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The “Forced C-Section”: How Bias in Reporting Impacts Upon Public Perception of Justice

The “Forced C-Section”: How Bias in Reporting Impacts Upon Public Perception of Justice

Yesterday saw the publication of a Note from Mr Justice Mostyn concerning a Judgment provided in the Court of Protection on 23rd August 2012. The case referred to concerns an application made by the NHS Trust seeking a declaration and Order on medical grounds that it would be in the best interests of the incapacitated (and at the time seriously mentally unwell) patient concerned to have an elective caesarean. The need for the published Note given no prior applications to Appeal the decision in the 15 months that have since followed, presumably follows Public consternation given the widespread reporting of the ‘story’ in the National Press in recent days.

As can be seen, Justice Mostyn sets the record straight in four simple and unambiguous paragraphs: The decision was taken in the best interests of the patient on the basis of clear medical evidence before the Court. As a Lawyer, it’s imperative to me that the word evidence should be embossed. It was not, as intimated in some sources at the instigation of social workers in the family Court. A heavy sigh ensues as I read (yet again) about the decisions taken in ‘secretive’ family Courts where children are ‘forcibly’ removed from their mothers. The language is deliberately evocative and to my mind, seriously misleading.

Is it time to set the record straight? I ask this question, as there has been much debate in recent months following moves instigated by the current President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby to ‘open up’ the Family Court and the Court of Protection. A draft Practice Guidance (‘Transparency in the Family Courts and the Court of Protection) was issued on 12th July this year and a finalised version is imminently anticipated. Whilst I agree (and it must to my mind be right) that the Public has a legitimate interest in understanding how difficult decisions are taken and that transparency should assist with this, it is equally clear that those charged with reporting these decisions have a duty to provide responsible and accurate information to the Public at large.

The reporting must be informed, impartial and not partisan or selective. And more than this, it should be designed to enable the reader to broadly understand the evidential basis upon which these extremely difficult decisions are taken.

If you have a family or childcare law issue please contact IBB’s Childcare Solicitors to arrange a meeting, call us on 01895 207857.