I am writing this article as a follow up to an article I wrote that was published in The Law Society Gazette on 4th December 2018 and which focussed on a case in which I was involved and where I represented the father, Re D (a child (parental alienation)  EWFC B64.
Crown court – relevance of parental alienation
Parental alienation is not confined to family cases. It can and does feature in criminal cases, where allegations are made, by an alienating parent, against a backdrop of a prolonged, serious and acrimonious relationship between parents following separation/divorce.
When representing a parent in a criminal court I emphasise to my clients the need for all relevant facts to be before the jury, just as they need to be before a family court. This will require a thorough consideration of what might constitute relevant evidence coupled with a detailed request for disclosure from the prosecution. This is so that the jury can properly understand and evaluate the family background which may have led to the allegations against the defendant.
Unfortunately and very often, I find myself representing a parent who did not think, at the outset, that it was necessary to be represented at the police station and so attended without being accompanied by a solicitor. As with any criminal case, the absence of legal representation at the police station can often cause a client considerable difficulty by the time it reaches trial. This can arise for a number of reasons but most commonly in these types of cases because the parent is often in shock and distress when questioned by the police because allegations of this nature are deeply distressing and often historical. The parent may then say something, innocently, that is either not accurate or subsequently contradictory of something else he or she may say. This can often subsequently add weight to the prosecution’s case when seeking to suggest to the jury that the parent or his or her account is not credible. Another risk of the client attending the police station alone is that police procedures and conduct may not be properly applied and, as such, the client is prejudiced. Without knowing the rules and procedures, the client will not know when or how to complain.
Cross-examining children and young people, whether in the family court or the criminal court, is never easy. They are vulnerable and at all times require sensitivity and need systems in place [known as “special measures”] which facilitates them giving evidence. However, with skilled and experienced cross-examination, any unreliability in their evidence can usually be unravelled.