Giving evidence and the weight of the state


Rich and I went to London on Wednesday. This was a big trip in the context of disrupted sleep, nightmares, crochet, Candy Crush and more crocheting. I hauled myself  into the hairdressers for the first time in months on Tuesday. Jack set to on my mop head. He doesn’t talk much which is cool. Lauren a right old talker who used to cut my hair appeared wearing her new carer’s uniform. She’s starting social work training in October.

“I told ’em about what happened to Connor in safety training last week,” she said.

It pissed down when we were on the Oxford Tube but the sun appeared at Marble Arch. First stop was a meeting at Monckton Chambers  with Steve Broach and Charlotte Haworth Hird about the MPTS tribunal sanction decision. We kicked around the content of the planned legal submission to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). Grim incredulity again at the sanction wording and decision. Charlotte said she’d write to the PSA to let them know a submission was coming.

Rich and I walked to parliament to give evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights chaired by Harriet Harman.


We were with Louise and Simon Rowland in one of two sessions that afternoon. Louise’s brother Joseph died a terrible death and it became apparent during the session that their experience of gaining accountability was almost as harrowing.  This was to be followed by a panel consisting of Deb Coles INQUEST CEO, Merry Varney lawyer at Leigh Day and Katie Gollop QC at Serjeants Inn. The chambers that spawned both Alan Jenkins and Richard Partridge.

The room was seriously, seriously hot. The committee sat in a horseshoe arrangement  with the four of us on a table facing them. Members of the public sat behind us. It was a similar set up to the MPTS tribunal with less space, more opulence and four family members not one.

Harriet Harman demonstrated an excellent and sensitive grasp of the key issues. Other committee members too were clearly interested and concerned. Some were not up to speed (the recording is here) and appeared not to have read the written submission INQUEST had produced. It became apparent that ‘committee sitting’ is a pastime for some. A quick google revealed one member had spent their adult life trying to stamp on the human rights of certain people. All very odd.

The evidence produced during the first session was harrowing. Other than praise for  coroners (the second coroner in Joseph’s inquest) we presented a situation summed up by Harman as

Where you have lost a loved one and the state is implicated because the loved one was in the care of the state and thereafter the state then weights the system against you because those acting on behalf of the state have full-on legal representation from the word go in order to defend their position and you have nothing unless you happen to find people who are prepared to do it for free.

The state weights the system. Yep. And sets out in the relentlessly protracted process to destroy bereaved family members who dare to try to get answers.

The yellow card

The second session introduced a new layer of bafflement. Gollop had a yellow rather than white name card.  A symbol of the hierarchy that permeated the room I assume. Further reminder of  Valerie Murphy’s yellow card scheme and the Serjeants Inn connection.

The committee began with the same format of question and answer but within minutes Gollop interjected to present the five ‘brief’ (not brief at all) points crowdsourced on twitter she wanted to get across. She painstakingly worked her way through each one without interruption. Her apparent knowledge was privileged in a privileged setting.

The pastime crew were a receptive audience. I suspect they always are to the yellow card holder.

Watching the second session (from 15.57 on the recording) is grimly fascinating offering the viewer a smorgasbord of facial expressions and grimaces. Two women championing the human rights of people and their families catastrophically let down by the state. Oozing knowledge, expertise, experience and humanity. And a third, whose evidence aside from the occasional reflective comment was couched in an alternative (offensive) narrative of compensation, litigation and detachment.

The take home message of both sessions if you strip away the Serjeants Inn white noise is there should be equality of arms between families and the state. As simple as.

Doreen Lawrence came over to speak to us at the end clearly upset by what she’d heard.  We shouldn’t have to fight, she said. This was all wrong. Gollop took the opportunity to slip away. I don’t blame her.

On the coach journey home we received an email from Charlotte. The Professional Standards Authority are going to conduct a detailed case review of the MPTS decision.


8 thoughts on “Giving evidence and the weight of the state

  1. Watched the hearing. Then watched again. Will watch for a 3rd time now know who Gossop is and hoping Harriet Harman has started following your blog to try offset some of the power of privilege.
    Given the utter utter hell you have all gone through – and having also followed the Rowlands’ account of the same obstruction following Joseph’s case -it is clear that lessons learnt is a phrase best banned. Along with ‘moving forward’. God, don’t we all wish that these things could be learnt in life.
    We lost 2 family members to violent death under the care of a London MH Trust. No one cared, or if they did, never indicated. And no one ever said ‘sorry’. Even with the inverted commas. We gave up, ended up with a distrust of m\h services that ran through generations. Same community. So to access NHS ‘help’ with these feelings would have meant asking the b***ards who killed them for help.

    Want to give you all massive hugs. Wish had a magic wand. And a time machine. For now all we got is you all were so so powerful in your words and bravery for being there. And your hair looked great.

  2. Sara and Rich I have just watched the video. I have only the highest praise for you and the Rowlands. For the first time ever the truth is being stated clearly and competently. I have been involved in obtaining legal aid for my son Martin since 1999. It simply doesn’t work because the lawyer isn’t answerable to his client because the client isn’t paying the lawyer, the state is. The legal aid lawyer doesn’t even need to answer the phone (and doesn’t) he still gets paid. Also on behalf of Martin I have instructed various lawyers and paid them the going rate, Of these paid lawyers at least four reputable firms broke their contract with me, and expected me, and tried to force me, to pay up. I have just had a case in the Court of Protection where Martin’s legal aid lawyers failed him in every way, and the state funded LA lawyers and barristers behaved in exactly the same way as your NHS etc. barristers (adverserially under criminal court process) This is all inthe public domain

  3. Your joint performance, Rich and Sara, was amazing. Sober, factual, and devastating. I will write to Harriet Harman to enquirer how her Committee intends to proceed. Perhaps others might do the same. I will share it on Facebook

    • Ditto. Think many should so that the extent of the problems faced by those going through the inquest process , sandwiched between all the other horrors, is understood. The cumulative impact should never be underestimated. Human rights should never be simply an ‘add on’.

  4. This tape should be given the widest showing. on TV.

    It illuminates the adversarial, unequal, unjust Justice System and it’s brutalising of families avoidable bereaved …by the State.

    The tape also illuminated gigantic resilience, endurance, and the amount of legal support and knowledge of the Justice system, required of even the most educated and eloquent, bereaved.

    There are thousands of familes who have watched their son or daughter harmed, and who have pleaded into a powerful blind and deaf vaccum. And as many again who have quietly gone away to grieve, for ever. Burning with unjustice.

    Others suffer years and years of pleading. Years of ridicule, blame and defense. People are harmed by this and they die of this.

    Lives are burned, loyalties and love rubished – misery, anxiety and worry for a harmed loved one….who was denied rights and humanity..

    Many of our sons and daughters -and their mums and dads – suffer and or die, .usefully.


    Mums and dads die of fear and guilt – die the same misery and abuse done to their beloved son or daughter for years– for they do not/did not have the means – cash, resilience, education, acccess to knowledge, or confidence, or legal support – and from increasingly crippling anxiety.

    And all compounded – if son or daughter not yet avoidably killed, but ‘just’ routinely placed at risk – or given a mean and meaningless life.

    These families fear worse if they question – have learned the penalties .. of worse – if they do..
    And so on….and so on. Just watch the ‘lorry’ runnung down the hill towards their vulnerable son or daughter…every day.

    Thousands and thousands …suffering and dying silently.

    Power and Justice denied them.

    This tape will help so many, if shared around.

    • Yes, this video will help others. I’ve found it very emotional to watch. Both families show such dignity, and those that died deserve so much to be defended as their loving relatives talk about what happened to them.

  5. Thank you so much for your fight for justice and telling it like it is.
    For mums’ ( and dads) with children with ME and CFS, the injustice continues with “mother’s blame” …… Muchausen by Proxy and “FII” Fabricated and Induced Illness, always lurking behind closed doors, sometimes blatantly in the open, in meetings.
    I’ve been there and have the teeshirt, even like you I am a qualified professional who knows my stuff on safeguarding and Child Protection.
    ME children “detailed by the State”, made Wards of Court with fathers’ given suspended prison sentences, and mothers threatened and Injunctions applied to them by state agencies . Why? Because the families cared and dared to challenge that which you so admirably describe as , “..non-existent or crap services and support….”. We too are labelled as ‘hostile’ or ‘toxic’, “obviously hysterical and deranged and incredibly difficult…
    But, like you we will not take this lying down and are prepared to fight!! We need a sea change in this country and this will only happen if affected families show the same courage and fortitude as you and the other families have.
    So we, the ME Community” salute you and are inspired by you. It won’t bring Connor back but will make his life and his suffering both meaningful and celebrated.

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