In today’s Telegraph, Christopher Booker has written about a case where care and placement orders for two children were made in Rhyl Family Court in April 2014. You can read the judgment on Bailii here.
In April, HHJ Gareth Jones said in his judgment:
‘The mother has been present during the course of today, but she like the father has decided not to remain within this courtroom this afternoon for the purposes of this judgment. That decision is perfectly understandable so far as the Court is concerned.’
However, Mr Booker claims that both parents had in fact wanted to be in court and argue their case but were told by ‘their’ barrister that they were not allowed into the court room. (The named barrister was acting only for the mother, according to the judge.)
Mr Booker now writes that the case has gone to appeal:
‘Initially, after listening apparently sympathetically to the mother’s evidence, Lord Justice McFarlane, the appeal judge, sent a request to [barrister] asking for her side of the story. Only at the very last minute, several weeks later, did the barrister reply, repeating her claim that the parents had chosen voluntarily to stay outside the courtroom.
McFarlane accepted [barrister’s] version, remarking in passing, according to the mother’s notes, that “a barrister wouldn’t tell a lie”. Only a cynic might ask whether this isn’t just what many barristers in effect have to do, whenever it suits the case they are seeking to argue.’
Unfortunately I can’t find the Court of Appeal judgment that Mr Booker refers to. I have omitted the name of the barrister because I don’t see any need to add to this adverse publicity without knowing what has really happened. Her name is in pages linked to above, but the use of a phrase such as ‘just a cynic’ rather than ‘I, Christopher Booker’ is not a defence to a claim for libel.
Unlike journalists, barristers are members of a regulated profession. There is a huge amount of information on the Bar Standards Board website about how to complain about your barrister. The Telegraph does not tell us how many barristers have been referred to the BSB in respect of their ‘consistently’ betraying their clients in care proceedings, nor indeed whether this case has itself been referred.
One doesn’t need to be a cynic to ask: If Mr Booker genuinely believes that barristers routinely lie and that judges tolerate this, why can’t he write a serious article exposing this practice, rather than exploit this vulnerable couple?