Natasha Phillips is a non-practicing barrister working for pressure groups like Justice For Families, which combine political and legal policy proposals with a view to reforming the Family Justice System.
She is the founder of ‘Divorce Manual’, ‘Researching Reform’ and ‘Pod It Forward’ in England, projects which focus on encouraging pragmatic reforms within the English Family Justice System. The projects also focus on the latest issues within the Family Courts in both the public and private sectors and are platforms for progressive perspectives on the nature of Family Law in England.
Natasha is also a single mother who has gone through the divorce process in the UK. She also has a legal background, so she got a slightly unusual insight into the divorce process which allowed her to see the system in all its glory (or lack of it). In her spare time, she tweets under the account name @SobukiRa.
Get to know her better!
1: what’s your most favourite part of the day?
Well, I’m an evening person, so everything creaks to life at around 7pm….it’s also true to say that the idea of doing everything backwards appeals to me.
2: have you ever dozed off during a lecture or meeting?
I do recall falling asleep during an A level English class once. The teacher’s voice was terribly monotonous and it seemed only right to pay homage to the gods of sleep. However, upon being rudely awoken by a sharp nudge to the ribs by a friend, I was able to account for the snooze on the grounds that the poetry had been very soothing and so in effect, my dozing off was a compliment. It was then that I knew I was destined for very great and very evil things.
3: were you ever in a situation where you came up short with a good come back? You can give it
I always come up short with a good comeback. That’s the one downfall of a terribly British education; you can’t bring yourself to be rude even if you really, really want to. I do have the ultimate comeback stored away though and it goes a little something like this… sorry, I couldn’t possibly.
4: which trial/case still haunts you till today?
The case of the Websters, whose children were wrongfully taken away from them in 2004 and placed in the care of foster parents, only to be told that for policy reasons they could not have their children back.
Much like your defrosted cases Alice, I would not be surprised if one day, the government find themselves facing an enquiry brought by children like those of the Webster’s, invoking the ghosts of memories past and the chilling evidence of cases mismanaged, now thawing out in the glare of the public eye.
5: if you have a blog, how did you get started? Who or what inspired you to blog?
For my sins, I do have a blog which is part of my project, Researching Reform. The idea to blog was given to me by several of my friends who are techie genii and who probably had had enough of me explaining, at length, about the amazing discrepancies in the family justice system. The blog initially started as a private series of observations about the family justice system and its many frightful flaws, however being a bona fide techno bimbo, I had not realised that my private corner in cyberspace was not so private after all and the blog grew from there. I was inspired to blog by the very system that gave my family and I a rather hard time and for all its cruelty, it remains a thing of beauty, a potential protector of the people.
6: did you end up in the profession of your childhood dreams?
As a child, the only thing I wanted from life was to go on a great big adventure (and graze my knees a little). And that is exactly what my current job has given me; I couldn’t ask for more.
7: tell us about your most embarrassing experiences in a restaurant, peeing in the wild, opening a bottle of wine, or do-it-yourself projects. Pick one and tell all!
Oh wow, well let’s see, I do have lots of those. My life seems to teem with them.
There was a stage, during my teen years, when I decided to foray into the genre of experimental photography. This involved me wearing unusual outfits and holding, for art’s sake, rather strange objects in my hand. Most have been burned (I’ve been following your blog, I know how to destroy evidence) however I believe my sister currently holds one such photo (it involves myself in a neon pink tank top and white jeans holding a flower pot over my head and like all teenagers, wearing most of the Superdrug makeup counter on my face). It would appear she is holding this photo hostage as ‘negotiation material’. I only have £3,467,789 pounds left to make the down payment on the new Eco Friendly Living Lodge in Colorado.
My note on the Webster case:
The Websters saw their first three children, all under the age of five, taken away after they took their son to the hospital with swelling and pain in his leg. Doctors found breaks in his leg and said that they could only have been caused by physical abuse. The parents said that the injury was a result either of brittle bone disease or their son’s soya milk diet, given to him because he was lactose intolerant. Their other two children, a girl and a baby boy, had no such fractures.
All three children spent two years in foster care while their parents fought unsuccessfully for custody in the family court. The children were legally adopted in 2006. Even if the couple have the case over their three other children reopened and manage to clear their names, they will never be able to get those children back because adoption cannot be reversed.
The decision to remove the children from their parents was based on now discredited medical evidence that distinctive bone fractures to the boy could only have been caused by violent shaking and twisting. Experts now agree that the boy’s injuries were instead classic symptoms of scurvy.
Scurvy is an illness caused by a vitamin deficiency. This deficiency was the result of the family’s General Practitioner recommending that the boy be fed soya milk (which has virtually no vitamin C) because the boy was lactose intolerant.