Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Story Ninety Eight - The Hearing (2)

Day three was a packed day with three witnesses.

First cab off the rank was Francis, the support worker who had been with Steven most days during his time in the Unit. He is one cool dude and never got ruffled by the grilling he got from Hillingdon's barrister. My cross examination was brief - just getting Francis to describe Steven before, during and after his time in the Unit. Unlike the previous day when the Unit manager constantly sought reassurance from his managers, I knew that Francis could speak his absolute truth with assurity and integrity.

Second witness was the expert witness. This was the psychologist who Steven had described as Neil Tennant. His evidence repeated what he had written in his report and he was resolute that the best place for Steven was in his own home. He also flagged up one of the problems of functional analysis - challenging behaviour arising from the confinement being used as a reason to continue the confinement. It's clear from the final judgement that the psychologist's evidence carried a lot of weight for the judge, so I am forever grateful that he was such a fair, considered man.

The final witness was the social worker's manager. With the social worker still off sick as a result of the anonymous letter, it fell to him to present the case for the social care team. He got a very hard time from Aswene and it was strangely satisfying to see the amount he was sweating. Aswene went through 10 points of the Mental Capacity Act with him, and he had to admit that they had failed on all 10. At this point, Aswine said: "Is this a good opportunity to offer an apology to Steven and Mr Neary?". And at that point, I broke down. This incredible sob from somewhere very deep emerged and the court usher came rushing forward with a box of tissues. I guess it was the release of a whole year of the most terrible pressure. I managed to compose myself for the cross examination. The manager had told the judge that he regretted the lack of openness in the way they had dealt with me and Steven the first part of the year and in July, they had decided to be more transparent. I knew that I had him so I quickly thumbed through the six binders of written evidence and found and email from September. It was about the psychologist's report from August that the council didn't want me to see and they sat on it until the end of October. The last line of the email was:"Mr Neary has not been shown this report". I got the manager to read this line out and then said to him: "So, although you decided as a team in July to be more transparent with me, that email from 27th September shows quite the opposite. No further questions". And sat down. 

That was the Hillingdon case. All of their three witnesses had given their testimony and it had been a shambles. At the end, the judge questioned the manager who admitted that one of the senior managers had a "wobble" about the council's stance and that she had resigned a couple of weeks before the hearing. He also said how in October the new director of social care had also expressed concern but it didn't change the corporate decision.

It was a very dramatic end to the day. On the way home, I phoned Val to give her an update and later she sent me a text that read: "Forget the book. Forget the film. This is an opera".

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