Friday, 18 July 2008

My day in court

Having realised that the more legal experience I can get the better it will help me in securing the ever elusive Puppilage, I have returned to my old game of attending court with people as a McKenzie Friend. (McKenzie v McKenzie, a lay adviser to accompany a litigant in person into court)

Without divulging too much information, on Monday I accompanied a guy to court who had not been dealing with his case very well. Not turning up for hearings wasn't the best approach. Anyway, he is trying to get to see his 18 month old son, but is accused of being a bit free and easy with his fists. No evidence supplied, just mums word, and in the world of the Family Courts thats usually enough to condemn him to a contact centre.

Contact Centres are usually, if not always, run by volunteers to ensure that the children are safe. This is done by supervising the parent who is accused of being violent. The child goes into a room, the parent (Oh for goodness sake, I will call him Dad) is allowed in under the supervision of an adult who will watch how they interact and who will hit the alarm button if dad starts thumping the little kids. The superviser is likely to be an 18 year old trainee social worker who thinks that the dad is a bit stressed and not behaving normally. (Oh I wonder why!). I think one of the things that upsets him a little is Mum turning up with the child being held in her boyfriends arms, while they call dad names and laugh at him.

Anyway, after a year in a contact centre, because Mum said that he said some nasty things to her and bent her finger back, he came close to moving on to a tad more than 3 hours a fortnight under supervision.

We arrived in court and a very smart and efficient looking Barrister came over and asked me if I was the dad. That would be funny if you knew what I looked like and how Patel would not fit the image. I said I was his Mckenzie friend (MF). He asked if I had any legal training, which is totally irrelevant as anyone can do this. I said 'Funny you should ask, I am starting the BVC next month'

When we got into court, Mr Barrister introduced the parties and said 'And this is fathers McKenzie friend, Swiss Tony who is beginning the BVC next month.

Judgy boy looked over his glasses at me, smiled and said 'Good luck with the BVC Swiss'

Oh, how I feel part of the Boys Club now. I am in. Accepted, One of the boys. I will expect invites to lunch with the judge next time.

The hearing opened, the hearing closed. Another 6 months due to a Psychiatric Assessment of the dad not being available.

Family Law stinks.


Law Minx said...

It's soooooo Nice to be included isnt it?!
As part of my BVC course ( I suspect it may be the same for you, though providers can differ a little in their approach to professional development and conduct) I had to spend a week visiting all sorts of courts, from Tribunals to the Court of Appeal, but the nicest, I found, and by far and away the most friendly were the magistrates courts, particularly when DJ's were sitting - I was fortunate enough to have many cups of tea and cake, as well as lots of thought provoking debate, with these wonderful individuals when it was made known to them that I was a Bar Student! I hope it goes the same for you! :)

Lost said...

Nice one Swiss, MF ehy? I shall have to look into this!

I can just imagine the poshness of some people saying "oh you have started the BVC super!" not like I'm one to talk..

Fiona said...

Good to hear you are back as MF. Whatever you say family cases are never dull.

Mel said...

Will we see you scaling Secretary of States' houses for Fathers for Justice yet?!

Android said...

That sounds really interesting - being a MF (as well as being 'in the Club')! I'm sorry if you have written about this before, but how much can you actually assist litigants as a MF?

Bagpuss said...

I'm interested at your comments about Mum's allegations being enought ot condemn Dad to a cpontact centre - just goes to show how there can be variations around the country - certianily on my patch unsubstantiated allegations wouldn't usually mean contact centre except perhaps as a venue for handover - our courts tend to go more for neutral public point (supermarket carparks are a favourite as they tend to be busy and to have security guards and CCTV whi hcan be cited as reassurance/ protection fopr Mummagainst possible violence, and Dad against false allegations)

Our contact centre volunteers are mostly middle-aged / elderly women - WI, MU & WRVS volunteers, mostly..

Nearly said...

Swiss, apropos of nothing, I've just clocked that we are roughly the same vintage - although you may actually have a few years on me. As one 'mature' entrant to another, bon chance. I have made it through to a qualified solicitor post, although it was a slog. As I'm sure you have already found, relative age and experience is often perceived as a negative in entering law and has to be pushed forcefully as a positive.

All the very best on heading to the bar - although I have to say I intend to do more and more of the advocacy on my own matters ;-)

Swiss Tony said...

Bagpuss, I suspect that the problem is that dad turns up in court alone, Mum is there with a barrister who claims all sorts of violence and they demand a contact centre.

Dad is unaware of what he could or should do, and feels that if he doesn't accept it he will never see his kids again.

Obviously each case is different, but I often get asked to assist one the parent (and it is sometimes mothers) who get themselves into a mess before realising that they are out of their depth.

Having said that, in court on Friday exactly as I mentioned an allegation is made, other parent gets supervised contact until things are clearer. Difference was the pwc was dad. Mum is being supervised.

Family Law still stinks!

Mel, since my close call with a police cell on a F4J demo a few years ago I retired gracefully. The funniest thing I ever saw was 100 Father Xmases with banners being herded onto an underground train at Liverpool street to get to Temple to hurl abuse at some chambers or another, and when we got to the next stop they hadn't realised that Joe Public would be on the platform and able to get in the same carriages. The expressions on the faces as they got on the train to see 100 Father Xmas's sitting down having a chat with each other.

Oh the fun we had!