Were it not for that well documented phenomena whereby those who sit above the salt never sweat, though may discretely perspire, I might be tempted to think that Carl Gardner was getting agitated.
“I find it not only unacceptable but shocking, that a man in Mr Hemming’s position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment, it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position. Unfortunately, as other aspects of this judgment will make clear, it is not the only part of the case in which Mr Hemming has been willing to scatter unfounded allegations of professional impropriety and malpractice without any evidence to support them.”
Pretty damning stuff, and the inference that many will take from being pointed in the direction of that quote is that one would be unwise to place any credence in John Hemming’s word….’move along there folks, nothing to see here, unreliable witness’.
Perish the thought that this inference was the one which Mr Gardner intended us to take. I am sure, quite, quite, sure, that Mr Gardner only intended to pop an item of interest into his blog post for those of us who like to see both sides of the story. You would expect no less from a Queen’s Counsel who had been at the ‘heart of government’.
So our current favourite parliamentarian has been criticised by a judge? I am not sure how much weight to give that information – after all, Judges themselves go through life being criticised; they call it by the more polite terminology of ‘having their reasoning and judgement overruled by a higher court’. Lord Justice Wall, now the President of the Family Division, has been subjected to that process during his career.
What are we to make of the substance of the criticism?
“Mr. Hemming’s allegation that HJ is part of an “evil” system only warrants comment because it comes from a Member of Parliament, and thus from a person in a responsible public position whom one ought to be able to trust only to make serious accusations when they are based on evidence. I am astonished that somebody in Mr. Hemming’s position should have seen fit to put such a disgraceful allegation into the public domain. I reject it unreservedly.”
But then again, here is Lord Justice Wall himself on the same subject:
“Social workers are perceived as “arrogant and enthusiastic removers of children”.
A comment which created outrage in the social work system.
More to the point, I wonder why so many ‘establishment’ lawyers are prepared to rush to the barricades and defend the status quo from a parliamentarian who wishes to open up a debate on the secretive and sometimes unfair system operated in the family courts.
There are several blog posts around by ambitious young barristers keen to follow Carl Gardner’s footsteps to the heart of government, nitpicking over whether the latest of Hemming’s revelations were sub judice or not, or part was sub-judice and part wasn’t; when they get bored with that they move onto whether the original case was an undertaking made under duress or an order of the court. All clever arguments, but all ignoring the heart of the matter – that the public are remarkably fed up hearing tales of their friends and neighbours having children snatched by secret courts and they wish parliament to do something about it. They want justice to be seen to be done.
One reason why Mr Hemming has managed to lodge himself in so many disdainful nostrils simultaneously is the lucrative aspect of work in the secret courts.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 dramatically enlarged the financial pie into which the ambitious young lawyer could trough. Even before the details of the proposed legislation were known, Julia Lomas, who had previously been content with having risen at a young age to the giddy governmental heights of Accountant General to the Supreme Court, jumped ship and reappeared as a partner in the firm of Irwin Mitchell, in the Court of Protection Division. A previously unglamorous department normally inhabited by the bean counters of Probate. Under her tutelage, and nothing to do with the happy coincidence of the legislation being mooted in her previous job, it was to become a phenomenally profitable area of work.
Indeed, this week, Irwin Mitchell has announced that they are to float their partnership on the stock exchange. Irwin Mitchell’s revenues last year amounted to £157 million. That will thrill the hearts of those whose personal injury awards are administered by the Court of Protection division of Irwin Mitchell.
The entire business of super-injunctions has become messy – the media are only interested in the footballers, the lawyers don’t want their cosy world uprooted. Perhaps John Hemming has sailed close to the wind on occasion, perhaps you can nitpick holes in his legal terminology – but thousands of ordinary British men and women are cheering him on for no other reason than they wish the debate on secret justice to be opened.
Unlike those who glory in the Ruritanian titles bestowed on those who trough at the high table with the establishment, John Hemming, common or garden MP, has at least been prepared to stick his foot in those foetid waters. He’s making quite a splash.