The Legal Opportunities of an Elephant
DANIEL HOWARD: So I just thought we could have this meeting, Marnie and I, to do this amicably, in private. So we can avoid the courts, gentlemen. I mean that’s all a waste of everyone’s time, and our money, really, and, and Marnie I mean we know what’s best, don’t we, what’s best for Charlie? In reality you know what’s best for Charlie, don’t you?
PHILIP CANTOR QC: My client was fully agreeable to this meeting, yes.
DANIEL HOWARD: Because so far the law hasn’t helped at all. It hasn’t helped Charlie at all, I mean. When I see him now, Marnie, when I actually get to see him, he’s, he’s just... well I just want someone to know that I think I know what’s best for him, he’s my son, and you know it’s not always right about the mother knowing best. I think Marnie knows this. You do, Marnie, don’t you? You know what I’m talking about.
LAWRENCE MARSHALL QC: What my client means is he feels the arrangements for the care and custody of Charlie Howard are insufficiently covered under current UK legislation.
DANIEL HOWARD: What I’m trying to say, Marnie, and I’ll hope you agree, is that the current arrangement of my having visitation rights every other weekend is just not in Charlie’s interest. It’s just not what’s best for him.
(Unrecorded speech as Marnie Howard whispers to Philip Cantor QC.)
PHILIP CANTOR QC: My client wishes to state again that she is perfectly happy with the current custody arrangements and visitation times.
DANIEL HOWARD: But what I’m saying, what I’m finally getting to say now we’ve at last got to have this meeting, is that after the separation it was automatically assumed that Marnie would look after Charlie, it was the default setting of the situation. I left the family house and so Charlie stayed where he was, with the mother, because that’s the side the law falls down on. But what I’m saying is that this is not the best circumstances for him. It’s not –
PHILIP CANTOR QC: Perhaps we could move this on in a more formal manner. If we have a lack of agreement.
DANIEL HOWARD: But what I’m saying is let’s keep this out of the courts and settle it here. I don’t want to bring all this up in court. Marnie, let’s be sensible about this, we all know that Charlie would be better off, would be safer living with Jeanette and I...
(Unrecorded speech as Marnie Howard whispers to Philip Cantor QC.)
PHILIP CANTOR QC: My client disagrees about the best circumstances of Charlie’s welfare.
DANIEL HOWARD: Marnie, don’t make me spell it out. Because I will –
LAWRENCE MARSHALL QC: Daniel, maybe we should –
DANIEL HOWARD: Because I don’t want to do it like that, Marnie, I don’t want to have to say these things in court. For your sake.
LAWRENCE MARSHALL QC: Daniel –
MARNIE HOWARD: I don’t mind. I don’t mind what you say. I know Charlie is safe with me. He’s safe with me.
DANIEL HOWARD: I don’t think he is, Marnie. That’s the thing, isn’t it? I don’t think he is.
MARNIE HOWARD: You can’t have him, Daniel. I won’t let you and that woman have him.
DANIEL HOWARD: You can still visit him, Marnie. I’m not saying you won’t be able to visit him.
PHILIP CANTOR QC: Mr Howard, I don’t think this is the way –
DANIEL HOWARD: Do I have to go into this? Do I have to spell everything out then? What about –
PHILIP CANTOR QC: Perhaps this is better saved for the court.
DANIEL HOWARD: Please. Hear me out. I don’t want this to go to court. For Marnie’s sake.
MARNIE HOWARD: You don’t care one bit about me.
DANIEL HOWARD: But I do. That’s the thing, I do.
MARNIE HOWARD: So why are you with that woman –
DANIEL HOWARD: Don’t let’s change the subject. Away from Charlie. That’s who we’re talking about.
MARNIE HOWARD: I’ve done nothing wrong.
DANIEL HOWARD: But what about now, what about my two weekends a month? For the last three months I’ve seen Charlie only one weekend of a month. And why is that? Because you get confused, Marnie. Because she gets confused.
MARNIE HOWARD: I do not get confused.
PHILIP CANTOR QC: I think we should –
DANIEL HOWARD: You do, honey. You do get confused.
PHILIP CANTOR QC: I don’t think my client needs –
DANIEL HOWARD: Do I have to tell them other things, Marnie? Do I have to tell them about the zoo? Please let’s stop all this and agree I should look after Charlie. Please?
MARNIE HOWARD: You are not having him! He’s mine! Mine!
LAWRENCE MARSHALL QC: Right, I think perhaps –
DANIEL HOWARD: No, no, please. Let me tell you about the zoo. Then you’ll see, gentlemen. Then you’ll see what I mean.
PHILIP CANTOR QC: Mr Howard, you can say it all in court.
DANIEL HOWARD: I don’t want this said in court. For Marnie’s sake. Let me tell you this now. Then you can judge whether it should go to court.
PHILIP CANTOR QC: Mrs Howard?
DANIEL HOWARD: Please Marnie. Stop this now. Let Charlie come and live with me.
MARNIE HOWARD: Let him tell his story! Let him say it. Charlie is staying with me. He’s all I have now. Don’t you understand...? There’s nothing he can say – you can’t say I’m a bad mother!
DANIEL HOWARD: You’re not a bad mother, Marnie. Not a bad mother. I didn’t say that. But this day, this day at the zoo. Marnie took Charlie to the zoo, the zoo in Regent’s Park, I wasn’t there, this was close to the time when we separated.
MARNIE HOWARD: So if you weren’t there, how do you know? How do you know what happened?
DANIEL HOWARD: Please, Marnie. I was there when they returned home, I was waiting for them, I was always afraid of something like... Anyway. Marnie was with Charlie at the zoo and she lost him. She lost him for over an hour, he was seven years old then, missing for an hour, until an attendant brought him back –
MARNIE HOWARD: Children get lost! I was looking for him, looking for him all over, I was frantic.
DANIEL HOWARD: And the zoo attendant brings him back, Charlie had spotted Marnie...
MARNIE HOWARD: I was just about to report him lost.
DANIEL HOWARD: ... and he was dripping wet. Charlie was soaking. From head to foot, all his clothes and his little satchel he likes to carry.
MARNIE HOWARD: But he was safe. He said he’s been swimming with the fishes! That’s all. And with Peter. He said he’s been swimming with Peter.
DANIEL HOWARD: With Peter, yes. Perhaps you should explain who Peter is. Perhaps you should fill these gentlemen in on Peter.
MARNIE HOWARD: Oh, you don’t know! You don’t have... Peter is Charlie’s best friend. His imaginary friend.
DANIEL HOWARD: But tell them, Marnie, tell them: how did Charlie get his imaginary friend?
MARNIE HOWARD: From me! From me. We made him up together. We do things like that, Charlie and I. It’s not strange. You, you just have no imagination. You with your textbooks and computers, you don’t understand imagination. You –
DANIEL HOWARD: Marnie, please. Please. I’m not here to upset you. The last thing I want is you getting upset. I’m just explaining –
MARNIE HOWARD: Go on then. Go on! What have I done wrong? What exactly have I done?
DANIEL HOWARD: But then they arrived home, Marnie brought Charlie home from the zoo, and I was there, waiting, you see. And Charlie was soaking wet, the poor boy was shivering and so I sent him up, straight up for a hot bath, to stop him getting a chill. See, I know these things, I know what’s best, you didn’t even think –
MARNIE HOWARD: I bath him! I give him baths! You think I don’t –
DANIEL HOWARD: Let’s not, let’s not get away, let me finish. He was in the bath, yes, Charlie was in the bath, and Marnie and I, we’re downstairs we’re talking, arguing –
MARNIE HOWARD: You argue, you tell me –
DANIEL HOWARD: We were arguing and we hear this talking from upstairs, from the bathroom. It’s Charlie, talking –
MARNIE HOWARD: You know why he liked talking, why he liked talking to Peter? He can live with Peter, Charlie can express himself, we have a fine time, me and Peter and Charlie, he does it to escape –
DANIEL HOWARD: Marnie...
MARNIE HOWARD: – to escape you, you and your accusations against me, your telling me what to do all the time, he did it to be free...
DANIEL HOWARD: ... and I went in to the bathroom, we went in, and there he is, Charlie, in the bath, and he’s talking, but he’s talking to a penguin, there’s a penguin in the bath there with him –
MARNIE HOWARD: He feels safe with Peter, don’t you see...
DANIEL HOWARD: Tell them who he was talking to, Marnie.
MARNIE HOWARD: Charlie, he was in the bath, he was in the bath talking to Peter, he’d decided that Peter was now a penguin, that his form, his shape was going to be a penguin...
DANIEL HOWARD: Except this wasn’t an imaginary friend now, Marnie, was it, this was a fucking penguin excuse my language, a penguin that Charlie had stolen from the zoo.
MARNIE HOWARD: And you took him away, you snatched Charlie’s best friend away, he was crying and you took Peter away. I’m talking to Peter, Daddy, isn’t that what Charlie said? He was crying... He said, say hello to Peter, Daddy, and you took him away.
DANIEL HOWARD: So this is what I’m trying to say, gentlemen. About the law, about the law not being sufficient. This is what is relevant to the case here, the custody case here. This is what I don’t want to have to say in court. For Marnie’s sake. For her sake. I’m saying that along with many other similar occasions that I won’t go into now, but I will, if I have to, on that particular evening I returned a penguin, quite a calm penguin as it happens, the zoo think the creature must have liked the dark and damp of the satchel, I returned a stolen penguin to the zoo. This is how my Charlie is growing up. This is the situation.
MARNIE HOWARD: You have no heart. No soul. Look what you did to him. He was inconsolable. My poor boy. You separated him from Peter. Still he says to me, Peter is gone, Mummy. Peter is gone.
DANIEL HOWARD: Marnie. Honey. The penguin was not his friend. You have to understand.
MARNIE HOWARD: You took his friend away.
DANIEL HOWARD: No, Marnie. I took a penguin back to the zoo.
MARNIE HOWARD: You don’t understand. You don’t understand him.
DANIEL HOWARD: I’m sorry, Marnie. I’m sorry. Is there more to be said, gentlemen? Do I need to tell you more? How do we go from here? What’s the next step?