Bolch: Family Courts not Secret and Their Secrecy is a Good Thing

August 11, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

John Bolch is still taking on the group New Fathers 4 Justice (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/9/16). Predictably, he’s still getting it wrong. NF4J makes a couple of points on its website. The first demands a presumption of equal parenting time “as a starting point.” Bolch tried and failed to discredit that notion. Now he’s on to the group’s second demand.

2.Open Courts To be brought into line with the crown and magistrates courts. This will prevent corruption, bias and implement a culture of accountability with the judiciary.

That is, NF4J wants proceedings in family courts to be public so that the people of the country can know what’s being done by the judges they pay. That seems reasonable enough, particularly since, for example, here in the United States, family courts and their orders are open to public inspection. We do this with no undue difficulties. And of course the whole concept of open government and an informed citizenry requires that We the People know what our “public servants” are up to.

Bolch adamantly opposes the information generated by family courts becoming public. Needless to say, he does so in the most intellectually dishonest way possible.

A quick Google of the word ‘corruption’ comes up with the following definition: “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery”. I think that every family judge in the country would take exception to being called ‘corrupt’. Why should they be dishonest or fraudulent? What would they have to gain? Certainly, cases of judges accepting bribes in this country are virtually non-existent. Or can the group provide us with evidence to the contrary? It’s all too easy to use words like ‘corruption’, but the users really should be made to prove their allegations.

Yes, and it’s also “all too easy” to pretend that the only ones referred to by NF4J were judges even though the group does no such thing. I fully believe that judges in British family courts rarely take bribes, but Bolch is forgetting some rather pertinent details.

First, judges aren’t the only ones involved in deciding custody cases. There are psychologists, custody evaluators, guardians ad litem, and the like. Guess what. Professor Jane Ireland studied the reports of experts in family courts in the U.K. and found some remarkable things – things Bolch either doesn’t know or doesn’t want his readers to know.

Britain’s Family Justice Council has found that 40% of the “experts” who give opinions in family cases were either entirely unqualified to do so or were giving opinions in matters outside their expertise.

Incredibly, [Professor Jane Ireland] found that 20 per cent had been produced by people who were not qualified at all.

A further fifth had been carried out by people who were writing reports in areas entirely beyond their knowledge and qualifications.

In other words, according to Bolch’s preferred definition of the word, there is in fact massive corruption in family courts. After all, a mental health professional accepting money to do work they’re “entirely unqualified” to perform looks dishonest and fraudulent to me. And that’s in 40% of family law cases, i.e. the practice is endemic. By pretending that the only ones in family courts subject to corruption are judges, Bolch allows himself to ignore the known facts about the massive corruption that occurs there. New Fathers 4 Justice is right. Bolch, as usual, is wrong.

He staggers on.

As for the allegation of secrecy, this is a common misconception. As I explained here long ago, they are mistaking ‘secrecy’ with ‘privacy’. For good reasons, family proceedings concerning children are usually conducted in private, although it should be pointed out that whilst the public are not allowed in court, journalists are allowed to sit in court unless the Court decides it would not be appropriate in that particular case, so the system isn’t entirely private either.

No John. You didn’t explain long ago the issue of secrecy in family courts. All you did was deny it was an issue. And, as I showed here, your claim was contradicted by some very senior members of the family court system.

Bolch’s claim that British family courts don’t function in secret, is belied contradicted by a number of sources toward whom he might want to give a bit more respect. I refer for example to the country’s most senior judge, the president of the Supreme Court, Lord David Neuberger. I refer also to the most senior judge on the highest family court in the country, Sir James Munby. And finally I refer to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. In this article, Munby is quoted thus:

‘In both courts there is a need for greater transparency in order to improve public understanding of the court process and confidence in the court system.

The Daily Mail article went on to say this:

Last month the Supreme Court launched a stinging attack on secret justice, saying it is ‘not justice at all’. Its president, Lord Neuberger, said hearing evidence behind closed doors was ‘against the principle of justice’.

And Grayling was quoted thus:

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘We have been clear that there needs to be more openness in the Family Courts and the Court of Protection.

With those three gentlemen opposed to his point of view, you’d think Bolch might at least try to muster an argument that family court secrecy is acceptable instead of just asserting it to be so. But, in typical fashion, he doesn’t.

Neither does he explain the practical difference between secrecy and privacy. When a court holds a hearing behind closed doors, away from the eyes and ears of the public, in what way is that not a secret hearing? Aside from the fact that the three august men quoted see no difference, the fact is that the necessary corrective of public opinion is thwarted by our inability to know what judges are doing. This is nothing but the obvious, but as usual, the obvious escapes Bolch.

And finally, there is the issue of accountability. Well, I’m not sure what the group are seeking, but judges are accountable in at least two ways. Firstly, of course, their decisions can be appealed against, and secondly, any judge who fails to carry out their duties in a proper fashion can be subject to disciplinary proceedings which could, ultimately, result in them being removed. How much more accountability do you want?

A lot more. In the first place, the vast majority of British parents haven’t the money to pay a lawyer to pursue a case to the appellate level. So, few cases are appealed. Second, the idea that judges can be disciplined is absurd, particularly as a way in which to ensure that children get to spend meaningful time with their fathers. Very few judges are disciplined at all and I’d wage none for sidelining dads in their children’s lives.

The concept of accountability requires that people know what judges are doing. There can be no accountability without basic information. Surely Bolch knows this.

More absurdly still, Bolch want readers to believe that he’s really quite the soul of reason and moderation.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The system can fail fathers (and mothers, come to that). I have seen it first-hand. Each time that happens it’s a tragedy, not just for the father but also (more importantly) for the child. I’m not going to complacently say that nothing needs improving, just that the search for answers requires rather more than simplistic and formulaic solutions.

Don’t worry, John, we haven’t gotten you wrong. “I’m not going to complacently say that nothing needs improving,” is contradicted by the fact that you’ve never anywhere suggested what does need to be improved. You at every turn use the most disgraceful tactics to deny that children need fathers and that the British legal system prevents them from having meaningful relationships with them. As with every person opposed to children having real relationships with their fathers, you have no real arguments to make, so you fabricate fictional ones. Your view is false and destructive. Soon enough, it’ll be a relic of a sick, bygone time.




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