Calling the courts ‘corrupt’ does not make it so

family law

‘Corrupt’. The word slips so easily off the tongue these days. It is used in many different contexts, but probably the one that led to its popularity was corruption in government. Unfortunately, in recent decades we have become all too used to hearing of politicians accepting money for favours. And thus the word slipped into common usage, as much intended as a term of abuse as to convey the true meaning of the word.

And in the last few years it has been used by the less discerning critics of the family justice system, who are all too eager to tell us that the family courts are corrupt, that judges are corrupt, that lawyers are corrupt, etc. In fact, the entire system and everyone who works within it is corrupt.

But we need to consider the definition of the word. According to Google, it means “having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain”. Now that’s a pretty serious allegation to bandy about willy-nilly, unless the prospect of a defamation claim against you holds no fears.

Let’s look at the two elements of the definition: dishonesty and money/personal gain.

I’ll begin with the latter. I don’t think many of the critics of the family justice system are seriously suggesting that anyone within it is accepting any sort of bribe for what they do (although I have come across the allegation). No, the personal gain is the salary of the judges/welfare officers/social workers, or the fees of the lawyers. In other words, it’s just their normal income. Hmm, everyone has to make a living…

What of dishonesty?

Well, I think this mainly goes back to the old chestnut of bias: for some reason that has never been properly explained to me, all of those who work within the family justice system are biased. In particular, they are biased in favour of mothers, wives and, in the public law field, local authorities. The dishonesty is that they pretend to be impartial, when they clearly are not. All of this is, of course, utter balderdash.

Another form of dishonesty is that those within the system know it doesn’t work properly, but they persist with it because they earn good money from it, and they know that an improved system could put them out of a (lucrative) job. The facts that many who work within the system are arguing vigorously for change and that many of them do not, in fact, earn a great deal of money are conveniently ignored.

The real dishonesty here is using a word like ‘corrupt’ when it clearly isn’t justified. There may be the odd exception, but the vast majority of those who work within the family justice system are not remotely dishonest.

Look, I’m quite prepared to accept that the system has its faults and can be improved. But the way to do that is by reasonable and reasoned discussion, not by hurling abuse around. Forget the hackneyed soundbites and engage in proper debate – you might just find that once you stop abusing them, many within the system will actually agree with you.

Using a word like ‘corrupt’ to describe the family justice system without any evidence to back it up is an act of desperation. It’s as if those who use the word believe that its very use proves the truth of the argument. It does not. In fact, if you find yourself using the word ‘corrupt’ to describe the family justice system that may just be an indication that you are losing the argument, clinging to meaningless straws rather than points of substance.

The family justice system may be many things, but it is not ‘corrupt’, and describing it as such does not make it so.

Photo by Memphis CVB via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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25 comments

spinner - June 9, 2016 at 6:58pm

Not many people say the courts are corrupt by the dictionary definition of the word, I personally don’t think they are.

They are obviously biases and it’s a lie to say they are not and flies in the face of all logic, available data and certainly my personal experience.

Where the use of the word “corrupt” get’s muddied is that lawyers continue to drive up fee’s by various methods most of which are encouraged by a system that is surprise surprise designed by lawyers. Is this corruption, not by the definition of the word and I’m sure what word is appropriate. There is often collusion between the lawyers involved in the case and again I’m not sure that is corruption but in any other industry it wouldn’t be allowed as it’s effect is similar to insider trading which is of course illegal.

Andy - June 9, 2016 at 11:25pm

Last time I wrote a long winded blog on a subject the mobile device decided to miss spell words,what I was reading in mind to what I wanted to say, never got quite right on blog board..

So here it is..I agree with Spinner..
Depends how to have an opinion of the subject..we all have one…you make your own mind up about corruption…

JamesB - June 10, 2016 at 10:02am

I don’t think we are going to agree on this John. I am not going to repeat again. Not balderdash. They are biased and corrupt institutionally as the law is and they just find it easy to make quick easy stereotypes and assumptions and decisions and go to expensive lunch.

JamesB - June 10, 2016 at 10:52am

Given 2 conflicting arguments of equal weights put by 1 LIP and 1 by lawyer Judge will side with the lawyer also, that is corrupt also. As is that it is the establishment who write the rules for the establishment and make themselves exempt from them when they want. Like Tory MPs when arrested getting released without charge and their arrest details expunged where the rest of us do not when get NFA’d (no further action) due to dodgy DV arrests as part of lawyers playing games. Like complaints going further against non establishment lawyers than establishment lawyers as per a post by Marilyn. Like trying to get a penalty as an away team at old trafford.

That this country is less corrupt than others and is one of the good ones is good, but it doesn’t mean that there is not corruption. We should not rest on our laurels and need to reform the family courts from being institutionally corrupt and unfit for purpose and strive to be the best country we can be. Plus vote Brexit. Brussels corruption and backroom deals is issue too.

When I speak to my wife about why she prefers it here to her country of origin, she says it is that there is less corruption. We need to stamp it out and on a few family law courts judges heads at the same time and change the laws also.

Vincent McGovern - June 12, 2016 at 8:00pm

What a surprise that a former family law solicitor exercised such selectivity in choice of description of corrupt. He used google’s narrow definition as it said what he likes. Now, let us look at Concise Oxford Dictionary. It states corrupt may be for financial gain, also taint, infect, destroy purity of. So if we look at CA 1989 and Judicial Guidelines of England and Wales, then yes, the family courts are unquestionably corrupt. Quite simply if one measures input and utcome there is no other conclusion. Leaving aside the institutional corruption of Cafcass, Cafcass DVIP, MARAC process which automatically excludes half of all parents from access, then only the word corrupt can be applied.

If we consider there are tens of millions spent on promotion and facilitation of (usually) false or grossly exaggerated DV allegations, but not one penny spent on therapy for the children affected, then most definitely corrupt is applicable. After all we are always told the Welfare of the child is Paramount. So how come the UK has the worst outcomes in OECD countries post divorce and separation. Corrupt.

D - June 13, 2016 at 10:02am

Another article on this vein. Methinks he doth protest too much 🙂

David - June 13, 2016 at 10:28am

I think you are misinformed and deluded. We are not referring to corrupt in the sense of personal gain but that there is a hidden agenda within the justice system, government organisations and politics to destroy the family unit within this nation. The system is biased and feminist in it’s functions. That is why men are targeted. We can and have witnessed this by the way men are treated in this nation. For example, in about 97 per cent of cases (my conjecture), in a custody battle, the women get both custody of the children and the majority of the family assets.

Further, men are punished by the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service. We see how they are hammered for money on the pretext of arrears and alleged child poverty in country. It is also said that men often are not supporting their children which is only true in a modicum of cases. Often these so called arrears are fictitious because the Agency make up the figures and cannot substantiate them. Men are not allowed to have second families. They are hammered by the system to pay up irrespective of the financial cost. They cannot afford the high payments levied on this and to support a second family because they are not allowed to. It does not matter if they cannot afford to pay the CMS’ s demands.

To make matters worse, the mothers do not always get paid by the CSA/CMS. There have been numerous complaints by mothers that payment has not been forthcoming and therefore father’s are blamed even though they have in most cases been faithful payers.

I have seen numerous cases where father’s have paid faithfully every assessment made by the CSA over many years only to receive a demand from the agency to pay “arrears”. These figures run in to many thousand (I have seen arrears for £60,000). Sometimes it’s many years after the children have grown up. If that is not an injustice, I do not know what is.

Yet when it comes to getting access to their children, very little is done by the so called justice system to foster a relation with fathers and their children. Even with a court order in place for this, mothers will often ignore them and very little is done to persuade mother’s to obey they law. If a man should default on his child support, he could lose his house or some other sanction would be brought to bear to force him to fulfil his obligations.

Lucy - June 14, 2016 at 1:48pm

I was in court yesterday and to my horror the usher and court legal adviser attempted to sway my Barrister off the case suggesting she was not going to be winning therefore suggesting a judgment had been formed already without us even entering the court room. Thankfully the Barrister was an honest person and informed me and we put a complaint in ……….the complaint was dealt with in house on the spot and our application to have this dealt with at an alternative court was denied.
Corruption?

CG - June 16, 2016 at 12:29pm

“Methinks he doth protest too much”
I’ve commented before on the bias in the opinion of the blog-writer. Personal experience, and the knowledge of a great many other’s people’s experience tells me, first-hand, that there is bias, and yes, corruption, in the widest sense, in the courts.
On the 2nd June an article was posted on Family Law Week – written by Francesca Wiley QC, entitled “Serious Parental Alienation – The Approach of the Courts and Practitioners in 2016”.
In it she wrote, amongst many other things, “…There has been resistance in the lower courts to even considering that the presence or dynamic of alienation may be real. ……In the UK parental alienation was often seen as a phrase relating only to campaigners for fathers’ rights and as a consequence professionals and courts were slow to accept such an analysis could or might be right. The default position was to consider an assertion of parental alienation as a red herring raised by a (most likely, aggrieved) parent as part of a long standing problem or dynamic with their ex-partner and with limited insight into their own role in the family. In some cases this will, of course, be so.”
That would seem to me to be an acceptance that there is corruption within the court system and there is without doubt bias.
I’ve been waiting to see if this blog posts about this article – but (unless I’m mistaken) I don’t think it has.
Does the writer not want to draw attention to this article, written by a serving barrister, because it draws attention to that which he denies?
The link to the full article is here familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed161124
May it be the beginning of a sea-change in court attitudes and behaviours to (mostly male) parents who have suffered this systemic and systematic bias.

Marilyn Stowe - June 16, 2016 at 1:06pm

Dear CG
Yes I did read it, and thought it was excellent, but it was written for and published by another publication. It was also an opinion by the writer, and I didn’t see how we would be able to add anything further to it.
Regards
Marilyn

CG - June 16, 2016 at 3:05pm

Thank you for your reply. This website and blog directs readers to other external resources often. A shame you didn’t use your ‘front page’ to direct people to what is a fairly unique situation, when a leading barrister uses a key forum to raise strong concerns about maladministration in court processes that expose parents and children to extremely harmful situations. That same maladministration validates those harmful behaviours and situations. Perhaps you’ll still comment on the piece as it still relatively freshly published.
Surely you see how it looks when you regularly, and lately quite frequently, use your forum as a personal mouthpiece to denounce what your writer calls a ‘conspiracy theory’ about bias, and then don’t publish a piece by a considerably more qualified colleague that confirms their view of the same bias.

Cameron Paterson - June 16, 2016 at 3:16pm

John Bolch writes as himself and expresses his own views. As Marilyn notes, the article you refer to was written for a different site

CG - June 16, 2016 at 3:31pm

John Bolch may well write as himself, but he is published on your website, so by default you accept and support his views – and there is no disclaimer stating otherwise as far as I can see.
I appreciate the article was written for a competing website. I still hold its a shame you didn’t think it worth flagging, especially as Marilyn thought it was excellent. There is so little of this, when a barrister will put their head above the parapet to make a strong statement about the need for change, that its a shame its not more widely advertised.
Regards

Sara Fitzwilliam - September 30, 2016 at 8:17am

John Bolch -you are a lawyer. You are part of the warped system. That is the thoroughly corrupt UK so called legal establishment. Of course your stance is biased ,of course you will deny that there is no corruption in the family courts. Why would anybody expect any kind of honesty from you???Despite the overwhelming incontrovertible evidence. As a lawyer you don’t defend the truth , you subvert it and present your own fabricated version. That is how you have been trained ,that is how you score points.That is what an antiquated adversarial system is all about ,about how well you can argue ,how clever you are with words..who cares for the truth?Much easier to rely on clichés and prejudices and whatever is expedient. It is not after all an investigatory system where facts take precedent and modern scientific methods are used.Ethics and moral behaviour have long been outmoded ideas in family law. What counts is material wealth ,the rule is ,as an insider pointed out to me? is that possession is 9/10ths of the law. This system is deliberate and the powers that be dont want to reform and change the status quo. You see you are not a victim of the injustice meted out by the family courts , you are from the clique that perpetrates and perpetuates the severe injustice wreaked on children and their families. Not only are the family courts incredibly corrupt , they are also truly incompetent.They only serve the interests of the authorities where there is gross abuse of power.There is a strong tradition of bullying and intimidation that is being kept alive by the Establishment. That is why there is such a strong public backlash. That is why there is a irreversible trust deficit between the broken families and the courts who profit by breaking them. What good is it having fancy laws and fancy criminally expensive lawyers when they don’t deliver Justice? But people forget or are ignorant that there is by the Grace of God a higher justice system which is not man -made and therefore cannot be manipulated. Only it’s laws are fairly executed and worthy of respect.

Me - October 3, 2016 at 11:56pm

Total power corrupts totally.

Family law have total power.

After reading about this subject, I now understand why so many women ‘disappear’ in this country. Why seemingly sane people are reported in the news as seeking out their ex’s only to ‘end it’.
In a strange (very crazy) way it’s possible to feel sorry for the (usually) men who have been treated so badly, but who’s story we never hear (wow!).

When this happens does the ‘family’ law system carry out a review to understand what they (family law) did so wrong (with power comes great responsibility) and understand how to address this better in the future (anyone get sacked?) – and I don’t mean ‘how you can hide the women better’… “we kicked him hard repeatedly so many times that he MIGHT bite back in some way (he’s only human) – we better hide the mother and children”. He’s now obviously a threat!

This is not good for anyone – especially for the families they leave behind.

Maybe family law are just a little bit to blame?? I would not go so far as to say that their perceived (even if not real) corruption contributed to the death of these women – I am sure that family law have passed a ‘law’ making this type of suggestion unlawful, so I won’t.

When my sister was thinking about devorcing her husband (they are fine now and still together) she was asked 9 times in 30 minutes if there was ANY chance he had or could be violent at any time in ANY way – “or abusive, do you know what constitutes as abusive?”. After the first time, why wasn’t this coercion?

As odd as this seems, I am very happily married and have been for many, many years.
…I have however seen first hand (many times without exception) how family law have destroyed colleagues that I have worked with.. not the ‘devorce’… FAMILY LAW.

Anthony david - January 19, 2017 at 9:12pm

The courts are corrupt and side with lawyers, in most cases and take advantage of venerable people in society.
The courts speculate and do not give factual during hearings, they rule out argument and continue another argument that a poor LIP has argue against . The simple answer is lawyers and judges get paid to string things out, the best interest of child is a fast.

JamesB - January 20, 2017 at 12:27pm

Another example of the inane distorting the important. In this case PDA auto spelling feature. Wine gum anyone? Oerhaps its time for serious consider ablation.

JamesB - January 20, 2017 at 12:28pm

Vulnerable and farce.

JamesB - January 20, 2017 at 12:32pm

Then again, I am not sure if typing a comment on here for a few people to read or not read is that important really anyway.

Alan - February 10, 2017 at 4:26pm

The whole court system is underfunded and the family court is run on a tight budget. I don’t know what the pay scales are like for the employees of the court but I don’t suppose they are generous..

Into this environment are parachuted the family lawyers, some of whom are being paid anything up to £30,000 to get results. It is hardly surprising that there are suspicions of financial corruption. It doesn’t help that there is very obvious moral and legal distortion in the courts which is probably what most people are referring to when they say ‘corrupt’.

Luke - July 25, 2017 at 1:15am

You stand on a pedestal, fitting all theses people in to your agenda, repeating words and phrases you picked up from somewhere, every word that comes out of your mouth, every mannerism and expression you learned from someone. what’s so special about you, because I don’t see anything! you invest everything into a political ideology that talks of peace and non violence, then enforces through the instrument of power and violence, what good has this government done for the world, there are people starving on the streets ,when this earth can feed 12 billion people without any help from science and technology, that’s the price of your villa, and one day sir we will all pay a very big price for what you people are doing to humanity, I apologise for my grammar I’m an illiterate.
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John Malloch-Caldwell - July 25, 2017 at 1:59pm

The Family Courts are corrupt in the sense they do not adhere to the letter or spirit of the law. Perjury, when shown to have been committed, is ignored. Social workers lie in the knowledge they will not be challenged. Cafcass reports are just plagerised from social services reports. No factual evidence is allowed to be presented. It is nothing but a gravy train run for the financial enhancement of the participants other than than the families involved. Solicitors and barristers do not represent their clients in a manner that Justice is served. For the above reasons is why the courts are corrupt.

Andy Theodorou - September 14, 2017 at 11:14am

Thank you, John for your honest reply.

CB - September 11, 2017 at 4:38pm

My grandsons case stands to date in the High Court of Appeal, Split Case joined No Further Appeal to change the FALSE name of Child used throughout the Case back to birth Certified name.
Who gives the Local Authority any Legal right to STEAL a Childs Birth Certified name?
No One?

CB - September 11, 2017 at 9:54pm

My comment hard to understand, Took us as a family a while
The whole case was concocted by [name removed] Local Authority, not an ounce of truth was entered into court, Could not be entered, stopped by illegality of changing my grandsons birth certified name, by INITIAL APPLICATION, court orders for medical information to be entered into court a name of a child that has never existed, gave the hospital he entered for investigation of development, problems, since botched birth by this same hospital an OUT to keep it covered-up, AVOID medical negligence claim, WE DO NOT HAVE MEDICAL FILE IN CHILD (INITIALS) [name removed] BUT WE DO HAVE MEDICAL FILE IN (INITIALS) [name removed] BUT THIS IS NOT THE NAME ON THE COURT ORDER ACCESS DENIED. The judges gave [name removed] exactly what they requested, sat back after the High Court decision, ALLOWED my grandsons name to be illegally changed back to his birth certified name, and allowed the implementation of Illegal adoption of my grandson to go ahead through these same courts, AS A FAMILY WE WERE ABSOLUTELY POWERLESS, NO LEGAL WOULD TOUCH THE CASE, WE WERE SEARCHING FOR HE/HER WITHOUT SIN???????????
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