Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The judge was in court but may have left his brains at home

Earlier this month, under the guise of concern for the welfare of a child with disabilities, a British Court of Appeal produced a  baffling ruling [source]:  it upheld a lower court's decision to remove a boy with CP  from his home and condemn him to an adult nursing home. The eighteen year old is permitted visits home on holidays and every other weekend.

The senior judge in the Court of Appeal was critical of the home-schooling that the boy's mother had given him (and two of his siblings) for the past ten years. He considered it essential for the boy to receive a "specialist education" that satisfied the Court. Since the closest such program is 100 miles away from his home, he opted to resolve the matter by institutionalizing the boy..

Oddly, the boy, whose continued formal education was of such grave concern to the court, was also found by that court to "lack the mental the capacity to make decisions about his welfare".

Judge, make up your mind! You can't have your cake and eat it.

There were absolutely no allegations of abuse or neglect by his parents. In fact the mother presented what I thought were rather compelling arguments. But the judge dismissed them out of hand. Here is their gist:
  • She insisted that her son was desperate to come back to his family and [argued] that his views should be respected.
  • She said he was suffering emotionally due to being separated from his loved ones and physically from not being cared for as well as he would be at home...  
  • She argues it is wrong to force T to attend school now, after he has passed compulsory schooling age, and says that her son is being deprived of his liberty by being required to attend school, and that it is not in his best interests to do so...
  • He was learning Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet last year - how does that fit in with him not having capacity to make his own decisions?
Unfortunately this ruling has been imported to the United States to fuel the campaign against ratification of  the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. American activists [here] warn that decisions akin to this will be repeated in the U.S. if it follows the lead of England where the CRPD was ratified in 2009.

These activists - many of them home-schoolers - note that, in this ruling, the Court of Appeals asserted that it was acting in the "best interests of the child"- the identical standard as is found in the CRPD!

You do see their logic, don't you?

The fact is this case was handled by a foolish judge, and he's far from the first such anomaly.  But that's no reason to shut down all the courts or even reject the CRPD. Travesties of justice will occur with or without the CRPD.

On Thursday, November 21, 2013, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the second of two hearings on the CRPD. Let's hope that cases like this British one will not block ratification once again. Children with disabilities need all the protection they can get sometimes even from their own parents [see one of our earlier blog posts].

That's not to say that ratification of the CRPD is a panacea. My country ratified it in 2012 but, as this blog makes abundantly clear, it's got a long way to go towards full justice for children with disabilities.

For instance, see two of my previous posts: "Horrific abuse" and "Issues and non-issues".

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