It's been a while since I wrote, but recently a friend asked me if I'd heard of the Fixated Persons Investigation Unit (FPIU). She directed me to a letter from a 50 year old grandmother who had been labelled as a fixated person and a security risk.
As I understand it, a child was removed, by the courts, from her family after her father sexually abused her (the father is now serving two years in prison). Her grandmother and mother have been trying to get her returned to the family, but authorities have basically lumped the whole family under the crime committed by the father. Because the grandmother (and possibly mother) has persistently fought this with the courts and appealed to politicians, in order to get the child returned she had been targeted by the recently formed FPIU and is having restrictions placed on her under the vexatious proceedings act.
The contents of her phone have been downloaded by the police in order to monitor her and she has a security sticker in her passport. All for the crime of loving her granddaughter and wanting her returned to her mother.
This labelling of someone as a “fixated person” seems to be stemming from them being judged as a “vexatious litigant.”
Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary. It may take the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit or may be the repetitive, burdensome, and unwarranted filing of meritless motions in a matter which is otherwise a meritorious cause of action.
According to a paper from Monash University family courts have a particularly high level of vexatious litigants.
Although it may be rare for litigants in the High Court to be restrained from issuing proceedings without leave, the same cannot be said of the Family Court of Australia. The Court is only 30 years old, yet as of 1 May 2006 there were 195 litigants who had been restrained from issuing proceedings on the basis that they are vexatious.
When it comes to family is there any surprise that people get more emotional, particularly if their child is being stolen from them? It stands to reason than a parent will do whatever they possibly can to recover and protect their child. To try and compare that with criminal or financial proceedings goes into the region of viewing people as objects, not sentient beings. If someone is being persistent trying to get their child back it doesn't speak of someone who is just trying to get revenge so much as someone who truly loves their child.
The paper also closely compares self represented litigants with vexatious ones, that is ones who have no legal representation. How many families can afford legal representation, especially when things get strung out for long periods of time? This, to me, feels like targeting the poor.
This is a worrying trend with regards to Australian families. Originally my experience here with foster carers has pointed to a trend which tries to keep children with families whenever possible, at least in South Australia.
The fact that laws are generally made on a state by state basis, means that they can ride under the radar of the human rights commission who only intervene in human rights infringements made by the federal government. When one state gets laws accepted by the general public the other states can follow suit and as none of it came from the federal government they can keep their hands clean of it.
This grandmother says that we are becoming a police state, but I believe we're already reached that point, it's just that we've not all realised it yet. The message being sent here is to stop questioning authorities. What happens when these children reach 18 and discover they've been lied to and their families were fighting for them all the time?