apparently some form of dispute about his residence, which has led to litigation in the Court of Protection.
JM has three children who disagree with the local authority. This is not uncommon. Your humble correspondent the Witchfinder is a law student who often advises such people pro-bono. About 75-90% of the time the local authority is right. Roughly 25-10% of the time there is something to be said for the other side. About 10-5% of the time it is a horror story.
The disturbing thing about this case is that, according to the judgement, an order was made by Judge Owen on 19/05/2012 that prohibited the respondents (the old man’s children) from helping the vulnerable elderly man challenge the placement – “the respondents should not encourage JM to leave or to ask to leave his placement, or discuss with him the possibility of moving back home, or remove him from the jurisdiction of the court.”