"Everybody present ... good, shall we get started, Miss Robinson, Mister Grant? I have notes on Mr Whitmore's application for a foster license, is the review up to date?"
If so, though basic, I was informed that they would cover all details for Mister Whitmore's acceptance and suspension of his license; and though not all the notes are present, I can see no reason for his suspension. He followed every stipulation to the letter, and though it isn't included; I, under my own investigations, know that enquiries have been made regarding alterations for easy access for David; from what I can see so please tell me why, after doing all that was asked of him. If there were more like Mister Whitmore, I have little doubt that we could possibly cut our children in care by a third. He has the resources and the stature; and even after enquiries were made around the office complex and staff, I can find no complaint of the man or his work. So, I have to say that I'm confused as to the reason it came to this. In doing my own enquiries, I found nothing in policy to suspend his license. I am also concerned that after, I presume a telephone call, no checks were made and no attempts to recover any paperwork that would substantiate that an appointment was made. That in itself is cause for an investigation. Clerk will you close the court, please."
Diligently, all that had no concern in the case being heard, though not orderly, were dispatched quietly.
"Now, Miss Robinson, I have closed the room for the sake of embarrassment; but do not rest on your laurels, Miss Robinson, as this is temporary. The court will be open when you return. I am also adding a note in these proceedings that there were many unacceptable errors from your department that would, in all probability, cause a miscarriage of justice; which in itself could, and would, cause untold distress. "Clerk, will you please find me an usher."
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting!
"Usher, I want you to take Miss Robinson to her place of work and get any and all transcripts of this case - and I warn you, Miss Robinson, no communication will be made between your office or staff about this case, or I will hold you in contempt and have you removed from your department investigations will be made on your conduct. Do I make myself clear? That applies to you, also, usher. I also order the child, David, to be brought to this court. Where is the child now?"
"He is at Briarcroft, Ma'am."
"Are you out of your damn mind woman? What in God's name possessed you to put him back there?!" shouted Edward.
"Mister Whitmore! If you cannot control yourself, I will hold you in contempt."
"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but if you knew the hell that David, who you refer to as the child, went through - it was beyond any recognizable torture for an eleven-year-old. God, there will be murder, if you put him back in the same house. Your Honour, you may do what you will to me, but if you do not get him out of there ... I will. Is this what you people call a caring society?"
"Mister Whitmore, my patience is running low. Briarcroft is a place of distinction."
Your Honour, did you not read the transcripts?"
"As I have said to this court, I got a rundown of the situation, which is in the notes in front of me. I was told that with people on holiday or off sick that it would be the best they could come up with at such short notice. But I was promised a full transcript later today. I hope, Miss Robinson, I sincerely hope that you are not stalling?"
"Mister Whitmore, will you please enlighten this court."
"Your Honour, that would take some time; and in the meantime, documents will go missing. A Mister Heard, who is the housemaster of what was David's house, was one of many that abused David, who you refer to as the child."
"Is this correct, Miss Robinson?"
"No, Ma'am, we did an investigation, but we found no evidence of abuse."
"There was enough proof to keep an exam board busy for weeks, but as every male child in that house was too scared to cross the man, there is little wonder that nothing could be proved. I ask you to excuse me, Your Honour."
"If I may, Your Honour, I had social workers in my home demanding work to be carried out before they would consider me becoming a foster parent for David. But Briarcroft, where he resided, was as my home is ... being one fundamental difference, he 'had' to climb one flight of stairs there. At my home, David's home, he was never told to climb any stairs, it was his choice to make. His chosen room was also his choice by his own fruition; though I believe it was more out of how he had previously been treated. But however, you word it, it's a pity they were not as regimental in his care in the house where he resided ... there it seems, choice was not a stipulation. So, if Miss Robinson is in concern of David's welfare, why has he been returned, and I use the word returned politely, but unreservedly, back into that nightmare to live again? Is David such a burden that he needs to be discarded?"
"Mister Whitmore, will you please go with the clerk, extract the child, and personally bring him here. I know this may be unusual, but there seems to be a caring bond established. But be careful, Mister Whitmore ... be warned that you are still on notice; therefore, you will not discuss any details with the child. I will not take that type of behaviour from someone who should know better. Again, that includes Miss Robinson. Court adjourned."
"Elizabeth, I hope you don't object at me being so forward, but I'm somewhat surprised that someone of your age would want to take on such a challenge. I know we spoke at the house, but the child's age and disability are a lot to take on, with age not on their side."
"If you would be so kind, his name is David. David does have his challenges, but that is not in his ability to be cared for - that he is quite capable of doing on his own volition. He is mature for his age. When you talk about David as the child, his immaturity becomes evident. David, though at times unintentional, was ostracized. David has, at least in part, always wanted a family, and that is where the problem lies. Psychological, his inner self is in turmoil. That is how David would describe your question. Me, as his Nan, will say that David is a loving, caring little boy forever wanting to please, but at times overzealous."
"Elizabeth, I apologise, but I need to stay objective. I do need to care while being a judge, but I also have to make sure that nothing clouds my judgment. If what Edward says is correct, I cannot be seen to be showing favouritism."
"Yes, I know, but whatever hurdle we clear, Social Services puts up a dozen more; but I, and my son, will continue to jump higher and higher. And biased or not, we are, as you say, talking about a child that has not had a day of happiness his entire life until, God forbid, he did something wrong. Edna, you have seen David in the flesh, and you showed more concern than the people who are supposed to be caring for him. There is fear in some of the ways he acts and talks; but to be blunt, what you see is what you get."
"I'm sorry, David, but I only found out when I rang to say I was on my way home. Are you alright?"
"Thank you, Sir, for bringing my father," the clerk gave David a warm smile, saying it had been his pleasure."
"Mister Heard ... he didn't hurt you?"
"No, Father, but I heard the Social Worker tell him that if anything happened, he would be held responsible ... and she couldn't guarantee getting him off a second time."
"David, I'm sorry."
"If that is true, young man, I have an obligation to report it to the judge."
"Sir, I don't tell lies!"
"Son, I don't doubt you, but I have to be sure, because she has now committed an offence. Do you know who the Social Worker was, son?"
"Miss Armstrong, Sir."
When we entered the courtroom, Miss Robinson and the usher still hadn't arrived back. The clerk, Phil, took the judge to one side, presumably giving her details of his earlier conversation with David, which got a nod or two of understanding.
Some twenty minutes later, "Nice to see that you arrived back safely. Miss Robinson, do you have a Miss Armstrong in your department?"
"Valerie Armstrong, yes Ma'am."
"The usher handed the papers that he had been carrying over and started to leave. Usher, I want you to ask Miss Armstrong to join us in court, if you will. And if by any chance she is not at her desk, here is a bench warrant for the police to stretch their legs; and Usher, I want her in this court within the next hour."
Scanning through the paperwork just enough to get a bearing of what had transpired; she looked up, then went back to reading. "Miss Robinson, I would like to know why when a gentleman from the court assists, documents miraculously appear? I am more than a little perturbed at where this case has gone ... and where it's going. I would also like to know the reason no representative of your department was not assigned to this boy, young David here, while he resided on campus."
"I don't know, Ma'am, I was only assigned this case after his departure from his residence at Briarcroft."
"So, Miss Robinson, will you please tell us all what you do know? And I warn you, leave nothing aside ... do you understand?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I was given duty of care of Timothy David Ward after Mister Whitmore was given temporary custody. Our department didn't feel it appropriate that custody be given to Elizabeth Whitmore, pertaining to her age. I, myself, inspected Mister Whitmore's residence, and found it suitable to the point of size, but not accessibility; I did find accessibility to where he would be in his own private space; but inaccessible, due to having to climb stairs."
"Please tell me why the same concern was not shown at his previous accommodation. It seems a very important detail not to have concerns with; but yet, at the same time, find fault at Mister Whitmore's estate?"
"Like I said, Ma'am, I only took over his case after..."
"Yes, Briarcroft... Miss Robinson, an explanation please; why was the order to revoke Mister Whitmore's foster license extricated."
"My supervisor said that Mister Whitmore had breached his license, due to the fact that he had not followed protocol regarding responsibility to keep the department of any changes regarding David?"
"I have been advised that Mister Whitmore had been in contact with your department over this matter, even to the point of being told what was to happen before anything regarding David's treatment could be done or discussed - is that not protocol? I would also like to know why protocol demands that a referral cannot be made without prior permission from a physician from your department. Can you also, more from advice than curiosity, tell me why it would take up to three months for him to attain one?"
"Yes, Ma'am, as for time, that would be to do with departments budget. I recommend you speak to the accounts department, Ma'am."
"Believe me, I have every intention of doing so, Miss Robinson. Mister Whitmore, I understand your frustration, but not all that was said can be untrue," at hearing the exasperation from Edward.
"Your Honour, I have so much mistrust with all the discrepancies, seen and unseen, that they have already made. You have already raised one point as to his accommodation; but may I say that I did have intensions of making an appointment with Doctor Wiseman, but not with the intension of treatment. The fact is, I like to see who I am dealing with, which is imperative in concerns to David; as you will appreciate, when you get the chance to speak with him personally. But in this case, it was for more than one purpose. Firstly, it is David who is being treated; so, I believe as far as that is, he should get the chance to see who would in the long term, be the one who would change his life. Secondly, not to embarrass David, but his amputation was done high on his thigh; which if seen, Doctor Wiseman would have better scope to know if he is able to accommodate his needs. If I may, I would like to give a statement."
"You may, Mister Whitmore."
"I usually have any statements I have to make already prepared and memorised; so, I hope you will excuse me if it is seems drawn out, as I am doing this, as they say, off the cuff."
"As with others, Mister Whitmore, anything said in defence is a help rather than a hindrance; but I will not accept any defamatory remarks, even in the context of what was genuinely said. So please observe courtesy to everyone present. Also remember, Mister Whitmore, that you are still under caution."
"Thank you, Your Honour. It is well known amongst my colleagues that I am the eternal bachelor, who was never going to get married or have children; but I am now a liar to myself and my colleagues." David held his Nan with fear of what he might hear. "David, by luck, found his way to what was my home growing up. I had, as most children do eventually, departed home. In my case, it was my love of the law. Excuse me, I digress. David found that the beauty of the house drew him to risk checking out the estate's house and gardens. Checking it out being a way of saying, as most children find something new, it is something exciting. My mother, who was at first distressed at finding a young boy outside looking as a deer caught in the headlights of a car. I doubt I could separate who was the most scared." Edward looked to the back of him with a smile. "The child that stood transfixed some hours previously was now with a dilemma, run or face the consequences."
"May I point out that though you see a child with a disability, please do not be deceived by the appearance? I am sure he can run faster with one leg than he will with two, getting giggles and laughter from the court. That child has a knack of being able to turn heads; and may I say, not just as a fact of his condition. He is loveable, kind, considerate, polite, and as honest as the day he was born. I know all would say the same of their children, and that may be so. But I have known this child for less than a year. Apologies again for referring to David as a child, but I have to be impartial, as is the case when I am prosecuting. As does Your Honour."
"I hope I have now calmed that child down, because I hate to see what I can only describe as his frightened expression – no, that is not correct, because to see it up close is as near to an end as I feel you can get. The look is more of hopelessness... the one where you expect the usual to happen all over again. I have only seen the expression, look if you prefer, on David once. But I hope as long as I live that I never see it on another child's face. That child has turned a house into a home again with his aura, which may not be visible, but is seen in his actions, his personality ... be that serious or playful. I would also say his notoriety. As an example, he climbed one of the many old oaks we have on the estate and stood balancing on one of his crutches for support, doing as his Nan described 'as the worst Tarzan impression she had ever heard." The dulcet tones could only come from one place, which all took the time to see and listen.
"I would like to give some opinions, concerns, and fears. If I may backtrack, David is a scared little boy, but he is well matured for one so young. He has faults, which without exaggeration are a bit on the larger side. If you will, imagine yourself as David with a disability ... couples come and go, but always leave him behind; a case of there must be something wrong with me, which is not true. David, you are as near perfect as any human being can be. Though it may sound like preaching, and I apologise, but anything said is not a script that I have been memorising. What I was to say for so long is, it's not as easy when you speak from the inside.
"As a carer, I have a responsibility, a child called David. David lived at Briarcroft and was abused, ostracised, been made to feel a burden while they used him as a tool ... using his condition to humiliate him. Then you have his 'helping hand' social services being no better; and now complaining about it to cover their own mistakes; even putting aside the way he was treated. Support should have been readily available and given when necessary. I was the first to find out they knew very little of him. And as time went on, I found out later other disturbing facts, but they are not for me to discuss at this time."
"I beg you, Your Honour, not to take this as any more than what it is, but no matter what may happen today, David has a family... even if it takes till, he is old enough to be out of state care. I have said more than I intended; but this is more than anything I have ever dealt with in my career. His supposed carers seem to be the last to be giving what the two basic requirements of being human are: help and support. As a final request, I would have liked to ask Miss Robinson a question, but if Miss Robinson is as she's been in the past, I doubt she would answer. I make no apologies, Your Honour, but her arrogance would not let her answer - and I do not say it outside of courtesy, but as how Miss Robinson has acted in the past."
"Mister Whitmore, I do not answer to you."
"But, Your Honour, I answer only to my department."
"That you do, Miss Robinson, and you will also answer to me. You will also answer to this court. Your department is culpable for, in simple terms, this 'mess. Though you may think that would mean a formal enquiry, and that maybe a foregone conclusion. But this court intends to establish blame, so inadequate was the care this child received. As for you, Mister Whitmore, you are in contempt. One hundred pounds fine, and I would advise you to keep your remarks to yourself, unless you want to make it two hundred. Mister Whitmore, I would also like to say that I have been freely given what you stated as 'basic to us mortals,' where you have been given it at cost."
"Miss Robinson, I will show you the same courtesy, but without the fine."
"Miss Robinson, your department is on notice, yourself included. I have had your department in my court on numerous occasions, and never have I seen such disregard of, in your words, Miss Robinson, 'protocol.' I will say no more, but be sure that investigations will follow. As for now, Mister Whitmore, your foster licence is now active again. Also, Miss Robinson...." the wolf in sheep's clothing started showing her fangs. "You will not, and I will repeat the request, you will not interfere in any aspect of the child David without seeking direction from this court first ... do I make myself clear? I, or my colleagues, will sign off on any aspect of his well being. In laymen's terms, that means you will see to his needs in his home, such as his well being. However, intermediate care and all outside medical matters must be submitted to this court for approval ... do I make myself clear? Case dismissed..." before any objections could be heard.
Everyone looked up, hearing sobs.
"God, I hate this," showing restraint as he placed David on his knee.
"Mister Whitmore, I was advised by one of my colleagues that you had stated that you have intentions of seeking adoption of the child, David Ward. If that be the case, I have seen contentment where minutes earlier there was distress. If it is your intention to adopt David, you will have my support; unfortunately, it will be one of my colleagues who will attain your suitability. But I am sure it will be looked upon favourably. I would like you to join me in chambers, if you would please, and bring David along."
"Mother, why don't you go and get some refreshments for us all."
"My apologies, if your mother wishes to join us, it would be my pleasure."
"Please accept my refusal, but I have been upset enough; I need to get away from here for a little while."
"David would you like a beverage?"
"No thank you, Ma'am."
Giving David a chance to settle, Edna spoke softly trying to calm him; and to a certain point, she was having the desired impact. "David, can you tell me about Briarcroft? I know it may be painful, but it would help me." Without saying a word, his head went down. "David, how were you treated?"
A minute, maybe less, David looked at the lady in front of him. "I was told what my duties were, and told that I had to do them before I could eat or go to bed. Some of the other kids sometimes hit me, and some just made fun of me."
"Were they the chores you did at home? You know, like clean your room and sometimes do the dishes?"
"Yes, Ma'am, only I had to clean the toilets and things."
"David, don't be scared of me, okay?"
Albeit slowly, David raised his head and looked directly at Edna.
"I'm not, Ma'am, but if this gets back to my house, I'll be in trouble if they send me back."
"David, whatever you say in here will stay in here ... I promise. If I stay quiet, will you tell me what it was like living in your house?"
"David, tell them what you told me, and what happened when you went back to your house, okay?" He gave a slight nod of his head, looking back at Edna.
"When I was first taken to Briarcroft, it was good. Then Mister Heard came and everyone got scared," his voice trailed off, and it seemed as if he was thinking back to the point of being the cripple and its consequences.
"Mister Heard, acted like ...um ... my father said he would do the same to him as what they did to Oliver... that was Mister Bumble, not Oliver, Ma'am."
"I see what you mean," getting a look from David that gained her a smile. "Carry on, David, I'm sorry for interrupting."
"It's okay, Ma'am." This time, he just looked directly at Edward. "When he first came, he said he had no time for cripples, that they are always looking for sympathy - but I wasn't ma'am honest. He once said that cripples like me should have been killed at birth; and now Father and Nan have let this pet' into their dining room."
"Did Mister Heard say that?"
"One of the seniors said he had, Ma'am."
"Believe me, Your Honour, there is a lot more."
"Thank you for being truthful, David, will you come and see me again? I need you to tell me more about your time at Briarcroft; especially in the house, is that okay?"
"Yes, Ma'am, but you won't send me back, will you? Mister Heard...."
"No, David, and I promise I am going to do everything I can for you to live with Mister Whitmore and your Nan."
"My house was B4 ma'am."
"Thank you, David that will help. Shall we go back into the other room, your Nan must be getting lonely?
"That was cute, what you pulled; but Edward, I run a tight ship, so don't ever do that again!" as they made their way back into the courtroom.
"I needed you to see the reactions I was getting ... what happens one on one. From what David said, there is collusion involving Valerie Armstrong. Now that they are under scrutiny, things will get brushed under the carpet; but I doubt it's any more than covering their mistakes and failings. One thing I am certain of, our Mister Heard is manipulative when it comes to looking after children. I would have CPS check back on his employment record. David unwittingly got an adversary that Social Services or our Mister Heard didn't expect. I will break every rule in the book, if I have too, to get our Mister Heard in front of a judge, it's just a pity they won't let me be the prosecutor. As for the contempt, any charges or rules I break, the fines will be worth every penny."
"I promise Edward ... they are on notice."
"Elizabeth, are you okay, I have to admit that this has been very upsetting for me, but what it must be like for the three of you ... I can only imagine."
"What is so damn annoying about all this is no one saw the boy, the child? What I mean to say is no one could see past his disability. The difference is my mother saw a child, not a cripple, and that's all it took; as simple as that for him to feel he was somebody. I know I'm going on, but this has really got under my skin. I love this career, and I've enjoyed every day I've been doing it; but right now, I feel like a fake. I have prosecuted some really bad criminals, and stood and watched them get what they deserved. But now, I've had to stand back, and watch Mister Heard abuse someone like David, and doubtless to say others enough to make them suicidal. Somewhere in this system of ours it concerns me how many more children are at such low ebb praying for relief and thinking suicide is their only option."
"Mother, is it this weekend when James brings the family, or next?"
"If my memory serves me right, it's next weekend."
"If you have nothing planned, Edna, I'd like you to join us. In a roundabout way, I'd like to talk to you all about changing professions?"
"You're not giving up law? God, Edward, isn't that taking all this to the extreme?"
"Edna, can I use the phone in chambers?"
"Yes, help yourself."
"Just five minutes everyone."
"I've persuaded him to make it this weekend."
"Edna, please join us."
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