Must journalists attend court hearings to report accurately?

17 May 2011 by

Good enough for Dickens

I posted last week on a judgment given by His Honour Judge Bellamy in a family court case involving a mother’s abuse of her baby The judge took the unusual step of criticising media reporting of the case. He said the Telepraph’s Christopher Booker’s reporting was “unbalanced, inaccurate and just plain wrong“. 

There have been some developments since last week which raise interesting questions about the duty of journalists to report cases accurately. First, Sir Nicholas Wall, head of the family division, used his judgment in a different case to support HHJ Bellamy’s criticism. He said:

although I disagree with Judge Bellamy’s decision… I agree entirely with paragraphs 185 to 193 of his judgment in Re L under the heading “Transparency” and in which the judge deals with the tendentious and inaccurate reporting of the case.

Christopher Booker then replied to the judges in an article which claimed that his article, and in particular the controversial part about the child’s injuries, was not necessarily factually inaccurate:

 The problem with regarding metaphyseal injuries as an indicator of abuse is that in recent years ever more medical experts have strongly questioned the idea. Their studies show that metaphyseal fractures may occur in babies with soft, still-forming bones, with minimal trauma.

Family law Barrister Lucy Reed has responded to Booker on her blog. She rightly points out that leaving aside the interesting points about medical science, the judge’s principal criticism of Booker was that he had reported on the case without attending the hearing. He had simply reported what the mother (who was ultimately found to have caused a fracture in her baby’s arm) had told him. Responding to Booker’s claim that there were “extraordinary obstacles placed in the way of any journalist wishing to report fairly” on such cases, Reed says:

Those “extraordinary obstacles” include preventing a journalist from obtaining accurate information by attending the actual hearings, listening to the actual evidence and hearing submissions for all the parties, right? Sorry, what’s that? Reporters allowed into court you say?

Booker claimed that attending hearings was simply too difficult:

The only recourse left to those trying to establish the facts of such cases is rigorously to test what can be learned from the few people willing to speak, and to come to as informed and judicious a view as possible.

But, as Reed says

… Mr Booker could have attended any of the hearings. Mr Booker could have sought permission to publish information arising from the proceedings. He could have sought permission to see the documents in the case, for example the medical reports. But he didn’t. He didn’t do any of those things.

This raises an interesting question. Must a journalist attend a hearing to report properly on it?

On the one hand, it would be onerous for journalists to spend their days at the courts in the hope of picking up something interesting to report on. This may even lead to them sexing up the cases they do happen to see in order to find a story. And hearings are not always open to the public.

On the other, that is what court reporters do and have done since the time of Dickens (in fact, Dickens was a court reporter in his youth). Hearings are sometimes closed to the public but they are mostly open. The family justice system is probably the most closed, in order to protect the anonymity of parties, but it has been opened up in recent years.

I would be odd if football journalists suddenly stopped attending matches and instead relied on a post-match interview with one of the players to piece together their report. One would always assume the report would be unbalanced and inaccurate. Why should law reporting be any different?

Even if you cannot make a hearing, there are other ways of knowing what happened beside speaking to the interested parties. It is usually possible to obtain court documents and hearing transcripts, either as a matter of course – public inquiries usually publish transcripts online on the same day – or by paying a few pounds. That said, anyone who has attended a hearing with live witness evidence will know how important it is to hear the witnesses themselves to gauge the tone of the answers and the judge’s responses to them.

The result of poor reporting is public misunderstanding of cases in particular and of the justice system in general. Everyone is entitled to campaign for justice reform but, as Lord Neuberger said in relation to poor law reporting, “persuasion should be based on truth rather than propaganda“.

Yesterday’s long-awaited (by me at least) announcement that supreme court hearings will be broadcast live online will mean that the public will have easy access to at least one court. But since the supreme court only hears appeals, journalists will still have to turn up at other courts to hear witness evidence. This surely adds weight to the case that more hearings should be broadcast.

The Booker controversy will continue to rumble on. As the impassioned comments to my original post show, many see Booker as a hero who is exposing the injustices in the family law system. But whilst family judges share some of his criticisms, they appear to be united in exposing any comments on individual cases or judges to anxious scrutiny. This is clearly the right approach. As Booker’s most recent article shows, by not attending the hearings he has been forced to argue over abstractions. However much he challenges the medical science, if he had attended he may have reached a different, and more accurate, conclusion on the actual evidence.

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27 comments


  1. ian josephs says:

    What is the good of going to court when you cannot report the names of the participants or any testimony verbatim?
    I’m only asking………..

  2. ian josephs says:

    Lloyd Jenkins,see my comment above dated May 20 time 1.17pm !

  3. I have written to many Judges and told them at my own expence I will give them a talk on facts of people who are not bought up in cotton wool, and learn from a book, or what they think them selfs is correct.
    The elite only see the masses as the underdogs, and as many social workers and cafcass of who I questioned said, all kids lie and never know what they want. Yes what the laws are doing to peoples minds, 50 years down the road will be an uprising in the uk, if not before. It is time people took back the country from the old and doddery, and them who get a job from not what they know, but who they know, keep it in the family so to speak.
    Maggie

  4. AF says:

    Unfortunately until the EU court of Human Rights makes a ruling on the current insanity of the UK Family Courts nothing will change.

    This band of aged Family Court Judges, several are over 60 and almost all are completely detached from society cannot change. Looking at some of the recent headline about Sir Nicholas Wall, it would not be surprising to learn that dementia was the only methodology applied…

    Eileen Munro has submitted a review of the practices and procedures of her peers and former students. Surprise, surprise because she unable to recommend paying them more, shop-steward Eileen has recommended we reduce their accountability and paper trail….! The daily practise of these social workers will affect the future generations of this country. Eileen’s agenda is very clearly skewed.

    David Norgrove was tasked to chair the Family Justice Review panel, again surprise, surprise he immediately appoints a family lawyer…

    It’s all one gravy train and until the EU court of Human Rights makes a ruling there will be no change. With the 7 years waiting list, we all know no one will be willing to wait.

    We need to get the Australians and Americans over to lead the current system out of the dark, because 50:50 parenting is the only way forward.

  5. As a field worker, it is at the bottom level working with the mass, that most of the truth is learnt, lets take women who use the children against the fathers and families, many women tell the most dredfull lies, and the courts do nothing. Just check at how many fathers pay the courts ect to have contact with their kids, or stand on a bridge to attract attention, and still denied contact, most of these dads are law abiding citizens, working and paying taxes for what, to pay the Judges, to say no you cannot have contact with your kid/s. Then we have the grandparents again many are denied contact, so a child is left with a mother who is bitter, because she lost her man, and the kids are her weapon.
    A child reports an abuse against the mother or parents, that child is more abused by the system, and beleive me I know from being a campaigner for Justice for the people, I am involved in a case now of a child who reported abuse, taken away by social services, put in the care of a loving grandparent, then taken away to the foster care, within 3 days of reporting the abuse the kid was given books to read on adoption and fostering, constantly every other day asked or forced to meet the mother, so why did that child report an abuse, when that child has an army interviewing it by telephone at school, home visits, assesments by social workers at school, doctors, and so much more, todate that child has been interviewed by at least 60 people, is the child the crimanal, if a women reports an abuse, it is a crimanal offence, she is not forced to meet the abuser, so what are they doing to childrens minds. And should a women kill her kid what happens to her, a few years if any in prison. To murder a kid should be life.
    And why is it that the social workers and cafcass will not recommend a child to the care of the family should they be accepted, I have already said that kids are bought and sold, working at street level I know the reason why, same reason for all who want to earn money, remember foster and adoption agencies are a business, no kids to sell, then no business, and that is exactly why kids are sold into a unjust system, you must all be tax payers, so every single kid sold the foster agency receives £20.000 of your money, an adoption agency receives £36.000 evey kid sold, then we have do you want a career in fostering, £500 a week tax free plus, and all of this is the tax payers money.
    Thank goodness we have Mr Booker and Ian Joseph, because no one seems to listen or cares for the children.
    I have seen the suffering of children world wide, and if I had my way, not one more child would be born on this planet, then we would see mass unemployment.
    In the mean time let us all support Mr Booker, at least he is brave enough to report, and remember we can all makes mistakes, but the laws for children are the biggest mistakes, it is no wonder the laws do not want open court.

    Maggie Tuttle

  6. Mr BD says:

    Mr Jenkins says “wrong decisions can have terrible consequences for… children”.
    This is, of course, very true. However, what makes him so very convinced that the judges, and their Court of Appeal, always make the right decisions? Does he not think that more public scrutiny and accountability would serve to expose any judicial errors?

    Mr Jenkins appears to be very passionate about preventing “terrible consequences” for children. I have no reason whatsoever to disbelieve his sincerity. Why, then, does he not seem at all concerned with the harm being suffered by hundreds of British children in Relocation cases, as a direct result of Sir Nicholas Wall’s continued rejection of a plethora of powerful scientific research and evidence? Evidence which was presented to him in Re D in January 2010, and which led him to state that he had “no doubt” that there was a “compelling” case for a review of Relocation law? Wall has now withdrawn from this position, insisting that we had all misunderstood his words. Indeed, even Professor Freeman, a professor of Law – who stated in March 2010 that Wall had “added his qualified support for a review of relocation law” – apparently misunderstood him! Silly her!

    Mr Jenkins says that “Maggie Tuttle and StuG are misrepresenting the system entirely”. He says that the System is “child-centric”. Well, it’s certainly supposed to be! However, can this really be true when, in practice, Wall ignores 15 child-welfare research papers and “omits” all mention of them from his judgments?

    Mr Jenkins suggests that StuG may not have read Wall LJ’s judgment. I suggest that Mr Jenkins reads Wall’s judgment in Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, and then reads the legal arguments and the plethora of scientific evidence presented to Wall by the father (see above). After having done that, perhaps Mr Jenkins can give his view on Wall’s “omissions” and the effect these “omissions” may have on the hundreds of children facing overseas removal each year.

    I rather suspect Mr Jenkins won’t have a bad word to say about Wall and his “omissions”! Let’s see.

    Bruno

  7. ian josephs says:

    Lloyd Jenkins
    I think my comment must have got wiped off!Iwill gladly answer the points you make however;
    There is a world of difference between opening the family courts to the public and removing the gag from parents who actually wish to complain(rightly or wrongly) that their children have been unjustly taken.Parents like rape victims should be free to talk to the media if they choose to do so.
    No other country in the EU gags citizens who feel they have been oppressed by the State ,and we should not continue this outrageous gagging in the UK!
    Look at previous comments saying “parents like this” have no right to decide anything for their children.When Bellamy “named” the mother as perpetrator he never mentioned 51% likely, so she felt named and shamed just because she was said to have had “more time” than the father whom the police had arrested and charged ! Sherlock always confounded the police but Bellamy’s attempts are I maintain a lot more Clouseau than Sherlock !
    Of course Bellamy sexed up the injuries by OMITTING to mention that these Metapheasel fractures are so minute they can pass unnoticed, as indeed they did until this year .
    The child was not a “baby p” case as it needed no medical treatment and thrived under the care of its grandma in Ireland !BOOKER COULD NOT HAVE REPORTED LAST YEAR ON FRACTURES THAT WERE ONLY FOUND THIS YEAR.

    Lastly the allegation that Booker reported the case without attending.He never reported the case in the two articles last year,he simply listened to the parents but when he asked social services for comment he just got the usual threats of prosecution etc
    In his latest article (this time in 2011) he was able to comment on the judgment and Bellamy’s absurd criticism of himself for not mentioning metapheasel fractures the previous year when nobody including the police knew about them.

  8. Lloyd Jenkins says:

    You’ve drawn quite an unclear distinction between ‘opening up the courts’ and ‘scrapping the gag that prevents parents…from going to the media’. How is allowing the media to report things that they previously couldn’t different to ‘opening up the courts’?

    Saying that GT was the perpetrator on the balance of probabilities is not the same of accusing her of being the perpetrator beyond all reasonable doubt. She may or may not ‘feel’ like she’s been accused of something criminal, but she hasn’t.

    And didn’t Bellamy J deduct that the GT was the perpetrator *from* the evidence? The injury was non-accidental and she was the only person with the opportunity to inflict it.

    And where does he ‘sex up’ the injuries? I can only find medical description…

    1. Lloyd Jenkins says:

      Argh! I can’t find the comment that this was meant to be a reply to on this thread. I must have read it on another site and gotten mixed up in my replies. Apologies.

  9. Tony Baverstock says:

    Lloyd Jenkin’s post correctly points out that the current law around most child protection legislation is, and must be, child centred. It is wrong to use words like children being “stolen” or “kidnapped” because the feeling of the parents should and must be ignored.

    If a parent abuses a child it does not matter what the parent feels about losing the child the protection of the child is paramount.

    The problem with child protection legislation was the move to use balance of probabilities as the determining test.

    When we remember this, the deductions of “Sherlock” Bellemy that the Mother did it, are easily understood. On the basis of a 51:49 call she may well have done it. But as others here have pointed out on a criminal test of beyond reasonable doubt she would never have been convicted.

    This low threshold for decision making is rarely discussed but it is fundamental to the current problem.

    I would suggest most of us would agree that it is reasonable for the state to seek to protect children from abuse by parents.

    It is clear that to do so may involve taking action to remove a child from its parents, if we base that test on a balance of probability test we should ensure that most children who are subjected to abuse are protected.

    The problem is that it also means that in cases which are as evenly balanced, 49% of the children will be removed from their parents for no reason. This would not matter if removing a child from their parent and putting them into care was without consequences.

    I do not have any evidence but I would suggest in general a child brought up within a care system is likely to have more issues with assimilation into society, with forming relationships, etc, than children brought up by their parents.

    So in the current system society is prepared to inflict the abuse of removing a child from its parents in 49% of case where the evidence is unclear. It has seemed to me for some time that this is wrong and we need to reconsider the process.

    Either, we should lower the consequences of the decision, by limited removal and giving parent chances to show there are no problems, or we introduce a new level of test. If not beyond reasonable doubt then at lease a highly likely test.

    Until we do so the system is designed to mean that for cases where the evidence is uncertain society will remove a significant number of children from parents for no reason.

    As an aside I think much of the current problem comes from what I would refer to as unintended consequences of legislation. The move to the current balances of probability legislation was based on a number of cases where with the benefit of hindsight removal was needed but limited evidence meant it did not occur. The problem was that when the law was changed rather than just catch this limited number of cases local authorities took on more and more cases, where the evidence was unclear but with luck and a fair wind they would succeed. I do not believe local authorities did this from malice against parents but from fear of failing to pursue a case where later the child was seriously hurt.

    What is interesting that we have very different standards if the adult is not a parent. If the adult is just some one who is generally violent towards children, a bully for example, there is only limited action we could take to stop them before the child is abused, and even when the abuse takes place they can only be punished if they are proved guilt in a criminal court.

  10. Lloyd Jenkins says:

    It doesn’t need to be said, but child protection is really important. Wrong decisions can have terrible consequences for the children (and, I suppose, parents) involved. That makes it easy to get emotionally involved, and emotional involvement leads to poor decision making. Lord Neuberger’s warning is particularly relevant here because well-meaning persuasion can quickly and accidentally become propaganda. There are some startling examples above:

    1) Maggie Tuttle and StuG are misrepresenting the system entirely. It’s child-centric as the decisions have a huge affect on the future of those vulnerable members of society. Their analyses are so parent-centric that children are reduced to mere chattels- they are ‘stolen’ or ‘confiscated’. Speaking like that distracts from the real issue- what is in the child’s best interests.

    2) StuG (joined by ian josephs) compounds this error by talking about ‘guilt’. This isn’t a criminal trial so the parents’ liberty isn’t at stake. What is at stake is the child’s future. It would do the child a disservice to use a criminal standard of proof when deciding on its best interests as it makes one outcome (leaving the child in the parents’ care) significantly more likely than the other irrespective of the facts.

    3) Finally, StuG either hasn’t read Wall LJ’s judgment in X, Y, and Z & Anor v A Local Authority or has misrepresented it. The phrase that he interprets to mean that Bellamy J’s final judgment in the case was ‘wrong’ reads like this: “…although I disagree with Judge Bellamy’s decision – and this is something which I do not hesitate to say – to make critical observations about Dr M in the instant case…”. It refers *only* to the decision to criticise Dr M. No wider significance can be drawn from it.

  11. StuG says:

    hmmm. the plot thickens…..

    lets look at the following from Adam Wagner’s piece:

    1.
    LJ Wall:
    “although I disagree with Judge Bellamy’s decision… I agree entirely with paragraphs 185 to 193 of his judgment in Re L under the heading “Transparency” and in which the judge deals with the tendentious and inaccurate reporting of the case.”

    interpreted (by me) as: the decision is wrong but should not be reported as such

    2.
    Family law Barrister Lucy Reed has responded to Booker on her blog. She rightly points out that leaving aside the interesting points about medical science, the judge’s principal criticism of Booker was that he had reported on the case without attending the hearing. He had simply reported what the mother (who was ultimately found to have caused a fracture in her baby’s arm) had told him.

    So, the mother was ultimately found to have caused the fracture. True.
    But was the ‘finding’ actually correct?
    Is Adam Wagner relying on a dodgy finding, which LJ Wall disagrees with, to shoot Booker?
    The finding was a scandal. The judge acted as if he was a fly on the wall in the child’s home. He pinpointed the actual moment when the injury happened. With these kind of injuries in babies, that seems impossiible. Babies can break bones and not even know it. Parents can nurture children in complete ignorance of serious injuries. Sometimes the baby does not feel it, or cannot communicate it, or the communication is out of the ordinary and not understood by the parents.
    A case in point is Oliver James, one of our best child psychologists and authors. As a baby he suffered a broken collar bone. He screamed every time his mother picked him up but was happy when his father nursed him. His mother went mad with grief, thinking she’d been rejected. Doctors etc…no help. A psychologist friend visited, said the baby was sitting funny and appeared anxious when approached, then diagnosed the break. Mum picked baby up under the shoulders, dad scooped him up with a hand under the bum. Mum was innocently squeezing the injury, dad wasn’t.

    Bellamy ‘found’ that the injury happened when the father in this case was out of the room.
    The mother was guilty because, at the judge’s chosen moment, she was the only one in the room. Bollocks. Try that in a criminal court. But then, we talk about serious implications and sentences for proven abuse in criminal law. In family courts, parents just surrender or have their children confiscated by the State. No big deal. A bit like taking a catapult to school…dont matter if you fired it or not…it will disappear because it is property you should not have in that environment. Parents, once in the clutches of social services, are not entitled to their children, regardless of conduct.

    3. The courts have the opportunity for a simple solution: instruct forensic psychologists to monitor care proceedings. Those hard bastards can smell bullshit a mile away. Their skills in discourse analysis, textual analysis and ability to spot inconsistencies is marvellous. They are the air traffic investigators of the legal system. They stick to the job, they find the rivet that went pop, even when it lies 1,000m deep in the ocean.

    Which is exactly why judges will never allow them to monitor family cases. Judges abuse transparency, then blame the lack of transparency for their being unable to defend themselves against criticism.

    4.
    “if he had attended he may have reached a different, and more accurate, conclusion on the actual evidence.”

    WTF?? Refer to point 1 above.

    Stuart

  12. Mr BD says:

    Judge Bellamy – supported by Sir Nicholas Wall – was quick to criticise The Telegraph over alleged “omissions” in its reporting.

    However, does the learned judge have any similar criticism to levy at “omissions” made by the judiciary itself?

    Many people who have gone through the Family Court System will have had experience of judges blatantly “omitting” important and relevant
    facts and arguments from their judgments, with the consequence that, from a reading of the judgment alone, it appears completely rational and fair. However, if one were to have access to ALL the arguments and facts in a case – the ‘full story’, as it were – the judgment may not appear as erudite, well-balanced and just.

    In the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, for example, powerful arguments against current Relocation law – as well as extensive and irrefragable contemporary scientific evidence and research – went ignored by Sir Nicholas Wall. All mention of these bona fide arguments and scientific
    evidence was “omitted” from Wall’s judgment.

    For the arguments and scientific evidence, see http://www.equalparentingalliance.org/2011/04/leave-to-remove-an-open-letter-from-father-of-re-d.html
    and http://www.thecustodyminefield.com/Reports/FamilyLaw-Relocation_The_Need_For_Reform.pdf

    IF the media were to be given greater reporting rights, such judicial “omissions” would be rightly exposed. It is, therefore, perhaps quite obvious why the judiciary is adamantly against greater media exposure – it simply does not relish being more open to public scrutiny, criticism and accountability.

    However, if scrutiny and accountability is good enough for teachers, police officers and bankers, then surely it is good enough for judges?

    As a famous US Supreme Court judge once said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. If our Family Justice System is to be improved – and ‘cleaned up’ – then greater external scrutiny and accountability will surely help in this objective (as it has so done in other professions).

    Perhaps the current ‘secrecy’ in the family courts is more about protecting the reputation of the judiciary than about protecting a family’s right to privacy…

    I do wonder why those who work within the legal ‘industry’ are far too timid to question Sir Nicholas Wall! There is an absolute veneration of authority in Law which I find quite unhealthy and slightly sinister…

    NB: Dickens would turn in his grave if he knew that his name was being used in support of the legal establishment! Read Bleak House and Little Dorritt!

    Mr BD

  13. ian josephs says:

    Booker was neither conned nor gullible and apart from mistaking the identityof one doctor made no mistakes whatever in his articles.He could not report fractures that were never disclosed to parents or press at the time he wrote the articles ,so the accusation of judge Bellamy that he misreported the case by omitting mention of them was a deliberate misrepresentation of the true facts and a completely undesrved slur on Christoher Booker.
    The mother and grandmother were both Irish and went quite legally to their extended family in Ireland to get the baby examined and with the intention of settling there permanently and also to avoid possible forced adoption.
    As described in detail in para 6 of Bellamy’s judgment the social services went over to Ireland determined to take the child from his mother and grandmother to bring him back to the UK to be put into fostercare.This they succeeded in doing after cases in Ireland that went all the way to the Supreme court at huge public expense to British taxpayers before the child was eventually brought back to the UK for fostercare with strangers !Why they did not trust the Irish social services to deal with the situation has never been explained.
    The “windows” are indeed fictitious,Bellamy was not there at the time,and his “Sherlock Bellamy” conclusion that “the police were wrong and the mother did it” would be laughed out of every criminalcourt in Britain ,if the allegation ever got that far .With that absurd accusation of the mother, Sherlock Bellamy alas ,metamorphosed into his alter ego, Inspector Clouseau !

    1. Lloyd Jenkins says:

      “Why they did not trust the Irish social services to deal with the situation has never been explained.”

      If the Climbié inquiry taught us anything it taught us that abusers can use moving between authorities to hide the nature of their acts. Perhaps the UK social services were trying to avoid that.

  14. Jim Nately says:

    “…and proclaimed the mother guilty! You coudn’t make it up…”

    Except you just did. There is no proclamation of guilt there, and in context of the entire judgment the finding that the mother is responsible for the humeral fracture seems barely material to the overall nature the judgment.

    And it is your opinion—I would suggest ultimately coloured by your prejudice against the family court service and local care services—that the ‘window of opportunity’ is fictitious. On the facts in the judgment, the conclusions make sense to me.

    “…why blame Booker or the parents for the secrecy?” I don’t blame Booker or anyone for the ‘secrecy’. I blame him for being a gullible reporter who was conned by a woman who wanted to court public sympathy to defend herself against some very unpleasant charges. I blame him for that because he let his and his papers editorial line step between himself and responsible journalism. And lastly, I blame him for not being willing to own up to his mistake.

    As for the parents, it should be sufficient to say that they would do whatever it took to get their kid back—go to the papers, try to hide in Ireland, whatever. Even if that harmed the child. I’ve no doubt they genuinely believe they would have their child’s interests at heart, much as it appears that they no doubt genuinely believe they are good parents. Unfortunately, the fact that they believe it does not make it so.

  15. ian josephs says:

    3:-The fact that there were several fractures not just one (with no description) was not made public or mentioned in court (yes I was there !)at the time the articles were written therefore Booker cannot be blamed for not mentioning them !

    Yes Jim that is what I said so why blame Booker or the parents for the secrecy?Only months later did these fractures come to light.
    Only then did Bellamy play at “Sherlock Holmes” describing fictitious “windows of opportunity” and on that basis deciding the police were wrong to blame the father,(for as Bellamy says in his judgement , they too were never informed of the fractures,)at which point “Sherlock” turned into “Inspector Clousau” and proclaimed the mother guilty !
    You coudn’t make it up …..

  16. IAN JOSEPHS says:

    A lot of unfounded criticism of Christopher Booker !All but one of the innaccuracies came from the judge not him !
    1:-The judge relied on my website (the day before the Booker article was printed ) hence he ,the judge got the date wrong and referred to bruising instead of a floppy arm ! Booker had the facts correct and the judge got them wrong !
    2:-The one and only error Booker made was to mistake the identitity of just one of the 5 doctors ,none of whom were named anyway at the time he wrote.Such an insignificant error can have no relevance to anyone reading his account of the case.
    3:-The fact that there were several fractures not just one, was not made public or mentioned in court (yes I was there !)at the time the articles were written therefore Booker cannot be blamed for not mentioning them !
    4:- Lord justice Wall did not name any innaccuracy he either just took Bellamy’s word for it or did not find one !
    5:- If Booker had attended the court he would probably not have changed anything he wrote since what he wrote was factual
    6:- Adam Wagner did well to compare a court hearing with a football match where the reporter was unable to name any of the players ,managers ,what any of them said verbatim,(Rooney included?)or even the names of the competing clubs ! That situation would certainly blunt the enthusiasm of the sports reporters !That nevertheless is the equivalent gag still imposed on reporting family law cases even when parents whose children have been taken want publicity !
    7:-All this could be avoided if social workers etc answered questions from reporters in anonymised style as is permitted to all concerned, instead of threatening them with prosecution if they dared to make further enquiries.
    8:-Judges frequently exclude press from controversial cases by posting a notice on the board by the court number “Not open to media”;There was no such notice the last time Christopher Booker sent a reporter ,who was however told to go and get his accredited journalist card before he could be admitted ,but on his return he was told the judge did not want the case reported at all ,so he was still refused admittance ! Theory is one thing ,what happens in practice is another !

    1. Jim Nately says:

      I think the distinction between ‘minor fracture’ (Booker’s words) and ‘a non-displaced spiral fracture of his left humerus, six metaphyseal fractures’ is one of opinion (HHJ Bellamy’s words)

      It’s also so substantial to make the description of ”a non-displaced spiral fracture of his left humerus, six metaphyseal fractures’ as ‘a minor fracture’ misleading.

      ‘…even when parents whose children have been taken want publicity…’
      I have my doubts that the kind of people who would cause seven fractures in the arm of a six week old child are the kind of people who are entitled to make any decision whatsoever on the question of what is best for the child. Such people aren’t fit to take decisions on the future of a pencil.

      We shall soon discover if the parents of L are such people. Either way, given their willingness to mislead Booker (who deserved what he got for being so foolish) it would make it extremely hard to believe any further attempts by them to put their case in the papers.

  17. Adam,
    we need the family courts to be open, if the public knew of the amount of lies from the social services to steal the children, there would be an uproar in society, as no child is safe today, they are just being taken and sold, next one could be yours if you have any. Beleive me I wrote a chapter for a book 2 years ago, and my research uncoverd that children are one of the biggest industries in the world. Here in the uk IT IS THE SAME with the use of millions of pounds of tax payers money, I have asked David Cameron for a full investergation into the stealing of the children by social services and Cafcass. I also wrote to ask why thousands of children stolen are ignored, yet the McCann case has full Goverment attention, as for Mr and Mrs McCann, it is sad they lost a child, but then the laws state if a child is left alone and the parents are out and about, then those children are taken into care, so how come the 2 remaining children were not seized by the SS.

  18. ObiterJ says:

    Good post here. I am amazed that we have posted on this same topic today. I have linked to this.

    1. Adam Wagner says:

      And I to you! Thanks

  19. Journalist do not need to listen to the laws of the land, the laws are an Ass, people must listen to the children who are able to speak, as for babies there can be some wonderful families to give love and support and to bring up the children. Most of the evedence is with the families. The judges are bought up in cotton wool, what do they know of the real society and the struggles, I have offerd to give free, a day of teachings to all judges, as they need to learn with or from my experience of working with out pay for 36 years to campaign for justice for people. No one can sit in judgment of others, especially the judges who are not aware of the truth or facts. And till the law is changed to protect children and the family courts are open, then we need the Chris Booker’s of the world along with Ian Josheph

  20. If journalists don’t have an idea of law, them sitting in on a trial won’t help that much.

  21. S. Legree says:

    The problem is, that to look at `evedence`, or even evidence properly, the media ALWAYS give a distorted or biased view; you have only to look at different newspapers reports on a major case, there is always differences.
    If mis-reporting of any sort leads to miscarriages of justice, or any public embarrassment of persons, the gulty media should be made to pay damages.

  22. One does not need to go to the courts to hear evedence, just look at the evedence of children sold into the system via social services, who with many lies and deceit steal children. Also remember that adoption and foster agencies are a business, if there are no children to sell then there is no business.
    MAGGIE TUTTLE

    1. Jim Nately says:

      “One does not need to go to the courts to hear evidence”

      I could not disagree more profoundly with this statement, although it sadly typifies the entire Hemming/Booker approach, which appears to be as follows:

      Listen to a parent’s side of the story. Get emotionally attached to the outcome of the case. Assume that any evidence supporting your opinion is true. Assume any evidence contradicting your opinion is a lie concocted by an evil conspiracy. Make judgments. Write articles and/or gain publicity. Repeat.

      How can you possibly decide whether a child should be taken into care without hearing all the evidence—including the evidence led by the care services?

      That Booker didn’t stop and doubt he had the full picture, and at least attempt to get more information, rather saps his credibility as a journalist. Everyone gets taken for a ride. But the good journalists admit it and learn from their mistakes. Booker has not.

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