In a speech prepared for the Society of Legal Scholars Centenary Lecture, Supreme Court Judge Baroness Hale said that the law still found it difficult to view children as real people.
The lecture took place in November and was held at the University of Essex, however a transcript of the speech has only just been made available on the Supreme Court’s website. The speech, entitled “All Human Beings? Reflections on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights” looks at how the law views children and how human rights legislation should be challenging those perceptions. Lady Hale also considers how the law affects people with disabilities.
In her speech, Lady Hale offers two examples of how the law fails to treat children as human beings. The first example relates to the language the law uses to describe children. Lady Hale says:
“We still find a child referred to as ‘it’ in legislation, law reports and learned legal publications. As Michael Freeman has written, ‘calling a child an “it” gives the game away. It constitutes the textual abuse of childhood in the English-speaking world . . . the word dehumanises the person who is the subject of these proceedings.”
The second example she offers looks at the way court judgments identify children in proceedings through the use of initials, but offers thought-provoking observations on getting the balance right in this context:
“In the interests of anonymity, we insist on referring to children in judgments by soulless initials, such as T, rather than as real people. So I always try and refer to a child by a plausible name, even though not her own… Julia Brophy’s research-based ‘do’s and don’ts’ for judges anonymising judgments contains the following… ‘some children do not like the use of pseudonyms and such practices can present problems for some minority ethnic families.’ The answer, I think, is to consult the children (if old enough) or their families about how they would like to be named.
Lady Hale goes on to talk about the best interests of the child and how the idea has been interpreted throughout the years, current obstacles to implementing laws that would bolster child welfare, the distinction between ‘welfare’ and ‘best interests’ (Lady Hale explains that children’s best interests are wider in scope than welfare) and mental capacity.
The speech is very much a worth a read.
As somebody who himself makes a point of never even referring even to a mere human *foetus* as “it”, but always, respectfully, as “he or she” or “him or her” as the case may be, I’m not enthusiastic about taking a lecture on the humanity of all humans, including children, from the likes of Lady Hale.
Her Lordship, if I’m not very much mistaken, is the intellectual giant who once said that Northern Ireland breached the human rights of abortionists, by not allowing them to bump off children conceived by rape either, or something equally ridiculous, being as what (she’d noticed) the Abortion Act 1967 didn’t apply in Northern Ireland as it did in Great Britain, naughty paddies. This notwithstanding that the said Abortion Act didn’t secure any British abortionists the relevant right to abort an unborn human child on the mere grounds that he or she had been conceived as a result of rape in Great Britain either. Rape wasn’t grounds for abortion this side of the Irish Sea either, you see. (Duh!)
I am sure Lady Hale can write just as big sentences as I can, using just as big words. Envy on my part, because I think I’d be better at her job than she is if only I’d put in the effort, and had the luck, isn’t why I have so little respect for the UK’s “top judge” though. It’s her demons, her abysmal values, her illogicality, and her agenda, as I discern them to be, that have put me off bothering to read anything she has written. I have read her deceptive sophistry before, defending the indefensible and attacking the unassailable. I don’t want to feel sick again so soon.
Mick Simpson said:
children are the future of generation of families. top judge should try to imagine what it would feel (if it had feelings) like if all the children from it’s family were kidnapped.
In the Scottish children’s hearing system children have a duty to attend, although this can be negated in certain situations e.g. welfare. Ultimately, however they have a right to attend should they wish to. In such a system, children are not hypothetical, but are within the hearing.
The English system relies on Children’s services reporting to the court, perhaps CAFCASS on behalf of the child and many parents report that these are often based on misconstrued or inaccurate evidence.
In my opinion children wherever possible and in a protected and informed way, should be involved in their own proceedings directly with the decision maker. However, it may be in this way that children who are manipulated by one parent and act out towards the other – this could be a cause of conflict. Whilst there is not a perfect solution, the Scottish system appears to me to place greater emphasis on the real, not hypothetical child.
Pingback: Children’s Right To Speak To Judges In Family Cases Shelved Because Of Cost – Former Family Court President | Researching Reform