MEDICAL experts who last week accused the Family Court of not caring about children yesterday blasted Chief Justice Diana Bryant for releasing a judgment critical of their evidence.
Brisbane psychiatrist Brian Ross said the court’s reaction “highlighted the perversity of a system that didn’t get the truth”.
Dr Ross said the mother involved in a custody battle over two young children had been a patient of his for three years and for the court to accuse her of being vindictive against her former husband was “a blatant misrepresentation of the truth”.
“She had no agenda. Her issue was to be protective of her children,” Dr Ross said.
“She would not have risked the care of her children to get back at her husband and to alienate her is an abuse.”
Justice Bryant made the unusual order to allow publication of the judgment, with the names of the parties excised, but the expert witnesses — three of whom criticised the Family Court — named “to enable some sense to be made of the judgment as a whole”.
Justice Bryant said an article quoting the medical experts, published in The Australian last week, allowed readers to form the view that the Family Court failed to have regard for the best interests of children and allowed medical witnesses to be bullied and discredited by aggressive lawyers.
In an 81-page judgment on June 10, judge Neil Buckley decided that a girl, 8, and a boy, 12, should be taken from their mother and live with their father.
Justice Buckley was not satisfied that allegations the father had sexually abused his daughter were proven, or that there was an unacceptable risk for the children in living with or having unsupervised contact with the father, Justice Bryant said.
“He rejected the opinions of these issues expressed by Dr Wood and Ms Aydan. On this issue, it is fair to say, however, that his honour’s rejection of their evidence had more to do with the rejection of the mother’s evidence and its underpinning of the experts’ views than the expertise of the expert witnesses themselves,” she said.
Justice Bryant said public confidence in the Family Court, as in all courts, was vital.
“It is in the interests of public confidence in the court for the public to be made aware, if that is possible, of the judgment, and in response to the main thrust of the article, namely that the Family Court puts children last.”
The witnesses included David Wood, Queensland chairman of the Australian College of Paediatrics and the Abused Child Trust, and clinical psychologist Sue Aydon.
Dr Wood said assertions by the court that he and other medical experts were biased in favour of the mother were absurd.
“Our role and whole history of our careers is to represent the children, our patients,” Dr Wood said.
“The court was not interested in getting information on the children. They were interested in discrediting me and there was no attempt to right the balance by counsel including the children’s representative, the mother’s or father’s lawyer or the judge.
“This treatment is precisely the reason why so many medical experts refuse to have anything at all to do with the Family Court.”
Ms Aydon said the adversarial system operating in the court did not allow the truth about children to be presented.
“We were bullied and labelled as biased,” she said.