READ ME 2021

 READ ME 2021           

DRAFT – initial notes for interested parties, to be improved soon.

for several reasons this is private for the time being -  please do respect my privacy and do not in any way circulate any of this yet thank you.

Media 2006 and 2009.

The business -it literally is, of media is to dramatise scenarios into something a bit more sexed up than dry principle. 

The court case of 2006  - most widely reported, was a matter of PRINCIPLE. It was a legal-activist* test case. Me the legal activist.  Meaning in truth that the application of law and rules at that time in fact did not affect myself so much as i quite rightly had some two years earlier already secured as cast iron as possible my own permanent ongoing (as it had been 5 years prior) cherished healthy and happy life with my child.  But the principle was fought for, at some tangential risk to myself, so that others who had not fared so well - been subject to injustice - the injustices unarguable, had the right to go to the press to call out bad acts.

In fact - as a personal matter - a matter of how I personally think,  that campaigning case was simply continued so as to 'honour' my own daughter. In other words we had been through some quite quite unwarranted personal pain and stress and in the back of my mind was a sentimental notion that if somehow one day that was turned into something positive societally then that would 'honour' the innocent unique loveliness my daughter was in her own self.

In fact that was frankly a bit daft. I was handed a High Court injunction (gagging order) in autumn 2004 completely out of the blue - and unwarranted, indeed rather nuts as essentially the Appeal Court went on to find 18 months later. That became the basis of the test case.  I had no idea how to fight that mad injunction. Nor did a range of many year superbly dedicated  lay legal experts I had got to know. I was on my own and just wingin' it....  had some utopian 'romantic' notion that goodness and natural justice somehow will out; when my rational brain knew that one can never turn the juggernaut - their 'system'. 

I also had a many year similarly utopian notion deep inside that, as the Americans say, "sunlight is the best disinfectant" and our British society will chime with that notion. I was largely wrong meaning that over a year or so it was my 'own side' who were the biggest obstacle. Many campaigners and commentators would speak of the need for reform in blanket secrecy being default in this area of civil law  - and others, yet when it came to discussing actual real world change they would not be able to countenance change that could lead to legal overhaul. Always some personal take that would muddle the fundamental matter of it all. Which still needs explaining and we do need a great film to do just that.

This legal case was to me in many ways rather hilarious. I am not being trite. 

As the test case was 'announced' (late 2005) - which happens via judgement in the leave to Appeal appearance, which gets picked up even by press as such judgements are public, various backroom wheels go into motion. One that particularly piqued me was that one of the well known top 3 most senior judges  - then Justice Munby, wrote a public 'paper' on the topic of judicial transparency / secrecy etc., that my case was to be 'testing' a few months later. I said when it came to my attention "hahh hahhh he has written this paper for me and given me some extra ammo for the case itself". He clearly had. Some of his paper was used in the representation to the Appeal Court.  And on that day when a quote was put in representation to the Appeal Court  along the lines of " Your worshipfulnesess, as you may know Munby J recently wrote a paper entitled...." And the wonderful Late LJ Wall as we all know the one really in charge of family law interjected with a smile " ahhh ..yes ..... i know the paper so happens he was sitting next to me in our club when he penned his wonderful treatise..." wink wink. In other words they botched it up together.  For me.

In that paper one quite correct statement - which was indeed used in my argument a few months later  went along the lines "now the state no longer has the power over the citizen of taking their life in punishment, as we outlawed capital punishment, the worst act a citizen can undergo in our society  is what may be at stake in secret family courts - removal of a child" In other words he was saying that just such can be worse than a life sentence in prison.

But he should have elaborated. In fact only time can show just how serious even a small act can be. 

A good example is in my own (then) recent past: in standard investigations into a child's daily life that are often conducted in any even simplest custody case, where for example CAFCASS may visit the child's school for a chat with teachers about how the child is doing, a senior teacher had said something (to the investigator) that was simply untrue. That statement then made it into the formal court report.  As soon as i saw it I had to threaten formal complaint to the education authority. (" i shall have to put you on the witness stand and question in in the court what the report went to"). The statement was in fact pretty quickly formally withdrawn. 

SO there we have the 'system', as i call it – which can be a whole range of people from school teachers top local authority officials, to lawyers and others working either on their behalf or with them in some way. (against true honest 'justice'). I have no idea whom in the 'system' was party to my quite necessary complaint. You never know.  But i do know that the need to have the truth told accurately (in this instance "never any issues with that kid and those parents") without a doubt soured and stressed the relations with the school for years from that moment on. And that is serious. I suppose later on - they will have read of the Appeal Court anti-secrecy success in 2006, and will have internally pondered if I would thus reveal that bad act to the 'public' now i had changed the legal culture such that it was possible. I didn't, they weren't worth a moment of my time. So shabby. But such moments can have deep long long effects on personal relationships that should be mellow and healthy for the child’s sake.

In other words  - or rather what in many ways WAS the ethos behind taking this forward,  the idea that bad acts that DO echo for years and may seriously affect ordinary citizens just muddling along in their family life, there really should be a warning flag attached - really really think carefully school teacher what prejudiced idiocy you share,  because your words probably should end up in 'public' one day if you harm a fellow citizen.  Or their child. An act as i relate may cascade down the years damaging the necessary healthy relationship parent and teacher. A child may years later even recall frostiness between parent and school  and as they mature and start to think for themselves assume their parent somehow at fault and has some dark side to their character they need to themselves be wary of, when that is not so.  One misplaced word with a child can have lifelong serious ramifications. 

2020 and on

Since summer 2003 for over seven years i would make myself available to the media. The media would seek me out as I always tried to speak in careful universal terms about what the system would get wrong. I never made any personal reference even to individuals who quite quite clearly has sought to harm me and damage my always healthy family life. There are many in fact funny stories. I was down in the media's records as a good, passionate, but careful spokesperson on improving the way society deals with various aspects of the child parent world; and also how to act properly when that goes wrong. 

I would sometimes be consulted on still throughout the 00s on national stories where matters of child law were at the heart. 

One learns one thing, which is a sad reality, that journalists and news organisations are run nowadays under such financial pressure - or perhaps standards of propriety have slipped as well, that getting a 'story' right  - true, is hard work. And upsets occur. 

The only thing written about me in over a decade (i have seen ) that perturbs me  - and there are plenty of outright fantasies especially in 2003, is when one journalist Mathew Bell of the Independent in 2009 referred to me as "intense". I am not. And it was an absurd and silly comment quite frankly. Though in no way intended to harm. 

I had happened across his boss a few days earlier near  a cafe in the middle of nowhere I had been acquainted with as i had years before rented a cottage off him, and we had a chat whereby i had informed him of Jack Straw’s (2008) 'hoodwink'. So he puts it over to Bell and there were a few calls Bell to me over a day or so...... and as I lived in the middle of nowhere with always poor mobile phone signal i would have to hare around when i knew Bell was about to call trying to find some half decent signal - outdoors (better signal)  in winter. Yes i was put upon, busy with child as always, but hurriedly juggling time so as i could work with media, and had to rattle off the issues quickly - probably my balls freezing off as i spoke. The cold intense.... but a professional journalist making a personal comment about someone they had never met based on their tone on the phone- just dealing with over crackly 2009 rural mobile phone signals, is frankly childish. 

I write this simply as it is a good example to me of how 'transparency' in all forms of course has negative reverberations and some may echo for years. I would still be uncomfortable even now if someone i wished to have as cherished person in my life read that one personal comment.  But that's the point really - we must have right to publicly reply to everything. Actions of the 'system',  media comment etc.. And  - this is even more utopian, somehow the 'public' does need to be educated in that there are always two sides to every story. So called 'mainstream press' frankly is wobbling on its knees.  We all as a society need to grow up about all of this. All forms of public personal comment by or about someone- which of course nowadays even a line of twitter or Facebook counts in that,  may be one wrongly or even maliciously presented inaccuracy. Getting the sunshine on all of us may be a lifetime matter even. Or we must learn to not care or believe anything written.

 That may seem something of a bad introduction to 2020.  But 2020 became the year when many say that they now depend far more on online material.  In other words words written mainly in 'public'. Grow a thick skin, one could chant. Yes, say anything new that is required. But i feel that the sanctity of speech  - often necessarily with fullest context attached is so misunderstood.  We also need to be far more forgiving in that some people will mistakenly say things in angsty response which are not in fact part of their vouchsafe real character. Can of worms. 

Nevertheless in some ways this segways into once again free speech in 2020.

I find it interesting myself and perhaps positive that  a range of thoughtful wise enough people i have known many years are now stating that free speech is under threat. Many, not all by any stretch as that's the point! are aware that various  scientific (or socio political) viewpoints are being largely scrubbed off the net. Be clear this is government (or the 'system) in cahoots with 'big tech'. Friendly phone calls that are not recorded for posterity we can be sure.  Yes free speech  - the need for counter viewpoints, and the need for the ordinary citizen to know they must treat everything with a pinch of salt and do a lot of work to find some fairly objective 'truth' are maybe back in fashion. 

But it is a debate; it is 'awareness'.  It is a subject far larger than most will have time for but we can be sure of one thing that vested interests and various 'systems' will always work against full transparency. That became the modern way certainly in countries like the UK. And ordinary citizens seem to be often unaware of this.  In any democracy the 'debate' fairly simply falls down into the question of just how much of the American approach to defaulting to free speech do we adopt. But the lines need to be clear. The rationales need to be understood far better.

And i loop back to the beginning of this page.  Law, a legal test case. Legal 'activism' .... it is in fact showbiz. A right pain in the bum too. And has risks and stresses. Taking the matter to law is for most in fact simply to spread awareness and engage in a larger debate. A debate that may not be over when even a major test case is decided. 

The mandarins see judgments, and also press and sometimes 'public' reaction to changes in law at courts. And even in Parliament. But how they will implement these changes in meaningful ways  or whether or not they will again try and have their way (they so love the status quo)  further down the line is a constant battle the citizen must be prepared to wage sometimes for decades. 

But that's all for another day. There is an asterisk below that highlights what I believe to be something that is going maybe awry. 

This case has far far more than dry law. In fact on the day I made sure that the case was opened by a loving tribute to the man many in the courtroom had met over the years and knew was a truly fine man. Ian. I had a statement read out at the beginning that quite quite obviously said "this case is dedicated to the memory if Ian who died a few days ago and had he not would be sitting here next to me today ...... and he died because he dedicated his life ,many years to fighting your shitty system as you all well know...... years on the road helping litigants only crap junkfood to keep him going.... he died alone one night on his sofa in a cold damp place no one to check on his illness he had come down time to find any next wife to care for him... ... you will today change this law so we can speak up against your system .... he died because of you....and you know it" 

And that moment i always tell myself  - seeing the faces of the three grand judges affront as that was read out, that was when i knew without a legal word being uttered. We won. 

2020 i have often said to myself, hearing how others are now speaking far more of fighting for certain 'rights' whether or not one agrees with them nevertheless the right to have matters freely debated in public many seem to now think has been sidestepped. My story and anything that can be created on the back of this ceases in 2009 - 2006 really, but i had a most personal rematch with Jack Straw in person in 2009  (he named the case in parliament December 2008 as needing to be "reversed" ) and  I won hands down.  However it is fights any system and remains sane and often smiling that i feel is most timely....

the real advantages one can learn - from how to speak in public (i was prior 2003 an extremely quiet almost shy person) to how to cope with the fear of phone tapping even (certainly in 2009 as papers were writing my side of argument against jack Straw) and everything else in between..... how to enjoy winging it ones purse always empty. There are no wages for being activist.

Every 'activist' or justice film i have ever seen and i believe i have seen them all, from McLibel to Mockingbird, to Erin B.,  fails in one key thing in my opinion, which is to inspire one via comedy - you MUST feel that laughter is somehow possible at all the nonsense one day, even in the grimmest of circumstances which i did myself experience at times,   or you go nuts....

And this will  be in my opinion one great way that the quite necessary next generation of 'free speech' warriors can benefit from too.... which is why the time to me is now for this. 

Please also note that the 'story' 2003 and a few years on, most that was written about in the press is in fact utterly irrelevant, and anyway incomplete in fundamental ways. When a bit of a 'cause celebre' you don't have time to monitor your coverage. It gets rather boring anyway. Especially when your actual concern is ensuring future important justice. Much is likely still there and i do know that the better coverage is behind paywalls. 

And then..... you also realise - it may be years on, that some people are jealous or even 'intimidated' in some ways by such success.  Some shabby  folk - one a journalist,  perhaps plotted a sort of revenge period, years on......i did not even waste my time reading what weird newsprint they managed to get out long after what really mattered in that this case for some years gave many thousands hope of some true justice. Calling out genuine bad acts. There are many witnesses to a most perfectly brought up child and all round perfect behavior on my part, over many years. 

*  - activist, or 'legal activist'...... ohhh how dull it has become, every other writer or dressmaker is these days introduced by the BBC for example as "dressmaker and activist". In my book an 'activist' is someone who really does care so much about their cause such that they will sacrifice much if need be to promote their cause, and also may face genuine risk in doing so. ( i do not count a bit of trolling as 'risk').  

The powers that be in whatever arena can tell if you 'mean' it - if you really are willing to go all the way (non violently  - i have no cause with any damage to person or property ever).

An example. In the scans of articles in this site there is a  front cover of a magazine March 2006. The FNF magazine Mckenzie. It just so happens that it is inaccurate  in that the man who had just died Ian MAckay, someone so beloved of me and my daughter - he had stayed with us a fair few times in our mountaintop hovel on The Borders, did not do 'the case'. He didn't have time and I didn't have the money to pay him for his help. And when it came to the injunction issue  from 2004 he had no idea how it could be challenged. It was over his head. He was and always is to me the most beautiful human being next to my daughter i have ever known.

He was also rather disorganised and a bit slapdash. However he was my own and only totally cherished moral support. Co conspirator - against a system he had long fought on behalf of other families. Trusted compañero. I needed just one beloved person on side and only Ian was always that. He trusted me. He did occasionally on the phone throw in some good words for me as i stressed over how the hell did i attack the secrecy issue. He also gave a little great advice here and there in earlier times. He also gave advice i disagreed with entirely. But i did love him  - his spirit, which is why i was only proud and heartwarmed to see our picture alongside his shortly after his sad death. We had gone to his funeral.

But the featured front cover also should go down in history as perhaps about the greatest contempt of court ever.  The date of it is March 2006. That’s the clue. The hearing - the full 'test case' had been a few weeks earlier. The case was on whether names faces could ever again appear in public. The court had 'reserved' judgment  for at least a  few months they stated- meaning the Law Lords would  go away and chat about how they would play the matter then make public pronouncement later on.

On the doors of the Royal Courts of Justice at the test case hearing were notices to the effect that not one word of what happens in here  - never mind the identities of participants! must be uttered outside the court doors or it’s off to The Tower....

With my daughter I had happened to be staying with the editor of said periodical – a man I had never met before, when i went to London for the test case. He happened to be a keen photographer and with complete approval spent the evening snapping me and my lovely lass. I liked the idea we would have some nice professional quality photos for ourselves as he had promised. I didn’t know the man  - the free bed having been offered after i put out a pauper appeal for just such via his organisation. He knew we were going to some big deal case the next day but neither of us were that bothered with detail ... we were far to busy enjoying the evening to lower ourselves to discuss their rather silly rules.  We had better things to talk about that evening in our enjoyed new friendship.

And then Ian dies. Rightly the whole of the legal world was in apoplexy of grief as he was so much loved. And Matthew decided to slightly fabricate this story  - mainly because he has such lovely photos to go with it I guess - ugly chap with beautiful young lass. 

I received the periodical at home a week or so later and opening it up simply burst into laughter..... serendipity..... a completely innocent accidental such huge contempt (of their secrecy rules and injunction and appeal Court press ban...) 

I knew that any right thinking ordinary person would see no intent. Serendipity. Events.....

And this, as a 'legal campaigner' at some not insignificant risk to myself, a gift…  that very day i got on the phone to the publisher and told them "I really do think you should bike around a copy of that magazine to LJ Wall himself..."

In other words, to the RCJ "so what are you gonna do about this then...."

A clear declaration of war ...

And guess what, their Lordships did not even refer to this flagrantest violation of court rules in the judgement a few months later. Indeed maybe they too understood it so beautifully made 'the point'.  But i sure did have a few nights interrupted sleep. Flagrant contempts can get a few years porridge., No appeal. No bail. Straight off to the Tower. No  out at half time for good behaviour (unlike all other prison time). No press  - they are often secret trials. 

And it is some of this that a film – a fun film….trying to debate, awareness raise, on Freedom of Speech …. That I think could not be more timely