UK Family Law Reform

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Justice Committee

FAO; Clerk to the Justice Committee

4 February 2013

Dear Mr Walker,

Re; Resignation of the Chairman of the Justice Committee

I am writing to you as Clerk to the Justice Committee to make a formal
request for the resignation of Sir Alan Beith MP as Chairman. As you are
aware I recently contacted you and the Prime Minister regarding my concerns
about the consideration of the draft clause on Shared Parenting legislation
and in your reply you stated that is unlikely that Sir Alan Beith MP or the
Justice Committee would wish to comment at that stage.

However in the light of the evidence of recent statements made by Sir Alan
Beith MP I believe it is now necessary for the Justice Committee to be made
fully aware of his attitude which is overtly sexist. In a programme for
Woman's Hour on 24 January on BBC Radio 4 Sir Alan Beith MP explains that
the proposed Shared Parenting legislation has arisen from;

AB 31.40 The belief that the non-resident parent just does not get a fair
deal and particularly that courts maybe bias towards mothers although by
questioning individual decisions we found that there is no evidence that in
no way generally is that the case. The belief is quite a real one that has
to be addressed. But we think enforcement would address it much more
effectively.

Later on in the interview the presenter asks,

JM 33.18 What would you like to see happen to those who fail to comply?

Sir Alan Beith MP states,

AB 33.23 It's quite a difficult one because you do no good if you put, for
example, put a woman in prison for persistent failure to obey court orders
in so far as the arrangements for the child are concerned because you then
deprive the child of another parental relationship, it is losing one and it
loses another.

JM 34.02 But what do you do with a woman who says, 'No way I can't stand
him. She is not going there!'

AB 34.06 I think court decisions have to be enforced. Enforcement action may
take the form of officers going to the house to ensure that the courts
decisions are satisfied it may involve other sorts of penalty but obviously
prison is not an answer it is indeed very rarely an answer to the problems
of this kind.

END 34.30

At the beginning the Woman's Hour broadcast Sir Alan Beith MP expects us to
believe that there is no bias in the family courts at all, only the
'perception'. Yet by the end of the interview Sir Alan Beith MP is
acknowledging that because mothers are treated as the principal carer they
are above the law.

It is incredible that the Chairman of the Justice Committee who is
responsible for overseeing the Family Justice Review and the operation of
the family courts can see nothing wrong with the statement,

'You do no good if you put, for example, a woman in prison for persistent
failure to obey court orders.'

This comment is not a perceived bias but an actual prejudice and is overtly
sexist. Many fathers will say that it is because judges share this prejudice
that they find it impossible to receive justice in UK family courts and this
attitude is a reason for introducing Shared Parenting legislation as rapidly
as possible.

The attitude of Sir Alan Beith MP to Shared Parenting legislation is wrong
because; 1. It presupposes that the mother is the principal carer. 2. It
puts women or mothers above the law. 3. It gives serving judges permission
from the Justice Committee to treat women differently from men. 4. It tells
mothers listening to Woman's Hour, and women generally, that they will be
treated differently than men when they come before family courts. 5. It
ignores the fact that fathers also face imprisonment. 6. It puts a greater
value on mothers caring for children than fathers which is sexist. 7. It
fails to identify his own prejudice. 8. It fails to recognise legitimate
concerns from others about formal justice. 9. It seeks to devalue opinions
which are not the same as his own as a 'perception'. 10. It fails to
recognise that, 'It takes a whole village to bring up a child'. 11. It fails
to acknowledge that we should all be treated equally before the law.

Obviously I believe Sir Alan Beith MP has disqualified himself from
overseeing the implementation of Shared Parenting legislation although
clearly he does not realise there is anything wrong with his comments and
therefore I am asking you to put this request before the Justice Committee.
(Please note the full interview is currently online at;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0145w6g )

Yours Sincerely,

Kingsley Miller

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