Saturday, June 13, 2015

Double Standards

The law lays down strict rules about the treatment of children in court, be it as witnesses/victims or defendants. Although I do not sit as a Youth magistrate, I sometimes see a case that has to be sent off to what is flippantly called the Kiddy Court (usually by lawyers).

When this happens I have to make an order under the Children and Young Persons' Act that forbids the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person concerned.

You will often read a press report that says 'we cannot name the young person involved for legal reasons', and that is as it should be.

But then I look at the current case of a foolish mother, blinded by what she sees as love for her son, who defies a High Court judge and flees with the boy. The court will make a decision on Monday, but today the boy's face is all over the tabloids. When a celebrity is photographed for the popular press, it is the practice to pixellate the faces of the children, but this lad has no such luck.

Just a couple of points, because the drift of the media's coverage is to sympathise with the mother:-

A High Court Judge will have made a decision based on the law, having regard to all the facts, and with the benefit of comprehensive reports from professionals about the case. We have only heard one side of the case, but the tabloid- reading public has been nudged into the conclusion that a mother's love trumps the considered judgment of the law (cue 'out-of-touch' jibes).

Of course, it's a good story, and good stories sell papers, but can we put this one to rest, and allow this little boy and this sadly warring couple a little peace and anonymity?

12 comments:

  1. I don't think you've identified the double standards?

    Both cases (you making an order of anonymity and the decision to publish this boy's name and photo) are examples of decisions made in the best interest of a child. Rather than double standards it actually appears to be the same standard.

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  2. I agree with Jimbob, there is no double standard here. It is standard practice to release photographs of missing children in order that the public might assist in finding them. That is a very sensible policy. Naturally, that is an invasion of the child's privacy, but the child's safety is a higher priority than the child's privacy.

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    1. Anonymous John15 June 2015 at 22:45

      But a Daily Mail article today still shows two photos of the child. And the Mail being the Mail, we get this. "as she walked into the building carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag".

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  3. I assumed the double standard was complaining that the press were making a fuss about it whilst at the same time feeding the frenzy about the case!

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  4. Children's Act (1968, I think), section 1. The interests of the child shall be paramount. So it's a judgment call: are the interests better served by publication or not. And horses for courses; it may not be the same answer every time.

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  5. I have always been opposed to hiding the name of children involved in criminal behaviour as perpetrators, witnesses or victims.

    Anything but the absolute truth and full disclosure is bound to fail. Catastrophically.

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    1. It's the principle that not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done.

      Have a look at Christopher Booker's columns about the way the Family Courts conduct themselves (and the associated industry around them) to see what happens when systems operate in secrecy. Judge Munby has tried to clean it up a bit but he's fighting the whole culture of that inst

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  6. See the officially issued judgments in this case - http://obiterj.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/family-court-ethan-williams-case.html

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  7. Unconnected with this post but has anyone got an comment or a post about the new single justice procedure in the Magistrates Courts?

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    1. SouthLondon JP19 June 2015 at 08:30

      With apologies if BS wants to move this to another thread Obiter while I admit to not having yet read the detail, the principle of a single justice sitting on fairly uncontroversial issues is not a bad one.

      I often feel very sorry for my wingers when dealing with frankly routine matters which they must find very boring sitting basically as nodding dogs. Lets be honest, does it really need 3 justices for a long non appearance guilty pleas list?

      On the other hand, care must be taken not to 'de-skill' the magistracy. The increasing use of DJ(MC) who tend to deal with the 'juicier' cases is IMHO a deliberate attempt by the MOJ to achieve just that leaving the 'lay' bench to deal with dropping litter cases, no doubt in a portakabin in a supermarket car park...

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  8. Something quite chilling that is going on at the moment, though I am unsure whether its anything to do with legal aid cuts, is there is a new breed of "Mackenzie Friends" who charge for their Services - most of these chaps are "Freemen of the Land" as they style themselves.

    It was bad enough that the Freemen were using innocents who stumble into them as guinea pigs for the lunatic drivel they vomit up in Council tax hearings, where the worst result is usually extra costs on the outstanding amount, Well I say worst result, but the innocents are of course risking a small custodial sentence - that normally only happens if you outright refuse to come to a payment arrangement whilst in Court with the Magistrate - but typical Freeman advice, since its not their necks on the line, is to indeed refuse to pay!!

    But now these charging Mackenzie's Friends are also getting involved with Family Court cases, and I dread to think how many lives will be wrecked, once they get going in something that involves case law I would assume is far more complex than a council tax bill!! One of the Charging MF's has already been banned from Court's by the MOJ, for attacking (yes, attacking!!!) the prosecution Lawyer, in a Family Court case. But has simply changed his company name and is still operating.

    How many of you chaps who are members of the judiciary come into contact with Freemen, or some idiot spouting Freeman ideology. And do you wear your lifebelt when in court, because one of the Freemen's most legendary claims is that all Court's dealing with Council Tax issues are "Maritime Courts"....

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