The continued mis-reporting of family cases by Christopher Booker.

The klaxon rang in the Transparency Project bat cave with a direct plea from Louise for assistance.

I was pleased to offer my help,  particularly as it seemed as if the Telegraph had engaged some fresh new journalistic talent:

Hurrah! I thought. This will make a nice change from that Christopher Booker character who doesn’t seem to ever bother to read the judgments in the cases he makes partial and inaccurate comment about.

Sadly, the Telegraph’s commitment to inaccurate reporting, extends even to their own journalists’ names. Christopher Booth is of course Christopher Booker who needs no introduction to anyone who keeps even half a lazy eye on reporting about the family courts.

As I haven’t yet been able to persuade anyone to invest in my brilliant new app ‘Booker Bablefish’ which would magically transform what Booker writes into accurate and truthful reporting, I will have to go old school and present you with the following table. On my rough calculations Mr Booker is about 20% accurate in his reporting of this case.

Booker version Accurate version
One reason why cases can drag on so long and involve so many “bundles” of documents is that parents fighting not to lose their children can have four or more teams of lawyers ranged against them, A typical set of care proceedings will involve the local authority, the parents and the guardian. If the parents are agreeing with each other then they will face one ‘team of lawyers’ from the LA. If the Guardian supports the LA his/her team will be ‘ranged against’ the parents. So that’s two. If the parents aren’t supporting each other then each parent may face three adversaries, but I have no idea how Mr Booker gets to ‘four or more’.

Possibly if someone else is joined as a party because allegations are made against them? If the siblings have different fathers who participate in the proceedings? If Grandparents come on board? But these people could be supporting the parents!

Whatever the scenario, parents facing ‘four or more teams’ against them is not commonplace and Mr Booker needs to explain what on earth he is talking about.

He is not accurate.

who can also claim extra payments for the number of documents they bring into court. Not at all sure what he is getting at here. I can only speak for barristers. I get to tick a box to show if papers in a case are more than 350, more than 700 or more than 1,400. I will get paid slightly more if there are more papers because,er, it takes longer to read them all.

However, The President is very clear that cases should be dealt with by 350 pages or less. See the relevant practice direction. The court controls what evidence is admitted. We can’t just ‘turn up’ to court with it and claim extra cash.

He is not accurate.

[the baby was removed] following the father’s complaint in hospital that the child was being given “formula” milk in bottles not properly sterilised. There is a lot more going on in this case, as anyone would know f they read the judgment. It seems that Mr Booker doesn’t like to fetter his expression by referring to the actual facts of any case. If you would like to see the judgment and make up your own mind, it is here.

He is not accurate

Social workers then sought an emergency hearing to place the child under the care of its paternal grandmother, however they did not tell the parents that the hearing was taking place, wrongly told the judge that they had been informed, and also “forgot to notify” Cafcass, the agency that represents children’s interests in court. This was wrong, unacceptable behavior, recognised by the Judge and rightly criticized as a breach of the family’s human rights.

Mr Booker is accurate here.

The judge criticised “unwarranted expenditure” of the law firms involved in the case, after cost schedules supplied to the court showed that the family had racked up legal aid bills of nearly £80,000, while Kirklees Council had costs of around £40,000. This is a very partial and misleading summary of what the Judge actually said about costs. You can read what he said in the judgment. At paragraph 66 he made it very clear that the parents could not claim their costs back from the local authority because of the parents own litigation misconduct – “They failed to respond constructively to the Local Authority’s efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement; from an early stage”

Mr Booker is not accurate here 




There was something else going on about the statutory charge but frankly I’d lost the will to care by now.

You can read a more detailed and accurate consideration of the Kirklees case and the impact of the statutory charge here

This kind of reporting is entirely typical from Mr Booker. But it has a new aura of sadness and bleakness around  it now, in the light of the recent comments of McFarlane LJ who pointed out just how much damage is done by feeding parents inaccurate and harmful misinformation about the chid protection system.

I guess I have to accept, as Adam Wagner recently pointed out, that it isn’t enough just to keep on ‘myth busting’. We have to appeal to people’s emotions. But can the boring, bland truth ever be good enough to counter the lazy, emotive untruth?