For its first decision, the new Legal Complaints Review Office has begun in what should only be described as an appalling start. Advocate, Benjamin Easton of a father’s coalition for the first complainant, states that the injustice of the decision is profound.
The decision is on a family law matter where a lawyer has been challenged for failing to act responsibly or reasonably when fielding allegations of domestic violence. The lawyer was asked to support supervised access for the father over his son in a without notice application. An application of this type means that an order is made from the Family Court and the respondent is then given an opportunity to defend the allegations. In this case the time given to defend was 24 hours before the order became permanent. The father chose not to defend because the circumstances were openly oppressive and biased.
Mr Easton claims that the evidence to support the father that he has been treated unfairly and in a biased way is obvious and is indefensible. The decision itself states that there has been error on behalf of the lawyer and that the first authority to hear the complaint, the Manawatu District Law Society has misinterpreted and mishandled the information it was provided. These facts appear to yield no consequence.
“It appears that no one is interested that the father and his son have been done a most serious injustice by a false Affidavit and its following order. Instead the emphasis further protects the mother and her lawyer after elaborating a story and promoting its fiction,” comments Mr Easton.
“The father has been wrongfully forced by the mother for allegations he has behavioral problems, into seeing his son under supervised conditions or otherwise, because of the order, not seeing him at all. The LCRO decision agreeing that the father has been wrongfully treated and then judging against him as if he should remain guilty of the fiction and its drama is completely preposterous. If anyone should want to observe the facts where New Zealand ’s family law is biased against fatherhood then they have no further to investigate,” continues Mr Easton.
The LCRO has excused the lawyer, Carly Davidson of Winter Woods in Palmerston North from the allegation against her of not acting, as would any reasonable or responsible lawyer. Ms Davidson supported the allegations that there was physical or sexual abuse by laying these claims in the original affidavit even though the text of the affidavit stated no such thing. Judge Twaddle somehow agreed even though the mistake is blindingly obvious. The allegations were later withdrawn by the counsel acting for the child and the LCRO has stated that this marks efficiency in family law rather than identifying the incompetence of Ms Davidson, the father’s lawyer Mark Dobson, or Judge Twaddle where she has promoted alleged claims of violence that were never in fact alleged.
“It appears to me,” says Mr Easton, “that the LCRO has no idea of what a without notice application is all about or worse does not recognise the seriousness of an order separating the relationship between a natural father and his son/s and or daughter/s.
What I find most bewildering in this decision is that the LCRO is directly appointed as an authority that is not a lawyer. This provision apparently provides an ordinary person with a protection from lawyers ganging up to protect themselves against allegations from the public. It is supposed to provide protection for fathers like the complainant.
Yet the LCRO has rewritten the legislation in order to protect the lawyer from criticism of not doing her job properly. The law states that the lawyer was supposed to have made reasonable inquiries into the mother’s relevant circumstances to see if the order was one that “ought” to be made. Yet she didn’t seem to ask the mother why the father should realistically require supervised access other than because the mother thought he “had issues”. The Family Court is supposed to protect the interests of the child as the first and paramount consideration, but in this case, clearly what the mother wants is the status that is legally protected even to the point of protecting an obvious lie and its demonstrated perjury”.
Asked if the decision will be appealed Mr Easton is less confident. “ The case proves that there is an actual and protected bias against fatherhood in the family law system and the construction of the new LCRO office specifically gives it autonomy over that bias.
In reality this means that a judge is unlikely to move the decision because the judge has no authority over an LCRO appointed to make decisions that are not legally based. The authority of the LCRO is one of opinion. This means that the only entry to have the decision overturned is if it can be proved incompetent yet what the decision does is to protect lawyers who in the end will become judges. This means that the opinion expressed by the LCRO protects the lawyers rather than protecting the father and his natural right of access to his child and given our history of bias against fathers in New Zealand family law the father’s chances of success are virtually non-existent.
I have made preliminary inquiries with the Ministry’s of Justice and the Courts and will progress these on to the New Zealand Law Society,” says Mr Easton. “Yet what is most important now” he continues, “is whether or not those with the power to recognise the purity of this injustice will actually challenge it for what it is. Meanwhile, and while fathers continue to wait to be recognised as valuable, the mother has simply removed the child from Palmerston North to Christchurch without telling anyone. Her ability to behave like this and similarly other mothers who do the same makes a mockery of the judicial system and family law.”
Benjamin Easton 027 3902169