The Rule of Law? III: Forensics and Impression Management

“Our educated guess is that many practitioners in the field of law and psychology have faced a situation … where they have experienced difficulties in identifying the “true nature” of the psychopathic interviewee, until the situation has proceeded to the point where they’ve been fooled or some ways misled.”

– Helinä Häkkänen-Nyholm, Psychopathy and Law, a Practioner’s Guide


The British justice system is still at odds with reality where fathers’ rights in custody battles are considered an irrelevance. The opinions of children in this matter are ignored as is basic psychology that a child grows and develops best when he or she has both parents present in their lives and access to respective family relatives. Although surprising to some, family law courts in the United Kingdom and in a significant number of cases in the United States, heavily favour the rights of the mother.

Many pressure groups on behalf of fathers’ rights as well as social justice organisations campaigned for a change in the law that would view the rights of both parents as a prerequisite for a just and equitable resolution in custody cases, while also addressing the “shocking delays” in custody battles in general. In the United Kingdom, several years ago the government family justice report chaired by David Norgrove made a review of these claims. Certain aspects of the family courts were marginally improved, cutting down the time where decisions must be taken to no more than six months rather than years, though this has been a sporadic rather than a consistent success.  Moreover, the issue of equal parenting rights – with special focus on fathers’ rights – was deemed unworkable. A spokesman for the Norgrove report said: “While is it usually in the child’s interest to have contact with both parents, seeking to enshrine that right in law would lead to greater conflict and confusion.” David Norgrove stated that: “Fundamentally, this is not about the rights of parents, it’s about the welfare of children and we should be focused entirely on that.” [1]

i-love-you-lets-fight© Infrakshun

Many campaigners believe that the issue of children being granted accessibility of both parents was crucial factor in addressing the welfare of the child and were at a loss to see how such a conclusion could have been reached. With one in three children in the UK without a father it does tend to stretch credibility that these decisions would help to alleviate such a sad statistic. The Centre for Social Justice a UK charity and campaigning organisation on issues of poverty, crime and family law stated in their 2009 family law review, Every Family Matters that “…legislation should acknowledge that children are most likely to benefit from the substantial involvement of both parents in their lives.” [2]

Ken Sanderson, of the campaign group Families Need Fathers, said: “The core failing of the current family justice system is that the rights of children to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are not adequately supported or enforced. By choosing not to address this issue, any other proposals… will be merely superficial adjustments to a fundamentally broken system.” [3] And these superficial adjustments are a common theme through the legal and justice systems in both the UK and the United States. Tinkering around the edges allows just enough leeway to placate media and pressure groups for a short time whilst altering very little.

Fathers 4 Justice Campaign Director Nadine O’Connor was even more scathing of the report and revealed the corrupt background of the legal system as a whole. In a detailed response to Norgrove she outlined some of the reasons for what campaigners believed were unreasonable and unjust conclusions arrived at by report members and suggested an agenda on behalf of those taking part. A long list of grievances were listed including the belief that the:

  • The report’s primary function was to look at procedure, not principle;
  • The review panel was not impartial – it excluded parents and users of the system;
  • The rejection of a 10,000 parent testimony
  • The highlighting of the support given by the report of “secret courts”
  • The rejection of “transparency and public accountability;”
  • The rejection of a parents right in law to see their children;”
  • Claims of gender bias despite 93 percent of residencies being awarded to mothers;
  • The rejection of the principle of equality and shared parenting, stating it was ‘not in the bests interests of the child.’ [4]

O’Connor also drew the intention of the media and public to the fact that the report acknowledged that “no records have been kept on the outcomes for children,” and logically asked the question: “How can the Family Justice Review panel know what is in the ‘best interests of a child’ without empirical evidence?” [5]  Further attention was given to failure of the report to address: “… the number of warring parents going to court and the impact government cuts to legal aid will have in the increase in the number of unrepresented parents going to court; condemnation of the court system itself “…which is run by an ‘unelected, unaccountable and unsackable judiciary operating in complete secrecy;’ the inappropriate nature of courts originally intended for criminals rather than dealing with family cases. [6] The review also concluded that it was still necessary for “…grandparents… to go to court to demand access to their grandchildren when it is denied” which many believe dismisses the value of family and community. Which also means a division opens up between the rich and poor once again, and where only the wealthy can find justice to pursue their familial rights. [7]

The above report represents a classic example of the kinds of stone-walling within government and the judicial system which campaigners face year in and year out, not least the thousands of parents and their children who get caught in this iniquitous system.

According to Saga an insurance and investment company for senior citizens: “…the [court] process is extremely difficult and many grandparents simply can’t face a court fight that they feel may be unfairly stacked against them. They had hoped that the law would recognise the importance of their rights properly.” [8] Saga Director-General Dr Ros Altmann opines: “The relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent can be an extremely special one, and can provide consistency for a child when the family unit breaks down. “This Review rightly points out that decisions should be made in the best interests of the child, however to give one adult ‘rights’ to access that can be withdrawn by the courts, whilst all others have to fight for any right to maintain a relationship with their child or grandchild is surely wrong.” [9]

In the United States, the story is the same though with a greater State by State and case by case variation. This is illustrated with the following examples. Firstly, according to Anne P. Mitchell, fathers’ rights attorney and Founder of Dads’ Rights:

Men absolutely, and often, get the short end of the stick financially in divorce. There is a big myth out there that men make out like bandits in divorce, and women get left in poverty. This is completely untrue. Ironically, it is this myth that causes women to resist fathers having more parenting time, as the less time the child is with Dad, the more money Mom gets. So fathers get the shaft twice: their time with their children is limited, and they get to pay for being pushed out of their children’s lives.” [10]

Judge Michele Lowrance, child of divorce, divorced mother and author agrees that unfair treatment of men is borne out by the statistics:

For example, 85 percent of non-custodial or non-primary residential parents are men who typically see their children only two out of 14 days. In addition, 40 percent of America’s children will spend at least part of their childhood without their fathers living together with them. This translates to over 21 million children. There is definitely cultural paranoia about each side having an advantage. Women think men have the advantage because, for example, it is hard to support the average family on a small percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. If Dad earns $2,500 net and there is one child, in many jurisdictions Mom would only get $500 for support. Understandably that feels unfair to her, as clearly she might need more to support a child. [11]

While on the other hand, Scott Hampton director of Ending Violence:

When I was presenting a workshop at a national judges’ conference I asked those judges whether there was bias in family courts during divorce. Their answer: Yes, but usually it’s against women, not men. Their reasoning makes perfect sense. Society expects mothers, not fathers, to be the natural nurturers. So, if Mom falls just a bit short of the ideal parent, we unconsciously penalize her. In contrast, if Dad changes a couple of poopy diapers, we unconsciously give him extra credit. So if that’s true, then why do mothers more often have custody? The judges explained that it’s not the court’s bias against fathers. It’s men’s bias against fatherhood and dads who run away from their responsibility. Those are the ones who are skewing the numbers. It’s the men who fight paternity or who are abusive who are making responsible fathers and husbands look bad. The fact of the matter is, when men actually want and ask for custody, they are much more successful than some would have us believe. [12]

Father’s running away from their responsibilities, uncaring of their children, mothers taking advantage of a biased system and financially milking their ex-husbands remorselessly; false accusations of child abuse alongside authentic cases that somehow pass through judicial loopholes and the many corrupt judges open to those with the right money.

The system is broken and quite obviously ponerised.

There are many other similar cases where the male-dominated courts and judicial system do not necessarily override the apparent bias against fathers. Nevertheless, while negative attributions are fielded on both sides of the fence the statistics paint a very bleak picture for the father in the majority of cases. Despite psychopathic predominance in the male (at least so far, data is still being collected) the female pathological narcissist and psychopath also exist. As awareness of the bias against diagnosing women with psychopathy becomes more widely known, statistic are likely to reveal even more of a prevalence that is not necessarily seated in criminal activity but within domestic and public institutional settings.

Disturbing statistics that seldom get any airplay in the media denote an inversion of the female attributes that collectively express a highly significant reaction to the mass pathology inflicted on Western societies. As to how custody battles are reflected in statistical analyses these figures are from the late 80s’ and early 90s’:

  • 79.6 % of custodial mothers receive a support award
  • 29.9 % of custodial fathers receive a support award
  • 46.9 % of non-custodial mothers totally default on support
  • 26.9 % of non-custodial fathers totally default on support
  • 20.0 % of non-custodial mothers pay support at some level
  • 61.0  % of non-custodial fathers pay support at some level
  • 66.2 % of single custodial mothers work less than full-time
  • 10.2  %  of single custodial fathers work less than full-time  [13]

By 2007, five of every six custodial parents are mothers, yet the number of custodial mothers in poverty is 27.7 percent in contrast to the percentage of custodial fathers in poverty at 11.1 percent [14]  With one in four divorced Americans yet to receive child support or alimony and of those who are supposed to receive spousal support, 49 percent are not receiving any of it, fighting to get it, or have completely given up, what does this say about the system of allocating benefits to each parent and the ability of fathers to find work over mothers? What of the prevalence of mental illness and undiagnosed pathology hidden from view? [15]

In custody and criminal trials prosecutors will have no compunction in using gender myths as a strategy to win their cases or “… packaging the myth for persuasive purposes” depending on which position they are advocating. [16]

5960558-lg© infrakshun

Impression Management

It might be an idea to revisit the Female Psychopath in a court setting.

The female psychopath’s own formula of “impression management” is especially effective yet we have no way of knowing how many take advantage of the criminal justice system except through reading between the lines of statistics. Is it simply self-presentation or cunning manipulation of the jury and all participants, from detectives to judges? Impression management is a crucial tool of the psychopath yet relatively unexplored in forensic psychology. If the overriding need to control and win is a primary driver of psychopathic behaviour this suggests a huge psychological loop-hole that takes advantage of the idealised image of feminine passivity which is then ruthlessly exploited.

Criminal trial attorney Frank S. Perri and clinical psychologist Terrance G. Lichtenwald see law enforcement and the criminal justice system facing a serious challenge in their ability to correctly perceive, diagnose and bring to justice female psychopaths. For instance: “Diane Downs, the woman who killed her two children by shooting them, came to her jury trial pregnant, projecting the image that a mother could not commit such an act. [Serial killers] Golay and Utterschmidt projected a disposition of two elderly, grandmotherly-like women, and Karla Homolka projected the image that she was under the control over her husband when she helped kill three young women.”  [1]

Other examples of possible misdiagnosis and leniency include one Marie Noe, who in 1999: “… admitted to killing her eight children [and] received probation. It had been suggested that her 72-year-old appearance, mannerisms and her gender affected the decision and because society is reluctant to believe that women kill serially, law and prosecutions lacked the motivation to investigate and vigorously prosecute these women.” Another female serialist received only 10 years in prison after admitting to killing her five children, but the jury felt sorry for her because she had lost all the children in her life.”  [2]

The courts, forensics and law enforcement are areas more likely to encounter male and female psychopaths than any other profession. The absence of courses in psychopathy awareness is still not forthcoming where it is needed most and where: “…the study of violent offenders is lumped together under the same umbrella that somehow criminals are from the same mold.” The authors therefore pose the following questions:

Does this individual understand that parents who kill may not be mentally ill but possess psychopathy traits that, in fact, make them more prone to planning their child’s death? Does this person have training on how to spot psychopathic traits or are does he harbor the view that a mother is incapable of intentionally killing her child because of her gender? If the parent did plan the murder, could this professional participate in the evaluation of such a case without resorting to myths to resolve the “shock” he or she experiences? […]

It can be particularly unnerving for professionals to realize that a female is capable of brutal violence, especially homicide, and project normalcy to those she encounters. Unfortunately, many in the law enforcement and behavioral field resort to the myth in order to resolve an uncomfortable inconsistency between what they observe and what they want to believe. […]

Professionals’ beliefs about female aggression influence their approach to inquiry, interviews, investigation, and their reactions to female disclosures about their criminal acts have an enormous impact on who is labeled a victim or an offender… [3]

Given the custodial, socio-economic statistics and those for female psychopathic traits that point to high incidence of biological mothers as perpetrators of some forms of child abuse and child deaths, a massive overhaul of gender stereotyping and target training for police and the law courts, social services and child care is long overdue. The authors recommend several changes that must take place if professionals – investigators or examiners – are to meet the challenge of psychopathy:

  • Self awareness of one’s own gender bias
  • Management of cognitive dissonance in the face of incongruous evidence: “female as care taker and female as abuser, female as peace maker and female as perpetrator.”
  • During evaluation, confidence borne from a strong data set ready to test for different gender myths regardless of the individual being evaluated.
  • Awareness that the examinee “has much to gain and little to lose by manipulating.
  • The evaluation of the deception but also the quality of the deception i.e. “How did the examinee respond when the deception was exposed?”
  • Awareness that the examinee may be wearing a “mask of sanity” thus he must be ready to examine his emotions for countertransference “…such as the feeling of disappointment that the individual is not what she first seemed.”
  • A willingness to excuse oneself from the case if these criteria cannot be met.  [4]

Finally, the authors conclude that: “Violence, especially murder, is a human issue and not a gender-specific phenomenon.” a conclusion that must extend across all societal domains when evaluating anti-social personality disorders such as psychopathy and narcissism whether in relationships, business, organisations or social movements.

The above examples are admittedly from criminal psychopaths. Garden variety psychopaths happily go about their business deep inside society assisting in the sometimes subtle and slow ponerogenesis of normal human behaviour.  Therefore, since we already have a problem that is highly advanced in Western societies in particular, then it does not necessarily mean employing specific models to be absorbed into already ponerised arms of the Establishment. It may be a bit late for current Western societies to incorporate large-scale change without systematic radical upheavals. What it does mean is offering the opportunity for all of us to be super-aware of the depth and nature of psychopathy so that we may give inoculate ourselves and our love ones from its destructive effects. Only then will we begin to loosen the grip of  the global predators in our midst.

 


Notes

[1] Nation of broken families: One in three children lives with a single-parent or with step mum or dad’ The Daily Mail, By Steve Doughty, 25 June 2010.
[2] ‘Norgrove Report fails children by not giving fathers access rights, says Centre for Social Justice’ Press Release, November 3, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) http://www.centreforsocialjustice.co.uk
[3] ‘Dads should NOT be given right to equal access to children, says review’ The Daily Mirror, November 3, 2011.
[4] Fathers 4 Justice http://www.fathers4justice.co.uk
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Channel 4 News, F4J Respond to Norgrove Report, November 2011 | ‘Family justice review criticises ‘shocking delays’’ BBC News, November 3, 2011.
[8] ‘Norgrove review fails to grasp the nettle for grandparents’ By Dr Ros Altmann , Saga http://www.saga.co.uk  4 November 2011.
[9] Ibid.
[10] ‘Do Divorced Dads Get a Raw Deal?’ By Tom Matlack, Mens’ Health, March 12th, 2011.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] 1988 Census ‘Child Support and Alimony: 1989 Series P-60, No. 173 p. 6-7. and U.S. General Accounting Office Report’ GAO/HRD-92-39FS January, 1992.
[14] U.S. Census Bureau, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2005, released August 2007 | Ibid.
[15] http://www.Divorce360.com, Child Support Poll Results, conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs and Media, 2007 | Ibid.
[16]] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald (p.63)
[17] Ibid. (p.64)
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20  Ibid.

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