A parent’s view of the system – Humanity is the name of the game

We are grateful for the comments of Angelo, who has participated in some useful discussions on a variety of threads. With his permission, some of his comments are gathered together in this post so that the arguments don’t get lost.

The essence of Angelo’s objections to the current system is that the focus is on child rescue to the detriment of helping families stay together and that the UK is in danger of tipping into a disproportionate punitive response to families, in its legitimate wish to protect children. 

As Charlotte Proudman and Frances Trevana commented in 2012

Local authorities would rather punish a particular class of parents for their failures than invest in supportive long-term support packages for parents to enable them to gather the parenting skills required to care for their children. The statistical correlation between parents subject to care proceedings and poverty reflects how society punishes the most vulnerable and impoverished. Historically the state punished the poor by incarcerating them in workhouses and removing their children at birth. Little has changed today, as oppressive state power legitimises the removal of children from destitute parents by labelling them as hopeless and undeserving.

As ever, all comments welcome that contribute to the debate. 

We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph. Elie Wiesel

 

Proportionality and removal – only in cases of ‘deliberate malice’

Angelo has raised a number of concerns about the issues of proportionality and procedural safeguards in care proceedings. Is it always proportionate to remove children from parents who are violent? What should we be offering to parents by way of help and support? When do we ‘give up’ on families? And who is going to pay for all this?

The domestic violence and abusive behaviour we have discussed is dire. It is ‘UNCIVILISED’ and beyond the pale in a civilised society. Presented with such a case, any Court will feel bound to issue a protective order and rescue a child.

However,in my opinion, even if a parent IS charged and IS convicted of a criminal offence, permanent removal is over the top. Reform is preferable even if a man has to be gaoled or the family has to be supervised 24 hours a day to force it to change!

Whatever the case,reform and education must be the answer.

Forced adoption and permanent foster-care is totally unacceptable,in my eyes, except when something approaching deliberate malice can be demonstrated and there I mean in cases like that of Fred West who was torturing children.

On the other hand,as a last resort, I recognise there is often a need for temporary foster care whilst immediate problems are sorted out and the process of reform begins to take effect. I guess it might be necessary when both parents are violent or where Mum won’t go to a women’s shelter.All alternatives such as an extended family placement would have to be examined first, naturally.

Focus should be on education and support; working together to make change

There is a concern shared by many that women who are victims of violent partners and then ‘punished’ by having their children removed. Again, shouldn’t the focus be on education and support? Angelo discusses the work of the Danilo Dolci Foundation in Italy, which is based on the philosophy that change can only come with the direct participation of those involved and ‘the resources for the change are present and should be searched and evoked in the people themselves’. There are echoes here of the Finnish approach to ‘co-working’ with parents and children in the child protection system. Should we be more open to exploring this kind of model in the UK?

However, I think that the liquidation of families is not the way forward. I believe the separation of children from natural parents Is SUB-HUMAN and that the persecution of mothers who are who have previously been involved in dv is an invasion of their civil rights. I certainly do not believe they should be denied their fundamental human right to have more children and that if they do, that the helpless, innocent babes should be removed at birth. That is barbaric with a capital B! Such sanctions ( historically practiced by the ilk of Herod and Stalin) are pernicious and deadly to families. Despite that they are commonly imposed upon us by our system with the full endorsement of lawyers and the Courts and despite the Children’s Act which lays out the requirement for support and so on.

I believe the way forward lies in long-term education of families. Might I suggest you google Danilo Dolici Foundation and learn how similar social problems have been tackled in Sicily. I think you will find it enlightening if you have the time. Italy is not a third-world country either, it is a civilised country and Sicilian families were infected by all the symptoms of poverty brought about by organised crime and materialism as many of ours are.

Cases seen through a lens of suspicion

Angelo is clear that the consequences of NOT working with parents are dire; the ‘child rescue’ narrative comes to the fore and everything parents do is seen through a lens of suspicion and with a view to gathering evidence to support the case a social worker has already made. This issue is further explored by Lucy Reed writing in the New Statesman ‘In child protection cases, healthy scepticism too often turns to dangerous distrust’.

Social workers are full of theories (true or false) and they storm in to the lives of families with all sorts of irrational fears based on whatever they have learnt at college and after passing their college examinations usually by taking pot-luck when answering multi-choice questions. They are badly trained, badly managed, badly organised, overworked, mixed-up individuals and when told to go and investigate a referral, find the facts and make an open-minded, impartial report, they don’t know what impartial means.
Because of it, cases enter cloud-cuckoo land, as I call it, right from the outset. Perhaps a child arrives at school with a miniscule bruise which neither parent or child can explain .
So, the irrational fear is that because it is unexplained Dad might be a childbeater or and wifebeater. They ask the child does your Dad smack you ever? If the answer is yes then they will report that the miniscule bruise may have been caused by Dad. If the answer is no,they will report that a possibility exists that the child lives in a state of fear and will not implicate Dad. It’s called ‘OBTAINING BEST EVIDENCE’.
They’ll ask Mum. “Do You ever argue?” She will say all parents argue and they will ask “does he ever raise his voice?” She will say sometimes perhaps and then they will say. “Has he ever hit you?” If she says a definite no then they have (irrational) fears that she may (just may) be a woman who is cowed and afraid to speak out.
They simply do not listen to parents and cannot distinguish between fact and fiction!
When they raise the subject with Dad and he denies it then they will say that theoretically controlling men are very good at concealing their wrongdoings and turning the issues around!
I am not prejudiced against social workers, I’ve heard it on tape.
The fact-finding missions of simple concerns are turned into madcap INQUISITIONS where facts no longer matter. Later, when parents present the true facts, the lawyers turn round and say mum and dad are in dreamland with the fairies!

Humanity is the name of the game

Angelo is concerned that the drive to ‘rescue children’ has lead to proper procedures being overlooked or even flouted and the court process is not giving either children or parents the protection they need. He is not alone in this view; I assume the President of the Family Division would concur given his criticism of the ‘sloppy’ practices in many care cases. Do we need to have more of a focus on reminding each other of our essential humanity?

Every one is a human being and will have human foibles and and all are sinners, some more so than others. Human beings have children and problems will continue until the world comes to an end. Unfortunately, the world will never come to an end. The CS and the LA’s are exceeding any authority they have by playing GOD in cases (even though the majority are atheists). They are interfering in the lives of other human beings disproportionately thus abusing CHILDREN’s human rights as well as those of the wider family.

Why are they abusing the children’s human rights? Because they are contravening the statute (guidelines and frameworks) and conducting cases wrongly (illicitly). Whatever their motives are, it matters little to the victims who are being abused !

The LAW is put in place to protect them and their civil rights but the Court process does not afford them the protection they are entitled to. That is EITHER the fault of the lawyers OR that of the Court executive and protocol. Every family deserves a fair and impartial hearing in accordance with the Law. They aren’t getting one.

Some cases are appealed and judgments are overturned on those grounds. An appeal is the only remedy when cases are conducted illicitly. It’s no use campaigning for change, one must APPEAL under the existing law to rescue one’s children within time-scales relevant to their welfare. They will be grown-up by the time changes are made and even if they changes happened by miracle tomorrow, one’s children would still not be returned home to you without an appeal.

Given the seriousness of the sanctions which family courts dish out then I think wronged families and ALSO guilty families should have an automatic right to a legally funded appeal and their should be no time-limit for appeal.

175 thoughts on “A parent’s view of the system – Humanity is the name of the game

  1. Ann Noble

    instead of tearing children from families there should be more work put into keeping families together……..using extended families to help and support parents……………today extended families are told to go away and stop interferring with the professionals who know much better

    Reply
  2. Sam

    I think Angelo is absolutely right over sloppy practices, and for that matter so is the President.
    They don’t stop though, occasionally there is a vigilant judge who pulls up a LA , but then LA’s continue in their merry way with disregard for the rules. I wonder how many parents are truly involved before ,during and after proceedings.
    I really do believe it’s about time that there was the equivalent of PACE for social workers. It’s beyond belief to me that if taking a child from a parent is the most draconian order since the abolition of capital punishment, why on earth it is supposedly done in an informal way in the family court. I wouldn’t care if the judge was dressed as Darth Vader provided that there was a fair and transparent process.
    Angelo may find this link interesting:http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/confession_and_breaches_of_police_and_criminal_evidence_act/

    Where as you would expect , I disagree with Angelo is around the domestic violence aspect. I know this from the inside and it isn’t that simplistic that the perpetrator is likely to change quickly. However if they are willing to change that opportunity must be made available. That aside I agree with that parent’s should be supported, not vilified. Especially as the alternative for the children placed in the care system the outcomes are dire.
    I also agree with him in that 21 days for a parent to appeal is tight. I speak as a parent who did on day 21 , it took me that long to get an answer from my solicitor, not her fault just circumstances. I understand that some parents just simply struggle to get an answer from their solicitor anyway and may not even have a copy of the bundle or understand the application process. Plus they will simply be too traumatised.
    Unless I am wrong rather than appeal out of time it may be better to ask for a rehearing anyway . See this post http://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/08/07/re-e-wind-when-the-crowd-say-bo-selecta/

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      Judges and lawyers deliberately deceive parents !

      My advice to any readers directly concerned is as follows:-If at the conclusion of the case the family court judge as says the usual “I refuse leave to appeal”that is not final at all though both the judge and your lawyers would like you to think it is .They rarely tell parents the truthful position and later judges remark that the parent FAILED TO APPEAL as though this mean’t they accepted the loss of their children. Do not hesitate therefore to ignore the judge’s initial refusal. Just go back to the court and apply for an oral hearing asking for permission to appeal

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Do you have any proof for your assertion that lawyers ‘rarely’ tell parents of their appeal rights?
        If you don’t have any proof, withdraw this assertion or I will delete it. In my experience it is absolutely untrue. Of course everyone can ask for permission to appeal. The reality however is that in most cases that appeal will fail and no lawyer is doing their job if they don’t give their clients clear advice.

        I have let you post all manner of wrong, inaccurate and inflammatory rubbish on this site in the interests of trying to show how even handed I am and promote a debate.

        You don’t want to promote a debate you just want to cut and paste the same old comments I see you post everywhere on the web.

        It’s tiresome. It’s not helping anyone. From now on, if you post pejorative assertions about lawyers or the family law system that you cannot or will not support, I will delete you.

        Reply
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  4. Sam

    Ian
    It’s that simple is it ? You just pop back into court to ask the judge for permission to appeal.
    This is where I really struggle with your arguments about going it alone. The average reading age of the UK population is 9, the court system is not set up for 9 year olds to understand. The public counters are shut, the MOJ website is difficult to navigate and the court forms are not user friendly.That’s before the already stressed parent has to work out grounds of appeal and a skeleton argument.

    I think Angelo made a good point regarding the time limit and the availability of legal aid. Would it be a good idea to actually think about what he has said rather than re stating your position.

    By the way I thought I ought to apologise to anyone who may be in court after my previous comment and has images of the the judge as Darth Vader interrupting their day.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Well said Sam. The saddest irony of all is that the ‘advice’ Ian Josephs gives – don’t co-operate, treat all lawyers as corrupt scum with their ‘snouts in the trough’ – is usually what sinks his ‘clients’. And not all of the people he helps are paedophiles, so its a pity he can’t put his time, energy AND money to better use.

      But I have made a direct appeal to him, to no avail. His energies and efforts are directed to playing this game, I don’t think he really has any interest in reforming the system or he would have agreed to meet you/telephone you to discuss funding a nationwide scheme of parent mentors.

      Its just a pity so many parents get suckered into this, with usually fatal consequences for their case.

      Reply
    2. Penni

      And also the cost to go it alone £215 just to get the paperwork across the counter with no guarantee that it will get into court.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        If you make an application, the court will have to hear it, even if it is just to dismiss it. You don’t have to pay the application issue fee if you are receiving certain benefits. Court staff should be able to tell you more.

        Reply
  5. ian josephs

    Sam ! As usual I agree with every word you say; Of course it is not simple .That is the terrible truth but even Sarah does not deny that when the judge says “I refuse leave to appeal” he/she also refrains from explaining that in fact the parent can ask for permission to appeal.Thus the poor parent thinks that is the end of the matter Deliberate,callous deception !I agree,.It is incredibly hard for a parent to go it alone but at least that way they can speak with a small chance of success instead of being left out of the process with no chance of success at all !As for proof,well nearly every parent who calls claims they lost their child for risk of emotional abuse and that their solicitor told them not to oppose the care order but not to agree it either thus the interim care orders were granted without fuss,and goodbye children !
    See what Michelle Freedman, has to say.:-
    Michelle Freedman, a barrister with 10 years’ experience representing parents in the family courts writes: “Clients are like lambs to the slaughter. Every client I met filled me with sadness (except of course in cases where there was obvious abuse and not in the Local Authorities’ and court’s interpretation of the word). I would sit with desperate mothers and / or fathers with their eyes wide open in worry repeatedly asking me what I thought the outcome to the case would be. How to relay to the client that the reality is that the children will most likely be made subject to care orders and ultimately adopted. How to tell the client that we are merely going through a kangaroo court process whereby the majority of children are taken from loving parents once the machine (i.e the court process) has been switched on.”

    “Throughout proceedings clients would genuinely believe that ‘justice would prevail’ and the courts would see that the children are better of at home with mum and dad. As any other barrister, and for good reason, I told parents that there is no certainty in proceedings…. I did not have the heart to crush their spirits from the outset. I truly believe that we are living in tragic times at the moment

    Reply
  6. ian josephs

    Lord Justice Thorpe said There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter.

    Can anyone seriously disagree with him??

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore

      No one does disagree with this.

      The problem is that there clearly ARE cases where it is so serious that there must be interim removal of children.

      But no wonder you can’t see that, when you don’t think people like Vicky Haigh did anything wrong, ever.

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        As I said before I never said she was innocent.What I did say was that it was outrageous to dprive her and her daughter of all contact by email or phone,and then sentence her to 3 years jail for talking to her daughter she had not seen for 2 years and jail again for sending a birthdaycard that never got there !
        Sarah mixes up verdicts with sentences and the two are very different !

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          She was deprived of contact because of the wicked, abusive brainwashing she attempted to subject her child to. She was then imprisoned because she continued to harass the child and the father and refused to respect court orders. that you have any sympathy for her at all is symptomatic of your own lack of understanding and insight about these cases.

          Reply
  7. angelo granda

    The fact remains that what Ian Josephs says rings true to countless parents and he has LISTENED to what many parents attest to him whilst operating his personal helpline.That is his evidence.
    We are all entitled to our opinions and Sarah says we should be able to express them in any way we choose.
    If anyone criticises another contributor to the forum or a person’s professional colleagues then this is the way to react:-

    Be open-minded and impartial as far as you can be. If the cap fits wear it. Admit to faults honestly.

    If the cap does not fit then simply ignore what has been said and either carry on your own sweet way or put an opposing comment.

    Readers are well able to make their own judgments but they have to hear all arguments.The peace agreement in Northern Ireland only came about because all sides were heard even that of the terrorists.
    We all disagree and the aim is to come to a compromise, even you, Ian! If I had my way, I would disband the CS and bar the family court from hearing serious cases but I realise I willl have to compromise.

    In your case ,Sam, it is significant that your solicitor wasn’t available until day 21, do you agree?

    The fact remains that often decisive reasons for appeal emerge after the 21 days are up and very often, had solicitors done their jobs properly , they would have recommended it.It is also a fact that there is good reason to appeal when fair process is abused by Local Authorities.Also when there is not fair disclosure.Also when LA’s present unlawful and/ or biased assessments.Also when SW’s give false evidence under oath!

    When solicitors have their LA colours on, they seldom fail to raise objections when respondents misbehave and would appeal immediately were they to find the respondent had misled the Court. Yet they seem willing to accomodate SW’s who act wrongly. Why?

    Why do they not identify clear reasons for appeal. I can identify with some of Ian’s assertions and one of them was that barrister’s tell respondents to cooperate ,not to appeal I.C.O’s or lapses in procedure and save everything for a grand effort at the final hearing. I have heard those words almost verbatim on several occasions.
    The trouble is that the really crucial decisions are often agreed at panel before they even go into court. Once in court , they all appear to work together along with the Judge to adapt the law to the decision with little tweaks here and there.If something is lacking in a case, the experienced judge will even call a witness back into the box and clear the case up for the LA. Hearings aren’t fair.
    Barristers are fighting a losing battle. a) because solicitors have often already come to an agreement and b) because the protocol allows a judge to cut short argument.
    The hearings are not fair ones!

    So what remedy is there? Many times there is scope for appeal but barristers advise that the odds on winning do not support an application for funding.I think murderers sentenced to life or the scaffold in a criminal court have an automatic right to funding if there is scope to appeal. As the permanent liquidation of families is on a par, should not the same apply to parents ?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      funny isn’t it? When I represent parents at care proceedings, this is because I do it for the money because ‘my snout is in the trough’ to use Mr Joseph’s delightful phrase.

      But when I refuse to agree that an appeal would be a good idea and thus do myself out of a nice wedge of cash presumably as I could simply argue to the Legal Aid Board that there were strong grounds of appeal… I am somehow a corrupt cog in the evil machine.

      Please do make your minds up. Are legal aid lawyers ‘in it’ for the money or not? If we are really motivated by piggie greed and to get our trotters on the massive amounts of money paid out on legal aid (hollow laugh) why then do we advise against further proceedings or don’t tell our clients that these proceedings exist?

      I simply reject your blanket assertion that ‘hearings aren’t fair’. Some aren’t. most are. How many hearings have you sat in on, in order to make this bold and entirely unevidenced assertion? I have sat in on hundreds, possibly thousands over 20 years.

      Its back to respect again. I am not going to ‘respect’ such arguments – because they are not arguments, they are simple assertions of prejudice and misinformation.

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        All I did was quote L.J. Thorpe who confirmed that the family courts are prejudiced against parents [he of course said no such thing. He upheld an appeal about one case] and Michelle Freedman ,a barrister with 10 years experience in family courts who said her clients were like lambs to the slaughter. and Sarah takes it personally again………..tut tut…………
        Those who live off a system protect the system so barristers rarely risk aggravating the judges by arguing for appeals in family courts;These courts are theatre showing a smooth inexorable process and when the curtain falls it is usually final !
        Sam ,yes the mothers are very vulnerable [EDIT – I have made it clear I will remove unevidenced, pejorative and unhelpful assertions so that is what I am doing]

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I make no apology whatsoever for being angry at the constant stream of nonsense that you see fit to put on my site. Because its not just me that you annoy, which is bad enough.

          you terrify vulnerable people and you wave cash at them to encourage them to make very bad decisions, that rebound on them and their children. OR you are actively helping very dangerous people to remove their children from those who might keep them safe.

          If you find my replies unhelpful, uninteresting or tediously ‘personal’, do please feel free to go and comment somewhere else.

          Reply
      2. Penni

        Sarah can I ask you a question as I can’t get a proper answer? I was made to sign a hand written section 20 when in hospital when I came out I was then forced to sign a typed one they didn’t go through it and changed everything which meant my son was then in care for 26 weeks with only supervised contact they then eventually took it to court 4 months later what did they do and what did I really sign??

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I don’t know. But if you were ‘forced’ to sign then the section 20 is invalid – if that is what it was. If it was a care order, you don’t sign anything, the court makes an order. When it went to court, what happened? Can you contact the court and get a copy of the order made? Did you have a lawyer? If not, why not?

          Reply
  8. Sam

    Angelo
    My solicitor was not available for a very genuine reason. I so agree with you over abuse of process, both inside and out of court and as I said before John Hemmings Bill covered an awful lot that should be amended including the ability to record.

    Ian What really worries me is the vulnerability of the parents that you are dealing with. Not being rude you are probably a good bit older than most of us, have lived through the war and was brought up with the British stiff upper lip. To hazard a guess as you went to Oxford , you probably went to public school as well , unless you went to grammar school and did well. To put it bluntly do you really understand a working class woman’s life? I very much doubt if you have ever had to work out five different recipes for a pound of mince.

    We all see the system as inhumane, we all desperately want it too change. I just think that change will come as in Northern Ireland when we try and work together. As always I could be wrong

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      No change has ever come about if people didn’t work together. Change cannot be forced through by one interest group alone. If anyone has any examples of change being so unilaterally bought about, I would be very interested to be told.

      But while I am told that I am a ‘legal aid loser’ with my ‘snout in the trough’ and that ‘all hearings are unfair’ no change at all is possible because all my energies are then diverted dealing with such outrageous canards.

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        Family torn apart in 15-minute court case by Judge James Orrell …

        Lord Justice Thorpe said on Appeal “I am completely aghast at this case.There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing,because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter.Once you have lost a child it is very difficult to get a child back.” The hearing above lasted only 15 minutes after a doctor “expressed the opinion” that bruising in the ear of one of the three children looked as though it was caused by pinching .The parents were not allowed to give any evidence!Their three children had all been forcibly removed until they were ordered to be returned by Lord Justice Thorpe on appeal.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          So does Thorpe LJ have HIS snout in the trough or is he the one Judge in the country you trust to apply the law?

          Reply
          1. ian josephs

            NO HER ARE A FEW MORE WISE STATEMENTS BY 5 VERY SENIOR JUDGES !

            1:-Note the observation of Supreme Court Judge Baroness Hale of Richmond JSC (para 143):“We are all frail human beings, with our fair share of unattractive character traits, which sometimes manifest themselves in bad behaviours which may be copied by our children. But the State does not and cannot take away the children of all the people who commit crimes, who abuse alcohol or drugs, who suffer from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities, or who espouse antisocial political or religious beliefs [Edit. Noted. What is your point?]

            .2:-Orders contemplating non-consensual adoption – care orders with a plan for adoption, placement orders and adoption orders – are “a very extreme thing, a last resort”, only to be made where “nothing else will do”, where “no other course is possible in [the child’s] interests”, they are “the most extreme option”, a “last resort – when all else fails” – Munby LJ(now President of the family courts) in Re B [edit. Yes. This is the law. What is your point?]

            3:-MR JUSTICE MOSTYN said”PARA 35. The proposition of the merits of adoption is advanced almost as a truism but if it is a truism it is interesting to speculate why only three out of 28 European Union countries allow forced or non-consensual adoption. One might ask: why are we so out of step with the rest of Europe? One might have thought if it was obvious that forced adoption was the gold standard the rest of Europe would have hastened to have adopted it. The relevance of this aspect of the case is surely obvious.”
            ii.Link – http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/3388.htm [This is wrong. Every European country permits non consensual adoption – see this post by Clare Fenton Glynn, the lawyer who reported to the European Parliament in July 2015. http://childprotectionresource.online/we-are-not-alone-every-european-country-permits-adoption-without-parental-consent/%5D

            4:-I also remind readers of the wise words of Hedley J in Re L (Threshold Conditions) [2007] 1 FLR 2050:“Many parents are hypochondriacs, many parents are criminals or benefit cheats, many parents discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities, many parents support vile political parties or belong to unusual or militant religions. All of these follies are visited upon their children, who may well adopt or ‘model’ them in their own lives but those children could not be removed for those reasons.” [Yes. Again, this is the law. What’s your point?]

            5:-Lord Templeman inRe KD 1988:

            The best person to bring up a child is the natural parent. It matters not whether the parent is wise or foolish, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, provided the child’s moral and physical health are not in danger. Public authorities cannot improve on nature [Yes. this is the law. What’s your point?]

            ii.WHAT OTHER JUDGES SAY :-

            1: Lord Justice Thorpe said There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter.

            2: Lord Justice Wall (the former Senior family court judge) said that the determination of some social workers to place children in an “unsatisfactory care system” away from their families was “quite shocking”.

            3: In a separate case on which Sir Nicholas Wall also sat, Lord Justice Aikens described the actions of social workers in Devon as “more like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China than the West.”
            [yes. This is the law. What is your point? that because some cases go wrong NO child should ever be removed? What about the cases that go right? What about the children at risk of death and/or serious injury? do you have anything to offer the debate other than stating the obvious?]

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            So could you do us a list of the Judges who have their ‘snouts in the trough’ versus those Judges who are wise and sensible? This might help your ‘clients’ – before you give them money to ‘escape’ and practice their paedophilia elsewhere, you could check if their judge was snouts in or snouts out.

  9. angelo granda

    Sarah, You always seem to over-react to other peoples views as though they are targeted at you personally . They are not. My blanket assertion that all hearings are unfair may well have been wrong! Some are,some aren’t, I suppose.Simply say so.
    What we have to examine is why some are wrong. Also because of the court protocol it is possible that more are wrong than we think.The ECHR says procedural safeguards should be in place and observed to avoid the POSSIBILITY of abuse. Does the Family Court recognise that judgments may in some cases be UNSAFE as criminal courts will do when the procedures break down?

    Thank you for publishing my views on this thread, Sarah. I am especially keen that the resultant discussion shall be a fruitful one .I hope more contributors will come on to it. We don’t want it to descend into the usual arguments between you and I. So I am going to abstain from the forums for a week.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is profoundly NOT an overreaction to pick you up on such sweeping assertions which no doubt strike fear into the hearts of any vulnerable parent who reads this. I often have to pick up the pieces of cases where parents have been lead to believe by Mr Josephs and his pals that their lawyers are corrupt and so is the judge, and nothing they say or do can have any impact.

      Your careless words do far more damage than you realise and I am afraid I will not stop jumping on them and pointing that out. If you wish to avoid such ‘over reactions’ from me, you simply have to refrain from posting along those lines.

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        “There is nothing so dangerous as a bunch of “do-gooders” !!

        YES most of these deluded social workers ,guardians,Cafcass officers,”hired experts”,legal aid solicitors and barristers or those hired by the local authority, probably think they are doing ‘the right thing’! (but make more than a few bob on the side whilst doing it !) Just like some years ago it was considered right and respectable to send gays to prison ,or to send 150,000 children (many said wrongly to be orphans), to Australia for forced labour and sex abuse by the “Christian Brothers”. In Saudi Arabia and in some neighbouring countries it is believed right and proper to cut the hands off thieves,to stone to death adulterous women,and to put to death any person of Islamic faith who later renounces that religion.Only five hundred years ago in England it was considered right for Catholics and Protestants to burn each other alive at the stake for daring to differ in their opinions!

        No conspiracies ,just a lot of people doing what they think right when in fact they are in my opinion terribly wrong. Who am I to decide anyone is doing wrong or to declare that “punishment without crime” and” forced adoptions” are abominations? Just someone with the same right to express my opinions as anyone else.No more,no less !

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          So what’s your opinion of a ‘do-gooder’ who gives money to some one to leave the UK and evade the authorities, and that person is later convicted as a child rapist?

          Would that person be someone doing what they thought was ‘right’ but was in fact ‘terribly wrong’ ?

          Just saying.

          Reply
          1. ian josephs

            I shall always help any mother who wants to avoid forced the threat of forced adoption to go to a more civilised country to have her baby.I don’t know what authorities you are talking about as Marie left UK perfectly legally and evaded nobody !
            I am not sure why you have such contempt for french social services who approved the move and agreed she was an excellent mother.
            I cannot dispute the verdict since I was not on the jury and If I had been a juryman I would have found her guilty myself after a non defence [redacted]

  10. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    So why did she leave the country if no one was worried about her as a parent?
    She wanted to evade Chldren’s Services didn’t she?
    And you gave her money to go.
    And she wrote to you thanking you for helping her ‘escape’.
    And now she is a convicted child rapist.
    Do you think she woke up one morning and found that she wanted to abuse children or do you think there is a risk that is the kind of person she was when you gave her money?
    You will help ‘any mother’. Really? Any mother? Would you have helped Rose West?

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      A criminal barrister defended Rose West without arousing your ire Sarah ! [yes. the criminal barrister did not slip Rose West a few £100 so she could leave the country] You speak of evading authorities but children’s services are not authorities they are just a bunch of sanctimonious babysnatchers and child abusers ….[continues in this vein so I have deleted it. I think it is now abundantly clear that Mr Josephs sees no difficulties whatsoever in giving money to Marie Black to leave the country, he is therefore dangerous and I hope someone stops him from carrying on in this way]

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        Why do you think Marie became more “dangerous” because she lived in France, ? Yes France not Brazil ! She was never accused of anything in France ,she hid from noone, and was easy to contact at any time.You speak Sarah as though I helped a fugitive escape from justice and go into hiding.
        In fact of course she was not a fugitive and was not “wanted” by police or anyone else;So I will ask you a simple question.WHAT HARM DID I DO BY HELPING MARIE TO GO TO FRANCE ? You mention Rose West who admitted any amount of murders but was still defended by lawyers whilst I helped Marie go to France when was perectly free to go and has never admitted to committing any crimes at all ;then or 7 years previously.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          What harm did I do by helping Marie go to France?

          Seriously? She is a convicted paedophile. Do you think she just woke up one morning as a paedophile? Or do you think she had those proclivities over many years? And you gave her money to leave the Uk, where she was being investigated by children’s services?

          I think this barrel of comments has been very thoroughly scraped. You don’t or can’t see that you have done anything wrong. And that makes you very dangerous.

          Reply
          1. ian josephs

            What harm did she do in France??? What difference did it make?? The only difference was that it saved a child from forced adoption but it did not stop anyone investigating anything.Anyone in EU IS FREE TO TRAVEL WHEREVER THEY LIKE ;i BROKE NO LAWS SOIT ILL BECOMES CRITICS TO BE SO SELF RIGHTEOUS !

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            This is the last reply I will make to you about this. Any further comments will be deleted. We have reached the end of this road. But I will have one last try.

            You gave a parent money to leave the country.
            You did not care about what that parent HAD done or was CAPABLE of doing.
            Your only motivation was to help a parent escape the ‘evil of forced adoption’.
            That parent has now been convicted of extremely serious criminal offences against children.
            You should NOT give money to parents to help them leave the country when you don’t know and don’t care about what they have done, or are capable of doing.
            You are a dangerous man and I hope someone stops you.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I know! so annoying isn’t it! you can’t just help out a paedophile without some do gooder breathing down your neck and criticising you. I remember the good old days when you could just abuse children anyway you felt like it without the Nazi ‘SS’ interfering.

      Reply
  11. Kate Wells

    I fundamentally disagree with Angelo on most points, and find his posts confusing, full of assertions that have no basis in fact, and based I suspect on his own case, although he has told me in the past that I am not to assume he is an aggrieve parent. I note the post is entitled “The Views of a Parent.”

    I know from past “debate” with Angelo that he has a very low opinion of ALL social workers, no distinction is made, no acknowledgement that some are wholly competent and do their utmost to work alongside parents, and those who lack the necessary competence and empathy. Here is Angelo’s view of social workers:

    “Social workers are full of theories (true or false) and they storm in to the lives of families with all sorts of irrational fears based on whatever they have learnt at college and after passing their college examinations usually by taking pot-luck when answering multi-choice questions. They are badly trained, badly managed, badly organised, overworked, mixed-up individuals and when told to go and investigate a referral, find the facts and make an open-minded, impartial report, they don’t know what impartial means. Because of it, cases enter cloud-cuckoo land, as I call it, right from the outset. Perhaps a child arrives at school with a miniscule bruise which neither parent or child can explain . So, the irrational fear is that because it is unexplained Dad might be a childbeater or and wifebeater. They ask the child does your Dad smack you ever? If the answer is yes then they will report that the miniscule bruise may have been caused by Dad. If the answer is no,they will report that a possibility exists that the child lives in a state of fear and will not implicate Dad. It’s called ‘OBTAINING BEST EVIDENCE’. They’ll ask Mum. “Do You ever argue?” She will say all parents argue and they will ask “does he ever raise his voice?” She will say sometimes perhaps and then they will say. “Has he ever hit you?” If she says a definite no then they have (irrational) fears that she may (just may) be a woman who is cowed and afraid to speak out. They simply do not listen to parents and cannot distinguish between fact and fiction! When they raise the subject with Dad and he denies it then they will say that theoretically controlling men are very good at concealing their wrongdoings and turning the issues around! I am not prejudiced against social workers, I’ve heard it on tape. The fact-finding missions of simple concerns are turned into madcap INQUISITIONS where facts no longer matter. Later, when parents present the true facts, the lawyers turn round and say mum and dad are in dreamland with the fairies!

    The first sentence is complete nonsense in my view. I have never met this social worker that he describes, ever, in over 30 years in practice. In fact the majority of social workers in my experience don’t use theoretical concepts in practice. Social work education used to be all about “linking theory and practice” and maybe it still is – I don’t know, but I do know that theories are mainly left behind in college.

    And WHERE is the evidence for his assertion that social workers pass exams by “taking pot luck at answering multiple-choice questions” – complete nonsense yet again! In my experience social workers don’t “storm in” – they are often tentative and inexperienced ones can be very intimidated by families where there is concern about the care of the children. I find Angelo’s descriptions of social workers offensive, (he once described them as “low calibre individuals” but here are more insults…..and THEN after all that “I am not prejudiced against social workers!!!!” Beggars belief.

    I don’t have the time or inclination to comment on the scenario Angelo outlines about the bruise on the child but he is I imagine basing this narrative of what happens in terms of sw involvement and parents, on his own case, or one with which he is somehow involved. He ends this rant by claiming lawyers tell parents they are “in dreamland with the fairies” – I think that’s probably where you are Angelo.

    Here is another quote from Angelo

    “Local authorities would rather punish a particular class of parents for their failures than invest in supportive long-term support packages for parents to enable them to gather the parenting skills required to care for their children”
    I certainly agree that the vast majority of parents involved in care proceedings are severely hampered by poverty, poor housing, physical and/or mental ill health, DV, lack of support and that in these conditions the odds are indeed stacked against them. I take issue with Angelo’s term “to enable parents to GATHER THE PARENTING SKILLS required to care for children.” Where exactly are these skills going to be “gathered from” – he makes it sound like they can be gathered from the forest floor like mushrooms! The fact is that by and large we parent our children in the way that we were parented (though there are always exceptions of course) and if we were fortunate enough to have had a happy and untroubled childhood with parents who were warm and nurturing, the chances are that we will parent in the same way. Conversely if the opposite is true and children experience harsh treatment, neglect or abuse and have parents who are unable to put the needs of the children before their own needs, there is a strong likelihood that they will parent in the same way. It’s called the “cycle of deprivation” and no-one has ever found a way of breaking into it – I know this sounds fatalistic but in a career spanning some 30 years, I have seen 3 generations in this cycle, and it is distressing and frustrating that there isn’t a way to improve the life chances of these people who are forced to live on the margins of society.
    Elsewhere Angelo states that children shouldn’t be removed even in the father has to go to prison and “is reformed” – really? Do you seriously believe prison is reformative – if you do, have a look at the stats for repeated returns to custody. He also mentions mothers might need “24 hour supervision” – SO what does Angelo envisage – social workers on a 3 shift system of 8 hours per shift living with the family. Totally unrealistic, as are most of his other points.
    As for your comment that Sarah “over reacts to views and takes things personally” I am staggered. I am often amazed at her ability to give measured and cogent responses even when assertions are made that cannot be evidenced which is often the case.

    Anyway I see you are taking a breather Angelo.

    Sarah I applaud your persistence in challenging Ian Jospehs but I honestly think that you are investing a great deal of emotional energy and intellect to a lost cause. The man is as you say dangerous. God only knows what his motives are – I have my suspicions but they are censured.

    At some point in the post Angelo makes the point that children should not be removed even if dad goes to prison and

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks Kate. I agree with you entirely that it is very odd to speak of ‘gathering’ parenting skills as if they were flowers one simply has to step outside and pick!

      I also agree that to suggest 24/7 supervision as an answer is bizarre. Even if we are going to find the enormous sums of money needed to pay for it (we won’t) when ever I have suggested on behalf of parents that a high level of supervision could be used, the courts reject this as very unfair on the children. Who in such a scenario is actually ‘doing’ the parenting? And when the supervisors leave, go to other jobs after year or two, what is the impact on the children? I see enormous force in those arguments.

      I note again that critics of the current system are very free with their criticisms but strangely silent when it comes to recognising the practical limitations of almost all the ‘reform’ suggestions they make.

      I agree with you that it is not helpful to make sweeping generalisations about ‘all’ social workers and espeically to refer to them as ‘low calibre individuals’. That is I accept simply untrue. Some social workers are better than others – some are very bad indeed, but in my experience over 15 years they are a minority. There are some fantastic, hard working, skilful and sensitive practitioners being swept into the dustbin of Angelo’s assertions.

      While I agree that the social work profession does need to sit up and take notice of just how strained their working relationship is becoming with parents, we won’t get anyway by making sweeping assertions about an entire profession which are both unfair and untrue.

      Reply
  12. angelo granda

    May I clear one thing up once and for all!

    I AM NOT SUGGESTING FOR ONE MINUTE THAT SARAH IS CORRUPT AND POCKETING CASH BONUSES. I DO NOT ACCUSE SW’s OF POCKETING CASH BONUSES.

    However,I honestly suspect that LA’s have a vested interest in removing children into care, a fault in the system which may influence assessments made by some SW’s and some of the other professionals.

    Sarah,You are a barrister and perhaps we can expect that the tactics you use in court to destroy opposing arguments will be reflected here on the forum.In court, a barrister will cut opponents down and that is their job. You will attack using terms like frightening and dangerous,evil etc.

    For example , you have chosen one sentence from my last but one post and attacked it; you say it is a blanket assertion made without evidence likely to ‘frighten’ readers.

    Was my assertion that hearings are unfair truly a blanket one? Or was it a generalisation based on sensible arguments such as ‘ conflict of interest’, I have put already when discussing Article 6 on the Human Rights thread?

    Let readers be the Judge of that!

    One thing we parents like about you,Sarah,is that you take the time to read our views and that you give us open and honest replies to questions.

    Your contributions are interesting and welcomed by us all without prejudice just as we hope ours will be.

    Indeed your comments often reinforce our complaints that hearings are unfair.
    For example, you have already confirmed my view that a conflict of interests exists and that respondent’s lawyers are not entirely loyal to their clients; they also have a duty to the children involved and the Court protocol.

    Parents get the impression they are up against their own lawyers as well as their opponents.Especially when the lawyers are acting contemporaneously for the LA. They figure that those who are not one hundred percent for them are against them!

    Our views of the system, garnered from our own experiences, are also supported by the countless High Court Judgments brought to the forums by lots of contributors such as Sam,Mr.Josephs and others.We cannot ignore the High Court opinions!

    Parents may also get the same impression from what you write in these comments columns . This is not a court, it is a resource for discussion and its aim is improvement and/or reform.You seem to see ‘ enormous force’ in all arguments for the permanent removal of children and less force in those against.

    Please will legal professionals accept that ‘vulnerable’parents who read this resource will not be FRIGHTENED by my comments.Vulnerable parents and vulnerable children are,however, often very frightened and traumatised by the attitudes and actions of Social Workers, Lawyers and other professionals.

    Indeed we are often flabbergasted and appalled by what we read and hear from professionals.Most families will prefer to be ‘protected’ by people who act solely in their interests.

    Parents read much on these forums from professionals which confirms their suspicions that the system as a whole is unfair.They have met up against it in Court.

    For instance, any disagreements parents express are regarded as the utterings of guilty respondents trying to make excuses.If they argue strongly against the LA,they are accused of breaking court protocol and rules,using inappropriate language etc.

    Keep it for court and lighten up on here.

    Bravo to Kate Wells for her views.Readers will welcome,as I do, her contributions.I particularly value the views of SW’s and regret that more of them do not come forward.They appear to prefer to remain silent.Were there more like dear Kate who makes the effort to put an alternative picture then perhaps parents will learn not to have such a poor opinion of SW’s. Thank you Kate. I count myself reprimanded and I am willing to take stock as always; perhaps even soften my language.

    Apart from saying that I have recognised there are good and bad SW’s ( this view is shared by all of us)and pointing out that the quote re-gathering parenting skills is not attributable to me,I do not wish to spend time in argument citing OFFSTED reports etc. Let the readers judge for themselves.Indeed Kate’s comments on the ‘What is Significant Harm and How Do We Prove It?’ thread cemented together my own view that most SW’s ( not all) are incompetent!

    I am suspicious that Kate seems to assume too readily that I am a parent who has had a bad experience of the CP system. Even if that were so, I trust that readers will not discount my comments for that reason and I hope she won’t.

    In fact I am an ordinary parent and I have seen how the system works from both sides.I have seen the good and the bad!

    Let us move forward.

    Sarah, as regards less intrusive alternatives to removal.Are my suggestions really so bizaare?Mother and baby units supervise families 24/7 and endeavour to instruct and train mothers.Why not invite fathers too? Residential care homes offer 24/7 care for children.Why not for families together?

    Would it be feasible to turn womens shelters into more long-term family shelters? I can see all sorts of practical difficulties especially when fathers are completely off the rails. However,we should consider EVERY possibility.

    Mothers and babies are kept together under 24/7 supervision in prison for long periods of time in criminal cases.If one or both parents are criminals, why not institute some kind of family ‘borstal system and sentence them to 18 months to 3 years training? New born babies to be allowed in for the first 18 months.Family placements or TEMPORARY foster care for older children.

    I look forward to all constructive comments on this subject with consideration of RADICAL changes. Any alternatives to permanent removal which care system professionals can come up with are especially welcome.

    Reply
  13. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    The first problem is this
    Most families will prefer to be ‘protected’ by people who act solely in their interests.

    ‘Families’ are not an amorphous blob with a collective will and collective needs. they are a collection of individuals who often have different needs at different times. Sometimes those ‘needs’ – to dominate, to sexually abuse etc – cannot be permitted, and in order to protect the vulnerable, the family unit must be torn apart.

    The suggestion of 24/7 supervision is already in place for a short period of time for assessment purposes. Anything more than 12 weeks is an expense a LA simply can’t fund. A six month assessment at the Cassell hospital many years ago cost £80,000 – I imagine it would be double that now.

    Just where are we going to find the money?

    I appreciate your comments that you value my honesty, and as I have said, I give you enormous credit for returning to the debate even where it is clear that we don’t agree and I have been blunt in saying so.

    We do desperately need to fix what isn’t working in the system. The biggest problem probably is the lack of trust. I completely agree that all of this must be utterly terrifying for parents who are already stressed out and overwhelmed by care proceedings.

    So I want the focus to be on how we improve trust and communication and how we best use the sparse resources we have to be true to the ideals of the Children Act. hence I will keep picking you up on phrases such as ‘all hearings are unfair’.

    But I don’t want to do your comments an injustice – I am not in a position now to fully consider them but hopefully will return later.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      QUOTE: ‘Families’ are not an amorphous blob with a collective will and collective needs. they are a collection of individuals who often have different needs at different times. Sometimes those ‘needs’ – to dominate, to sexually abuse etc – cannot be permitted, and in order to protect the vulnerable, the family unit must be torn apart: UNQUOTE

      I am afraid I cannot discard this remark or put it down to point-scoring for reasons of the discussion.

      It displays a very fundamental misunderstanding of family relationships and the meaning of inhumanity.

      Families are amorphous. They are a unit;they are genetically connected;they are joined by blood; they are one in spirit.
      Whatever the faults of individual members of the family,they are able to forgive and above all they love each other! Even if a parent divorces, they are still inexorably joined together in-absentia through their children and by virtue of their one-time union.

      The family unit must never be ‘torn apart’ permanently under any pretence that it ‘protects’ them.When separated both the children and parents will be subjected to unacceptable mental torture and degradation contrary to Article 3.

      How?Families are one as described above.They think about one another all the time;they love each other all the time;they are spiritually connected and they see each other all the time even in their dreams when asleep.They see images of each other in their sleep.They feel one another’s torture and hurt.They can see the mental torture and they can see the physical effects of torture both reflected on each other’s countenance at contact sessions.Moreover, they worry about each other constantly.They have a natural yen to BE TOGETHER and that yen lasts throughout their lives.Temporary removal is bad enough but permanence plans and enforced adoption are totally unacceptable because they condemn the children and parents to a life without hope.A half-life without real love accompanied by real degradation.

      God forbid that any family should suffer such a fate.

      Think about it readers and consider also that until your family is torn apart, you will never understand all the implications. Thus hesitate before you call this post ‘guff’.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Whatever the faults of individual members of the family,they are able to forgive and above all they love each other!

        So the father who rapes and impregnates his daughter should be ‘forgiven’ and the family unit left intact because ‘they all love each other’?
        The mother who puts drugs above the welfare of her baby, leaving her to starve, should be forgiven and the family unit left intact because ‘they all love each other’?
        The family who can’t or won’t clean up their house and let their children grow up in filth and degradation should be forgiven and the family unit left intact because ‘they all love each other’?

        Yes, lets try and help and support where we can. But lets not live in a dream world where every evil, every stupidity, every cruelty is solved by waving a magic wand of ‘love’.

        Reply
        1. angelo granda

          Parents are not in a dream world but many Social workers and lawyers are.That is my fear! They have an exalted view of their own importance in the grand scheme of things and appear to make their own judgments.When doing so,they appear to want to countermand not only the views of High Court Judges but also the word of the Law.

          Article 3 is not a dream.It prohibits absolutely mental torture and degradation.

          These things you talk about are crimes and should be dealt with as such.A father who rapes his child should be dealt with according to the Law and gaoled for life.
          The mother who becomes victim of criminal drug-pedlars ( perhaps at her school gates) should also be judged by twelve of her peers and punished if she abandons her baby to starve.
          The parents who neglect their children criminally and cause them to live in filth should also be dealt with by the criminal courts IN PROPORTION to their offence.

          I think all of us agree that those behaviours cannot be allowed to go on and that temporary removal of children from criminal parents is sometimes proportionate.I find it hard to believe that anyone,particularly a lawyer , would suggest that criminals should be dealt with by a Family Court.Let the criminals be dealt with by the criminal courts and let the CS pick up the pieces if they have to.Please do not imply in your posts, Sarah,that parents are stupid.We are not!

          Do not suggest that I would let criminals off the hook.It is always in the Public interest for them to be tried and punished,in my view.The CPS are wrong not to prosecute in the scenarios you describe.Please don’t insult my intelligence again.

          Readers, let us discuss humanity and try and establish what is right and what is wrong.There is so much disagreement between us and a gulf between parents and lawyers on the subject.

          Sarah and Mr.Hemming seem to disagree on whether or not a system which allows forced adoption is EVIL or not. I would not know but I note that neither of them have given their definition of the word.Neither would I try to.

          Perhaps we should consider what the word GOOD means. The ethos of our country is good.We are civilised and we set ourselves above those countries who are uncivilised and have injust systems.Indeed we are currently involved in a war against a regime which contravenes the human rights of its citizens regularly.
          Our heritage is a good one.

          Neither Sarah,Mr.Hemming.you or I have the absolute word on what is good or bad.

          However, our monarch, our religious leaders and all ancient and modern day philosophers appear to agree on what is good.

          It is essential that we forgive.When we forgive even the worst criminals,we grant them grace.When they have grace,they can admit to their errors and reform.To be humane,we have to be gracious just as we are to social workers and lawyers who make mistakes.

          Secondly, it is essential to humanity that we treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.Most of the cases which pass through Family Courts are not criminal cases. We would like to be dealt with in proportion to the errors we make thus we should treat others the same.The permanent liquidation of families except in the most dire cases of maliciousness is too extreme,it is disproportionate.Dire cases ought to be dealt with properly in criminal courts not by the Family Court. Family lawyers are not qualified to judge or impose proportionate sanctions upon them.

          I hate writing in this vein; I expect lawyers and many of you will consider it waffle but I feel I have to discuss fundamentals before we can progress.It bores me too! The problem is that these days , many folk have forgotten the basics.

          Reply
  14. angelo granda

    Thank you Sarah,I look forward to your return to this discussion down the line a little.
    Meanwhile,I heed your words and I agree we need to focus on the lack of trust which exists.
    I will welcome all comments from other readers on the following.

    Any Public trust in the Authorities existing rapidly breaks down radically for those parents who become involved personally with cp ‘investigations’. This has to be the fault of the system.

    The SW’s make plans.The Courts issue orders and endorse sanctions to be taken thus they are ultimately responsible for injustices and abuse of human rights which may occur.

    Radical change to the system as a whole has to be discussed.I think we all desire change and agree on it.

    So we have to begin at the top and progress down.Firstly, the Law needs to be changed if it is inhumane.Secondly, the Court system of assessment and appeal protocols need to change.Thirdly, the LA system of assessment and its priorities.Then,after all that we can discuss strategies and action plans for solving problems of poverty,domestic violence etc.
    —————————————————–
    1.The LAW
    2.The COURTS
    3.The LOCAL AUTHORITY ROLE
    4.SUPPORT STRATEGIES
    ——————————————————

    If we can agree on this approach,then we can make progress, establish a collective CPR view and Sarah can publicise it at conferences and meetings.If any reader wants to add anything I have missed,please add it.

    Perhaps a new thread called DISCUSSION OF CHANGE should be started to enable us to focus on it rather than us constantly disrupting other threads.

    Reply
  15. ian josephs

    All the above is so very true! Children should never be taken from law abiding citizens.Those who commit significant crimes like baby P’s mother deserve to lose their children but she was reunited with the survivors in jail and given a new life and new job at huge public expense because she ingratiated herself with social workers !

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      Yes,Ian,but what are your suggestions?
      I have asked that we approach issues in an orderly manner beginning with the Law.

      Do you think the Children’s Act needs to be changed? If so,why and how?

      I will also welcome replies from all other readers to those specific questions.

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        My suggestions Angelo are those I make continuously ! They would cure nearly all the cruel injustices;so I do hope you agree ![In the interests of making this easier to follow, I have added my comments in italics – Sarah P]

        1:-NO child should be taken from law abiding citizens ;There should be no punishment without crime ! If a parent is cgharged with a serious crime the child should be removed but returned if a not guilty verdict is returned [and what of those cases where the CPS decide not to charge even though there is evidence that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering? What intervention is the State then permitted to make to protect this child? Is it ONLY ever permitted at the conclusion of a criminal trial and a guilty verdict? How many children does IJ then think will be at risk? Or doesn’t this matter, is the more important thing protecting parents?]

        2:- Forced adoption should be abolished ie Adoption that is forced on parents who oppose it in court because the want desperately to keep their children. [Just because you ‘desparately’ want something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea that you have it. If parents have hurt their child but refuse to allow their child to be adopted, what is the outcome for that child? To return to the parents who hurt him? Or stay in state foster care until he is 21?]

        3:- No gagging orders should be placed on parents who should be allowed to protest to the media using their own names when their children are taken and should also be permitted to have a limited number of friends and relatives observe their processes in the family court;[I don’t have a problem with this one, I think we need proceedings to be much more open and I am not convinced by those who argue that this is always going to damage children, we need to think about better ways to protect children’s right to privacy whilst at the same time not letting their parents think they are victims of a secret court]

        4:- No restrictions should be placed on conversations between parents and children at contact and children should be free to report abuse by carers.Freedom of Speech is Paramount:-[No. No human right takes precedence over another, except for the right to live and right to be free from torture. Rights must be balanced against one another. The right of a child not to be emotionally abused at contact is almost certainly going to outweigh the right of free speech from a parent]

        5:- Parents who have not committed crimes against children should never be forbidden to contact their children by email ,phone,or letter.[That may depend entirely on what they want to communicate in emails etc. IJ advises parents to emotionally abuse their children in contact and say things which will be very upsetting and difficult for the child to deal with, such as ‘your adoptive parents won’t love you’ etc]

        6:- Parents who are suspected of having mental problems or Learning difficultiess hould be able to consult their own experts and bring them to court with any other relevant witnesses they choose.Similarly they should be free to bring their own witnesse to testify concerning injuries that may or may not have been non accidental [parents with disabilities are entitled to expert evidence about their disabilities. They are entitled to rely on evidence in court. Don’t understand this one at all.]

        7:-As former minister for justice Simon Hughes said “children of age 10+ should be free to come to court if they wish to testify on their parent’s behalf.[He certainly did NOT say that. He said children should have more of a voice. Not assuming they would testify ‘on behalf’ of a parent. They may well wish to say other things]

        8:- Family courts should pronounce all persons before them innocent of accusations and allegations unless proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt.They should never judge any person to be at fault on the balance of probabilities (51%+)[This deserves some debate. The balance of probabilities is a low standard of proof which can lead to very serious findings being made that will stick for all time]

        Reply
  16. angelo granda

    [For ease of understanding, I add my comments in italics]QUOTE: 1:-NO child should be taken from law abiding citizens ;There should be no punishment without crime ! If a parent is charged with a serious crime the child should be removed but returned if a not guilty verdict is returned: UNQUOTE

    I would say that for that wish to be achieved the law would certainly have to be changed.At present the Children’s Act permits the LA to place children for adoption if it can prove ( on the bal of probs) that there is a significant risk of future harm, I think.

    In my opinion,removal should only be contemplated ( even temporarily whilst a verdict is returned) by a proper criminal court which is qualified to assess serious cases on facts alone.If the magistrate or Judge thinks ( having taken into account all the circumstances and the opinions of both the Police and the accused) that a child or anyone else is at serious risk,it has many options and it will act proportionately.For example,it can remand the accused to prison or set strict bail conditions. has a power to issue tagging orders,exclusion orders,curfews etc.
    These decisions should NEVER be entrusted to the Family Court which should have strict limitations placed upon its powers.It should be allowed to issue care-orders etc.as empowered to do already under the present act but only with the legitimate aim of supporting a family and keeping it together.The Act appears to recognise that is best for children except in really serious cases.So the Act should be changed and it should order that serious cases ( which can be defined as any case where removal is contemplated) MUST be taken before a criminal court.Taken out of the Family Court arena completely![You will, as you have recognised, need to campaign to your MP on this one. And remember that IJ wants a jury involved as well. If this happens, the cost will be prohibitive. You are going to need some very good arguments. This has already been rejected by powers that be on basis that protecting children is more important]
    The Local Authorities often argue ( with good reason) that if the Police don’t have the evidence to charge an alleged offender,then they still will have serious concerns about the risk to children.
    That is fair enough and it is reasonable that a family court should issue proportionate protective orders.However, under the new law there should be strict limits (as above) and if the court believes removal is necessary then it should only be into temporary foster care.Forced adoption and permanence plans banned.[So what happens if it is clear that the parents can’t or won’t change for years, if at all. Child just remains in limbo of foster care? possibly changing carers every year or so? Do you not think that for some children, adoption is the best option for their future?] All care-orders to be renewed every six months [at every LAC review, at every six months, the issue of continuation of the care order MUST be on the agenda]and care-plans to be considered carefully by the Court if parents oppose its renewal.[This has already been discussed and rejected as Parliament left the care plan up to the LA and the court does not have jurisdiction to scrutinise the detail of it, other than to look at the ultimate decision and any contact proposals. So again, you need to campaign to your MP]. This would be tantamount to a right of appeal and would grant hope to parents ,allow them to bring fresh evidence and prove they have made changes etc [they can already do this – you can argue change of circumstances, usual period of time that needs to elapse to have a shot at doing this, is six months. Its all very well to ‘hope’ but if parents can’t or won’t engage with the issues against them and instead take their cases to journalists, they will never get what they want]

    —————————————————-

    QUOTE: 2.Forced adoption should be abolished ie Adoption that is forced on parents who oppose it in court because the want desperately to keep their children :UNQUOTE

    My view at the present time is that ‘ ‘forced adoption’ is inhumane (contrary to article 3).Children should not be placed for adoption at all unless ‘no other course of action will do’ as has already been stated by the high court.Clearly temporary foster-care (with rehabilitatIon home to parents possible) is an option and in the child’s interests, it is a preferable course of action which will protect the child adequately.

    Ian,I think I disagree with you in as much as you think ‘forced adoption’ should be permitted when parents have been found guilty in a criminal court.

    In my view,even when guilty,parents can change.It is in a child’s best interests to be rehabilitated home if possible and the door to rehabilitation should never be closed.Even when parents are guilty,foster-care is the better option.Even the most violent father may change after two or three years in prison! Please comment.

    Well, I expect some readers will disagree with me and may even think my suggestions crackpot.I look forward to their comments and alternative suggestions.

    I have not commented on your other points yet as I think they are only relevant to the courts and their protocol which I want to discuss later.

    Reply
  17. angelo granda

    I would like to add that where there isn’t enough evidence to charge a parent but the LA thinks temporary removal is necessary anyway, it should have to take the case before a District Judge who will make a decision based on facts alone.

    A District Judge has the power to order less intrusive options such as exclusion orders,,ASBO’s , probation-type orders,psychological reports etc..The family courts do not have many options in their catalogue (as explained to us by Kate Wells).
    All less invasive courses of action to be considered and the final decision to remove temporarily only to be taken after a hearing of facts alone( not the bal of probs).

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      This is what happens. Except that a DJ can’t make ‘probation’ type orders in a family court. These are part of the criminal justice system. a DJ can order expert reports and make an exclusion order, although those don’t seem to be commonly used as there are often fears that parents won’t remain separated. Often there is lack of acceptance by one parent that the other is dangerous. So safest thing for the child is to remove the child from both of them until there is that understanding and acceptance.

      All less invasive courses of action have to be considered. This is the law. Balance of probabilities remains burden of proof as it does in all civil proceedings. Courts can’t do anything about that, it is the law. It can only be changed by Act of Parliament. So instead of criticising judges and lawyers, your energies are better directed to your MP on that one.

      Reply
  18. angelo granda

    I am grateful for your helpful comments, Sarah; please keep them coming.As I have said before radical alterations need to be made to the Law.In my opinion adoption orders should not be decided by the Family Courts because it cannot be trusted.So the Law needs to be changed.
    In fact,I have offered the opinion also that forced adoption is INHUMANE TO CHILDREN under Article 3 and also under Article 8 whichever Court decides, so the Law should be changed to prohibit forced adoption absolutely.Capital punishment was stopped and so should forced adoption.
    Anyway,my views are by the by.We all agree changes need to be made.What are your suggestions as to how you would alter the Law?
    Same question to Sam and all the other readers?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I would not change the burden of proof as I think that would lead to children not being protected who should be protected.
      But I would make all family proceedings in open court, subject to not naming the children directly or allowing reporting of their names (although anyone who wanted to could easily find out who they were, but at least it would protect them to some degree from being searched for on line).
      I think greater openness would improve professional practice and mean less corners would be cut – and it would hopefully allow others to see and understand that family courts are generally not this cess pit of unlawfulness that some would like to allege.
      If we can’t get legal aid back (which we probably can’t) then the government ought to provide some on line services for help and advice. It is ridiculous that I am running this site in my spare time. If the gov won’t fund lawyers for those on low incomes, it needs to do more to disseminate better, clearer info about the system.

      Reply
  19. angelo granda

    I would not change the burden of proof in the Family Court either. Where there is a risk of significant harm,I believe children should be protected and I agree with the Children’s Act that children are mostly better off being cared for at home with natural parents(if necessary with supervision and/or support services).
    However,as far as the Family Court is concerned,it relies on the integrity of professionals involved too much .There are a number of other reasons why hearings are not fair which I have discussed and you have told us how LA’s prefer to place innocent children for adoption needlessly.You have explained that they choose removal purely for reasons of finance. That is abominable therefore why can we not agree that as adoption is irreversible, the family court should be limited to temporary removal into foster-care?
    Children would still be protected just as before.

    Don’t you agree with the High Court that placement for adoption should only be ordered as a very last resort and only when nothing else will do?Certainly not just because it is all the LA can afford. Yet the family court orders adoption regularly for that reason.
    The possibility of wrongful permanent removal has to be eliminated from the equation.

    Sarah,when human rights are abused, it is usually because of false ideology and dogma on the part of the perpetrators.
    The LA’s,the CS and many other child-protection professionals appear to believe in the monolithic myth that adoption and permanent removal from family is in some way beneficial to chldren. IT IS NOT! It is inhumane and it condemns children to a lifetime of disadvantage and mental torture.It puts them at serious risk of emotional harm.
    Why can you not see what we see so clearly?
    Anyway,thank you also for your comments on greater openness.Is that a matter of court protocol or would the Law have to be changed?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      and you have told us how LA’s prefer to place innocent children for adoption needlessly.You have explained that they choose removal purely for reasons of finance.

      Please do point out where I ever said that. I did not. I wish you would take care with your use of language – you get annoyed when I use strong words like ‘dangerous’ etc. And yet here you use the word ‘innocent’ with regard to children. Why? the children are not being punished for the inadequacies of their parents.

      I have never said that adoptions were sought ‘needlessly’. That would be unlawful. Nor have I ever said that ‘they choose removal purely for reasons of finance’. What I have said is that it is probably cheaper in many cases to remove a child then pay for many years of therapy/drug addiction treatment for parents. That does not however mean that the adoption was ‘needless’.

      We can’t debate usefully or at all if you continue to distort what I have said with florid language of your own.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        I apologise if I have misunderstood any opinions you have expressed.
        I don’t want to split hairs but I stick to the view that adoption is needless when there is a less intrusive alternative.
        For example,if support services or therapy for a mother is required,then money should be found to pay for it.It is inhumane to condemn a child to a second-class life for the sake of money.Surely, if a mum has depression or a personality disorder which requires therapy which is available then it should be provided every time.Adoption is needless! In those circumstances,Something else will do,the family can be kept together.
        Instead of erecting barriers and working against the interests of Children ,we should be helping their Mums.It is only humane.

        BTW,the L A aren’t expected to pay for therapy and if it cannot afford practical social work support services then it should not be in the business of providing it.It should get out altogether and let the goverment fund the CS directly.The civil servant has more integrity than the average LA staff member and government departments are much less prone to corrupt practices than council departments.I have worked with both and I know.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          then money should be found to pay for it

          Where is this money to be found? I am disabled. there is a prosthetic leg which would apparently ‘revolutionise’ my life but it is not available on the NHS because what spare money they have I am told by my prosthetist, goes to ‘drugs for children with cancer – we can’t compete with that’.

          So how much are you prepared to spend on parents to support them not to hurt their children? how long are you prepared to spend that money? And what services will you cut to find that money? Artificial limbs or children with cancer? Because unless you can persuade Bill Gates to write you a cheque, somebody somewhere is going to have to lose a service upon which they rely to pay for supporting parents.

          I do think we could use the money we have more wisely but it seems rather naive to simply say ‘it should be paid for’. Well yes. So it should. I should be married to George Clooney and not have to worry about how I will fund my retirement – but life is not fair is it?

          Reply
          1. angelo granda

            Thank heavens it is not my job or yours to look after their finances.All we do is pay for them all!
            They can’t justify inhumanity by blaming shprtage of money.
            Would we excuse a parent who was short of money for starving a child? You would not allow concerns about the LA finances to affect your legal arguments,I trust.They should not allow finances to have any influence on their care-plans.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

            You just can’t say finances shouldn’t have an impact. They do. All the time. and any public body/official who ignores the impact of financial constraints would be guilty of misfeasance.

            We need to focus on doing better with what we have – we won’t get any more. Or you could just carry on making absolutist statements which will never reflect reality. It’s your time to waste as you wish.

  20. angelo granda

    QUOTE:[at every LAC review, at every six months, the issue of continuation of the care order MUST be on the agenda]: UNQUOTE

    Sorry to trouble you Sarah,but where will I find that rule written down in the Law?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It’s in the regulations. Care Planning something 2014, sorry don’t have reference to hand but you should be able to find it on line.

      Reply
  21. angelo granda

    Thank’s for your advice Sarah.
    I regret it if any of my statements appear absolutist to readers. I prefer to call them radical.

    I think we have both shown we are not absolutist,to be honest.We both agree we want to see the system change ,we both agree there is something wrong with it and we have agreed to focus on the matter of trust which we agree is lacking.We have both put suggestions and we have both expressed to come to an agreement even if we have to compromise.
    The only difficulty with the discussion is that not many have come forward to back me in saying radical change is necessary nor to support you in your belief in your suggestions.
    I have asked for opinions and contributions but the people must be too busy with other things at the moment. So we cannot move forward.It’s a waste of time us arguing; we must await the contributions of others.

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      ANGELO HERE ARE MY SUGGESTIONS FOR C HANGE IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM EARLIER !
      TEN REFORMS THAT WOULD END THE INJUSTICES:-

      1:-NO child should be taken from law abiding citizens ;There should be no punishment without crime ! If a parent is charged with a serious crime the child should be removed but returned if a not guilty verdict is given by the jury..

      2:- Forced adoption should be abolished. Definition:- Adoption that is forced on parents who oppose it in court asking to keep their children

      3:- No gagging orders should be placed on parents who must be allowed to protest to the media using their own names when their children are taken .

      4:-Parents should be permitted to have a limited number of friends and relatives to support them and to observe their processes in the family court;

      5:- No restrictions should be placed on conversations between parents and children at contact and children should be free to report abuse by carers.Freedom of Speech is paramount:-

      5:- Parents who have not committed crimes against children should never be forbidden to contact their children by email ,phone,or letter.

      6:- Parents who are suspected of having mental problems or learning difficulties should be able to consult their own experts and bring them to court with any other relevant witnesses they choose.

      7:-Parents should be free to bring their own expert witnesses to testify concerning injuries that may or may not have been non accidental

      8:-Parents must be allowed to call their own children to court to testify for them.-As former minister for justice Simon Hughes said “children of age 10+ should be free to come to court if they wish to testify on their parent’s behalf” The United Nations convention on children’s rights confirms all this.

      9:- Family courts should pronounce all persons before them innocent of accusations and allegations unless proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt.They should never judge any person to be at fault on the balance of probabilities (51%+)

      10:-Domestic violence confined to shouting should not result in confiscation of children .Victims of partners who have actually been convicted of domestic violence should never be penalised by removal of their children as long as they have separated from the perpetrator and taken all possible measures to protect their children from future violence by that person

      Reply
  22. angelo granda

    Ian,Many of your comments I agree with,there should be no doubt about that!However,you are the only one who agrees with me that radical reform is necessary (on this thread) and unfortunately the patron seems determined to shoot anything which you bandy about down.Also we should note that although the views which I put are REASONABLE ,she does not agree with ANY of them,apparently,which tells me a lot..So who is open-minded and who is able to consider all arguments?I
    I am for one but I recognise that what I think has little effect.I can only hope that Sarah will consider my comments and take some of them in.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You say I do not agree with ANYTHING you say and then complain I am an absolutist?

      What an absurd comment. I have agreed with plenty that you say. But you seem to have a real blind spot when it comes to your own continued exaggerated misinterpretation of what I say.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Sarah, wrote in my last but one post that you are NOT an absolutist so what is absurd about that?
        In my reply to Mr.Josephs,I pointed out that you have apparently little respect for much of what he says and that you also appear to have little for my views too. I think that is true!
        However,you are quite entitled to think anything you want so I am just hoping you will take some of my comments seriously.
        Sarah, you do not appear to agree with any of my suggestions and you appear to jump from a great height on any slip I make regardless of any valid points.
        I don’t think that is impartial but I hope I am wrong.You have accused me of absolutism and told me I am wasting my time not vice-versa which I have taken in.I am very quick on the uptake Sarah and do not intend to go on wasting my time much longer if that is your attitude. The last thing I want to do is be an irritant to the CPR as Mr.Josephs seems to be.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          If you don’t find this resource – and my input – either useful or valuable, then the solution is pretty obvious isn’t it?

          Either start your own site where the discourse is more to your liking, or do not contribute further here. If you value my honesty then you have to value it across all domains, and not simply when I saying something you like or agree with.

          Reply
  23. angelo granda

    On the contrary,I find this resource very useful and valuable and have acknowledged on a number of occasions your input and thanked you for it.I find your comments interesting (though not always for the right reasons) because they give us all an insight into how lawyers approach family court cases and the general direction from which they come.

    As I said before,it’s no use us arguing ,this is discussion and I am dead set against forced adoption,you aren’t,its as simple as that.Let the readers decide.I don’t want to criticise you all the time so I have cut a lot out from this reply before posting it.I am a pacifist by nature.
    ,

    Reply
  24. angelo granda

    TIME FOR A RECAP

    Ian, I have re-read yoiur ten suggestions .

    However,whilst I do not disagree with them in themselves,I am of the opinion that we should discuss the more fundamental issues first and what specific changes need to be made to the Law.

    If you go to the Human Rights Act 1998 thread and read it in full, you will see that Sarah and some others who contribute to the CPR (including myself) had discussed basic human rights and concerns were expressed.

    It was felt by some that not enough attention is being paid to ECHR Article 3.
    Sarah seemed to think that this article may indeed be activated in some cases and that a complaint might be merited.A test -case is awaited.

    I think children suffer high levels of mental torture and degradation by the imposition of permanent removal from natural family WHETHER OR NOT parents are guilty of a crime such as neglect.I think that such plans should only be made when there is no other alternative( when nothing else will do as has also been expressed in the High Court).

    Article 6 ECHR was discussed and concerns were expressed that a family’s rights to a fair hearing were not always met. Reasons given,amongst others, were that LA’s do not conduct cases properly in accordance with procedural safeguards , that procedural safeguards present in criminal courts,were lacking in the Family Court and that respondent’s lawyers have a conflict of interest.Not all of us were in agreement.

    We had also discussed Article 8 ECHR and proportionality. No conclusion appeared to be reached except by myself.My contention is that whilst some procedural safeguards are in place in the family court,they aren’t always followed strictly.I felt that lawyers,in general,give too much latitude to SW’s ,show very little if any at all to parents and that thus there is a ‘possibility of abuse’ as forbidden by the Act.

    Can you agree therefore that your ten points may or may not be quite valid as indeed I believe are Sarah and Sam’s views on openness,recordings and transparency. They do not,though , address the fundamentals as I describe above.

    For example, the Law already prescribes that proceedings are to be open-minded and impartial and that is often ignored.If family’s don’t get a fair hearing then any new guidance as to transparency will also be open to abuse.The Law needs to be changed to eliminate ANY possibility of wrongful forced adoption,in my view.

    As I think it activates Article 3 anyway,I have suggested the law is changed to prohibit it absolutely.( However,I am open to compromise).

    I am worried that some contributors are not open to compromise (this is often a trait shown by SW’s and cp professionals generally). We can discuss issues until the cows come home on the CPR and you and Mr.Hemmings have already addressed the issues for years to not much avail.

    SW’s are bound to think they are right,lawyers tend to think justice always prevails and victims will disagree. As Sarah has pointed out, a wide gulf exists.

    I remain of the view that FUNDAMENTAL changes need to be made to the Law in order to ensure fairness,proportionality etc. That is the only way public trust in the system will be restored.I think we can discuss solutions but we are unlikely ever to agree!

    We have to recognise also that no matter how many times we petition Parliament or campaign for changes in the Law on any number of websites,history tells us it is unlikely we will achieve them.

    What we need is a FULL PUBLIC ENQUIRY by Royal Commission( or whatever) a la Hillsborough.

    I have called for one before but it has been suggested I am unrealistic.

    I look forward to all comments and criticisms; as usual I welcome all opinions.

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      Angelo ,My 10 suggestions are for 10 specific changes in the law which is what you ask for.I can reduce them to the 4 most important if you want compromise .
      1:- Forbid children to be taken for future risk.
      2:-Forbid gagging orders or restrictions on freedom of speech for children in care or their parents.
      3:-Forbid orders stopping indirect contact (email,phone,or letter) between parents and children.
      4:- Forbid forced adoption (= adoptions that are opposed by a parent in court)
      That is not to say I agree with everything not covered but these 4 measures alone would cure MOST of the present injustices;

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Angelo ,My 10 suggestions are for 10 specific changes in the law which is what you ask for.I can reduce them to the 4 most important if you want compromise .
        1:- Forbid children to be taken for future risk.

        Thanks Ian for making those four points. [comments in italics from SP for ease of reference]

        1.I believe that the child-protectors disagree very strongly with this suggestion.It is central to their thinking that removal is necessary to rule out ‘significant risk of future harm’.

        I think that we all have to differentiate between temporary removal into foster-care and permanent foster-care plans or placement for adoption.

        To compromise, can we accept that temporary removal ONLY be permitted subject to strict provisos:-

        a) that all due procedural safeguards are followed absolutely (as in a criminal court).[This should happen. I accept that sometimes it doesn’t. All we can do is be alert and act when we discover a breach. You will find that criminal courts are not immune from procedural foul ups – no system operated by humans will ever be error free but we can do more to prevent errors]
        b) that temporary removal be appealable in court every six months [that is pretty much what already happens. If you want to challenge an order, then six months is the ‘usual’ minimum time to pass to show a change of circumstances. And, as I have pointed out, reunification must be considered every six months at the LAC review meetings]

        Temporary removal ‘will do’ in ALL cases as a way to protect children from perceived risk of future harm.[This is where the disagreements will start. the aim of care proceedings is to provide permanency for a child. To say that every six months the child may face a change of home/carer will NOT be seen as in the child’s best interests; all psychological evidence goes against that. You will need a pretty massive upheaval in the law for this to ever happen and I don’t think it will]

        2.I believe we have a human right to free speech but not sure which article of the ECHR covers it. I imagine,as in most other things,the SW’s exceed their duty in their own interests rather than the children’s.For example,if they were lying to children saying a parent had neglected or had abused the child,they would not want that parent to tell the child the truth.So they ban free speech and say it might upset the child. I would suggest free speech should be sacrosanct.If they think that free speech may harm a child,they should have to ‘prove’ that no contact is permitted at all on account of risk.[Free speech is protected by Article 10 of the ECHR and it is a very important right, and recognised as such. But it does not take precedence over other rights with which it might conflict. When there is a conflict, the court has to balance the competing rights. So sometimes freedom of speech is legitimately curtailed. for e.g. you don’t have a right to threaten to kill someone]
        3. Who makes these orders? The Court or do the Local Authority forbid it off there own bat?[The LA has NO POWER to make ANY ORDERS. Only the court can make orders.]
        4.I agree with you on this because I think that not only does forced adoption engage article 3 rights but also it is disproportionate under Article 8 [Not always. It would not, I assume you would agree, have been disproportionate for Peter Connolley or Daniel Pelka]
        Forced temporary foster-care is sufficient to protect children in cases where removal is felt unavoidable [no, that won’t be accepted for reasons I set out above. Children require a permanent stable home as soon as possible]
        The only compromise I would make is that forced adoption may be desirable in criminal cases in the following circumstances:-

        a) if both parents display something approaching deliberate criminal malice towards children, and where no family placement is possible.
        b)where both parents are to be locked up for a term exceeding 15 years and no family placement is possible.This would also apply to the criminally insane.

        In those cases, it can be said that the circumstances are extremely dire.However,if forced adoption is to be permitted at all, the law should be changed to make adoption orders recindable when miscarriages of justice are proven at appeal.Adoption must never be final.[This is worthy of some debate, but will meet the same objections I raise for temporary foster care. If a child was adopted at birth and has no memory whatsoever of his birth family, it would likely be seen as very cruel to remove him aged 10 years, for e.g.]

        ALL CONSTRUCTIVE COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS WELCOME.
        —————————-

        Reply
  25. angelo granda

    I will add also that I acknowledge that ,in the main,the CPR is intended as one which lawyers can discuss the law professionally ,Sw’s and so on can debate social care practice,and other initiatives(sub-commitees etc.) can work towards improvements.
    Whilst victims and non-professionals are welcomed onto the forum,they are not professionals and it is therefore inevitable that professionals will have less respect for their views. I do not want to disrupt the forum but neither do I think my opinions are ‘nonsense’.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      some of them are I am afraid. That is my view, I am entitled to have it and to express it. I have explained why, repeatedly and at length. Being involved in discussion and debate means you have to be open to criticism and others not accepting your views. I don’t NOT respect your views because you are NOT a professional – SOME of your views I don’t respect because they are nonsense.

      But equally, SOME of your views I have not only respected but expanded into posts on this site to stimulate debate.

      As Rumi said: beyond right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.

      Reply
  26. angelo granda

    Okay,GAME,SET AND MATCH to you Sarah!
    Now I intend to ration my comments to the more fundamental questions as others do and make an effort to learn what I call professional blarney and flannel.
    I will try not to be so outspoken.Sometimes it is best to reserve one’s views and be less straightforward. Sam,see you in the grey area soon.

    Reply
  27. ian josephs

    Parents are gagged in court by their own lawyers [Absolute, complete rubbish]
    I began to provide further comments on the exaggerations and misstatements of Mr Josephs, but frankly I can’t be bothered any more and I will just delete further comments from him which are seriously inaccurate and supported by no evidence.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      As I have said above,freedom of speech ought to be a sacrosanct right (article 10).So I agree with you and I don’t think there should be any compromise.
      I have described elsewhere why I think cases should be in open court and how ‘private’ hearings lead to unfair trials.I am no lawyer but I see a fundamental contradiction when supposedly PUBLIC law cases are held in PRIVATE!
      .Perhaps someone can explain. [Cases involving children are held in private to protect the children from having their identities widely known in conjunction with shameful or embarrassing issues about their families. Many believe that it would be extremely harmful to children if the sordid details of their cases were made public]
      Parents should have a right to talk freely with their own children at contact and question them closely as to the treatment they are receiving.[This has the potential to be emotionally abusive and is not encouraged. If parents are worried, they should not question child at length. Many children will be far too young in any event to have these kind of conversations.] If nothing else,parents share parental responsibility with the LA and have a duty to protect their children from predators engaged in social work and foster-care.[No doubt a small minority of social workers and foster carers could be called ‘predators’ but the way you are wording this implies that they ALL are, which is absolute nonsense]The only conflict I can see is if a parent were to BREAK THE LAW ! If they did so,perhaps by threats to kill as suggested by Sarah then they should be charged with threatening behaviour immediately and punished.

      Reply
    2. ian josephs

      Most parents who ring me say their solicitors promised to speak for them and prevented them from making the points that they wanted. “Keep your clients out of the witness box” and then come to a cosy agreement with the solicitors for the “SS” seems to be the mantra of Sarah and her colleagues !

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        If I advise parents not to speak, it is always because I am pretty confident they will sink their case the moment they open their mouths – and often this is because they are parroting things YOU have advised them to say.

        But it is ALWAYS their choice. We all have, as adults with capacity, the right to make unwise decisions.

        Reply
  28. angelo granda

    QUOTE:[Cases involving children are held in private to protect the children from having their identities widely known in conjunction with shameful or embarrassing issues about their families. Many believe that it would be extremely harmful to children if the sordid details of their cases were made public].:UNQUOTE

    The parents have parental responsibility for their children.In law,it should be left to them to exercise that responsibility by deciding whether or not there should be publicity.
    Too often,families are not embarrassed or ashamed by the issues.The issues may not be sordid at all.The emphasis should be on protecting the innocent not sparing embarrassment.
    Often the only shameful,sordid behaviour is on the part of the Public Authorities and their actions should be open to Public scrutiny.The Authorities are the only ones who gain by privacy. Lawyers grant excessive trust to their integrity.

    QUOTE:[This has the potential to be emotionally abusive and is not encouraged. If parents are worried, they should not question child at length. Many children will be far too young in any event to have these kind of conversations.]:UNQUOTE

    Children belong to their parents who are entitled to judge whether their children are too young or not.How can an innocent parent (with full parental responsibility or shared ) emotionally abuse his or her innocent child by asking questions and talking to them?If a parent does not answer a child’s questions ,offer reassurance and love, tell them what to expect,ask how they are being treated ( in detail) the child will become emotionally disturbed.It is nonsense for lawyers to talk about potential for this potential for that.Freedom of speech is a right.For a social worker to control interactions between innocent parents and innocent children IS emotional abuse and ‘mental cruelty'(not potentially but really).

    QUOTE:[No doubt a small minority of social workers and foster carers could be called ‘predators’ but the way you are wording this implies that they ALL are, which is absolute nonsense:UNQUOTE

    Well,I certainly hope to God only a small minority are predators.Of course,not all of them are! On the other hand, lawyers should never under-estimate the problem. Some questions parents should ask of their children are:-

    a) are your carers or social workers hurting you in any way?
    b)are they smacking you or do they shout at you or frighten you in any other way?
    c) does anyone play about with you or come into your bed at night?
    d)are you threatened by any bogey-men?
    e)do they give you enough food?
    f) where do they take you and what do you do?
    g)are you forced to say or do anything you don’t want?What have they told you about us?
    d)are you happy with your foster parents?

    It would be neglectful not to ask those questions.

    Sarah,historically when social workers have been convicted and imprisoned for criminal offences,it was found that ‘a culture of sex-abuse’ existed within the department concerned ( I shall not name it).Children were regularly abused ‘within hours of being taken into care’.The abusers were flouting procedures and taking children into care to sate their appetite for children.

    I stress again that I hope the abusers are a small minority but I suppose they are spread evenly across the whole country.
    If legal guidelines and procedures are flouted then we should all see that for what it is.A bad omen! It is certainly not a good sign.

    Sarah, It is a little bit confusing when you add your comments in parentheses.You should put your views in a seperate post,in my opinion. Then they would be better appreciated by readers.As it is, I feel obliged to comment on your comments leading to further argument if you see what I mean.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      In other words,I don’t want to argue with you; I want to agree with you where I can and compromise.
      Readers can then hear all views and decide.

      Reply
    1. angelo granda

      Ian, If you don’t moderate your comments,you are just disrupting the discussion. That isn’t sensible.The CPR has rules and many of your comments have already been deleted.Where’s the sense in that?

      Reply
      1. ian josephs

        Angelo ! My comments are moderate ! I never attack anyone personally (unlike some !) and I repeat facts that are mostly undisputed . Children DO have their phones and laptops confiscated when taken into care.They are isolated from family and friends except for “contact sessions” at which parents ARE forbidden to mention (the case) or that they want their children back home with them otherwise contact is stopped .All this is routine in every case concerning kids aged 5-12 that I have come across (thousands!).
        It is also a fact that prisoners in jail (including serial killers) CAN phone out and CAN discuss their cases with visitore unlike kids in care who are denied these “privilèges”
        All the above are undeniable facts expressed in moderate language Angelo so what more do you want?

        Reply
        1. angelo granda

          Ian, I agree with you but all of what you say has been happening for years.It is old news!
          We don’t want to keep going over old ground especially when some of us will disagree.They will have to keep repeating their counter-arguments ad-infinitum.
          Keep to how we can change the Law.
          (Ps.It was your last paragraph about ‘making their miserable livings’ which Sarah will object to.

          Reply
          1. ian josephs

            Don’t you understand I KEEP SUGGESTING CHANGES IN THE LAW; As far as kids in care are concerned they should by law be allowed the freedom to say what they like to their families and phone whoever they like or email them the same as children not in care and have at least the same rights as murderers in prison !
            Nobody so far has disagreed and this cruelty to children in care may be old ground but the fact that it has been happening for years does not in any way diminish the need to change the law so that it does not continue !

  29. Carol Bird

    Well put Ian, Well Put Angelo, I find your comments most informative, keep up the fight, for obvious reasons, Sarah Philmore will never agree with your comments, all’s well in her chosen career, just stop rocking her boat

    Reply
  30. angelo granda

    Carol, Can you not see that Sarah is on the side of justice,not against you or against parents.
    She has set up the CPR because she believes the system needs to change .
    We are all together,we all want changes but we all come from different angles.
    You have to set differences on one side for the sake of discussion.It is not a fight.
    How would you like it (or Ian) if Sarah continually harped on about neglectful,cruel,violent,murderous child-abusers including lying,dysfunctional extended family members like Carol Bird!
    That would not help discussion,would it?
    Likewise,I don’t want my name mentioning in the same sentence as a child-abuser just because I support changes to the system.
    Treat as you would be treated yourself.Think before you post!
    Anyway,I expect your post will be deleted tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Carol Bird has frequently requested I delete all her comments from this site – and yet she keeps on posting. I said earlier I would simply delete any comments from her email address but I will let this one stand as otherwise Angelo’s response becomes meaningless.

      But I will delete any further comments from Ms Bird or anyone else who uses that email address.

      Reply
  31. angelo granda

    Ian,Once again,I agree with what you are saying.
    The Law needs changing.However,I have been saying the same or similar for years too.
    Sarah and the SW’s say they can only administer the Law and right or wrong that has to be their attitude until they are forced to change.
    Even if Sarah and we came to a unanimous agreement, the status quo would remain long after you and I die! On this resource we can only discuss!
    If injustices are imposed upon us,it the duty of our politicians ( like Mr.Hemming) to change the Law. The CPR and similar sites might be asked ,to make recommendations if we are lucky but that is all.
    I don’t think MP’s can do much and the only really effective way to achieve change will be a Public Enquiry as happened in the 1980’s.

    Reply
    1. ian josephs

      Charles Dickens did more than anyone to chang Victorian cruelty to children by exposing it in his widely read books. Publicity is the only thing the”SS” really fear especially from journalists like Christopher Booker(telegraph) and Sue Reid (mail) when they expose injusticesRepeated publicity will eventually force changes in the law..The “SS” complain often that these journalists only hear the parents side of the story.What they don’t tell you is that if Christopher asks for their version in a case their reaction is not to tell him anything even in the most general terms.No they rush off to court to get an injunction to stop him writing anything at all.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Absolute rubbish. Booker has the judgments in front of him and he ignores them. He refers to a woman in the grip of a serious mental illness as having a ‘bit of a panic attack’. He distorts, twists, confuses and scares people. He is an utterly ineffective proponent of serious reform to the child protection system – in fact, I would go further than that and say he has caused positive damage to prospects of a serious debate about what needs to be done.

        This debate has been so thoroughly hi jacked by the hysterical and mendacious that I am afraid a lot of sensible people who might otherwise be willing to listen and help are just rolling their eyes and not wanting to engage.

        Reply
  32. angelo granda

    It is not absolute rubbish.It cannot be said that Dickens did not bring about change.
    Lesson: Why doesn’t Booker write a realistic work of fiction or a documentary or film? Newspapers are tomorrows fish and chip paper!

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I apologise and stand corrected. It is 99% rubbish. Dickens did of course raise awareness of the poverty and degradation of the lives of many. But to compare Dickens with Booker is risible.

      Reply
  33. angelo granda

    Having said that though,I think Dickens did use to write his stories in newspaper short story form in his early days!

    Reply
  34. ian josephs

    If you dismiss reputable journalists try the bbc,itv,and channel 4 in the three videos below !

    i.Watch the BBC film ‘Families flee UK to avoid forced adoption’. Inside Out was broadcast on BBC One South East on Monday, 6 October 2014. Rachel Royce reports.!
    Here’s the link to share this: http://forced-adoption.com/#insideout

    Click on this link to watch the fabulous ITV documentary “exposure” and please share it!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va1N9r2Vieg

    ii.See the programme on Channel 4 News

    http://www.channel4.com/news/revealed-the-networks-helping-families-flee-social-services

    iii.Click here to open a pdf which you can then print. It shows clearly the defects of the “system” and also the measures needed to reform our family courts and social services all on one page !

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      I haven’t actually read any of Booker’s articles myself .I don’t buy many newspapers but going by references made to him on this rrsource,I gather that he is an outspoken critic of the cp system.
      So was Dickens therefore they are alike in that respect.
      I have not opened your links Ian because I am not au fait with all this computer technology but I can imagine what the contents are.I have no need to see them. I could write my own book were I so inclined but I prefer to spend my time discussing change.
      Talking of which,Sarah,my opinion is that Article 10 as to free speech should be complied with.Lawyers should not permit sw’s to deny family’s that basic human right just because they decide that children might potentially suffer emotional harm.
      Potentially,if your granny had BALLS,she’d be your grandad,so lawyers should pay more attention to human rights law.
      We are not stupid and surely everyone can see that the LA’s continually use potentialities to their own advantage and lawyers let them get away with it.
      This is a fundamental point.If people are ‘gagged’ then it is because of imaginary concerns of sw’s.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Again, you reveal your fundamental weakness as a protagonist in this debate – your continual resort to absolutes. ‘If people are gagged then it is because of imaginary concerns of sws’.

        some concerns may be exaggerated or misunderstood I accept. But very few are non existant and most are sadly very real, backed up by mountains of paperwork, referrals from schools, hospitals, police, health visitors, concerned neighbours, complete strangers who were very worried by what they saw.

        If you are not prepared to read a classic Booker article, then you are, I am afraid, not able to express a view about his activities. I have read both Booker AND Dickens and I continue to maintain that any attempts to draw favourable comparisons between the two indicates either that the person making the comparison is beyond stupid OR they have not bothered to read the work of either.

        Reply
  35. angelo granda

    Yes,Sarah ,If I am ignorant then please enlighten me ?
    Are the SW’s seriously asking us to believe that young children do not understand that strangers have iremoved them from their parents and they would be emotionly disturbed by talking about issues to their own parents?
    In my experience,children are traumatised by the treatment they get from SW’s and overjoyed to see their parents.They will jump into the arms of their parents and seek comfort and reassurance;often they will plead to go home and cry when parents have to leave at the end of contacts. I cannot believe that lawyers will take any sw seriously who trys to stop a mother or father talking about the issues with their children.
    They cannot disturb a child by comforting and reassurig them,telling them everything will be okay,not to worry etc.The first thing one has to do is explain to them that the SW’s are not wicked but that they are trying to help them.Have you actually seen any of these children and attended a contact?

    As far as Booker and Dickens are concerned,I never compared them favourably so I hope you aren’t suggesting I did.I only pointed out that they are both apparently critical of the CP system.Which paper does this Booker character write in? I did once read some stories in the Times by Camilla Cavendih.
    Is Booker anything like her?
    That is common-sense

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Booker is to Cavendish as a worn out donkey is to race horse.

      You have a curiously one sided view of the child protection system. Yes, there are children who miss their parents and desperately want to go home. There are also children who ask to be taken away from their parents and to be kept safe. There are also plenty of parents who are immature, lacking insight or incredibly self centred and they think only of themselves and their own needs and their own pain.

      these parents can be very emotionally damaging to children.

      I have not attended any contact organised for children in care but I was a volunteer at a contact centre for six months and I was usually profoundly depressed by the behaviour I witnessed from the parents which often involved talking to me in very derogatory terms about the other parent while the child listened.

      Being a parent does not automatically make you a wonderful person. Stupid, cruel, nasty people can be parents, just as much as warm, loving and kind people. It is odd how you think that only the latter group are ever involved in care proceedings.

      Reply
  36. angelo granda

    We differ and some readers may agree with you about me.Others may think you are curiously one-sided and defensive of the CS. I hope you understand that in Public-Law cases, SW’s are not always wonderful,they are unfair and will often talk to other professionals in extremely derogatary terms (to children too)about parents .Especially when they are biased towards proving significant harm rather than supporting families.
    However,we digress from the fundamentals again.

    Do you think that because some parents are cruel and nasty and engage children in a damaging ‘tug of love’, that ALL families should have their Article 10 rights to free speech withdrawn? Is it wrong that children are prevented from telling their parents about the abuses to which they are subjected in care?Or perhaps you think SW’s act only in the interests of children as they claim?

    That they take away human rights to protect us is unlikely.

    Do you disagree with the contention that respondent lawyers effectively ‘gag’ their clients ?

    Reply
  37. angelo granda

    The ECHR decrees that we have several basic human rights but the Local Authorities want us to BELIEVE they can ignore them and that they withdraw them only to protect children.
    Is that the fundamental problem? Is that why some of our politicians want to disengage from the ECHR?

    Reply
  38. ian josephs

    Camilla Cavendish, The Times Online, July 6 2008 (described by sarah as a racehorse compared with booker) An extract from the long Times campaign !)

    In July 2008 The Times newspaper launched its campaign to open up the family courts and make social services more accountable for the removal of children from their families. Read the articles below.

    ——————————————-

    Family justice: the secret state that steals our children

    Every year thousands of children are taken from their parents, largely on the say-so of ‘experts’. It is a secret and sometimes unjust process and the system must change

    Camilla Cavendish, The Times Online, July 6 2008

    Two weeks ago I got a phone call from a woman I hadn’t seen for four years. She was calling to tell me that she was moving abroad, unable to bear the pain of living in the same country as the daughter she is no longer allowed to see. “I wanted to thank you,” she said, “for being the only person who ever gave me a fair hearing.” I was seized with guilt. This woman had asked for my help, and I had utterly failed her. Her story had been just so incredible. She described a world where courts need no criminal conviction to remove your child, only the word of a psychiatrist or doctor, and can deny you the chance to call any expert in your defence. A world that uses the “welfare of the child” to gag you from discussing your case. Where even if you prove yourself innocent on appeal, your children may already have been adopted: in which case you will never be allowed to contact them again. A world which had treated her so badly, this rather pretty and utterly normal young woman, that she was sincerely thanking me just for listening.

    See my site http://www.forced-adoption.com for the complete Times campaign by Camilla………..

    Reply
  39. ian josephs

    Camilla Cavendish 10 point plan as set out by her below:-

    I believe that wholesale reforms are needed, which can be summed up in ten points:

    1. Open family courts to the press in all but exceptional circumstances (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee).

    2.Let any parent or carer accused of abuse call any witnesses they need in their defence. At the moment, they are routinely refused permission to do so. [This is not true]

    3.Give automatic permission for parents who are refused legal aid to get a lay adviser to help them present their case. This is routinely refused. [This is not true]

    4.Remove the restrictions that prevent families from talking about their case (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee). [The Transparency Project and many others are working on this]

    5.Review the definition of “emotional abuse” across local authorities, to make sure that it cannot become a catch-all for overzealous officials.

    6.Provide an automatic right for parents to receive copies of case conference notes and all evidence used against them in court, just as they would in a criminal trial. [Parents ARE entitled to all evidence against them].

    7.Create an independent body to oversee the actions of social services, with proper sanctions. If that body is to be the General Social Care Council, make it easier for parents to go directly to that body rather than having to face delays from the local authority.

    8.Let children in care waive their right to privacy if they wish to speak out. For gagging children is surely not consistent with promoting their welfare.

    9.Restructure CAFCASS, the Family Court Advisory Service, from being an organisation that reports on the parents to the courts to one that actively promotes the parenting needs of children. The primary focus should cease to be assisting the court process. It should be diverting parents away from contested hearings into the making of parenting plans.

    10.Review the recent legal aid cut-backs that are deterring lawyers from taking on these complex family cases. It is quite wrong that desperate parents are unable to find a lawyer to help them in their time of need. [All parents get non means, non merits tested public funding during care proceedings. Its after the care proceedings there is a problem].

    Thank you for listening. As Jeremy Bentham said, where there is no publicity, there is no justice. If you support these ideas, please do go online, support our campaign and e-mail your MP.

    Reply
  40. Sam

    Is this from an out of date article . I’m just not sure ,3,7 and 10 are correct. I also have doubts about 2 but Ian may be right.

    Reply
  41. ian josephs

    I just reprinted the 10 point plan as it was in the Times;Iy was about 7 years ago but it applies now just as much as it did then. Yes 2 is important because parents are routinely refused to call witnesses expecially any giving medical testimony and 8 is important as it confirms the gagging of children.
    I like also the headline chosen by Camilla whom Sarah praises so eloquently …… “Family justice;the Secret State that steals our children”
    I worked pretty closely with Camilla during her “Times Campaign” and some of the cases we dealt with can be found on my site.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is not true that parents are not able to call witnesses. I will delete any further comments of this nature. Simply repeating untruths does not move the debate forward one iota, but it probably does serve to terrify any vulnerable who might be reading.

      Reply
  42. angelo granda

    Re No2 [I have deleted this comment because it is simply a list of absolute assertions that are not evidenced and which I do not accept are true. As I have warned before I am operating a more rigid comments policy than hitherto. I have allowed all sorts of assertions and allegations in the hope to stimulate debate but I have allowed the pendulum to swing far too far into scaremongering.It is not acceptable. If this is the level of discourse with which people wish to engage, they need to find another website].

    Reply
  43. angelo granda

    Sarah only praised Camilla in comparison to Booker.That doesn’t mean she supports her right across the board,Sarah is fair though in her quest for changes and I know she agrees with No.1.Openness and transparency. I also think she is in favour of 3,4,5,6 and 10 and believes parents should get a fair hearing.
    Personally I believe much more radical change is necessary to ensure a fair hearing.
    I would not allow the family court to hear serious cases at all as they do not protect citizens adequately neither is it able to hand-out proportionate sanctions,In serious cases it seems to be removal or nothing!
    I would also like to abolish the CS completely because it is too far gone,riddled with impossible to eradicate spanish practises,biased towards the Local Authorities and flawed from the very top down.I feel we need to have a new social work department independent of the care providers(the LA)employed by national government (possibly part of the NHS.)
    I don’t think those ten-points in the Cavendish article would halt injustice AT ALL because corrupt organisations with too much power WILL ALWAYS FIND NEW WAYS to abuse it.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      And where is Camilla now I wonder? Her disengagement with the fight to bring justice to the evil, secret etc, etc, family courts began when she finally attended court with some of the parents and wondered ‘maybe there were some things they weren’t telling me’. Indeed.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Christopher Booker,Camilla Cavendish are journalists and I don’t read too much into what they write .They have to sell newspapers and please readers and their editors.
        I take my ‘evidence’ from ordinary parents in the main.
        The views of parents like Sam and the others on this resource appear genuine to me and I accept them at face value.Likewise all the professional views. I hope readers accept mine as genuine.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Booker is taking on a much wider role than simply writing garbage about the family justice system. He is an active campaigner, in close contact with a number of quite dangerous individuals. I know this because some of these people are so lacking in insight about the impact of their behaviour that they copy me into the emails they send to him and receive from him! it makes for quite frightening reading.

          Reply
  44. Sam

    I think it is an interesting comment Angelo makes about abolishing CS and there being a new organisation perhaps run by the NHS. It actually makes some sense to me, as many families who are involved with CS are not necessarily evil but in need of help whether through mental health problems or addiction and this would be a holistic ( apologies Ian) and less threatening way to help families. Of course there would be cases that still went to court but this could be managed by a separate agency which just dealt with child protection , with appropriate safeguards such as recording.The NHS does after all already employ social workers.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      This was the original point of the Children Act. As Dr Devine and others have discussed, we are moving away from the founding principles of this Act as a knee jerk response to the many tragedies of children being killed by their parents.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Sam, A holistic approach will be combining the forces of all the many parts of the cp industry (including health and social care) totally in the interests of a family’s welfare.To keep them together is the legitimate aim of The Children Act as Sarah confirms and removal only to be resorted to veru,very rarely.
        This is why the CS are not a fit organisation to lead the child protection process,in my opinion
        I have concerns that the CS is unfit for purpose in many respects but a major drawback is that in any holistic approach , a lot of money has to be spent on support services. The LA’s don’t have a bottomless pit of money according to Sarah.We might think we pay them enough and they waste our money on less worthy schemes than children but that is by the by.
        The danger has to be that ,as agents of the Local Authority,the CS reports and care-plans are influenced by the financial decisions of the Council.
        We have to spend money on these families for the simple reason that it HUMANITY.As stated by the LAW it is inhumane to liquidate natural families permanently when there is an alternative.Money should not enter into it.
        Hence my suggestions.

        Reply
  45. ian josephs

    Much simpler never to take children from law abiding citizens and to abolish all gagging orders and orders banning indirect contact (emails or letters) between parent and children.

    Reply
  46. ian josephs

    Incidentally, Sarah, Vicky Haigh was NEVER found by any judge to have coached her daughter or persuaded her to say anything at all !
    She broke no laws except for speaking to her daughter in defiance of a barbaric court order.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Goodness me! so what WERE the reasons that her daughter was removed from her care? Presumably just another crazy decision from the lunatic family courts eh! she certainly didn’t keep up a campaign to have her daughter’s father named as a paedophile. I must have slept and dreamed it all.

      Sorry, I don’t have any time to indulge Vicky Haigh apologists on this or any other site. Next comment like this, I delete.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        I hope that this post is not absolutist and I apologise profusely Sarah for offending you .
        QUOTE: [I have deleted this comment because it is simply a list of absolute assertions that are not evidenced and which I do not accept are true:UNQUOTE
        Sarah ,Rules are rules and you are right to insist thati your guidelines are followed scrupulously .
        Please clarify? Do you mean all absolute assertions or just those you do not accept are true?
        QUOTE:It is not true that parents are not able to call witnesses:UNQUOTE

        Readers should note that theoretically parents are able to call witnesses..Theoretically,they have lots of rights which are not always adhered to by the Authorities.Parents are not always allowed to call witnesses of their choice whilst the LA appear to be able to call upon witnesses of their choice at will.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Assertions are continually made on this site and elsewhere that parents are ‘always’ prevented from doing X, Y, Z or ‘never’ allowed to see the evidence, call witnesses, speak in court etc, etc, etc. This simply isn’t true and I am going to delete any such absolute assertions from now on – unless of course, evidence can be supplied to support them.

          Reply
  47. angelo granda

    Here is an amended version of the deleted post.Once again my apologies to Sarah.I did not intend to terrify vulnerable parents .

    Re:No.2- I have concerns that no-one is actually accused of anything specific in Family Courts. Parents are often unaware they are engaged in an adversarial process until the final care-plan is disclosed.Parents expect a fair hearing and they are led to believe that Social Workers will carry out open-minded .impartial investigations which includes the disclosure of all evidence contra-indicative of the case for removal.Many of them wait in vain to be questioned,to give their account of circumstances and to discuss support etc!

    They often presume wrongly that either the Judge or members of the Children’s Legal Panel particularly their own lawyers or those of the Guardian will ensure that supporting witnesses are called .Parents are not included in pre-hearing meetings and appear not to be allowed to stand up in court and talk in order to ask for witnesses to be called.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks Angelo – I think your re-draft is a much more constructive way of approaching the problem. I agree that many parents seem simply unaware of their rights and how to enforce them. I am constantly surprised and saddened by how little their lawyers feature in their narratives about the family justice system.

      It must be the responsibility of the lawyers to make sure their clients understand exactly what is going on. Very often, court hearings are simply short directions hearings to sort out what written evidence is needed; no live evidence is expected or heard. Very often, it is not until the final hearing many months later that parents have an opportunity to speak. It seems like this isn’t properly understood by parents.

      With regard to ‘independent witnesses’ – very often what I am provided with are letters from friends and family which are usually of very limited assistance as these people do not know the full circumstances of the case and have not seen the case documentation. It is NOT a question of the courts excluding them out of malice or wish to make the parents’ case impossible to prove, but more an issue with the usefulness of that evidence itself. Sadly, often it is utterly useless. Again, lawyers need to explain this better.

      I very strongly disagree with any assertion that parents are deliberately excluded from the process. I think the problem is more that they do not understand the process and it is not well explained. That, we can do something about.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        That depends upon whether or not you think SW’s purposely break the guidelines and exclude parents.Lawyers only enter the fray at an advanced stage when the damage is done.
        The frameworks (working together)) state quite plainly,for example,that at the outset they are supposed to inform parents of advocacy services available and of their right to have the support of the advocate (or a friend) in putting issues to meetings etc.The rulemakers intend that those free advocates will explain the process fully to parents,give them appropriate advice and talk and/or intervene on the behalf of parents.It cannot be more clear that they must do this but on the ‘evidence’ of countless parents ,SW’s don’t do it.
        The court already has the power to throw cases out when procedures are not followed but parents complain it doesn’t.So what can you do to change that?
        On the subject of speaking in court,Sarah,I have concerns that at no time are parents given the opportunity to speak freely in court.The only time they speak at all is when answering questions in the box.They can only answer the questions,nothing more .

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          This is because it is a court room, not an anarchic free for all. Evidence has to be heard and tested in a structured way otherwise the Judge is going to get lost. People must be allowed to give their evidence without interruption. Parents put in detailed written statements as their evidence in chief and are then cross examined so it is simply inaccurate to say ‘they can only answer the questions, nothing more’. I can ask them to expand upon things in their statements in examination in chief as well. I often ask parents as my last question ‘is there anything else you think it is important that the court hears from you today’ before I hand over to the other lawyers to cross examine.

          Reply
          1. angelo granda

            Thank you Sarah,I do understand why verbal evidence is limited to the answering of questions. The Family Court process is a strange mixture of strict procedural protocol as in a criminal court) in regard to cross-examination but with strict time limits and a limit on the amount of witnesses .,. Can you explain why civil libel or fraud cases,for example,can take weeks or even months whilst serious family court cases can be done and dusted in a week?.The standard of fact-finding has to be low.Can you suggest any improvements?

            You mention that the written statements of respondents are their evidence-in-chief.If you don’t mind,how do you work that one out?
            The evidence-in-chief is usuall professional evidence,from my experience,solicitors write parents statements;normally they will abridge them and cut out anything which contradictsthe professional evidence on the grounds that it is not protocol to do so.Solicitors ‘sanitise’ or ‘censor’ respondent’s statements.Please don’t say this is utter nonsense because parents all know it isn’t.,
            Do you think the protocol is fair?y

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            If you are prepared to sign a statement that you don’t approve then you are an utter fool and I have no sympathy for you. If your solicitor has cut things out that you want in – tell them. Get them to put them back.

            BUT you might want to think while you are at it that there could be very good reason why your solicitor is advising you to cut certain things out – because you might be wanting to say things that will put your unfitness to parent beyond doubt.

            Written statements are the evidence in chief because those are the rules of the court. We do not ask lots of questions about the written statement. It stands as a party’s evidence. If they want to rely on photos etc, those must be attached to the statement as an Appendix or schedule.

            I have no idea how civil libel or fraud trials are conducted because I have never been instructed to appear in either. But the move is clear in all courts to dealing with issues efficiently and proportionately.

  48. angelo granda

    I mentioned in my last but one post how SW’s flout procedurers abd gave an example
    Can we force them to follow guidelines?How?

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      Sarah,If you look at. the court directions , I think you will find that respondents are ordered to file a written statement in response to that of the Local Authority by a certain date.
      No-where does it say that the statement must comprise the respondent’s evidence-in-chief or that parents can gather professional evidence,photographs etc and attach it to the statement.Even if it did parents are unable to do so because the LA control the professional evidence.Parents make a general statement of their position intended to go down on file in the interests of their children’s welfare.Most parents will claim they can care for their children but it is not possible to ‘prove’ their claims in a statement especially when they have to keep it brief and they are not allowed (by protocol) to contradict the Guardian,,also when it is common knowledge that professional evidence is shown much more respect by the Court.
      Is it any wonder that Public trust in the system has broken down irretrievably?
      Please confirm for us,Sarah,that it is the responsibility of the CS to provide ALL the professional evidence-in-chief to court including that which supports parents and is non-indicative of the case for removal of children.
      Parents do not have access to all the files and archives.How can they possibly support their claims in court without access to the evidence?

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        because the LA control the professional evidence. Not really. Yes, most of the evidence will be generated by them or for them but they MUST disclose this evidence, it MUST go in the trial bundle and parents MUST respond to it. If evidence isn’t in the trial bundle, the court won’t consider it.

        and they are not allowed (by protocol) to contradict the Guardian,,also when it is common knowledge that professional evidence is shown much more respect by the Court. This, I am afraid, is simply nonsense. If parents don’t accept the Guardian’s evidence, they can say so. I will cross examine the Guardian on their behalf. I have happily done so in 100s of cases. Sometimes the guardian does get it badly wrong and requires challenge.

        CS to provide ALL the professional evidence-in-chief to court including that which supports parents and is non-indicative of the case for removal of children. The LA will provide the evidence on which it wants to rely. If the case is for removal, it will provide that evidence. THE COURT however has a duty to consider ALL REASONABLE alternatives to adoption. So the parents present their case – if the LA assert the parents are drug addicts, the parents can say ‘no we are not. We will do a hair strand test’. If the LA asserts that the parents don’t know how to parent, the parents can say ‘this isn’t true, here is a certificate relating to a parenting class that we completed and engaged well with’.

        Cases are not simply the LA rocking up with a load of papers that no one else gets to see or challenge. This is what Ian Josephs thinks happens but he is flat out wrong. Bundles must now be reduced to 350 pages unless there is permission from Judge to go over that limit. In my bundle I will expect to see; copies of all orders and applications. A chronology and genogram. Social work statements, parents statements in response and a report from the Guardian. That is the bare minimum.

        More complicated cases will involve further evidence – for e.g. from hospitals, doctors, pyschologists etc, etc. My job when acting for parents is to read carefully ALL the evidence and highlight that which supports my client and to challenge that evidence which does not.

        the judge then makes the decision. It must be a decision based on the written evidence in the trial bundle and the oral evidence heard during the hearing. Nothing else. Parents get this in advance of the hearing and are allowed to challenge it.

        If evidence comes in at the last minute, I will ask for an adjournment to read and properly consider it. IF the judge refused to allow me that time, that is a ground of appeal and I would appeal.

        Reply
        1. angelo granda

          Para1. The problem is that they only disclose the evidence they want to use against the parents.They don’t disclose evidence hostile to their own case.Parents need access to ALL files and documentation to support their own claims but it is denied to them.If the CS decide not to put positive evidence for parents in the trial bundle,the court can’t consider it.

          Para 2. Are you fully aware of the Court protocol? You should check it out.Then apologise for calling my words nonsense.I have a letter from a solicitor informing one respondent that all her comments and objections to the Guardian’s evidence had been deleted from her final statemeent because it was not protocol to criticise the Guardian’s evidence.

          Para.3. Common law principle is that as a ‘professional’ party to a case,the Local Authority is particularly trusted by families and the Court and is duty-bound to be FULL AND FRANK with the Court and to alert it to any information contraindicative of a case to remove children. As respondents don’t have access to cp files,how can it be incumbent upon them to provide it to Court.Checkout Re X :EPO’s(2006)EWHC510(FAM);(2006)2FLR701,paragraph d)McFarlane.J.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Para 2. Are you fully aware of the Court protocol? You should check it out.Then apologise for calling my words nonsense.I have a letter from a solicitor informing one respondent that all her comments and objections to the Guardian’s evidence had been deleted from her final statemeent because it was not protocol to criticise the Guardian’s evidence. I have never heard of this. If you have a copy of such ‘protocol’ I would very much like to see it. If anyone told me I couldn’t criticise the Guardian because of ‘protocol’ I would have some very interesting things to discuss with them. It may be that the solicitor had removed personal criticisms, which would of course be inappropriate. But if you are critical of the guardian’s analytical process, then of course you make that clear.

            I appreciate there may be difficulties when parents don’t have full access to all documents sitting on LA systems. This is why it is so crucial to have a good lawyer and to work with them. We are trained and experienced in quickly digesting large amounts of information and we can spot inconsistencies and/or gaps in the evidence. We can then investigate further and ask for such gaps to be filled.

  49. Sam

    Someone just let it slip to me that my son’s LAC review is tomorrow, I have neither received a parent’s view form nor been invited. I do not have a clue why as I have previously attended. I am starting to sound like Ian Joseph’s but here goes Why or why are local authorities unaccountable. There is a duty to include parents,before during and after proceedings this local authority has not done any of this right.
    It’s a farce.

    Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Indeed. Marie Black hadn’t been convicted when you gave her money to leave the UK, so I suppose on your analysis she would still qualify as ‘law abiding’ at that time.

        Reply
  50. Sam

    Ian I understand the true picture. I totally agree they should not take children from law abiding citizens. However alongside that I understand intergenerational dysfunction as I married into it. I also understand that some people , including myself at the time, are more likely to end up in these dysfunctional families. Children’s Services should be about breaking the chain, it currently on the whole isn’t I also think that Parent’s should be able to speak out, for one thing they are grieving and need to talk. I also have time and again said that something akin to PACE used by the police needs to be implemented to make sure that Children’s Services are following the correct procedures. I also said before I agreed with John Hemming’s Private Members Bill and asked my MP to support it
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2014-2015/0028/15028.pdf Actually the provisions within this Bill relating to child protection may make a good topic for an article. I am not sure if Sarah would agree. Ian I am very tempted to ring you up ,but I have a feeling it may be a somewhat one sided conversation.

    Reply
  51. Sam

    In reply to Sarah’s post . It does not seem entirely fair to me that parties exchange position statements just before a hearing, especially when there is a litigant in person involved. Or am I talking about a local practice again?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      This is a perfectly sensible and reasonable thing to do. Its to help the judge. Rather than ask him/her to wade through all 350 pages, each party sets out on one or two sides of A4 what their position is. There is nothing sinister about this. They are perfectly entitled to go beyond their position statements at the final hearing!

      Judges will almost always order exchange of position statements at least a day before the next hearing, even if it is just a short directions hearing. It is always very helpful to get a short, succinct precis of what the other parties want.

      Reply
  52. Sam

    I don’t think I made myself understood . I am talking about as the parties arrive at court on the day of the hearing,not a day or two before. The statements are exchanged and handed in to the judge approximately an hour before the hearing. It doesn’t seem fair to me especially if some of the parties are not legally represented.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      QUOTE; very often what I am provided with are letters from friends and family which are usually of very limited assistance as these people do not know the full circumstances of the case and have not seen the case documentation. It is NOT a question of the courts excluding them out of malice or wish to make the parents’ case impossible to prove, but more an issue with the usefulness of that evidence itself. Sadly, often it is utterly useless. : UNQUOTE

      I much appreciate your candour , Sarah.and feel you expose fundamental flaws in the system.

      Please answer these queries which are intended to focus readers on problems in a more structured way:-

      1. Why do respondent lawyers not call as many friends and family into Court as they can in order to give detailed verbal evidence to the Judge?

      2.Why do they not call Doctors and teachers into Court to give detailed verbal evidence?

      3.Why do the lawyers assume parent’s witnesses do not know the full circumstances of the case? They often have inside information and know the truth of how parents care for the children ! ,

      4.If they haven’t seen the case documentation.Why not?If their letters are of little value, bring them to court,inform them of the full circumstances and show them relevant documentation and ask for their views.

      5.If witness evidence supports THEIR CLIENT/S, why do lawyers doubt its usefulness at all, why is it often utterly useless?Surely , a respondent expects his lawyers to maximise the value of his supporting evidence and to rubbish that of his opponents not vice-versa.

      6.In a previous post,I mentioned what I see as a fundamental flaw in the system. It seems to be a contradiction that Public Law cases are heard in Family Courts in private.
      I think the protocol of these courts may well be suitable for hearing private legal disputes between warring divorcees.
      Surely,when powerful Public Authorities bring Public Law cases against citizens, the proceedings should be open to the Public. Names do not have to be published in the media. You support open hearings so please explain the legalities. What exactly is the difference between Public Law and Private Law?

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        . Why do respondent lawyers not call as many friends and family into Court as they can in order to give detailed verbal evidence to the Judge?
        I have answered this. Because almost always the evidence they can give is not very helpful. For e.g. I had one client who wanted her mother to give evidence. Her mother had no idea about her daughter’s drug use. Her evidence that her daughter was a ‘great mum’ was therefore not very helpful evidence and in fact made the mother’s case worse as it showed she hadn’t been honest with her family.

        2.Why do they not call Doctors and teachers into Court to give detailed verbal evidence? Sometimes they do. It depends on the case. When a child is noted to have suffered injuries at school then the teacher who made notes and made the referral will come to court to be cross examined. If a child is taken to hospital then the doctor who admitted the child may be called to give evidence about his/her notes. It all depends on the individual case – what is being alleged against the parents? What do they accept? What do they wish to challenge? They can ask that anyone who wrote a statement or submits a written report, comes to court to be cross examined.

        3.Why do the lawyers assume parent’s witnesses do not know the full circumstances of the case? They often have inside information and know the truth of how parents care for the children ! , Because unless they have seen all the documents in the trial bundle, they don’t. Sometimes family members CAN give very useful evidence. For e.g. when it is suggested that a father was violent to a mother, other family members can give evidence about where he was on the day and what he was doing.

        4.If they haven’t seen the case documentation.Why not?If their letters are of little value, bring them to court,inform them of the full circumstances and show them relevant documentation and ask for their views.
        They can’t see evidence prepared for a court hearing unless they are parties to the proceedings as this would be contempt of court. They would have to get permission from the Judge to see the documents.

        5.If witness evidence supports THEIR CLIENT/S, why do lawyers doubt its usefulness at all, why is it often utterly useless?Surely , a respondent expects his lawyers to maximise the value of his supporting evidence and to rubbish that of his opponents not vice-versa. I have answered this question. Evidence from close friends and family members is often NOT helpful because a) they don’t know the full story and b) have love and affection for the parent and thus find it hard to admit/accept that the parent has ever done anything wrong.

        6.In a previous post,I mentioned what I see as a fundamental flaw in the system. It seems to be a contradiction that Public Law cases are heard in Family Courts in private.
        I think the protocol of these courts may well be suitable for hearing private legal disputes between warring divorcees.
        Surely,when powerful Public Authorities bring Public Law cases against citizens, the proceedings should be open to the Public. Names do not have to be published in the media. You support open hearings so please explain the legalities. What exactly is the difference between Public Law and Private Law?
        There is no difference in that both involve children so both are heard in private. There are many people – myself included – who think the time has come to open up the courts, so long as we can do this without putting children through shame and embarrassment.

        Reply
        1. angelo granda

          Thanks for your reply,Sarah.I am retaining the paragraph numbers to retain the structure and adding further discussion points.

          1.The object of the exercise is to find the TRUTH. If your client lied to her Mum about drug-taking, then the court should know that.The client being on drugs is not the decisive issue.The Court wants to know whether or not your client is a good Mum,whether she has ever been seen to inflict harm upon a child,whether she holds anything approaching deliberate malice towards a child etc.The Court wants to know,in the interests of the child,every possible alternative to removal.Character references from relations and neighbours and first hand reports on the clients child-care abilities and so on are much more helpful.The Court wants as much evidence as possible in support of maintaining the child’s place with its natural family.Drug-taking or drinking does not always make a bad parent.
          2.Sometimes sw’s avoid any evidence hostile to their case.They will not present evidence from doctors or teachers unless it is critical of your client .The LA will not call them as witnesses.You should do it. Or are you unable to call anyone who has not written a statement or submitted a written report?

          3. In serious cases, evidence which is not influenced by a full knowledge of all the competing evidence is more valuable,I think.In fact,in a normal court,witnesses are not allowed access to all documentary evidence(except for certain expert witnesses).

          4.Are you saying that their evidence is unhelpful because they don’t know the full circumstances.That appears to count out any witness not party to a case.Is that why witnesses are not called?

          5.If the witnesses do not accept that the parent has ever done anything wrong especially when the parent does not either and when there is only CS generated evidence to say the parent has then you should call all those witnesses to court.

          6.So ,if no children were involved,what is the difference between a Public law case and a private law one?

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            The object of the exercise is to find the TRUTH. yes, but the truth about what? The court needs to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the statutory requirements under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 are met; in brief that the child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm due to the care or lack of care of the parents.

            If your client lied to her Mum about drug-taking, then the court should know that.The client being on drugs is not the decisive issue.The Court wants to know whether or not your client is a good Mum,whether she has ever been seen to inflict harm upon a child,whether she holds anything approaching deliberate malice towards a child etc.The Court wants to know,in the interests of the child,every possible alternative to removal.Character references from relations and neighbours and first hand reports on the clients child-care abilities and so on are much more helpful I think this comment reveals your lack of understanding about what usually happens when parents are addicted to illegal substances, that they buy from criminals in the community. It is not a simple issue of ‘does she take drugs’. Taking illegal street drugs almost always goes hand in hand with a raft of other problems, such as stealing in order to fund the drug habit, being physically or emotionally unavailable to care for your child beccause you are either suffering the effects of withdrawal or anxious about where you will buy your drugs. A drug addict may well be able to find friends or neighbours to say she is a nice person. But unless those friends and neighbours can give clear and direct evidence about the state of the drug addicts home, how she parents her children, etc, etc that evidence is not helpful. And if they can give clear and direct evidence about these issues, the evidence is unlikely to be favourable to the parent. Uncontrolled drug addicts generally live unstable, chaotic and dangerous lives and involve their children in this. I agree with you that being on drugs is not the decisive issue – I know many drug addicts who are caring for or having contact with their children. The difference for these addicts is that they are working to control their addiction, they are honest about what they are using, they are trying to detox etc. Parents who are working hard to maintain abstinence are unlikely to find themselves in care proceedings, unless there are other problems.

            .The Court wants as much evidence as possible in support of maintaining the child’s place with its natural family.Drug-taking or drinking does not always make a bad parent. I agree, as I have discussed above. But very often, drug taking – particularly of illegal substances bought from criminals in the street, goes hand in hand with other problem behaviours such as criminal offences, violence, anti social behaviour, neglect etc, etc. Evidence from friends and neighbours is of little use or interest if it does not directly relate to these issues. Grandparents who come to court to say what a lovely boy/girl the parent is actually do that parent much more harm than good because it shows that the immediate family either does not know the full extent of the problem, or is in denial. Either way, they will not be seen as a good and reliable source of support.

            Sometimes sw’s avoid any evidence hostile to their case.They will not present evidence from doctors or teachers unless it is critical of your client .The LA will not call them as witnesses.You should do it. Or are you unable to call anyone who has not written a statement or submitted a written report? The court are going to be very reluctant to allow anyone to give oral evidence who has not provided a written statement. We need to be able to compare and contrast what they say in court and what they previously wrote down. this is a fundamental way that evidence is tested in adversarial court proceedings. If my client says that Mr or Ms X can give useful evidence, I will arrange for them to come to the solicitors office to sign a statement and I will call them as a witness. It is very important therefore that parent clients engage with their lawyers at the earliest opportunity so we can make sure the people they want to call are able to give evidence.

            In serious cases, evidence which is not influenced by a full knowledge of all the competing evidence is more valuable,I think.In fact,in a normal court,witnesses are not allowed access to all documentary evidence(except for certain expert witnesses). I am afraid I don’t understand this comment. Care proceedings are decided by the judge on the evidence in the bundle – which is seen by everyone – and by the evidence he/she hears – which is heard by everyone. Evidence could only be kept from me as a parent’s lawyer if it related to national security or was evidence about a third party which was sensitive for them and which wasn’t directly relevant to the issues regarding my client.

            4.Are you saying that their evidence is unhelpful because they don’t know the full circumstances.That appears to count out any witness not party to a case.Is that why witnesses are not called? That is exactly what I am saying. The vast majority of care proceedings involve parents who are suffering a multiplicity of problems, stemming from poverty, mental health issues and drug/alcohol abuse. In order to make a fair and lawful determination about what risk of harm their children suffer from, the court must consider a wide variety of material from a wide variety of sources. Therefore ‘character witnesses’ in these types of cases are unlikely to be much use. However if it was a true ‘single issue case’ – for example a case of alleged non accidental injury, with no other worries about the parenting, a character witness might be useful to bolster a case that this parent was not the type of parent who would deliberately inflict violence on a child. however, the majority of cases involve long standing issues of neglect and are emphatically NOT single issue cases.

            .If the witnesses do not accept that the parent has ever done anything wrong especially when the parent does not either and when there is only CS generated evidence to say the parent has then you should call all those witnesses to court. It is irrelevant to the court what a witness is prepared to ‘accept’ or not accept about a parent. The issue is – what evidence can this witness give? to say that Ms X wouldn’t neglect her child as she is such a lovely lady is not helpful evidence. To say that Ms X has not neglected her child and I know this because I am a frequent visitor to her home and it has always been in a good state of cleanliness, the children have appeared well fed and well behaved etc, IS helpful evidence. If any client of mine was fighting a case about her parenting and she could offer witnesses who speak directly to that, then I would want to call them to give evidence.

            6.So ,if no children were involved,what is the difference between a Public law case and a private law one? I don’t understand this comment. The Children Act is divided into ‘public’ and ‘private’ law proceedings. ‘public’ law proceedings involve a public body – either the LA or the NSPCC – making an application to the court. ‘Private’ law proceedings are legal proceedings between private individuals such as parents or grandparents. Both public and private law proceedings involve children, without any children involved there would be nothing to argue about!

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      But these are just summaries of each parties position. There is nothing new about the information – its just being presented in a condensed form for ease of access/understanding. If it IS new information then of course, everyone ought to be able to read, digest and understand it before the hearing starts. If you don’t think you have had enough time, ask for it.

      Yes litigants in person are at a disadvantage – they are sadly disadvantaged at every stage of the process. But handing in position statements I would have thought ought to be pretty low down the list of things to worry them.

      Reply
  53. Sam

    Thank you Sarah. I may be mind reading Angelo but when he is talking about doctor’s and teachers I believe he is wanting to call them as witnesses if they are positive about the parents.
    I can also see what he is saying about the social work files,especially as I understand the Guardian rarely check them these days. I would recommend any parent to put in a data access request and then trawl through your files yourselves. The local authority will probably be reluctant to fulfil it ,but just keep reminding them of the law.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am afraid that calling ‘character witnesses’ is pretty useless. You have to challenge the EVIDENCE against you. unless witnesses can speak directly about that particular evidence, it really is of limited use to get people to come to court and say how nice you are. Can the witness speak directly about the particular issues that are going to worry the court? If you are for e.g. a regular volunteer at the school and a particular teacher can talk about you positively and the work you do, that could be helpful. Getting a friend to write a vague letter – not really helpful.

      BUT I have never known a judge refuse to read character references. but there is a limit to what use they will be to the Judge’s deliberations if they don’t address the issues in the particular case.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        The barristers should call friendly witnesses to court to give verbal evidence and make it their task to address the issues which matter with them.As many friendly witnesses as possible
        Why don’t they?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          For the reasons which I have exhaustively already set out. I don’t give a damn if you have a ‘friendly’ witness. I want to know if you have a witness who can directly help me challenge the evidence about you. If you weren’t drunk in charge of a child on a particular night, can this witness help by giving evidence that actually you were at the cinema together, sober? OR will this witness say that actually you were at a party together, drinking?

          Very few people are outright monsters. Most people can cobble together a few people who will come to court to say how nice they are. So what? This doesn’t help me make their case. I need people who can offer direct evidence about the issues in the case. If they can, great. If all they are doing is coming to court to say ‘so and so is a nice person’ I advise them not to waste their time or mine.

          Reply
  54. angelo granda

    Sam,During proceedings respondents can ask their solicitors to write to the Local Authority to request the disclosure of specific pieces of evidence.The solicitor must do so and will usually send a copy of the letter to the Guardian.
    The Local Authority may well ignore repeated requests without any acknowledgement.
    A respondent may instruct a solicitor to get the court to order the production of the evidence and the judge will issue an order,The LA may well ignore the court order
    The LA appears to be able to ignore guidelines,statutes,correct procedures,court orders and legal frameworks more or less at will and the lawyers will not necessarily object strongly about it.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The LA appears to be able to ignore guidelines,statutes,correct procedures,court orders and legal frameworks more or less at will and the lawyers will not necessarily object strongly about it. I disagree with this. Yes, LA behave badly at times. But to suggest that lawyers and the court don’t object to this is rubbish. Here is an example from a few days ago of Glos again being strongly (and deservedly) criticised by a Judge for their failures.http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/16/judge-condemns-gloucestershire-childrens-services-foster-case?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

      So AGAIN I stress – it is madness to advise parents – as I see so many do – NOT to engage with your lawyer NOT to trust them. There are – I fully accept and have done for years – examples of really bad and sharp practice from LAs from time to time. They WILL be noticed and they WILL be challenged, but help us to help you by giving us clear instructions and answering phone calls/keeping appointments with your solicitor.

      Reply
  55. angelo granda

    I am grateful for your contributions,Sarah.You clarify so much for us. Returning to the six points

    1. Citizens are entitled to expect that when parents offend and commit crimes of the kind you describe,they will be dealt with and children will be protected by the criminal justice system which has a public duty to act and protect them.The criminals will be charged,tried and punished IN PROPORTION to the circumstances of the case if found guilty,the parent can be gaoled,put on probation,sent for treatment and rehabilitation,put under curfew ,tagged or made subject of a supervision order and so forth and so forth.

    It is a simple issue! If a parent/s have been found guilty of crimes ( including possibly criminal neglect) then it is the overriding priority of the criminal system to protect vulnerable children involved.

    It is not the duty of the Family Court to deal with serious cases,in my opinion.

    It should confine itself to civil ( non-criminal) cases and the issue of protective orders and sanctions designed to protect children deemed to be at risk of significant harm but where evidence is not substantive enough to merit criminal conviction and more serious sanctions.

    I repeat,the object of the exercise is to find the TRUTH.
    If the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the statutory requirements under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 are met,then an order can be issued and a care-plan put into place designed to support families.

    In my opinion,whilst it may be deemed that temporary removal is sometimes necessary,family courts should not order sanctions exceeding those punishments which can be imposed by a criminal court. I believe more attention should be paid by lawyers to the enforcement of Human Rights.

    Radical action should be taken by the lawmakers to outlaw excessive sanctions such as enforced adoption and permanence plans.Even if of a long-term nature in dire circumstances, foster-care should never be permanent.Children are subjected to severe emotional and physiological harm by those plans not to mention lifetime degradation.

    The civil child-protection agencies should be absolutely clear as to its duties and limitations

    2.I hope readers will agree with you and I that drug-taking and drinking does not always make a bad parent and that the Court wants as much evidence as possible in support of maintaining the child’s place with its natural family.This applies in all cases not only cases of substance abuse.

    Evidence from friends and neighbours,doctors,schoolteachers is of interest to a court , in my opinion,if it directly relates to the character and behaviour of the child’s parents.
    As I have suggested before,for whatever reason (or ulterior motives if they exist), the CS do not conduct impartial enquiries.The Department often fails to take the time to establish the TRUTH before committing itself to proceedings,It does not include the above mentioned people whose evidence may or may not contradict their case.It simply trawls through its own cp files,school cp files and medical files picking out every fact or vague suggestion supporting it.Of course,it ignores all the entries contradicting it.Respondents should call the people as witnesses.More importantly,as respondents may be vulnerable,poor,needy,sick,mentally ill,drug-dependent,dysfunctional,semi-literate,traumatised,unable to understand or accept the issues and incapable of engaging and handling the case themselves,their lawyers should call witnesses for them.It is the duty of lawyers to safeguard the interests of their clients who rely on them to do so.

    3.In my opinion,lawyers should be trained to spot when the CS has not conducted cases correctly.For example,if it has omitted to solicit evidence from doctors and teachers who have been involved with the family for years,then respondent lawyers should do it,Respondents aren’t permitted to do it themselves.Once proceedings are commenced,the agencies are forbidden from giving information and evidence to parents.The court needs to be able to compare and contrast all evidence not just that the CS choose to present.

    I would add that if the court proceedings are adversarial, clients should not be misled by cp professional professionals into the belief that the Local Authority are their friends to be cooperated with.Often respondents may cut their own throats by being open and honest with a CS which isn’t.
    Why? Every negative a parent utters in the spirit of co-operation may be taken down and used against them whilst every positive may be ignored.The system is,I fear,open to abuse by the CS.

    4.In order to make a fair and lawful determination about what risk of harm their children suffer from, the court must consider a wide variety of material from a wide variety of sources. If the CS are claiming a parent is unable to care for their children,then a respondent solicitor should seek any evidence which suggests the opposite.In these types of cases, the respondents character is under attack.Therefore character witnesses are useful because they add weight to the scales of justice no matter how small.

    5.To say that Ms X has not neglected her child and I know this because I am a frequent visitor to her home and it has always been in a good state of cleanliness, the children have appeared well fed and well behaved etc, IS helpful evidence. I agree with you Sarah.The solicitors should do their job and solicit such evidence from likely sources and offer you witnesses who speak directly to that effect.,

    6.Sarah,I know you are very busy,but please can you comment on the advice below.

    QUOTE: All civil law has procedures to adhere to, for example in public law it is the public law outline…Not many lawyers know the actual routes of appeal or procedure rules/practice directions. For example you DO NOT NEED PERMISSION TO APPEAL in a family case if you are appealing to a High Court Judge OR Circuit Judge. The High Court will ONLY allow a Judicial Review if you are unable to appeal:UNQUOTE.

    This advice appears to say that parents have an automatic right of appeal already.
    Secondly,it appears to say that, as parents have an automatic right to appeal,it is impossible to get a judicial review.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      1. Citizens are entitled to expect that when parents offend and commit crimes of the kind you describe,they will be dealt with and children will be protected by the criminal justice system which has a public duty to act and protect them.The criminals will be charged,tried and punished IN PROPORTION to the circumstances of the case if found guilty,the parent can be gaoled,put on probation,sent for treatment and rehabilitation,put under curfew ,tagged or made subject of a supervision order and so forth and so forth. The problem here, which we have discussed before, is that not all bad behaviour by parents triggers the interest or the applicability of the CRIMINAL law. the CRIMINAL law and civil law have entirely different aims and objectives. The Criminal law exists to express society’s condemnation of bad behaviour and to protect us against criminals by locking them up. The Civil/Family law jurisdiction has as its aim, the desire to protect children from harm, not to punish parents. (although I know for some parents it feels very much like punishment). There is obviously a lot of overlap between criminal and care proceedings, but not always. Often the police will not take action as they do not have proof to go beyond a reasonable doubt. But the family court will as the burden of proof is lower. I know you and many others are not happy with that situation, but it will require Parliament to change it. There is nothing lawyers or social workers can do.

      It is not the duty of the Family Court to deal with serious cases,in my opinion. I appreciate that this is your opinion, but family courts do routinely deal with the most serious of cases and will continue to do so unless Parliament changes the law.

      It should confine itself to civil ( non-criminal) cases and the issue of protective orders and sanctions designed to protect children deemed to be at risk of significant harm but where evidence is not substantive enough to merit criminal conviction and more serious sanctions. There is, as I have said, significant overlap between criminal and family proceedings and families may find themselves subject to both. The criminal courts can’t make orders about the upbringing of children, so often the family court needs to step in, particularly if someone is going to prison.

      I repeat,the object of the exercise is to find the TRUTH.
      If the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the statutory requirements under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 are met,then an order can be issued and a care-plan put into place designed to support families.
      But the problems then arise if there is no support available or no support available in time OR (as is common) families just flat out refuse to accept they have a problem. You can’t force people to access support or agree that they need it.

      In my opinion,whilst it may be deemed that temporary removal is sometimes necessary,family courts should not order sanctions exceeding those punishments which can be imposed by a criminal court. I believe more attention should be paid by lawyers to the enforcement of Human Rights. I believe lawyers are very keen to pay attention to HR issues. Problem is, you have competing demands from parents and children who don’t always have the same interests at the same time.

      Radical action should be taken by the lawmakers to outlaw excessive sanctions such as enforced adoption and permanence plans.Even if of a long-term nature in dire circumstances, foster-care should never be permanent.Children are subjected to severe emotional and physiological harm by those plans not to mention lifetime degradation. Not always and not even often, in my view. Children have already suffered serious harm in many cases at hands of birth families and adoptive or foster families offer them a chance of a stable happy life. It is not automatically ‘degradation’ to be adopted or fostered.

      2.I hope readers will agree with you and I that drug-taking and drinking does not always make a bad parent and that the Court wants as much evidence as possible in support of maintaining the child’s place with its natural family.This applies in all cases not only cases of substance abuse. Agreed.

      Evidence from friends and neighbours,doctors,schoolteachers is of interest to a court , in my opinion,if it directly relates to the character and behaviour of the child’s parents. Disagree, for reasons I have explained. Evidence of character is almost always not very helpful. I want evidence about what you have DONE or failed to do.

      As I have suggested before,for whatever reason (or ulterior motives if they exist), the CS do not conduct impartial enquiries.The Department often fails to take the time to establish the TRUTH before committing itself to proceedings,It does not include the above mentioned people whose evidence may or may not contradict their case.It simply trawls through its own cp files,school cp files and medical files picking out every fact or vague suggestion supporting it.Of course,it ignores all the entries contradicting it.
      It isn’t their job to establish ‘the truth’ – that is the court’s job. It is their job to present a case to the court, which they do by relying on the written and oral evidence of a number of witnesses, or on reports from doctors, police etc. I don’t agree they routinely ‘simply trawl through files’ and pick out ‘every vague suggestion’. But if they do, then its my job to spot that and believe me, its quite easy. Its happened a few times and I have challenged it. But usually – as I said before – the problem is not enough evidence, but far too much evidence and the children have been left in a bad situation for far too long.

      Respondents should call the people as witnesses.More importantly,as respondents may be vulnerable,poor,needy,sick,mentally ill,drug-dependent,dysfunctional,semi-literate,traumatised,unable to understand or accept the issues and incapable of engaging and handling the case themselves,their lawyers should call witnesses for them.It is the duty of lawyers to safeguard the interests of their clients who rely on them to do so. If someone is in such a bad way that they are ‘incapable’ of dealing with the issues then they will not be able to act for themselves and the court will appoint a litigation friend – sometimes the Official Solicitor – who will take over management of their case. But unless someone is found to lack capacity to conduct litigation, they must be able to give instructions to their lawyer. I can suggest certain things that might be useful/helpful but I can’t conduct a trawl of all available friends and neighbours. I can only act on instructions.

      3.In my opinion,lawyers should be trained to spot when the CS has not conducted cases correctly.For example,if it has omitted to solicit evidence from doctors and teachers who have been involved with the family for years,then respondent lawyers should do it,Respondents aren’t permitted to do it themselves.Once proceedings are commenced,the agencies are forbidden from giving information and evidence to parents.The court needs to be able to compare and contrast all evidence not just that the CS choose to present.
      ?? I don’t understand this point. What do you think I spent four years at university, 1 year at Bar School and 1 year in pupillage doing? I am pretty thoroughly trained in dealing with evidence! I don’t understand your point about agencies being ‘forbidden’ to give information once proceedings start. If the court orders disclosure, it is disclosed. If parents want extra info, they ask for it.

      I would add that if the court proceedings are adversarial, clients should not be misled by cp professional professionals into the belief that the Local Authority are their friends to be cooperated with.Often respondents may cut their own throats by being open and honest with a CS which isn’t. No one is asking parents to be ‘friends’ with SW. What I am asking is that they are not aggressive, abusive or dishonest. That they try to listen when people say what they are worried about. That they get a good lawyer and trust that lawyer to properly analyse the evidence and act accordingly.

      4.In order to make a fair and lawful determination about what risk of harm their children suffer from, the court must consider a wide variety of material from a wide variety of sources. They do.

      If the CS are claiming a parent is unable to care for their children,then a respondent solicitor should seek any evidence which suggests the opposite.In these types of cases, the respondents character is under attack.Therefore character witnesses are useful because they add weight to the scales of justice no matter how small.
      We have had this discussion several times now. I disagree, for all the reasons I have given before.

      5.To say that Ms X has not neglected her child and I know this because I am a frequent visitor to her home and it has always been in a good state of cleanliness, the children have appeared well fed and well behaved etc, IS helpful evidence. I agree with you Sarah.The solicitors should do their job and solicit such evidence from likely sources and offer you witnesses who speak directly to that effect., In my experience they do. I have had plenty of cases where the HV or the nursery said something quite different to the SW for eg. This was very helpful to the parent.

      QUOTE: All civil law has procedures to adhere to, for example in public law it is the public law outline…Not many lawyers know the actual routes of appeal or procedure rules/practice directions. For example you DO NOT NEED PERMISSION TO APPEAL in a family case if you are appealing to a High Court Judge OR Circuit Judge. The High Court will ONLY allow a Judicial Review if you are unable to appeal:UNQUOTE.

      This advice appears to say that parents have an automatic right of appeal already.
      Secondly,it appears to say that, as parents have an automatic right to appeal,it is impossible to get a judicial review.
      Were is this advice from? You need permission to appeal at every level, apart from magistrates. Judicial review is not really going to help parents. Its a last ditch desperate effort. I stress that problems and complaints about the care proceedings need to be raised and dealt with as soon as possible, in these proceedings. That’s why its so important to engage with your lawyers.

      Reply
  56. angelo granda

    Sarah,May I once again thank you humbly for your response.

    You want to focus on the lack of Public trust in the system.
    You have to recognise why trust has broken down and that to mend the situation,professionals have to LISTEN AND TRY TO ADAPT THEIR OWN BELIEFS TO THOSE OF PARENTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

    Professionals have to look upon themselves as public servants.Like any service-providers,they must listen to their clients and not set themselves on high.If the professionals dig in and concentrate on defending all existing principles,we aren’t going to get far. The plethora of High Court judgments published on this resource and elsewhere prove that cp professionals often get it wrong full stop.

    Any professional who attempts to deny that many ,many children are taken into care needlessly or who maintains that orders for forced adoption are only taken where there is a pressing social need in the Public Interest will not achieve trust.

    You have been in your job for about 15 years. Can you say that significant progress has been made in that time to mending the situation? Has the cycle of violent and other serious abuse stopped? Do we still have miscarriages of justice?

    To return to our six points.

    1.I can assure all readers that the overarching priority in any investigation into alleged criminal offences relating to children, is the immediate safety and welfare of any child identified as being potentially at risk of harm.

    This principle is at the heart of decision making by Police involved in disclosures of a child at risk.
    In each specific case, Police can and should always work alongside Child Social Services.

    All the Police need is sufficient to inform that there is need for a criminal investigation in relation to concerns relating to children in order to provide appropriate safeguarding, Consideration can and should always be given to the immediate arrest of a suspect.

    The Police are empowered to immediately detain offenders or suspected offenders in order to immediately safeguard the children.
    The Police can hold suspects in custody whilst further evidence is preserved and secured.Indeed that is their job.

    The Police have extensive powers with regard to barring suspected offenders from the family home and from any contact with their spouse or children.The Police can take suspects before a Magistrate,oppose bail and the suspect will be held in custody.Or the Magistrate can order strict bail conditions and stop a suspect from contacting the family or approaching the family home.In less serious circumstances, should the Police judge it proportionate, they can issue Police bail,with a warning that
    any interference or intimidation with witnesses( such as a spouse or children) in the criminal investigation could make a suspect liable to arrest for further offences.

    At all times Police are empowered to take appropriate and necessary actions to preserve and secure evidence and safeguard children potentially at risk.

    • Police can tell a suspect to leave the family home if information given to them and Social Services is that he or she potentially poses a risk to their
    children.If the suspect does not agree to leave he or she can and should be arrested and removed from the property.

    • Children’s Service Department have neither authority nor power to remove adults from a home.
    • lf Social Services think (at any time) that lt would not be safe to allow a suspect offender to continue to stay in a household given the alleged risk potentially posed to children, the safest way to manage this is for the Police to ask the suspect to leave the property.
    If the suspect refuses.he or she should be arrested.

    IT IS THE DUTY of a CS department to trigger the interest and the application of the CRIMINAL law in any case where it is considered that it is not safe for children to be left with a suspect/s.

    I repeat,citizens are entitled to expect that when parents offend and commit crimes, they will be dealt with and children will be protected by the criminal justice system which has a public duty to act and protect them.

    I agree with you Sarah, that the CRIMINAL law and civil law have entirely different aims and objectives. The Criminal law exists to express society’s condemnation of bad behaviour and to protect us against criminals.It has full powers to act proportionately by locking them up in prison with all the attendant drying-out,de-tox facilities,reform and rehabilitation facilities or by putting them on probation.The probation service have access also to all manner of probation hostels,drying-out,de-tox,reform and rehabilitation facilities including training and community work.If an offender refuses to engage,he or she can be returned to court and/or prison immediately.The Criminal Court is fully trained and qualified to take proportionate decisions and has an array of orders available which it can and has the power to enforce.

    Victims of crime who complain to Child Social Services or Police expecting immediate help and protection ARE OFTEN FAILED BY BOTH AGENCIES.
    In particular,many victims of domestic violence , controlling behaviour and sexual abuse complain about this.No-one can deny it!

    The Civil/Family law jurisdiction has as its aim, the desire to protect children from harm, not to punish,reform and rehabilitate offenders.The Local Authority does not have the finances to deal proportionately with the issues or the power to force offenders to engage.It is unfit for purpose.

    I agree with you that there is obviously a lot of overlap between criminal and care proceedings. This leads to a lot of dissatisfaction and to a loss of confidence by parents in the system. Often the police will not take appropriate action to protect victims and pass the task ( pass the buck) on to the CS who choose to use the family court which does not have appropriate powers.The only effective sanction it appears to have is the forcible removal of children from family.

    THE PUBLIC HAVE LOST CONFIDENCE IN THE CHILD-PROTECTION SYSTEM FOR THAT REASON. IT IS INHUMANE TO CONDEMN CHILDREN TO LIFE IN THE PUBLIC CARE SYSTEM OR TO FORCED ADOPTION.

    Sarah, you know that many parents are not happy with that situation. However,I believe you are quite wrong that it will require Parliament to change it. Lawyers can alter the way they apply the current law.In particular, the social workers can work with their own lawyers and ensure that the Police take appropriate action.

    It is not the duty of the Family Court to deal with serious cases.In my opinion.the CS should work with the Police (as it does already) and action should be taken in the criminal justice system which has the power to enable the Children’s Act legitimate aim which is to keep children at home with natural family except in the most dire circumstances. Parliament will not have to change the law.

    The CS should confine itself to supervision of protective orders,contact supervision,support duties and sanctions designed to protect children deemed to be at risk of significant harm but where evidence is not substantive enough to merit criminal conviction and more serious sanctions. The overlap or blurring between criminal and family proceedings should be eliminated. The criminal courts CAN make orders about the upbringing of children,CAN protect children from emotional and physical neglect and CAN enforce its orders! The Family Court has no need to step in unless both parents are going to prison.

    We agree that problems arise in the Family Court child-protection system if there is no support available or no support available in time OR (as is common) families just flat out refuse to accept they have a problem. It can’t force people to access support or agree that they need it.The criminal Courts can.

    Sarah,it is well known that forced adoption is inhumane.See the histories of forced adoption laws in the case of aboriginal communities and supposedly sub-human races in the 20th Century. Sooner or later , you will be forced to accept it along with everyone else.In the meantime,as you say you have to follow the law. Parents have no doubt that children suffer serious harm in many cases at the hands of the care system.So do many children ( now grown-up).Accept it. Adoptive or foster families DO NOT offer them a happy life. It is a life of mental torture and ‘degradation’ to be adopted or fostered.The current law is clear that Local Authorities should aim to keep families together.It is within the power of lawyers already to force them to do so and PREVENT THE INJUST REMOVAL OF CHILDREN.

    2.AGREED.

    3.You say you want evidence about what parents have DONE or failed to do.Then you should call the character witnesses,put them under oath and ask all the relevant questions..Are there limits on the number of witnesses you can call or time-limits on questioning due to court schedules?

    4.It is the job of the CS to carry out an open-minded,impartial investigation of all the FACTS and circumstances of a case and to report what it finds to the Court (and other decision-makers) to enable realistic and fair appraisals. I am pleased you accept that SOMETIMES they act improperly and how easy it is for them to compile and present what amounts to a ‘fake dossier’ to Court. To spot it,of course,you will have to see all their child protection files and computer data,also hospital and school cp files.Do they turn the full contents of their archives over to you? Otherwise,how can you know all the positives they have omitted?.

    5.Let me explain.If a parent,knowing that school and medical evidence will support their case,approaches those agencies to access reports and information,they are refused access.They will state that protocol directs them not to communicate with parents during care proceeding.

    Yes,the Parent can ask the Court to order specific evidence.There will be much evidence ,however,of which respondents are unaware and they cannot specifically ask for that.However,it will order the LA or the Guardian to obtain and disclose some evidence.Those parties are able to sort out the evidence and take out any which supports the respondent decisively. Cases, in general rely entirely on the integrity of the sw’s.

    6.I found the advice online.Thanks for your comments.

    I look forward to your further comments also particularly will welcome those of other parents and social workers.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry, no time at present to reply to your comment, which is very long. However this is not entirely true• Children’s Service Department have neither authority nor power to remove adults from a home.

      But they can apply to the court for an exclusion order to get an adult out of the home when applying for a care order. The usual problem however, is that if one parent is violent to the other, it is sadly common for the other parent to want to continue the relationship and to continue to let the abusive parent back into the house. So that explains why often the LA will seek to remove the children instead. If your partner is violent to you it is very important that you can show you are serious about ending the relationship and not letting him/her anywhere near the children unsupervised unless and until they cam demonstrate a willingness to change their behaviour.

      Reply
  57. Sam

    5.Let me explain.If a parent,knowing that school and medical evidence will support their case,approaches those agencies to access reports and information,they are refused access.They will state that protocol directs them not to communicate with parents during care proceeding –

    In my experience this is correct, I am not sure it is a protocol . I cannot say any more, due to the privacy rules but it has meant I have been unable to fully put my case.

    I obviously agree with the comments about domestic violence

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Then, as you are during care proceedings, request that the Judge make an order for disclosure of the documents you seek.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Sam, I am no lawyer but I suggest you follow Sarah’s advice.Bear in mind that unless you know the details of every piece of evidence in the files and its nature,there will be much that you will not be able to ask for specifically.The case will still depend on the objectivity and integrity of the CS. I hope they are honest with the court and disclose everything.
        As an ordinary parent (you should check with Sarah ) I would say quite reasonably that if all the evidence supporting your case was not disclosed in the original proceedings,this will mean that many of the findings (if not all) will be invalid having been based on incomplete information.For example,if the positive evidence was not sent to the expert witnesses,their reports are flawed.Don’t forget to point that out.
        I am sure Sarah will advise. Your problem will be if , exercising judicial discretion, the Judge turns round and says it would have made no difference to the outcome anyway.I suppose lawyers will tend to go along with a previous decision (a fait accomplis) no matter if fair procedures were followed or not. I guess there is plenty good reasons to overturn the previous findings but the court will do everything to avoid doing so. Make sure you go in prepared .

        Reply
  58. angelo granda

    Sarah, Regarding our point 6,this advice is on the justice.gov.uk website:-

    QUOTE: Permission to appeal is not required in family cases in appeals to High Court Judges and to Circuit Judges: UNQUOTE

    I was wondering if you can give some examples of when a parent might want to appeal directly to a High Court Judge or a Circuit Judge?
    By High Court Judge, do they mean a local DJ?

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      I was quite astonished today; I googled my own name as an exercise today and found one entry in connection with the CPR so that means Google must be reading the CPR carefully (perhaps by computer).
      Here is the link.
      www​.childprotectionresource.org.uk/i-ha…

      There appears to be someone else of the same name as me on Google too, someone in America.No connection.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        The site has on average 800 visitors a day and the majority (75%) are directed here by a search engine. So its probably not that astonishing. The site appears to be quite high in google rankings for some topics.

        Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      This must be out of date advice. You need permission to appeal from every Judge, except the magistrates. A District Judge (DJ) is level below Circuit Judge (CJ). Appeals from a DJ go to a CJ. Appeals from a CJ go to the Court of Appeal. See FPR 2010 30.3 and the Practice Direction which says
      Permission to appeal
      4.1 FPR 30.3 (Permission) sets out the circumstances when permission to appeal is required. At present permission to appeal is required where the decision of the family court appealed against was made by a district judge (including a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)) or a costs judge. Permission to appeal is required where the decision of the High Court appealed against is a decision of a district judge or a costs judge. However, no permission is required where FPR 30.3(2) applies (appeals against a committal order, a secure accommodation order under section 25 of the Children Act 1989, or a refusal to grant habeas corpus for release in relation to a minor).

      Reply
  59. angelo granda

    Thank you,Sarah.So are you saying that if the Magistrates Court issued an order , a parent could appeal without applying for permission from a Magistrate?
    Could a parent appeal to a DJ or a CJ against actions taken by the CS out-of-court but which are nevertheless taken under the auspices of the Children’s Act? For example,if the CS persuaded a woman to sign a Contract of Expectations compelling her to cut off contact with her husband two years ago and where they still have not completed investigations and assessments as promised, could the family appeal?Surely they should apply for an order sometime;or can they seperate a family permanently on the back of a Cof E?.
    Another question,am I right to say that a DJ is a representive of the High Court thus higher up the ladder than a CJ. I think a CJ has to obey a DJ,doesn’t he?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You can only appeal to the court about an order of the court. If you have a complaint about the way CS have behaved then you either make a complaint to the LA or you issue an application for judicial review or an injunction under the HR Act. Both are going to be difficult and expensive applications and may not get you the outcome you want.

      In the situation you mention, it looks like a clear failure to act in a timely and responsible manner. If the children are on section 20 I would suggest withdrawing consent which will either get the children back OR push the LA to issue care proceedings which will at least impose a sensible timetable on the case. If there is an existing care order, I would apply to discharge it on the basis that the LA are not fulfilling their obligations under the care plan.

      No, a District Judge is the lowest rung of Judge. A Circuit Judge trumps a District Judge and a CJ can also sit as a High Court Judge in certain circumstances. A High Court Judge trumps them both. Court of Appeal trumps High Court Judge and Supreme Court trumps them all.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        Sorry to trouble you again,Sarah but if a Magistrate issued an ICO then passed the case on to the County Court,the case is first taken before a DJ for a directions hearing.I think that is the usual procedure.If the DJ orders the professionals to produce evidence not disclosed at the Magistrates Court (at the parent’s request)then surely it should be disclosed to the County Court or it would be disobedient to the court order.
        Bearing in mind that the parents are relying on the specific evidence being shown to the court and expert assessors,can the CJ countermand the order of the DJ without even mentioning it to the respondents?
        That is one query! The family concerned did not call witnesses or present the evidence themselves(having no access to CS files) because they were confident that the fresh evidence would be decisively in their favour.
        Surely that would be a grave lapse in procedure.Yet ,apparently not one professional,including the Judge spotted it.Afterwards,when given a copy of the Court schedule of evidence,the parents spotted it but were advised by the barrister (from St.John’s) that there were no grounds for appeal! Or rather that the chances of succeeding in an application for leave to appeal were so low, a funding application was not merited.That is the second query?

        The case of the couple forced to part by a C of E is entirely different. The children are at home with mother ;no care plan is in existence.The CS have simply told the mother that if she let’s her husband home,they will seek legal advice in respect of removing the children. No court proceedings were initiated thus the parents can’t get legal funding. They have now been separated for nearly 2 years!
        About 6 different social workers.No assessments completed correctly.Nothing!

        I don’t really like bringing real cases on to this general discussion thread but let us use these as two examples of alleged injustice.

        Reply
  60. Sam

    Is anyone aware of any research into the effect of child protection investigations on short and long term mental health of family members? I ask because I have just been reading a book about PTSD . It’s definition “PTSD is a normal reaction of a normal person to abnormal trauma or stress” It normally comes about from being involved or witnessing a traumatic event. I am sure child protection investigations and
    court are sufficiently traumatic to count, especially as PTSD is more likely to occur if the trauma is caused by a person rather than a natural event such as an earthquake.

    I am aware that both parents and children use coping mechanisms such as abusing alcohol and the like hood of suicide is increased. If there isn’t any research does anyone consider it’s worth looking at or is it a side track?

    Reply
  61. Sam

    I have found some Cafcass statistics on suicides though the study says it is likely to be under reported as not all authorities are likely to notify them . All parental suicides took place during proceedings, normally around a significant event such as a final hearing. Children’s were after proceedings , the youngest recorded child was 9.
    I am aware Sarah that Bristol Family Court are on the ball with this, I wonder how many others are though?
    https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/media/181560/learning_from_cafcass_individual_management_reviews_case_dynamics.pdf

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      Thank you for the links, Sam.I would make the point again that I believe that article 3 is contravened in many case,even those where findings are that children have suffered from neglect. For parents and children , when their families are liquidated permanently ,it really is a life or death scenario in which they have been placed by the system which does not appear to act proportionately .However,I do accept that sometimes decisions are proportionate.
      I imagine that when care-plans rule out any possibility of rehabilitation home for children, their will be hopelessness and utter despair for the family. CHILDREN’S LIVES ARE WRECKED and so are the lives of adults and all under the banner of ‘protecting them’.

      Reply
      1. angelo granda

        I apologise Sam if you think I am repeating well-worn cliches but at least they are my own!
        With luck,a social worker might come on and reply to your posts. They warrant examination.

        Reply
        1. Sam

          Angelo I think we all have our pet subjects. Mine appear to be why on earth don’t children’s services support parents and why are they not accountable, with a dash of transparency thrown in now and again. I am sure we are keeping some people amused.

          Reply

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