Christian magistrate asks trial judge to be removed for her perceived bias12 February 2018 Issued by: Christian Legal Centre
A Christian magistrate has today asked for the trial judge in his case – Heather Williams QC – to remove herself from his case because of her perceived bias and her involvement in the previous case of Celestina Mba. Ironically, Richard Page himself was removed from his office as a magistrate due to perceived bias in his handling of adoption cases
Removed from office
Richard Page was removed from office by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice for objecting in the media to his removal from the Family Panel for saying that a vulnerable child being placed for adoption does best with a mum and dad. Richard Page was dismissed for saying:
“My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents.”
Richard Page was objecting to discrimination and punishment against him for this common sense viewpoint. In another ironic twist, the interview for which Mr Page was dismissed occurred as part of a TV debate about Christians being squeezed out of public life. The BBC package followed research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission about challenges to freedom of religion and belief in the UK.
In yet another irony, the trial judge hearing Mr Page’s case is Judge Heather Williams QC. Ms Williams QC is a barrister practising from the left-wing Doughty Street Chambers. Recently she represented the British Humanist Association seeking rights for abortion for women from Northern Ireland. As a Judge, in the case of Celestina Mba, she ruled that the Sunday Sabbath day was not a ‘core component’ of the Christian faith.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre which has supported both the Page and Mba cases, asserts that in the Mba case, Ms Williams QC twisted a witness statement from Bishop Nazir-Ali, that some Christians objected to working on a Sunday and others did not, to mean it was not an important consideration for Christians.
In a highly sensitive case, in which Mr Page is accused of bias for believing that a child should have a mother and a father – he is concerned that a judge has been assigned whose background and cases indicate that she is unsympathetic to Christian values.
Heather Williams QC has refused to recuse herself and the trial commences 10am tomorrow at Croydon Employment Tribunal.
Andrea Williams commented: “We have no confidence at all that Heather Williams QC has a sufficient understanding of Mr Page’s beliefs to adjudicate fairly in the case.
Mr Page was first challenged by his seniors in late 2014 when, after hearing an adoption case, he could not agree with his fellow magistrates that placing a child into the care of a same-sex couple was ‘in the child’s best interest’. Mr Page came to his decision having weighed the evidence presented to the Court and therefore, in good conscience, could not vote to make the order. He was subsequently reported for his actions, reprimanded, and forced to attend ‘re-education training’, which he duly did.
In March 2015, Mr Page took part in a national television programme in which he clearly stated that at present, there was not sufficient evidence to convince him, as a magistrate, that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple was in the child’s best interests, and therefore he could not make such an order. Mr Page believes the political move by the government to place children with same-sex couples lacks any solid, reliable psychological or educational research concerning the effects on children.
Mr Page’s media comments were again brought to the attention of his seniors and an investigation was carried out by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office’s disciplinary panel. They recommended to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor that Mr Page should be removed from office.
Commenting on his sacking, Mr Page, aged 69, who has worked in the field of mental health for 15 years, said: “As a highly experienced magistrate, I have made judgments on thousands of cases and in each case, have come to my decision based on the evidence, and the evidence alone, placed before me and my colleagues. That is the oath which I took when I became a Justice of the Peace.
“When you sit in a Family Court, you have a huge responsibility to ensure the overall well-being of the children who are being recommended to be placed into new families. You weigh the reports and references before you and the evidence you hear. In the case of same-sex couples adopting children, it has only been a relatively short time that same-sex couples have been able to adopt and foster and therefore, there has not been time for a proper analysis to be carried out into the effects such placements have on the children’s educational, emotional and developmental well-being.
“As a magistrate, I have to act on the evidence before me and quite simply, I believe that there is not sufficient evidence to convince me that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple can be as holistically beneficial to a child as placing them with a mum and dad as God and nature intended.
“I am surprised that this Lord Chancellor should seemingly pander to the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities.
“To punish me and to seek to silence me for expressing a dissenting view is deeply worrying. I shall challenge this decision as it is deeply illiberal and intolerant. It is vital the family law courts always have in mind the best interests of the children.
“I cannot believe that the establishment is trying to silence someone like me who has served it wholeheartedly all of my working life.”
Mr Page is supported by the Christian Legal Centre and represented by its Standing Counsel, human rights barrister Paul Diamond.
The Christian Legal Centre’s chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, commented: “The Lord Chancellor has removed Richard from the magistracy for allegedly being ‘prejudiced’ and for speaking out in the media about what has happened to him.
“This unmasks the face of the new political orthodoxy; it is unkind. It tries to silence opposing views and if it fails it crushes and punishes the person who holds those views.
“To remove someone like Richard from the bench is modern-day madness. He has a lifetime of public service, expertise in mental health. He is motivated by his Christian faith and a deep compassion for people.”
The case will continue tomorrow (Tuesday 13 February) and is scheduled for five days.