Four ways social media platforms could stop the spread of hateful content in aftermath of terror attacks – Bertie Vidgen

Inforrm's Blog

File 20190318 28502 irx4gz.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1The deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed and many others critically injured, was streamed live on Facebook by the man accused of carrying it out. It was then quickly shared across social media platforms.

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#Palestine #JUSTICE: 40 candles of solidarity: An international birthday for #RachelCorrie!

40 candles of solidarity: An international birthday for Rachel CorrieHossam Shaker | MEMO | 19 March 2019

“Happy Birthday, Rachel!” This is what she would have heard in her hometown, Olympia, Washington. Her family and friends would have cheerfully flocked around her as she blew out forty candles on April 10, 2019. However, Rachel Corrie deserves a warm international celebration on this day to appreciate her dedication to expressing the value of solidarity.

Rachel Corrie, who was born to a middle-class American family on April 10, 1979, could have had a normal life in which she did not care about what was going on in her world, but she knew she had a responsibility to express and take action, imposed on her by her humanity and values. Rachel expressed her moral responsibilities as a child, as revealed in the moving speech she gave when she was 10, known as the fifth-grade speech. She talked about childhood pains in her world and the need to take action. “I’m here for other children. I’m here because I care. I’m here because children everywhere are suffering,” she said in 1990.

This schoolgirl grew up with an alert human conscience, and as a university student, she joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She joined at a time when the Israeli occupation forces were committing constant killings and daily widespread destruction campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

READ:  Rachel Corrie remembered

On one of her trips, the American woman travelled to the Gaza Strip. She saw the Israeli army’s armoured bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes and razing their agricultural land.

On March 16, 2003, Corrie held the loudspeaker and by one of the army’s bulldozer in Al-Salam neighbourhood in Rafah, located near the Egyptian border in the southern part of Gaza. She repeatedly urged them to stop the destruction, which, throughout a few years, led to the destruction of the basic life needs for thousands of Palestinians in Rafah alone. Some Israeli commentators described the destruction of houses and civilian facilities and the bulldozing of trees and farmlands as giving the area a “zero buzz cut” because it removed everything in their path.

Rachel Corrie wore an orange high visibility vest, required to identify her as a volunteer in solidarity work, as she issued multiple appeals. However, the bulldozer continued to approach her without slowing down until it crushed this 24-year-old American civil activist. This tragedy embodied how the successive Israeli governments and its military forces typically behaved, i.e. disregard for international appeals and their continued occupation, oppression, war crimes, and countless violations without any regard for any appeals.

Read: Israel arrests two Aqsa guards amid mounting tension

The Israeli occupation army resorted to its habit of evading responsibility for this crime by opening an investigation into what happened and absolved itself from causing the brutal murder of Corrie. It considered it to be an unintended accident. This conclusion was rejected by the most prominent human rights organisations in the world, including Israeli and Palestinian organisations. In 2012, an Israeli court acquitted the occupation army and the bulldozer driver of any responsibility for what happened after Rachel’s parents filed a lawsuit in this regard. This was denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk. It is sickening that the Israeli reports continued to downplay the crime, justify it, and even blame the victim, even though the army bulldozer driver buried Rachel Corrie alive as she screamed into the loudspeaker while wearing her orange vest, visible to everyone.

Time did not stop on March 16, 2003, the day on which the tragic incident occurred in Rafah. Rachel Corrie grew in the human conscience and became a symbol of solidarity in the world after she was buried alive as the price for her solidarity. As for her family, they are no longer just the loving family living in Olympia, as Rachel has become an inspirational international icon. She has also become a Palestinian given her attachment to a fair cause that cannot be extinguished. Her name lives in Palestine in the names of many facilities.

It is true that President Donald Trump will not find time on Rachel’s 40th birthday to commemorate his fellow American who was brutally crushed by the Israeli occupation army, while the congressional sessions will avoid mentioning her name on this occasion. However, through this young brave woman, America presented a loyal face in its international expression of noble human values, as Rachel Corrie’s name inspired a generation of solidarity activists after her who then carried loudspeakers to defend human rights, justice, and the people’s freedoms and to combat injustice, aggression and war crimes.

On April 10, 2019, there will be an international celebration honouring the sacrifices of activists showing solidarity with Palestine around the world, with forty candles for Rachel Corrie.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.


SOURCE: 40 candles of solidarity: An international birthday for Rachel CorrieHossam Shaker | MEMO | 19 March 2019



#NZ #ISLAMOPHOBIA #CHRISTCHURCH #TERROR: #IslamicWomensCouncil repeatedly lobbied to stem #discrimination!

CHRISTCHURCH TERROR ATTACKS: Islamic Women’s Council repeatedly lobbied to stem discrimination | Anjum Rahman | Radio New Zealand | 17 March 2019 

Opinion – How does a heart break? Does it shatter into a million pieces? Does is split into two aching, throbbing halves? Does it break with a low keening wail or an earth-shattering scream of pain?

Anjum Rahman says the government should stop "fear mongering"

Anjum Rahman said she’s not surprised that the mosque attacks occurred in New Zealand, but she is enraged. Photo: Supplied


On Friday, we heard the sound of millions of hearts breaking in this country as shots rang out in two mosques in Christchurch.

Time and again, the media have asked me whether or not I was surprised that this attack happened in our country. I will explain to you why I was not surprised. I will try to convey to you my absolute blinding rage.

The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ) was formed in 1989, and Muslim women have connected and gathered throughout the country ever since. Our leadership team has a good idea of what our women are going through and the issues in our daily lives. We know the impacts of mainstream discourses arising from wars and terrorist attacks overseas, and from events such as the publishing of ugly cartoons.

In recent times, we became concerned about the increasing pressure on our communities from rising levels of discrimination in this country, and the social issues that came with that. The issues we were seeing were too much for our community to resolve on a volunteer basis. More than this, the solutions were systemic and required investment by government in programmes and human resources.

So about five years ago, we wrote a comprehensive report of the problems we were facing and sent it to the Ministry of Social Development. We pushed, but as far as we know, nothing concrete was done with that report.

After our community was pushed into the spotlight with the “Jihadi brides” comments of our then Prime Minister, we continually requested engagement with government. The result of those very public requests was a visit by a government minister. We had a very frank and open discussion about our needs. We engaged with this minister more than once.

In October 2016, we met with the SIS (New Zealand Security Intelligence Service) at their request and again laid out the problems we were facing as a community and the help we needed.

Holocaust Remembrance Day held at Makara Cemetery in Wellington. Dame Susan Devoy was a guest speaker. Raising growing concerns around the influx of hate speech online.

Dame Susan Devoy. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King


We had been in constant contact with then-Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and in December 2016 she convened a meeting with Muslim women, where we brought together everything we had been telling her over the year. She committed to using all her influence to help us and was an absolute champion for us. She has shown amazing courage in challenging the public service.

In January 2017, we met with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and laid out our concerns. In March 2017, the Human Rights Commission and the State Services Commission organised a ful- day meeting with heads of government. Various Muslim organisations presented to these very senior public servants.

At that meeting, IWCNZ put forward the major problem we were facing and the impacts of discrimination on our community; what we needed from government and what we could offer in support from our community. We explained that the solutions we were suggesting would benefit all minority communities and New Zealand as a whole.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Kilbirnie Mosque.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comforts a woman at the Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington today. Photo: RNZ/Ana Tovey


At that meeting, we were absolutely clear about the urgency of this. We were absolutely clear about how exhausted and close to breaking the Muslim women’s leadership team were. We told them about our concerns over the rise of vitriol and the rise of the alt-right in New Zealand.

We asked them what resources were being put in to monitoring alt-right groups, something we had also asked the SIS.

I can’t even explain the tension and stress we went through going into that meeting. From the government side, there were arguments about who would attend that meeting. This meeting should have been focused on our community and its needs, but the Office of Ethnic Communities (OEC) chose to make it about themselves. The then acting director resigned on the morning of the meeting and they sent no representative to hear us out.

The two of us who presented, Aliya Danzeisen and myself, had very strong concerns for our personal safety – in an emotional and reputational sense. And those fears came to fruition during the year as we were attacked in various ways and our community was divided by the actions of some public servants.

In August 2017, we met the Department of Internal Affairs in Hamilton. Again, we explained how urgent this was, how exhausted we were, what action was needed from government. We engaged with the Department of Internal Affairs and Office of Ethnic Communities over the next few months, pushing as hard as we could for what we needed, but it wasn’t forthcoming. We asked for action at a national level but kept being told that any programmes would be in Waikato only.

After months of frustration, Aliya wrote to the State Services Commissioner demanding action be taken. With the support of the Race Relations Commissioner, we met with SSC In January 2018. At that time, we also met with DIA, OEC and two government ministers from the new government. Again, we talked about the effects of discrimination, the issues in our communities, the rise of the alt-right and the increasing level of vitriol we were seeing online and in person. It was the same material, and we kept repeating it.

We have received no significant funding.

After all this work, what we got was an agreement from DIA to fund a government advisory group, but they did not fund our time. Even though they knew we were still exhausted to breaking point, with the added burden of spending hours and days pushing government to act, we were expected to continue on a volunteer basis.

We had to push for funding for a report writer, and I can’t say at this time where our report is at.

So here we are.

At least five years of solid government engagement across a National-led and then a Labour-led government. We begged and pleaded, we demanded. We knocked on every door we could, we spoke at every forum we were invited to.

At a major security conference in February 2018, Aliya challenged the sector: if you can spend so much on surveilling our community, why can you not spend on preventative programmes?

Yesterday, the chair of the Islamic Women’s Council, Dr Maysoon Salamah, lost her son after hours of surgery. He was shot twice. Her husband was shot in the lower head and has had two surgeries. Her first words to Aliya Danzeisen were “They took my heart”.

This is how a heart breaks. This is how our world is torn apart.

I would ask you to picture this: what if the shooting had been a Muslim perpetrator, and it was 50 non-Muslim New Zealanders who had been shot? Would our community be receiving the same level of support that we have today?

Imagine what the media commentary would have been like. We would not have been able to leave our homes, the level of retaliatory attacks on our community would have been swift and immediate, and the police would have struggled to provide any meaningful protection.

That was the fear that we, the leadership of the Muslim community, carried in our hearts every day. That was a major reason why we put so much time and energy into begging government to help us. Attack on our community was the second reason.

No, New Zealand media, we are not surprised. Why would we be?

I will leave you all with this: I want, I need accountability. My community wants and needs accountability. I need those public servants to sit in front of all of us who presented to them in March 2017 and tell us what they have done since. Tell us what resources and programmes you put in place. I want the politicians from both parties that we personally spoke to, to sit in front of us and tell us what they did as a result of our meetings with them.

We need answers.

* Anjum Rahman is spokesperson at Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand


SOURCE: CHRISTCHURCH TERROR ATTACKS: Islamic Women’s Council repeatedly lobbied to stem discrimination | Anjum Rahman | Radio New Zealand | 17 March 2019



NEW ZEALAND: Christchurch mosque shootings: Faces of the fallen | NZ Herald | 18 March 2019

 8 minutes to read

A video tribute to victims of the Christchurch terror attack


“Last but not least, on the biased media side, Leon T. Hadar wrote:

Following the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the arrest of several Muslims who were charged with the crime, the American media were flooded with news stories, analyses and commentaries that warned of the coming “Islamic threat.” “Investigative reporters” and “terrorism experts” alleged on television talk shows and op-ed pages that the accused perpetrators of the bombing were part of an “Islamic terrorism network” coordinated by Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, or other Middle Eastern bogeymen.
Contrast those reactions with the media’s response to the massacre in Hebron. No analyst suggested that the event reflected the emergence of a global “Jewish threat. ” No terrorism expert was invited to discuss on “Nightline” or the “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” the rise of a “global Zionist terrorism” organization manipulated, say, by the Israeli Mossad. No scholar alleged that the massacre by a Jewish settler suggested that Western and Jewish values were somehow incompatible.”


Cave of the Patriarchs in Occupied Palestine

Source on Mosque Murders Can’t Recall People Ever Being Murdered in a Mosque Before

Read HERE what the Director of the ADL had to say on national T.V.


Related article from Mondoweiss


Greenblatt failed to remember 1994’s rightwing Zionist attack on the Ibrahimi mosque, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, when Baruch Goldstein, a messianic Jewish settler who had moved to occupied territories from Brooklyn, killed 29 Muslims while they prayed.

Here is an account of that massacre from our archives ….


20 Years of Lessons after Al-Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre – A Memorial History for the 30 Palestinian Martyrs

The story:

The dawn of Friday 15 Ramadan 1414 a.h. / 25 February 1994 marked the first of three massacres perpetrated by Israeli settlers accompanied by the Israeli Army. There were more than 30…

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A Ten Point Rule of Law Test for a Social Media Duty of Care – Graham Smith

“But the likely scope of a duty of care raises a prior rule of law issue. The more broadly a duty of care is framed, the greater the risk that it will stray into impermissible vagueness.

The rule of law objection to vagueness was spelt out by the House of Lords in R v Rimmington, citing the US case of Grayned:

“Vagueness offends several important values … A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application.“

Whilst most often applied to criminal liability, the objection to vagueness is more fundamental than that. It is a constitutional principle that applies to the law generally. Lord Diplock referred to it in a 1975 civil case (Black-Clawson):

“The acceptance of the rule of law as a constitutional principle requires that a citizen, before committing himself to any course of action, should be able to know in advance what are the legal consequences that will flow from it.”

Certainty is a particular concern with a law that has consequences for individuals’ speech. In the context of a social media duty of care the rule of law requires that users must be able to know with reasonable certainty in advance what of their speech is liable to be the subject of preventive or mitigating action by a platform operator subject to the duty of care.”

Inforrm's Blog

All the signs are that the government will shortly propose a duty of care on social media platforms aimed at reducing the risk of harm to users. DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright wrote recently:

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Housing benefit assessors jailed over £1m fraud and money laundering

“During their trial they said they had no idea the claims were false and that they were simply processing papers given to them by their managers.

“However, the CPS prosecution showed the jury messages between them and their co-conspirators planning the whole thing.

They have now been convicted by the jury and these public funds are safely out of their hands.”

Politics and Insights

JusticeSeven benefit assessors have been sentenced to prison for a total of 17 years for their roles in housing benefit fraud which saw more than £1m stolen from three councils in London.

The assessors worked in the local authorities of Lambeth, Kingston and Barking and Dagenham creating false housing benefit claims over a period of six years and sending the funds to accounts they controlled.

Lambeth employee Menelik Cowan, one of the driving forces of the fraud, and six others, denied fraud but were convicted by a jury after a three-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. They were sentenced today (18 March).

Cowan was sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. He had diverted £293,147 from his employers over six years. Others received between three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and 18 months.

The gang would identify properties, collect details for false claims and create appointments for the fraudsters at the council.

They also approved…

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Housing benefit assessors jailed over £1m fraud and money laundering

“During their trial they said they had no idea the claims were false and that they were simply processing papers given to them by their managers.

“However, the CPS prosecution showed the jury messages between them and their co-conspirators planning the whole thing.

They have now been convicted by the jury and these public funds are safely out of their hands.”

Politics and Insights

JusticeSeven benefit assessors have been sentenced to prison for a total of 17 years for their roles in housing benefit fraud which saw more than £1m stolen from three councils in London.

The assessors worked in the local authorities of Lambeth, Kingston and Barking and Dagenham creating false housing benefit claims over a period of six years and sending the funds to accounts they controlled.

Lambeth employee Menelik Cowan, one of the driving forces of the fraud, and six others, denied fraud but were convicted by a jury after a three-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. They were sentenced today (18 March).

Cowan was sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. He had diverted £293,147 from his employers over six years. Others received between three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and 18 months.

The gang would identify properties, collect details for false claims and create appointments for the fraudsters at the council.

They also approved…

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Dimming her lights: The public shaming of Ilhan Omar

“It stems from the small moments and looks of disapproval, like stepping on a white American’s yoga mat. Or from being shamed for speaking about personal experiences of marginalisation as has happened in my own life—the worst instance in which a white woman interrupted a private conversation she was eavesdropping on to shout at me in public. These acts of chastisement have two effects: the first is a violence in the words and the action taken against you. The second is the humiliation in knowing that you have to take it.

The resolution and the public outrage in response to Ilhan Omar were not because she spoke out; they arose because she spoke at all. Ilhan Omar has made the best of the situation by refusing to back down and lending her support to a bill that was written to deride her. She is revealing to America its own bigotry and hypocrisy. I hope, as many young women of colour do, that she never loses her courage.”

Media Diversified

The condemnation of Ilhan Omar not only betrays hypocrisy at the heart of the US government, it also demonstrates how Black Americans are subject to disproportionate discipline and censure on a daily basis, writes Olivia Woldemikael

The public humiliation and condemnation of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by Democrats, Republicans, and the American media is all too familiar. The outcry surrounding Omar’s tweets critical of AIPAC and her statements questioning Israel’s influence in American politics is more about the speaker than her speech. Omar’s actions and words never stood for themselves. Instead, they are interpreted within a racial context in which Black people are constantly sanctioned for their Blackness. Reactions to Omar’s speech are akin to the daily experiences of African Americans and Black people living in America who experience less public, though equally vitriolic, acts of silencing and humiliation.

A central component of the Black experience in America is punishment. Constant discipline reminds…

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#MagnitudeOfDisenfranchisement: #FamilyLaw #Disproportionality #Corporatocracy #PoorPractice #SeriousMistakes #UnlawfulActions #FreeSpeech #FamilyAlienation #FamilyApartheid #Unaccountability #NotInOurNames #Undemocratic

This blog post originally appeared in the February 2019 issue, [2019] Fam Law 122.

“The poor practice, serious mistakes and sometimes unlawful actions of people working in the family law system are almost always hidden.”

Whatever you think of the media, journalists’ mistakes couldn’t be more visible. If we get a fact wrong, the evidence is there in black and white. If we write an article that you think is inaccurate, biased or unfair, you can call us out. As demonstrated by the recent Times/Andrew Norfolk furore, criticism of the media can be instant, vociferous and can call into question a journalist’s professionalism, intentions and integrity in a very public way.

For background, Norfolk wrote a piece about sex gang survivor Sammy Woodhouse’s revulsion that her abuser, while in prison, had been informed by Rotherham children’s services of a care case involving their son. Given how comprehensively Woodhouse had been failed by Rotherham children’s services in the past, its action – required by law – was perhaps understandably perceived by Woodhouse as an invitation to her abuser to apply for contact. This prospect was condemned by Louise Haigh MP and seen as ‘perverse’ by the Victims’ Commissioner, quoted in Norfolk’s piece. Whether rightly or wrongly (and after parsing, paragraph by paragraph, The Times article for a Transparency Project blog, I think wrongly), Norfolk’s journalism was dumped on from a very great height. Some commentators were practically spitting.

I describe this simply to make the point that journalists don’t get to hide. And I make absolutely no complaint about this. The media has real influence. At worst, if journalists’ work is done shoddily, in bad faith, or unethically, it can destroy lives. Instead, I draw a comparison.

The poor practice, serious mistakes and sometimes unlawful actions of people working in the family law system are almost always hidden. Thanks to primary legislation, the intention of which was solely to protect children’s privacy, the failings that are both revealed in, and perpetrated by, the family courts, cannot ordinarily be described even by those they most intimately affect. In addition, the institutional secrecy that s 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 both assures and encourages is having desperate results for the very children our family courts are meant to protect.

This secrecy, dressed up as ‘privacy’, is facilitating human rights breaches that ruin lives just as surely as bad journalism can. Because family courts are sequestered from public view, we only glimpse the horror when the occasional judge, sickened at the scale and depth of the illegality she’s presiding over, rips apart the veil of secrecy that usually covers up the misery inflicted by the state on the most vulnerable in society.

Three judgments from last year will always haunt me. All involved Herefordshire children’s services and all were heard by Mr Justice Keehan. I read the latter two back to back on a train home from London and they brought me to tears. In the first, Herefordshire Council v AB[2018] EWFC 10[2018] 2 FLR 784 – referred to in my last column in November [2018] Fam Law 1375 – two boys were unlawfully kept in s 20 accommodation for eight and nine years respectively. For one boy, that was the whole of his life. The older boy’s mother withdrew her consent but was unlawfully overruled by Herefordshire’s then assistant director. The other mother, a 14-year-old child when her baby was born, was almost certainly not competent to consent to s 20 accommodation in the first place.

In the second case, BT and GT (Children: twins – adoption) [2018] EWFC 76, [Forthcoming], a particular low point in a grotesque accumulation of failures, was the decision of a Herefordshire social work manager to split up twins who had been placed together for adoption – against a court order and without bothering to document the decision in any way. The fait accompli that faced the agonised judge when this catastrophe came to light gave him little option but to order the continuation of the separate placements, thus extinguishing for ever the twins’ relationship in law. The extensive breaches of the twins’ and their adopters’ human rights has cost the public purse £55,000 in damages – a sum I suspect is very substantially less than the final legal bill for the court case. The human misery caused is incalculable.

In the third case, A and B (Care orders and placement orders – failures) [2018] EWFC 72, [Forthcoming], ‘wholesale failures’ in the care planning for two sisters in foster care was described by Keehan J as ‘appalling’ and ‘woeful’: Herefordshire’s lack of concern for one sister and her newborn baby rendered her homeless, while the mother was still a child and supposedly in the local authority’s ‘care’. The independent reviewing officer service failed completely in its statutory responsibilities to both sisters, and Herefordshire’s head of safeguarding failed to challenge the council’s assistant director on how the girls’ situation was being managed. That assistant director has since left.

Looking at his extensive list of judgments, Keehan clearly understands the need for the public to know what is being done in their name. But plenty of judges don’t. In some areas, nothing is published at all despite the immediate past President’s transparency guidance. In whole swathes of the jurisdiction, we don’t even get the barest glimpse of the mistakes, poor practice and presumably the human rights breaches the state inflicts on children and families. If the new President’s doubtless well-intentioned but, in my view, regressive guidance on anonymisation is followed by judges who do publish, we will in future have even less idea of which councils are, like Herefordshire, failing the most vulnerable children from top to bottom of their children’s services departments.

Moving on to lawyers’ and judges’ failings that nobody usually gets to see. In October 2018, I drove two hours to a family court to support a freelance colleague who wished to apply for reporting restrictions to be lifted in an important case. I emerged from court that day furious at the casual lack of regard displayed by a designated family judge – sitting as a high court judge – to freedom of expression, and to the law that is meant to protect it. As some readers will know, as a result of what happened in court that day, I am now appealing the judge’s decision to impose reporting restrictions on information already deliberately placed in the public domain by three Appeal Court judges. (Because of a weak case by the local authority and a shoddy decision by the original judge, the Appeal Court had remitted an adoption application back for a rehearing, which is why we were in court that day)

In that courtroom that morning, I watched, aghast, as three experienced barristers asserted various vague worries that certain characteristics would identify the family involved. None offered any evidence as to a mechanism by which identification might realistically take place, nor what harm would occur to a young child and a young baby if their identities were to become known. That’s nowhere near enough in law to restrict someone’s freedom of speech.

This lack of legal knowledge among family lawyers as to what’s required for a judge to undertake the required balancing exercise between Art 8 and Art 10 rights is, in my direct experience, not unique. In a previous court case I attended where Gloucestershire County Council contested being identified in press reporting, the designated family judge Stephen Wildblood QC deplored the fact that ‘there was no mention at all of Arts 6, 8 or 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights or any of the relevant case law’ by any of the barristers in court. He sent them off, ordering a new hearing, by which time he hoped that they’d have learned the law.

But judges aren’t all so keen to ensure the law is followed. Back to the case in October 2018. To the consternation of the three journalists in court – the BBC was also present – the judge presiding didn’t bother with anything so fancy as a balancing exercise between Art 8 and Art 10. He didn’t apply or consider existing case law. I was clutching a highlighted print-out of Re J but there really wasn’t an opportunity to stand up and argue its points. He didn’t give any reasons for not allowing the media to report facts already in the public domain and the reporting restriction order he made wasn’t time-limited. It shouldn’t be that I know the law better than three experienced barristers and a DFJ sitting as high court judge. But it seems that this is where we are.

At the end of his order, giving me leave to appeal, Peter Jackson’s assessment was that: ‘There are compelling reasons for the appeal to be heard.’ But it’s crucial to remember that I am only able to attempt this appeal against what I believe are unlawful reporting restrictions because I have pro-bono support from human rights barrister Paul Bowen QC and family barrister Sarah Phillimore, plus a Twitter following that has fabulously stumped up – twice – for a crowdfunder to meet the costs. To date these are approaching £2,000, which, of course, most people could not find. Meanwhile, I am spending enormous amounts of time on appeal admin, my printer is gasping, I am buying paper and ring binders in bulk, and am on increasingly friendly terms with the local postmistress whose salary the postage on this case is paying. Also, because ordinarily I may not speak a word of what goes on in a family court, had I not been given leave to appeal, I wouldn’t be able to tell you any of this. I’m relying on the grounds set out in the permission to appeal order which I am allowed to publish.

And so, if this – at the very least appealable – reporting restriction order had been made in a different family court, with nobody having the means to challenge it, the public would never have the chance to understand how a young child had very nearly, and wrongly, lost her relationship with her mother. Scrutiny, leading to better accountability for decisions that change people’s lives forever and sometimes destroy them, is why I fight for more openness in our family court system.

But there is another reason too, which is not often acknowledged. Closed systems become complacent. When, literally, nobody can speak of what you do, and nobody can see the way you operate, you can never be meaningfully challenged. Your professional world cannot cross-fertilise with other people’s knowledge, ideas, or best practice. This leads to the kind of procedural laziness I have just described, to the extreme distresses visited upon children and families in Herefordshire, to lawyers who don’t particularly consider as important their duty to uphold everyone’s human rights or the overall good of society that those human rights promote – and to judges who think it is unremarkable to make orders restricting human rights without going through a lawful process to inform that decision.

A final thought. A criminal barrister of many years’ experience got in touch with me a couple of months ago after reading a comment piece I wrote saying that the misuse of s 20 amounted to state kidnap. He had recently been allowed into a family court hearing alongside his former partner, he explained, to offer her support (he was not a party to the case, which involved her child). He told me that he watched a high court judge preside over an abuse of process that would never have been contemplated in a criminal court. I asked him why not. He said, simply: ‘Because criminal courts are open. Because people can walk in. Because even if it’s not reported, we know it could be.’

A response to this piece by The Transparency Project will be published in the March issue of Family Law.



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Supreme Court allows tortured Tamil asylum-seeker’s appeal

“Lord Wilson was not satisfied with Sales LJ’s stance that Dr Zapata-Bravo’s oral evidence in the UT must have been that the scars on the arm as well as on the back were precisely defined and that complete analgesia would have been required to produce all of them. Interestingly, whereas Sales LJ blamed KV for failing to provide the Court of Appeal with a transcript of the doctor’s oral evidence (without which the UT was not at fault), Lord Wilson judged that:

29. … But it is dangerous for us who work in appeal courts to assume that the answer to an apparent mistake at first instance must lie in oral evidence not recorded in the judgment and not transcribed for the purposes of the appeal. The court of first instance should be expected to record the oral evidence on which it places reliance.”

United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog

KV (Sri Lanka) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] UKSC 10 (6 March 2019)

In a recent judgment given by Lord Wilson the Supreme Court unanimously allowed KV’s appeal, remitting the matter to the UT for fresh determination. KV, a Sri Lankan asylum-seeker of Tamil ethnicity, claimed that the scars on his arm and back were the result of torture but his claim was still disbelieved on the basis that the scars were self-inflicted by proxy (SIBP), i.e. by another person at his invitation. While not a member of the Tamil Tigers, KV used to melt gold for the organisation. He claimed that Sri Lanka’s government detained and tortured him and tried to extract information about where the gold and other valuables were hidden. He contended that the government burned his arm with hot metal rods while he was conscious. The pain rendered him unconscious and…

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