Thanks to Charon QC for pointing out a story that appeared in The Observer today: "Bruce Hyman was a barrister and an admired TV and radio producer. Then, inexplicably, he perverted the course of justice and now faces jail". Hyman admitted emailing a judgment he had forged to his client's former husband, who was seeking more contact with the couple's daughter. "Within minutes of doing so," says The Observer, "Hyman pounced, suggesting not only that the judgment was a forgery but that the father, who was representing himself, might have been responsible for faking it. The father suddenly found himself facing a charge of perverting the course of justice".
As Charon says, this is bizarre. What I wanted to comment upon though was the 'footnote' to the story. Apparently, the father was only able to get the police to take the case seriously after fathers' rights group Families Need Fathers put him in touch with 'a helpful police officer'. The Observer says that the father is now disillusioned with the courts system, and quotes him as saying: "Anyone who contemplates going through the family courts system should consider pulling their own fingernails out instead; it's less painful. Appearing at these private hearings, where parties and their lawyers too often seem to have the smearing of their opponents at the top of their agendas, robs you of your dignity and your belief in the system." Jim Parton of Families Need Fathers puts it more colourfully: "There's a lot of what I call "micro-shittiness" in the family courts," he says, "there are low-level acts of bullying by the lawyers in the corridors that go on all the time, but none of it gets reported." I'm sure some of this goes on, but my overwhelming experience of family lawyers has been quite the opposite. In almost all children cases that reach the courts there is a lot of mud-slinging between the parties, most of it exaggerated or irrelevant to the issues, and the lawyers work hard to cut through this to reach agreed arrangements, or at least to reduce the animosity, for the sake of the children.
Of course, there are exceptions, as Mr Hyman demonstrates, who do great damage to the good reputation that most family lawyers are striving so hard to build.