Wednesday, 29 April 2009

CASE STUDIES; Family courts

The rudimentary Press sign, stuck with Blu-Tack on the door of what moments before was an interview room, indicated that the officials at Ipswich County Court were not used to such intrusions. One looked shocked when told that The Times had entered the building, and security guards insisted that the press keep identification cards visible at all times and await court hearings in segregation from the various parties.
The establishment recovered quickly, however. Within 45 minutes the flimsy Press sign had been replaced with a smarter, laminated version, and The Times was granted access to a care order hearing without any disruptions or objections from the various legal parties.
It was only at the lunchtime recess that Judge Peter Thompson acknowledged the press in the courtroom two journalists from The Times and one from the local newspaper, the Ipswich Evening Star. He emphasised that the normal reporting restrictions applying to the anonymity of children in the case still stood, but said nothing further about the new legislation and imposed no further restrictions.
The Times was thus afforded access to Day One of the hearing in its entirety care proceedings initiated by a council in relation to a ten-month-old girl. An interim care order, under which the child was placed with a guardian last October, was being contested by both parents.
It was an illuminating glimpse into the workings of the court. Psychological experts altered their conclusions as they were being questioned on the stand, and complained on numerous occasions that they had not been given enough information about the case to make satisfactory conclusions.
It emerged that, of the three psychological experts on whose testimony the childs fate will be decided, only one had interviewed all the parties (the mother, aged 32, the father, 41, and the child). One said that he was making conclusions about parenting ability without having seen the way that the mother or the father interacted with the child.

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