Monday, April 02, 2012

This Just Learned


UK: 40% of Family Court ‘Experts’ Not Qualified

March 23rd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

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. Read about it here (Daily Mail, 3/12/12). The Council’s report further found that 90% of the experts rendering opinions did nothing else to earn a living. That is, they no longer practiced in the field about which they gave opinions, beyond their appearances in family law cases.

The Family Justice Council is an independent body funded by the Ministry of Justice.

The report is the result of an analysis of 100 opinions rendered by experts, mostly psychologists and psychiatrists in family courts.

[I]n a unique study for the Family Justice Council, Professor Jane Ireland – a forensic psychologist who has herself been an expert witness – examined over 100 expert witness reports used in family court cases.

Incredibly, she 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 addition, as many as 90 per cent of the reports had been produced by ‘expert’ witnesses who were no longer in current practice at all, but were simply working as ‘professional expert witnesses’.

Often, these professional experts – who rake in thousands of pounds in fees from the chaotic family courts system – have not practised for years, leaving them out of touch with developments in their field.

These “experts” are usually used in custody cases, access cases and child welfare cases to assess the suitability of parents.

Up to now, their behavior has been unknown to the press and the public at large due to Britain’s insistence on keeping secret virtually all the proceedings of family courts. As such, the “experts” behaved with almost complete impunity. In a case cited in the article, one such professional expert witness wrote an entire 14-page report about a mother and her family without ever meeting or talking to any of them. Worse, the very day he signed his report, he was suspended by the General Medical Council for a separate offense, but the family court used his report anyway.

As I’ve said several times before, the secrecy of family courts in the U.K. is more about hiding the behavior of the judges than it is about protecting the privacy of children. The latter is the excuse, but the former is the reason. ‘Twas ever thus. When governmental agencies act behind closed doors, they abuse their power. In this case, it’s their wholesale use of incompetent experts to guide judges in vital matters like child custody and whether children should be taken from parents into care.

I’ve argued the same thing about child welfare agencies in this country, and sure enough, when their behavior becomes public, all too often it’s proven to be lacking. Again, the excuse given is that children need protection from publicity, but that secrecy serves to cover up the agency’s malpractice.

We see it time and again. Currently, child welfare agencies in states such as New York and Arizona, and Los Angeles County in California are openly violating state laws in order to keep their behavior out of public view. Count on it; when they’re finally forced to open their books, we’ll see incompetence that resulted in the deaths, injuries and neglect of many children. That the agencies want us to think that secracy is for the protection of children is almost beyond belief.

The family law system in the U.K. is virulently anti-father and I’d be astonished if the system of using unqualified experts hasn’t played a major role in perpetuating that bias. My guess is that the judges there have gotten used to appointing certain “experts” who reflect the judge’s own bias against fathers. They do so in order to have “plausible deniability” when issuing orders that separate fathers from their children. That is, the judges, if they’re ever taken to task for giving custody to mothers in 90% of cases can always point to the “experts” to “prove” their lack of bias. The fact that the expert is him/herself anti-father will go unnoticed.

Until now. With the rejection of the infamous Norgrove Report, the outrage of fathers’ rights advocates and ministers like Iain Duncan Smith, and now the Family Justice Council’s report, the earth has begun to move under the feet of family judges. The extent of the creative destruction won’t be known for some time, but with any luck it’ll be far-reaching. Family courts in the U.K. look far worse than their U.S. counterparts; wholesale changes need to be made.

After all, one mother was quoted in the Daily Mail article as saying,

‘The court system in England is barbaric,’ she said.

‘It does not allow parents to be given a voice, it doesn’t allow their children to be given a voice.

‘But what it does instead is it focuses on employing expert witnesses – at huge expense.’

Keep in mind, that’s a mother talking. They’re the ones who are favord above all others by the country’s family courts. If that’s the way she feels…

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