A stressed father had to leave his £90k job after his son was sent for adoption – but the public were not told the full story
Christopher Booker By Christopher Booker4:56PM BST 31 May 2014
When Lord Justice Munby last year launched his admirable campaign to clean up our family courts from the growing stench of scandal surrounding the way they work, his priority was to strip away that self-protective veil of secrecy that has allowed so many abuses to flourish. His first move, on becoming head of the family division, was to insist that more judgments be published. But, welcome though this was, it is not easy for outsiders to grasp just how biased so many judgments have become without knowing how fairly the hearings that lead up to them are conducted, and how much the judgments themselves leave out.
An excellent example of this was the widely reported judgment last week by Mrs Justice Parker, in a case described as that of “the baby with no name”, whose father had “assaulted one social worker and threatened to kill another”. Nowhere did these reports explain why the father had refused to allow his son to be named, any more than they did those other two seemingly damning incidents. Yet having spoken to more than one person professionally involved in this case (but not to the parents), I understand that a full account of the circumstances behind them might have given the public a very different picture.
The father, who until recently held a senior position in a large company, is a British Indian and a devout Hindu. Ten years ago, when the mother was very young, she had a child with a man who left her. Her difficulties in coping on her own drew the attention of social services and the baby was given to the father. When eventually she met her present Hindu partner and had a second child, Hertfordshire social workers won a supervision order to ensure that her new son was being properly cared for.
But the Indian father, although said to be “normally a peaceable man who treats everyone with respect”, could not hide his increasing impatience at the constant intrusions of social workers into his family’s life, to the point where they applied to take the boy into care. A judge accepted that the child was “thriving”, but ruled that, because of the father’s “hostility” to the social workers, the boy should go into foster care. Outside the court, the father accused a social worker of having “lied” in his evidence. The social worker, as confirmed by a lawyer present, punched him on the shoulder. The father, in self-defence, took a swing at his head, and was fined £430 for assault.
Solely because of this background, when the mother had another baby, it was immediately taken into care. The parents were anxious to have their child named according to Hindu tradition, which involves a temple ceremony, Namakarana, which only the parents, close family and friends can attend. But the social workers insisted that they be present, lest the family “abduct” the child.
The father explained that this could not be allowed. During this impasse, the father, en route to discuss his case in Brussels, was stopped by police, who removed his laptop. In trying to explain his story, he admitted that he would like to do one social worker “significant harm” (his words were recorded).
None of this emerged from last week’s press reports on Justice Parker’s judgment. They record that she dwelt on the father’s assault on one social worker, his threat to “kill” another, and his refusal, for seemingly gratuitous reasons, to allow his son to be named. They quoted her as conceding that the parents had “excellent qualities” and had not physically harmed their baby in any way. She said that they obviously “loved each of their sons from the bottom of their hearts”. But the father’s “increasing hostility to social workers” and his “emotional abuse” of his son by not allowing his naming, created a “high risk of emotional harm” in the future. The baby must therefore be sent for adoption,
The strain and time involved in these court battles so impaired the father’s ability to carry out his £90,000-a-year job that last week he was forced to resign.
The parents are now being urged by their legal advisers to take both cases to the Court of Appeal. Under Lord Justice Munby’s new guidelines, the judgment will soon be published in full. But whether this will help outsiders to understand the full story behind what Justice Parker herself described as a “terribly sad case” is another matter.
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