Last Friday the Appeal Court handed down their judgement in the Davey vs Oxfordshire Council case and in short said that a Judicial Review process wasn’t the right place to argue against cuts to care funding. Where that leaves disabled people who face cuts to their funding we have no idea or where such cuts are supposed to be challenged remains a mystery. This is one person’s view of the court proceedings and the appalling lack of access for disabled people to our court buildings -even when the cases being heard are about disabled people’s rights.
Judge, Jury and Execution of basic human rights: A court case about Independent Living money for disabled people
I didn’t know Luke Davies’ specific story when I got the email, but we the people; disabled people, our friends, family, carers, lovers and by the horror stories we constantly hear about and live everyday, we can get the gist of it. The last dregs of our welfare, that the state drip feed us – our last remaining nationlised services, our Independent Living, our humanity, have been smacked out of our gasping selves by privatisation. I didn’t know Luke Davies or the story that surrounds hum and his loved ones, but by god, Last Thursday, when we finally managed to go to court about the abomination that is happening to us and our public services, did we hear the specifics of our story.
That was why it was so crucial for our voices to be heard, for us to be seen outside the Royal Courts of Justice – in part by the media including the BBC and ITV no less, and to be there for our brother Luke and his family.
I love how these images show all of us, disabled, enabled, young and old, black and white, different expressions of gender and identity, our intersections being made visible, loudly, joyfully at times, coming together against our current capitalist nonsense. Shout out to [what are their names?] ‘s serving Annie Lennox militant revolutionary, circa Love is a stranger https://youtu.be/o6f593X6rv8?t=2m7s realness.
Some of us couldn’t get in. We couldn’t even get into the front entrance, we were shooed round the back, “lack of staff” the same story
I for one managed to get in, just about. After you cower under the cathedral of enormous white stone architecture, up the hallowed steps, not accessible of course, you heave at the heavy door, there’s airport type security, which, I for one get intimidated by. Have I got anything weird in my bag? I have moisturiser will they think it’s a jelly explosive? I have water – acid? You have to drink your liquids to prove it’s not anything and potentially die in the process. After that malarkey you’re finally and officially inside the Cathedral of Money. The main hall is like an aircraft hangar, it’s stupidly gigantic and decorative. Rich Old White Men in oil paintings glare down at you. Walking with our footsteps echoed 10 fold, someone among us said these places are designed to intimate you, if so, it was working.
The courtroom had been changed because the original room for a DISABILITY CASE WASN’T ACCESSIBLE. We had minutes to find it. We were given a map and escorted into a tiny old lift, half the lights were broken and the ones that were had a glare so everything had even more of an off-putting edge to it. When we churned out the place was an old white maze; a rabbit warren of inaccessible stairs, arrows pointing toward more stairs, a massive courtyard then more arrows pointing you to another flight of stairs. When you need the bathroom guess what comes before you? Yes, well done. It looked and felt a bit like this.
But what of the main man himself? We waited and had even signed a birthday card for Luke. Of course, due to taxis not being able to find accessible spaces, Luke and his family were running late. Two years of atrocity, heartache and stress built upon this day, built by structures that don’t accommodate people like us. When Luke and his family finally got there, him and his family didn’t seem there at all, as you’d expect, distant and full of nerves. All that agony and they had to wait even longer for justice. The time lurched ever closer to the start of the proceedings, a friend of mine was missing, so I ran down to find them.
Blinking in the burning sun outside, they texted that they were coming so I ran back up the moneyed stairs. I had to go through security again of course. I couldn’t hear the throngs of us in the corridor, it must have started. Deathly silence, on tiptoes, wincing, I opened the door, deathly silence. Nothing, a corridor! Another door, I was in – full of serious suits and wigs; more vacuum-packed silence for the wigs and suits, I tripped over someone’s crutches, clattering them in the hush. I dived into the closest seat.
I missed the bit you see in TV and films where you stand for the judge and his knockers which was a bit gutting. He didn’t have a black robe on, nor a wig, I didn’t see a hammer (gobble?) unfortunately, was he even the judge? Who were all these people? It looked like the room the phone hacking scandal took place in, sterile and plastic. It wanted to look official but was more office-y not court-y i.e. wood paneled but totally didn’t look like it save for the seating arrangements and slightly raised desks. I couldn’t see a jury and there were microphones and laptops everywhere, even the person sitting next to me in the audience had one, which was a distraction. As was having a Vicar sat next to me, on a smartphone. There were wigs though, old white wigs, blonde no less.
But what were the wigs saying? It wasn’t like the traditional court room dramas you see on screen with lawyers jumping up screaming, “OBJECTION!” and a judge crying for order whilst a witness actually cries then the handsome lawyer delivers an impassionate call to arms for truth and beauty and all that is good in this world in an earth shattering emotional speech wherein the whole court starts crying and the jury hugs it out. No, this is England and a Thursday morning in reality. It is pure, dry, uncut incomprehensible legal jargon for four plus hours. Dirge-y doublespeak. It’s delivered not only in a monotone, hardly any emphasis or change of pitch, rhythm or emotion on any word or phrase so you may have some indication of where it was all going. Crucially though, it’s delivered in list, alphabetical and numerical order with a lot of subsections, pages and files. “Supplementary file, page 51, Section D, subjection E points 1-15”. Pages are flipped, we wait, it’s read out, then we move on to the next clause, we wait. There are zero surprise witnesses in judicial review apparently.
But could we hear what the wigs were saying? The Judge bashfully reiterated the fact that they were trying to have the hearing loop configured after the lunch break – not before the lunch break, or before we arrived or just working already for anyone, it being a crucial public space where it’s quite important to hear what’s going on of course, after the lunch break. Have a break, have some equal participation in democracy and society. They weren’t aware of the in’s and outs of Hearing aids they admitted. They also admitted their lack of knowledge when it comes to wheelchair access, one guessed that you just hire them out. Admittedly, that could be a good start up for anyone reading this, Uber but for wheelchairs. We’ll come back to this idea, seriously.
Anyway, what was being said in the courtroom was delivered in an alien (but not in a fun way) way. Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I think the basic premise was that our defense for Luke was going through The Care Act 2014 as well as some other legal business step by step, subsection by subjection, to illustrate our argument and counteract the prosecution’s argument. All using extremely dry words, phrases and general legal talk that I’d never heard before. Nor was it said in an explanatory clear way, with…Pauses…and…Stresses…But-listing-it-all-off-as-everyone –else-seemed-to had-heard-it-all-before. I only gleamed he was The Goody because a friend said so.
As I waded through the jargon river a wild Vicar appeared as well as his wild blue bird twittering away in my field of vision. A Vicar on Twitter in court. An elderly person on social media in court no less. I was “skunnered” by as Scots say.
He had a hearing aid which kept ringing and squealing so he kept adjusting it, bless him. He was the one the hearing aid chat was about. When this chat commenced he clearly couldn’t hear it. I had to give hum a nudge. He let the hearing commence without his hearing. He then very loudly tried to have some hearing aid banter with me mid court session to which we got an ear-full.
He got back to his phone tapping away. It was like being in a cinema and there’s that one glare that distracts you. When he got bored he checked his emails. When he got bored of his phone, he got out a flipping magazine. Not a glossy but a paper one which you can really hear. Especially in a quiet court, leafing away, very slowly which prolongs and really makes audible that papery sound, folding the whole thing it in half or more over each time like some people do with broadsheets newspaper but with an A4 magazine, to his credit, The Big Issue. When he got bored with that he stage whispered his apologies and that he had to go, shuffled very slowly out with a final “SOLIDARITY!” to everyone.
So that all didn’t help my attention, nor did all the clacking of laptops, shuffling of paper, people pacing around, whispering, writing, doing legal things, in and out of the court. The worst of it being that they all try and do it very discreetly, as slowly as possible do detract attention but that gives them more attention as they’re going about it so slowly and clearly that you wonder what the commotion is and what they’re trying to do so subtly and BOOM! You’re attentive. What also didn’t help my attention was an attractive intern was potentially checking me out. Was he? When you’re in a space for a prolonged amount of time these issues take precedence unfortunately. It doesn’t help that when someone looks at you, you usually look back, this tennis match of eye contact and ‘Is he isn’t he’ happened for a ridiculously prolonged amount of time.
Any road, I loved our lawyer. Despite it all being dusty and dry in a format that was unfamiliar, his delivery was still pitch perfect; no stumbling, stuttering, hesitation or repetition but concise, calm, covering every square millimeter of ground and extremely methodical about it. He lined up our case extraordinarily literally to the letter. Perhaps that might have been to his detriment to which we’ll come back to, too. I think the Judge loved him too who seemed to truly understand his points by rephrasing them and not only that but filling in gaps and making new points! One example being that by getting rid of Luke’s carers, you get rid of 20 years of bespoke expert knowledge of Luke’s individual needs.
What were the Barrister’s main points though? I presume it was our own points and just plain logic itself in that; if you keep lowering wages people won’t work for so little money. Especially if you’re as qualified and experienced as Luke’s carers of 20 years. Luke is severely disabled and a human being. If you leave him or anyone alone for a period of time that can be very distressing, especially if you have preexisting health, mental or otherwise, incontinence especially. The others being in regards to scheduling of activities that any human should be able to do and the cut backs destroying these.
I personally didn’t quite understand what his other points and the finer points of ones I did were, so, I’ve asked other people that were there what they were. Here’s what they had to say [If you or Sveleta know/have time please say otherwise feel free to delete this paragraph! What were Barrister’s points?! Can’t remember!]
The Prosecution was someone I didn’t love, he was literally the archetypal pantomime Villain. Not only was he arguing for privitisation and the firing of loved ones and cuts to public services but primarily his voice and behavior was annoying. The classic sneering “Nyaaaaa” twirly moustache, pitiful anxious clear cut character arc character in classic films type character whom you could see why they became a villain, you can tell they were bullied at school, small man syndrome type Villain. Really nasally and whiny, the complete polar opposite of our defense, neither calm nor collected or concise: stumbling and bumbling his way here and there, sucking up to the teachers, I mean judges. Not only that but his arguments sucked too, he gave the judges completely the wrong references and argued against those instead! The judges called him out outright saying they were the wrong references.
The crux of his “argument” appeared to be that it’s a privilege to be able to be out the house for longer than 3 hours, that he doesn’t need carers as he has plenty of friends and family. His luxurious example? One time, Luke went to Bognor Regis with a friend for a couple of days. Yes, Bognor Regis, his equivalent of a Valhalla of human rights gone mad. A land of milk and honey, a Babylon of Sodom and Gomorra level proportions where freedom reigns supreme. Now I can’t remember who interjected, whether that was our defense or the judges who shut this down, but whoever did so with the fact that Luke’s family had saved up for 3 years to go for that outing, 102 miles, to Bognor flipping Regis.
Whilst arguing that Luke has a plethora of family and friends he kept mentioning his parents’ age when they were less than 10 meters away. Essentially saying them they’d be dead soon and instead of people he’s known for 20 years, have agency workers on minimum wage take over care for their son.
This is the kind of “logic” and “rational” that the legal system cherishes so much that we’re dealing with here. Quibble over pennies for a trip to a seaside town but throw away invaluable human beings.
So you can imagine the outcome of this case, we lost. It feels unnecessary and an understatement to call the outcome ‘disappointing’, I saw one of us in a wheelchair crying her eyes out before the second half even really began but that’s what this is. There’s that phrase parents use, “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”. We are angry but it’s almost a grieving level beyond that where you’re just desolate in your faith for humanity. They could have done so much better.
How judges, in all their insight into legal dramas over the years, can literally make the points for you, only to throw it all away because it’s “the Council’s actions have not acted unlawfully”. That was the outcome, what they’ve done is legal and therefore it’s fine. Just because something’s “not unlawful”/legal doesn’t make it fine. How is stealing legal? How is taking money and people away from a disabled man fine? What’s ridiculous is that, purely on a rational and moral level, this system is meant to represent, and always look to their shining light, rationality and morality, yet they’re so incomprehensibly irrational and immoral in their actions.
You don’t need to pay me an extortionate amount in legal fees and make you wait years for my conclusion to this case. The ruling was that the lower rates of pay wouldn’t make people leave but they’re on record on email saying so that it definitely would and they will. It’s legal but it shouldn’t be and not an excuse to steal someone’s money or people they rely on. If he wants time alone or doesn’t want more than x amount of hours alone don’t contradict that for the sake of “independence”. Firstly, he isn’t a child who needs to learn a lesson, he’s a 42 year old adult and moreover, a human being, he knows what he wants, stop presuming. He’s intensely disabled, stop making life more difficult for him than it is already and have some respect and compassion for him. Picture shitting yourself, sitting in it and not physically being able to deal with it for more than two hours. That is not independence, that is the state being inhumane to the highest degree.
It is this Nanny State dictating what is good for us that led people to rebel and vote for Brexit. We definitely shouldn’t have voted Brexit but I think we are tired of the expert ruling and the framework that it’s in. I would argue that it’s down to a lack of common ground and understanding within that frame. Wheelchair frames and access to them as a whole and not understanding that you can’t just Uber one and pick it up in 5 being one such example. What it’s like not being able to be on your own, not being able to fully see or move and sit in your own shit, for more than two hours. Not being paid an extortionate amount of money, money that doesn’t seem to understand someone like Luke. I noticed a lot of middle class and above accents in that room. I counted one black woman and one potentially disabled person in authority that day. That’s an enormous amount of progress from what we’ve seen but we need more of that please.
We need to stop constantly having old white men being the supreme court rulers of justice. Stop them swinging their dicks about, woops I mean, “Hammers” sorry, “hammers”. That’s what this is though let’s face it. Boys being boys, men being conditioned men, suppressing any empathy and emotion or kindness for each other because that’s Girl’s stuff for the sake of “rationality” verses “irrationality”. It’s such a treasured concept in masculinity, to be “rational”. Anything that has the hint of heart or compassion for your fellow human being is hit with a hammer and considered “irrational” and thrown aside, boys don’t do that, urgh.
We forget that though in this game of Rational or Not Rational. W forget how we’re all human beings who have to have some heart and look after each other so we don’t kill each other in the microcosmic time we have on this rock floating through space. That’s the heart of democracy is not coldly suppressing love for your fellow man. Learning to get along and not hide your feelings. I bet these men playing these games probably want to say sorry being so silly and give each other a hug for but that’s GAY so they don’t because that’s what GIRLS do so they have to be STRONG and STABLE and RATIONAL so they don’t.
It is a game though, an interesting game where, without getting too weird and Freudian about it, they may subconsciously want to embrace these more societally conditioned traits of “femininity”. These boys put these curly “girly” wigs on, wear big flowing dresses to talk about their feelings and not just physically fight to resolve their differences. But of course they have to have big shouting matches with a phallic object and have rules and drown it all in nonsense terminology to disguise it.
We’re getting there, though. Women, black women crucially, are getting in there. Slowly but surely. One judge seemed to recognise it’s a weird game where human lives are pawns and made remarks over how difficult this is for the family, to have their lives so ruthlessly torn apart in nasty ways. He also remarked how family should be just that for the most part and have time to be that, family, not Carers looking after a client but have to time to not be and enjoy each other’s company. That’s how our communities used to be, communities where we would all help each other in the village, support from the community and in our current age of Selfie atomised individualised Neo-Liberal Thatcher nonsense we have to come back to that way of being. We all need to look after each other like that.
May I also point out that at the end the judge made a joke about after the nasty prosecution repeating the parent’s age so often, for good measure, he’d tell the room the other judge’s age next time.
This case, especially in light of the UN’S findings of the UK’s disgusting dealings with disabled people isn’t a joke. Someone asked why the press loved court room dramas so much and as I’ve said, it’s a game with clear winners and losers, goodies and baddies that people know and understand. Now we know how much of a con it is, let’s stop playing and start helping people like we used to, before the big wigs started shouting.