Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Isabelle Brown is a person

Her name is Isabelle Brown, she's 35. In her picture she is wearing a red t-shirt, with a black longer sleeved top underneath; her hair is cut around her face; she's not looking at the camera. I don't know anything about her. I don't know her as a person.

Neither did her lawyer Tony Bouchier when he decided she wasn't a person, but an incubator.

He was supposed to be defending her against a charge of "possessing instruments for methamphetamine use" - the police were not seeking to remand her in custody - they were happy for her to be out on bail.

He decided this was wrong - not because of her desires - but because she was pregnant. Because she was pregnant, Tony Bouchier thought that rather than act as her lawyer, he'd act as the fetus's social worker. He sought a treatment order, and in the meantime she remains in jail, while the court tries to figure out it if has the facilities to lock up a woman for being pregnant.

None of which is consistent with the following legal obligations he had to her:

  • protect and promote your clients interests and act for them free from compromising influences or loyalties
  • discuss with your client their objectives and how they should best be achieved
  • protect your client's privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality
  • treat your client fairly, respectfully and without discrimination

He justifies himself like this: "I think looking out for Isabelle is looking out for the baby. Isabelle is not concerned with the baby. Isabelle is concerned about Isabelle." He doesn't think she feels like a pregnant woman should, and therefore the best way to 'look out' for her is to lock her up on the assumption that that's good for her fetus.

Over and over again those talking about her in the news describe her as abusing her 'baby'. Their anger is not directed a world where a woman can have so few resources that she is sleeping in a shed. I've no idea what her story is, but I'm far angry that she has had to get by with so little, not that her fetus is exposed to the conditions that she lives in. Because she is a person, not just an incubator.

Tony Bouchier was betting that no-one would see her as a person. She is poor, brown, and addicted to drugs. She is described as having unspecified mental health problems. The newspaper describe the dirt of where she was living in great detail, but don't even try to capture her voice. So far it has paid off, he has been called a hero, and praised by almost all who comment on the case.

Tony Bouchier is not a hero. Tony Bouchier is using his power over Isabelle Brown to incarcerate her, because he does not respect her as a person and the courts are letting him.

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