We published and sent our complaint about the Daily Mail’s account of the President’s Views on September 6th and posted here. We are grateful for the speedy response of Ms Kingsley, Readers’ Editor of Associated Newspapers Limited. It was received via email on Thursday 8th September 2016.
We have been reminded of the IPSO policy which states:
In order for IPSO to be able to investigate complaints effectively, it is essential that neither party publishes information which has been provided as part of the investigation, including correspondence, without the consent of the other. Material provided by both parties during an investigation must only be used for the purpose of the complaint.
We have decided that as we made it clear to the Daily Mail that we would publish our complaint and their response, and they have offered no objections, we have not offended against IPSO policy. But we will keep you posted, insofar as it is appropriate to do so once this matter is subject to such official complaint.
For ease of reference, our response to Ms Kingsley is included in the body of her reply, in square brackets in bold and italicised text.
This complaint will now be referred to IPSO – who may be interested to know that Full Fact, an independent fact checking charity supports our view that the Mail article was misleading.
See their article https://fullfact.org/law/did-judge-say-public-money-being-squandered-lawyers/ :
Sir James Munby’s ‘View From the President’s Chambers’ bulletin does warn against the “squandering” of public money, and in the next breath mentions a plan to tinker with the system that gives children involved in care cases their own legal team.
But while there may be savings to be made by reducing the involvement of these lawyers, it’s hard to conclude that Lord Justice Munby really meant that money spent on them is “squandered”.
The Response of Hilary Kingsley for the Daily Mail
Thank you for writing to Daily Mail Corrections’ Inbox with your views about the Daily Mail article headlined: ‘Top judge: Too much spent on child cases’ published 31 August 2016 and the Mail Online version headlined: ‘Too much is being spent on child cases, says top family judge: Sir James Munby demands number of taxpayer-funded lawyers is cut’.
We cannot agree that it is inaccurate or misrepresents the views of Sir James Munby in his online circular ‘View from the President’s Chambers (14)’ in a way which would breach Clause 1 (i) of the Editors’ Cod4e of Practice.
We also note that this is a third party complaint since we have received no letter requesting changes from Sir James Munby’s office.
The Daily Mail, like any other newspaper or news website, is entitled to focus on whichever part or parts of an online publication it deems to be newsworthy. [Agreed. But this is not what you have done. You have misrepresented this particular publication by focussing on parts of it without proper context or accurate summary].
The article does not purport to be an academic critique of all the subjects touched on in Sir James’s ‘View’ and there is no obligation on us to provide a link to it. It goes without saying that Sir James believes that children in care cases should be treated fairly and justly. [Then it should also be worth saying that in order for children to be treated fairly they should be properly represented by experienced and competent lawyers. Your article is suggesting that The President in fact ‘demanded’ there should be no, or fewer lawyers.]
He would hardly be President of the Family Court if he did not consider the protection of the child to be of paramount importance. [What the Daily Mail perceives, but does not state, to be the views of the President are irrelevant to the complaint about this article. You are assuming that certain matters need not be stated because they ‘go without saying’ and are thus known to your general readership. It is not accepted that the views of the President of the Family Division comprise such matters with which readers of the Daily Mail are comfortably familiar. That this is so, and that you know it, is apparent from your (erroneous) substitution of “social worker” for Children’s Guardian – see further below.]
The whole ‘View’ is not about fairness [you fail to recognise or appreciate that the concept of ‘fairness’ is an essential part of the ‘overriding objective’ in family cases and this will guide the President’s views.]but rather about saving money in this area of public law. [We disagree. His argument was directed to using finite resources most effectively, in order to safeguard essential rights to respect for family life and fair court hearings.]
Sir James begins by stating that numbers of care cases are rising ‘relentlessly’ while resources are not. He says that the MoJ, with his support, is investigating how ‘a reformed level of representation for children in public law cases’ might work. The reform relates to lower costs in some cases. He says ‘there could properly be scope for dispensing with the attendance of some, or even, in some circumstances, all of the child’s professional team.’ This can only mean fewer publicly-funded lawyers [We do not accept that this particular ‘slant’ on the President’s views is accurate. The ‘child’s professional team’ is not limited to the lawyers. The President clearly wishes to encourage debate about whether (for instance) the child’s guardian needs be present at all hearings involving a child in care proceedings. Your article gave the clear and misleading impression that the President was demanding professionals be ‘cut’ across the board. His View made no reference whatsoever to those lawyers acting for parents. However, continuing in the article to discuss the case of Ben Butler gives a very clear impression that you wish to include the parents’ (as opposed to the child’s) lawyers amongst those who should be ‘cut’ to ‘save money’.]
Sir James discusses the ‘tandem model’ but says that ‘all this costs money’. He goes on to re-iterate the end of his judgment in the case of Re L in 2015 in which he emphasised the need for restraint in spending of public funds and in which he uses the term ‘squandered’ in relation to professional services ( i.e the services of lawyers) which are unnecessary. He repeats this judgment because it summarises his main and most important thoughts.
[This is probably the most serious and pernicious of your misrepresentations of the President’s views. As you do not accept you are under any obligation to include links to other publications in your articles, it suggests that your journalists do not routinely, or at all, go to the source documents to inform their views. Had you read his judgement in Re L (A Child)  EWFC 15 which can be found here http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed143463 you would understand that this case was referring to the President’s concern that the requirements of the Practice Direction relating to the preparation of trial bundles was not being followed and thus money was spent producing unnecessary translation of documents; an expensive exercise which increases the size and cost of the trial bundle. Nowhere in this judgement will you find any reference to representation by lawyers being a ‘squandering’ of public money and to suggest that it does is seriously inaccurate.]
The statements from the judgment are quoted in the article with complete accuracy. Contrary to what you say, the article does include reference to Sir James’s balancing remarks about proper representation of children by legal professionals. In the third and fourth paragraphs, the article states: ‘He said that the number of taxpayer funded professionals should be cut as long as youngsters were properly represented in court. Every child should have a social worker and a solicitor and, in serious cases, a barrister or even a QC’
[We recognise that you quoted accurately from the President’s View. The problem is that when you quote selectively, ignoring or even mis-stating the context in which he speaks, this overwhelms any attempt you make to provide a ‘balanced’ view. Against this attempt to provide ‘balance’ we note the extensive repetition of the word ‘squandered’.]
You say that ‘nowhere does he demand that the ‘number of tax-payer-funded lawyers is cut’ as the article states. In fact this point is implied in the final sentence of the judgment extract ‘why should litigants or their professional advisers expect public money to be made available? They cannot and they should not’. In any event, the headline needs to be read in conjunction with the article as a whole. [This is not a ‘demand’ and to categorise it as such is not a reasonable implication from the words used. You have not provided the context in which this View was stated. You cannot simply produce an article with such a bold and misleading headline and then put the onus on the reader to take time to puzzle out the real meaning behind the headline.]
As for your complaint that the Judge is quoted inaccurately in the article as saying that every child should have a ‘social worker’, when he actually referred to ‘guardian’, we would point out that while we recognise that the word ‘guardian’ in this context refers to a person hired by CAFCASS to represent the child’s view in court, it is not necessarily what ‘guardian’ means to our wider readership. We considered that ‘social worker’ was an appropriate substitution. Nevertheless to resolve your complaint, we would be willing to remove the words ‘social worker’ and replace them with ‘court guardian’. [We are grateful for this concession as it illustrates our concern that your ‘wider readership’ does not have a working understanding of the context in which the President was issuing his View. If you assume that your readers will not understand the role of a Children’s Guardian then you must not assume that they will understand or correctly infer much else which remains unsaid (or misrepresented) in your article. In any event your assumption that using the description ‘social worker’ instead of ‘guardian’ assists your wider readership to understand, is itself unacceptable and misleading. The roles of social worker and guardian in care proceedings are very distinct. Confusion over this role explains why many parents find it difficult to engage with the guardian and any promotion by you of that confusion is very unhelpful and indeed potentially harmful to the interests of both parents and children.]
Please confirm that this measure will settle the matter. [Sadly, it will not and we will now refer this matter on to IPSO.]