Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Story Ninety Seven - The Hearing (1)

So. There I am sitting in the front row of the courtroom in the Royal Courts of Justice. Hillingdon's barrister and the OS barrister have just delivered their opening address to the court, outlining the declarations they want the judge to make. Justice Peter Jackson looks over to me and invites me to present my opening statement. My nerve failed me. I sat there thinking: "Fuck - I don't even know the correct form to address the judge". I smiled and said that I had nothing further to add to the OS's statement. Strictly speaking, this was true but it felt a terribly weak start to my week as a litigant in person.

The first morning was spent addressing the press's application. They wanted to do a daily bulletin and name names as well. The judge wouldn't allow either. He said that he would address the reporting issues once the hearing was complete. But the reporters were allowed to stay in the press box and Kurt Bahling from the BBC, Jerome Taylor and Andy McSmith from the Independent, Billy Kember from The Times and Brian Farmer from the Press Association sat there all week.

The first witness was Hillingdon's head of adult safeguarding. It threw up from the beginning the danger of wearing more than one hat. As the safeguarding manager, he would have had close contact with all the professionals about day to day issues. But he was also the head of DOLs and that role demanded a neutrality that on the one hand, he kept stressing he had to take but at the same time, he attended care planing meetings for Steven that he had no place in attending. His evidence overlapped into the second day, mainly because the OS tore each of the four DOLs authorisations to shreds. Whilst he maintained that he carried out a fair and independent scrutiny, the evidence showed that he was just a rubber stamper. There was one very naughty bit where he added something to the 2nd DOL that hadn't been included in the best interests assessment. 

Halfway through day two, the manager of the Positive Behaviour Unit was called. The man was a bag of nerves. There was about half a dozen Hillingdon staff sitting in court and he spent most of his time in the witness box, looking across to them for help ( to be saved?). Aswene got irritated by this and pulled him up on it. I got a chance to cross examine him. he had made a big thing about the closeness of our relationship, which really stuck in my throat as when I'd seen the court records in December, it was clear that he had lied to me for over 6 months. All that "I like dealing with you mate" stuff range very hollow. I wanted to take apart his statements about the "vulnerable groups" that Steven "targets" (men in hats, spectacle wearers, parked cars) and show that he is prone to gross exaggeration. He'd given me an opening during his questioning from Aswene, so I took him back there and felt I did quite a good job. 

We were at the end of day two. Two of Hillingdon's three witnesses had given their evidence and it had been a shambles. We always knew that their case was so weak but the way that both witnesses crumbled was quite alarming to witness.

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