Friday, March 18, 2011
False sex allegations again, from another lying British female
Businesswoman who accused boss of sexually harassing her was ‘out to get him after losing her job’, tribunal rules. Is the British practice of taking a woman's word for what she alleges gradually coming to an end? There should be NO prosecutions in "he said" cases without independent corroboration. The disgrace is that this went to court
A high-flying businesswoman who accused her multi-millionaire boss of sexually harassing her was 'out to get him' after losing her job, a tribunal has ruled. Managing director Debbie Smith, 49, alleged that recruitment agency chairman Tim Watts called her a 'sexy nurse' and told her to 'call me before you get in the shower'. But the tribunal accepted 61-year-old Pertemps Group chief Mr Watts' evidence that the claims were a 'pack of lies'.
The panel had heard how Mrs Smith liked 'laughing at dirty jokes' and met her husband at work in an adulterous affair while both were married to other people.
It found that she made her allegations as a 'bargaining chip' to try and force a payout after a 'catastrophic failure' in a business venture she headed saw her axed from her £90,000-a-year post.
Mr Watts now plans to seek substantial libel damages from mother-of-three Mrs Smith in the High Court and is demanding that she be prosecuted for perjury. And he called for tighter regulation of employment tribunals to prevent staff from inventing malicious claims after losing their jobs.
Mrs Smith falsely alleged she suffered sexual jibes which were 'degrading, humiliating and offensive'. She also falsely claimed that Mr Watts joked about oral sex and referred to a colleague having her 'tits on show'.
Speaking after the judgment, Mr Watts said: 'There was never one iota of truth to begin with. 'Tribunals are filled up with fictitious, malicious and vindictive cases. A person just has to think of something and demand money. That's what she did, even though I had never done anything wrong.
'She thought I would back down and would pay her off. But those that know me know I have never given into that kind of threat in my life, especially when there isn't a scintilla of truth in what she said. 'It was a very, very silly thing to do. She failed - she was let go and she didn't like it.'
A panel at Birmingham Employment Tribunal ruled that Mrs Smith's claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and victimisation were all unfounded. It ruled: 'We concluded - and we paused to consider whether or not we were being too strong with this to finally decide we were not - that Mrs Smith was out to get Mr Watts. 'We found that her evidence was based on false assertions and was not made in good faith.'
After the business venture she headed flopped and she lost her job, Mrs Smith 'looked around for someone to blame', the tribunal found. It noted: 'Mrs Smith made no complaint until she was given notice that her contract of employment was to end.
'Mrs Smith presented a strong personality. We find that had the events of harassment occurred, she would not have hesitated in raising the subject at the time. 'We concluded that Mrs Smith has re-written the history of her relationship with Mr Watts and this was stimulated by her inability to handle the failure of the new venture that she was responsible for.
'We concluded that the allegation of sex discrimination, in its entirety, was false and not made in good faith. 'It was put forward as a bargaining chip to secure a negotiated settlement.'
Mrs Watts, whose personal fortune is thought to exceed £35 million, is a well-known figure in Birmingham. Mr Watts said that Mrs Smith would now have to explain herself at the High Court and that his lawyers would give a transcript of the tribunal to the police in a bid to have her prosecuted for perjury.
End totalitarianism in kids court
The most heart-wrenching issues I've written about involved the state's dependency court and foster-care systems. Officials have the power to remove children from their family homes and to place them in the care of strangers, yet the system that exercises these vast powers is veiled in secrecy and, therefore, off-limits to serious news coverage and oversight.
Fortunately, Assembly Bill 73, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, offers hope of fixing that system with a simple but time-tested approach: sunshine. His new legislation would make hearings in dependency court presumptively open, meaning that the public and media could cover the goings-on unless a judge finds good reason to close the proceedings.
Typically, I would hear from a distraught parent whose child had been taken into protective custody. Imagine the horror of such a situation. Often, the child would be taken by force as child-protective services officials would show up with armed deputies. In the world of CPS, the parent has no rights, and the child is taken away based mainly on the opinion of the social worker, who might start an investigation based on an anonymous tip. It's a "guilty until proven innocent" system, based on the idea that if a child is in danger, that child must be removed from the home immediately.
Obviously, we all want children removed from abusive and dangerous situations, but government officials don't always get it right. Many times, families are torn asunder based on unproven allegations and hearsay. The parents have no real standing in the court system and no real rights. The overburdened court system makes quick decisions that involve the fate of children and their families. Parents spend their life's savings hiring attorneys and battling this impenetrable system.
America remains a remarkably free society, but there are parts of our society that are frighteningly totalitarian. This is one of them. In one case I wrote about, Russian immigrants watched as the authorities removed their autistic son from their home and placed him in one of those developmental institutions, where he was pumped full of drugs and kept away from his loving family. No one had ever accused the family of mistreating the boy, but the authorities decided that it would be better to treat him with drugs than in the drug-free manner preferred by the family.
I recall the parent telling me that the authorities would never touch your family in the Soviet Union. He was shocked that such a travesty could take place in America. In another case I wrote about, an 8-year-old girl was taken from the loving care of her grandmother and placed in the custody of a foster parent who had been accused of some rather bad behavior at his foster home. In yet another case, a social worker was credibly accused of committing fraud – by claiming that a child's burn was the result of abuse rather than a household accident. It was extremely difficult getting any information about these situations. The approach from the authorities was clear: It was none of anybody's business. No wonder so many parents live in fear.
On the other end of the spectrum, we've all read about children who are left in abusive homes and end up being brutally abused, even murdered. Many of the bigger CPS systems are bureaucratic nightmares. We'd like to think that the people who make these decisions operate with a Solomonic sense of justice, yet we know better given what we know about closed bureaucracies.
A recent San Jose Mercury News editorial supporting AB73 detailed the same problems: "Three years ago, Mercury News reporter Karen de Sá documented the troubled state of this system. Her yearlong investigation found that overwhelmed, undertrained lawyers weren't properly representing their clients, that older children were too often excluded from proceedings affecting their lives, and that parents' and children's rights were routinely at risk."
Year after year, we see attempts to increase funding or reform the system, yet nothing ever changes. This is not a money issue but, rather, a problem rooted in the nature of the system. Feuer's bill could actually help. There's nothing like sunshine to expose injustice and create a push for reform.
Here is the bill summary: "Existing law provides that the public shall not be admitted to a juvenile court hearing in a dependency proceeding, unless requested by a parent or guardian and consented to or requested by the minor concerning whom the petition has been filed. Existing law permits the judge or referee to admit those persons as he or she deems to have a direct and legitimate interest in the particular case or the work of the court. This bill would express the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to provide that juvenile court hearings in juvenile dependency cases shall be presumptively open to the public, unless the court finds that admitting the public would not be in a child's best interest."
Feuer is still crafting the final measure and is considering a pilot program. Seventeen states have presumptively open dependency court hearings, and the results are good. One judge from Minnesota attended a recent hearing in Sacramento and testified about the value of an open system. We don't need much testimony to know that openness is the preferred path in a free society.
While legislators waste their time introducing bills designed to play to their partisan base, here's someone who is looking to fix an actual problem. I don't often agree with Feuer's politics, but this is a stellar effort and proof that there can be areas of genuine bipartisanship. Possible resistance might come from unions, which generally prefer that their workers be able to do their jobs without much public input.
We'll see how it plays out, but let's hope legislators from both sides of the aisle take the side of openness and reform.
The court where the West judges the rest
The ICC metes out ‘justice’ to poor countries while denying them any say in their own affairs.
Throughout the war-crimes trial of Liberia’s ex-president, Charles Taylor, lead defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths, a British barrister, has frequently drawn attention to the flagrant, racially-tinged double standards at work. Last Thursday - the penultimate day of the three-year long trial - was no different.
‘[Taylor’s] trial has been trumpeted by the prosecution as demonstrating an end to impunity. We agree. Indeed, his trial is of importance to Africa and this evolving concept of international justice to which we are, as a defence, unswervingly committed’, Griffiths said, inoffensively enough. And then the jab: ‘Yet we note that currently everyone being tried or awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court [ICC] are from guess where? Africa. We are disturbed by this.’
Strictly speaking, Taylor, whose fate will be revealed in the summer, was not being tried at the ICC. In fact, because he was accused of controlling and arming the Revolutionary United Front in the brutal 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone which ended in 2001, the UN decided that he ought to stand trial at a special international court in Sierra Leone itself - presumably so the natives could see how justice ought to be done. Since this was deemed a little risky, the UN then relented and moved the trial to The Hague in 2006, where the ICC also has its home. That Taylor is not actually standing trial at the ICC, however, should not detract from Griffiths’ point about the ICC and international law in general: it does seem more than a little inclined to focus almost all its energies on what old-fashioned colonialists might once have called the Dark Continent.
Just take a look at the five countries to have been subject to the ICC’s justice since it was formally established in 2002: Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. You don’t have to be a keen student of international relations to spot the common theme. It’s not as if there has been a shortage of bloody conflict elsewhere, each one as rife with injustice and brutality as the next. Yet the US-led-UK-in-tow invasions of first Afghanistan and then Iraq, for instance, in which thousands of people have been killed, have not once featured on the ICC’s radar. Of course, what looks like unabashed favouritism is not without a legal justification: apparently, the ‘crime of aggression’, of which Bush, Blair and Co, might well be guilty, will not fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction until 2017.
Not that such pettifoggery is likely to assuage Griffiths and those like him who believe that the African focus of war-crimes trials, whether at the ICC or at its de facto equivalents, ‘besmirch the lofty ideals of international criminal law’ with the residue of ‘neocolonialism’. And therein lies the problem with Griffiths’ criticism of the ICC and courts like it: It’s as if there is nothing wrong with international courts that a bit of racial equality couldn’t put right.
Yet not only is there something wrong with the ICC, it can’t simply be corrected by being a bit less racist. Rather, it is a fundamentally flawed institution. That the objects of its justice tend to be from over there, rather than from round here, is no accident.
In 2000, then UK foreign secretary Robin Cook infamously said that the ICC was ‘not a court set up to bring to book prime ministers of the United Kingdom or presidents of the United States’. He was right. The US refused to sign up to the ICC, and sought to exempt its personnel from overseas prosecution up until 2004. And the UK, while being a signatory to the ICC, has no intention of giving up Tony Blair to the ICC, despite the anti-war movement’s tireless insistence that he should stand trial for war crimes. Moreover, the ICC, as David Chandler noted on spiked, is reliant on the West for goodwill and resources. As the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, explained in 2004, ‘we have no government, no police’. All that the ICC has, from its home at The Hague to its retinue of superstar lawyers, comes from the developed world. Little wonder it doesn’t bother with ‘prime ministers of the United Kingdom or presidents of the United States’.
But it goes deeper than that. The assumption underlying the ICC and similar courts is that certain countries, certain people, are incapable of taking care of their own affairs. We in the UK or the US might be civilised enough to deal with the bad people in our midst, but those in places like Kenya or Sudan are not. That’s why people like Charles Taylor or President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, once they’ve done their wicked deeds, are extracted from their people’s clutches and parachuted into The Hague where they can then exhibit their native savagery in an expensive showtrial.
In this, the ICC and its ilk undermine any self-governing impulse. People’s sovereignty over their own lives, their capacity to forge their own society, is denied by the ICC. Such courts are not simply enforcing the rule of law, they’re enforcing the rule of law from afar. As Philip Hammond has written before on spiked, this means that there is no political framework in which this semi-free floating legislature is rendered accountable to the people in whose distant name it adjudicates – at least not in those countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo or Kenya that are deemed too immature to deal with their own affairs. Political struggle in these regions, the clash of different interests and ideas, is trumped by international law. And the actual substance of the conflicts and struggles, divorced from the people involved, becomes a mere play thing for lawyers to judge and rule upon.
Little wonder it serves the egos of Western lawyers, such as the indomitable Geoffrey Robertson, so well. They are doing good, at least in their own eyes, because they are bringing very bad men to book. While justice in the UK may sometimes look a bit drab, composed all too often in shades of grey, over there in Africa, where machete-wielding militias rape and pillage, it’s so wonderfully black-and-white – often literally so, it seems. It is not only the egos of big-shot lawyers that are massaged, of course. The governments of ICC signatories like UK or Canada can demonstrate the virtue, the moral coherence that their domestic political situations deny. That Charles Taylor is set to serve whatever sentence he receives, not in Sierra Leone, but in the UK, says it all.
So, as the focus of the global do-gooders zeroes in on the lighter skin of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, we need to remember that his fate should not be decided by anyone else but the Libyans themselves. To have it any other way would mean that their struggle for freedom would be strangled at birth by meddling Westerners. If there is to be any justice to be meted out to a tyrant like Gaddafi, it should not be the ICC manning the guillotine.
Unwed fathers and parental rights
Bias in the law
Two-year-old Baby Vanessa has been embroiled in legal battles almost since her first breath. Last week the conflict continued in a California court where no one was backing down. If Baby Vanessa’s case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, as experts predict, then it may well shake up adoption procedures and redefine father’s rights.
What is the point of contention? A father wants his child. An estimated one in three American babies are born to unwed parents, and many are put up for adoption. While the mother’s parental rights are automatically assumed, the legal status of unwed fathers is vague and shifting. Indeed, this is such an ignored area of law that no statistics exist on how many fathers seek to raise their own children when the birth mothers relinquishe parenthood.
Advocates for men’s rights complain bitterly about a rampant anti-father bias in the adoption system that often allows women to adopt out their children unilaterally. In theory a known father must sign away custodial rights before an adoption can proceed. In practice, agencies often make no effort to include a father who is not palpably present.
Baby Vanessa biological mother, Andrea Conley, gave up the Ohio newborn to an adoption agency in 2008, claiming in documents that she did not know the father’s identity. Three days later adoption procedures began in California, and Stacey Doss has since raised the child. But less than three weeks after Vanessa’s birth, her father, Benjamin Mills, Jr., filed a custody petition. (His mother has subsequently joined in the request for custody.)
Those unfamiliar with the anti-father bias in family courts and related procedures may well ask, “What’s the problem?” The mother’s perjury was revealed well before an adoption occurred, and Mills took the correct legal steps. He registered with Ohio’s Putative Father Registry — a database of men who believe they might be biological fathers and so list their names to preserve parental rights. If a child is put out for adoption by the mother, the registered father is supposed to be notified. With Baby Vanessa, however, it seems probable that no registry search occurred. Even if it had, in most states there is no guarantee that the notified father can assume custody or assert any parental rights whatsoever.
Indeed, some men’s rights advocates claim that the putative registries are obstacles to fathers. Why? Jeremiah Clayton Jones is a case on point. Under Florida law (and that of most states), an unmarried father has no right to withhold consent from an adoption if he is not listed on the putative registry. His absence from the list is viewed as de facto renunciation of such rights. Jones lost all parental rights because he failed to register for a list he did not know existed.
Moreover, because registries are state matters, registering has no legal clout if either parent moves across a state line or if the baby is adopted out to avoid court challenges.
While the media harshly spotlight “deadbeat dads,” little attention is given to diligent fathers who fight for years for the legal “privilege” of seeing their own children. A pivotal case occurred in 1998 when the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict that awarded $7.8 million in damages to a man whose child was adopted out without his consent. It was the first time in an American court that an unwed father who never had custody received monetary damages. But little progress has been made toward an unwed father’s parental right regarding his own child.
Frankly, for the sake of fathers, it might be best if Baby Vanessa’s case never sees the Supreme Court. Mills is far from a sympathetic plaintiff, and much of Doss’s case rests on his poor track record. For example, Mills spent eight months in jail for domestic violence and has four other children but without custody of them. A Supreme Court precedent based on his dubious parenting skills would still be a precedent which good fathers would have to abide.
It is heartbreaking when a child is taken from the only family he or she has known because of the legal mishandling of parental rights. But the parents themselves should not be blamed and punished for flaws in the system. This is especially true of fathers who request custody from the instant they know their child has been born.
Stacey Doss has done nothing wrong by loving and caring for Vanessa. But neither has Mills. However flawed his character might be, a father was preemptively denied the chance to know his own daughter. A mother lied, a father was denied parental rights, and the bureaucracy created a family tragedy. Much of it arose because men do not have the same presumption of parental rights as women
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.