By Christopher Booker
Their English is poor, they are reduced to tears by their inability to understand what is going on in court, yet they are denied help in presenting their case.
Ever more disturbing becomes that particular case of children snatched from distraught parents that I have written about here more than any other. Dozens of times in the past 18 months this couple have been in court, trying to challenge the extraordinary allegations made against them by social workers. Yet, although their English is poor and they have regularly been reduced to tears by their inability to understand what is going on in court, they have again and again been denied help in presenting their case.
Last Christmas, I paid £2,000 to one law firm to represent them until legal aid was arranged. But the Legal Services Commission turned down their application and the lawyer walked off the case. Ian Josephs, a successful businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website, paid £3,500 to another solicitor, who also walked off the case having done nothing. In February, when the couple wished to be assisted by Paul Randall-Joliffe as a McKenzie friend, he was thrown out of the court after apparently asking too many provocative questions.
On July 21, Mr Josephs, who has a law degree and has aided many families in family courts as a McKenzie friend, flew over from France to assist the mother, but was brusquely evicted from the court by Mr Justice Mostyn without any of the explanation required under court guidelines. (Mr Josephs’ complaint about this is being considered by the Office of Judicial Complaints.) Sabine McNeill, an expert IT consultant who had applied to assist the father, was treated likewise.
Oddest of all, on September 8, when Maurice Kirk appeared in court to assist, in front of yet another judge new to the case, the solicitor for the children’s guardian alleged that Mr Kirk was secretly recording the proceedings and furthermore that he was not Mr Kirk but Mr Randall-Joliffe, who had already been excluded from the court when she was present. I am told that the judge therefore ordered Mr Kirk’s arrest and he was marched off to a police cell. Here he had no difficulty in proving to the bemused policemen both his true identity and that he had no recording equipment with him, and was released. But yet again this meant the hapless couple were allowed no one to help them in their battle to win back their children, one of whom they have not been allowed to see for over a year.
Meanwhile, at taxpayers’ expense, the bill for three teams of barristers and solicitors, representing the council, the guardian and the children, may well have run to over £1 million. Truly our family courts all too often stand all the fondly-imagined principles of British justice on their head.