Getting it wrong, even with the best of intentions, is of little comfort to a family grieving for a dead child, and proves that devious psychotics can dupe the most careful scrutineers.
Protecting children in the Family Court is a harrowing task. Small lives rest in the balance of welfare reports which are not always good enough, cross examinations which can fall far short of exposing the truth and more often than we would like, judicial instinct, or discretion which we know is affected by bias.
The death of Ellie Butler, whose father Ben Butler has now been jailed for her murder, is a terrible story which highlights some of the ongoing difficulties with family law cases. That there is anger being directed at the judge who handed Ellie back to her parents after a prolonged custody battle is understandable but it doesn’t capture the wider picture.
Dame Justice Hogg never intended for Ellie to experience harm. She also passed her judgment during a period in history where deep public concern existed, and continues to exist, over courts removing children from their parents without just cause. Had Dame…
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