Courts Grind Families into dust

Another day, another father takes his life and that of his child for fear of losing him via the human waste processing unit that is the secret Family Courts. I had the misfortune to be in Southampton family court today myself. A waiting area sardine packed with young children and desperate mums and dads. Circling overhead were the solicitors picking off the meat left on the human carcasses. It was desperate, desperate stuff. We were there to help an F4J supporter and appeal a judgement which would result in the removal of his daughter 270 miles away to Grimsby just as she is about to start school in Southampton. Dave White had no legal representation but enjoyed de facto shared residence (3 nights a week). To his shock, a visiting District Judge Brook ripped up the existing order, ignored any welfare concerns (the daughter had spent her life in Southampton) and said that it was OK to uproot a child without any reference to the welfare check list.

So we decided to help Dave and challenge this decision. Dave made an application to involve Cafcass in an attempt to stay the judgement. He paid another £175 for the application, asked to see his court file which the court office agreed and was told to wait upstairs. In attendance were myself, Dave’s friend Matt and Dave’s McKenzie on the day Nadine O’Connor. Outside one guy and his mum leafleted visitors. Then all hell broke loose.

When I was speaking to another father I was rudely interrupted by a solicitor trying to obstruct my giving advice to the father and Nadine was accused by the usher of ‘impersonating a Cafcass officer’.

Nadine was then refused access as a McKenzie by the usher who had no right to make that decision (the decision rests with the judge). Dave refused to attend court without representation as this had disadvantaged him at the last hearing. The usher then called 3 security guards to deal with Nadine and then remove her from the doorway. The hostility was tangible. Nervous, aggressive staff, barking illegal orders at us. We double checked our legal position and again said that they were acting unlawfully and disadvantaging a LIP. We then went downstairs to see the court file which they had already agreed we could see. This was then refused by a nervy looking court manager, again without any lawful reason.

In effect a litigant in person has been discriminated against because he was a member of F4J. It was as shocking and disgraceful encounter as I have seen in 8 years of campaigning. That of course is not the end of the matter. Our presence left everyone in the court very shaken, despite the fact that we played by the rules. We are preparing a response and another appeal and have put the court on notice that we are practising a zero tolerance approach to this sort of discrimination. Given the denial of justice today, direct action is looming on the horizon. We will keep you posted on further developments.

Matt O’Connor

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