Ignorance is no defence: The dangerous activism of Justice for Families

This post is my formal complaint about the activities of the organisation Justice for Families, which I made to its Chairman John Hemming on 8th January 2017. My name is Sarah Phillimore and I am a barrister specialising in child protection law. My concerns about Mr Hemming and his organisation are long standing. You can read more here and here.

I gave Mr Hemming an extension of time until 4pm on 21st February 2017 to respond to this complaint. He replied, via Twitter, that he would not. I thought six weeks was more than enough time to respond to such serious concerns and I made it clear that, in the absence of any substantive response from him,  I would publish the complaint today.  

 

Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Who cares?

Because I don’t see what other choice I have. I cannot ‘unknow’ what I know about this group. It’s probably pointless, I concede because no one seems to care. I can speculate about why that is. When I have tried to get journalists interested in this, they respond sadly ‘it’s too complicated’ (if I’m lucky. If I’m not, they simply ignore me).

I suspect ‘it’s too complicated’ is convenient shorthand for something like this “John Hemming is wealthy and litigious. I don’t want the trouble. Plus, I can’t really get too worked up about the kind of people who get mixed up in this. They seem quite unappealing; poor, drunk, mentally ill, can’t look after their kids. Why bother with them? “.

I appreciate that I cannot make people take an interest in or care about what JFF get up to or the people they hurt. I really don’t understand why so many don’t seem to care,  why many more people are not angry about the exploitation of the vulnerable and the children put at risk of harm.

I also appreciate that the existence of such groups and the fact that so many parents are desperate enough to turn to them, says nothing good about the current state of the child protection system. It is a tragedy that vulnerable parents believe they have no where else to turn; they are between the rock and the very hard place. The blight of the unscrupulous McKenzie Friend is serious and real, as seen in the recent Victoria Derbyshire programme.

All I can do is all I can to spread awareness about the nature and the extent of the problem we face. If, with that knowledge, you chose to do nothing then that is a matter for your conscience.  Mine is clear.

If JFF attempt to involve themselves in any case where I am instructed, I will object. And I will explain very clearly why.

 

Letter of complaint sent January 8th 2017

Parts of this letter of complaint have been removed prior to publication to ensure compliance with section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 which prohibits publication of matters relating to care proceedings, without permission being obtained first from the court. 

Dear Mr Hemming,
1. On 2nd January 2017I asked you via the public electronic communications network Twitter (hereafter Twitter) where I could direct a formal complaint about the activities of the organisation Justice For Families (hereafter JFF) , you as its Chairman and its advisers Tim and Julie Haines. At 22:58 on 2nd January 2017 you replied to say ‘me’. On 5th January 2017 I replied to say that I would make a formal complaint, if time permitted by 6pm on Sunday 8th January 2017. You replied to say that you would respond to that complaint but you could not promise a timescale.

2. The link to the JFF website is no longer valid and I assume therefore this website has been taken down. However I note the Facebook Group ‘Stop Forced Adoption’ is described as the official Facebook Group of Justice for Families Ltd  Registered Company No. 06645051.

3. Information from Companies House shows that JFF company was incorporated as a private limited company on Monday 14th July 2008.  Its registration status is ‘active’ and the company engages in activities of patent and copyright agents and other legal activities not elsewhere classified. The registered address is Osmond House 78 Alecester Road Birmingham B13 8BB, which is the address to which I will send this complaint. I will also send a copy to you via email to john@hemming.email, which is the email address you provide on your blog 

4. Your confirmation that I should send a formal complaint about the activities of JFF and its members/advisers supports my assumption that you remain the Chairman of this company and the frequent public denouncements you make of the family justice system represent the position adopted by JFF, its advisers and members.

5. I am also sending a copy of this complaint to the Designated Family Judge at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre, being HHJ Wildblood QC. [REDACTED]

6. I shall set out below:
a. The time by which I request a response;
b. My proposed actions if your response is not forthcoming or is inadequate;
c. How I would like you to respond to this complaint;
d. a summary of my complaint and
e. more detailed description of the evidence upon which I rely to support that summary. Any reference I make to a publication made on any public electronic communications network can be supported by a screen shot of that publication, if required.

I request a response to my complaint by 6/2/17.
7. If you do not respond by that date, or I consider that your response is inadequate, I will consider:
a. Making formal complaint about serious misconduct relating to the activities of a private limited company;
b. Make formal complaint to providers of the public electronic communications networks such as Twitter and Facebook and request that the JFF Facebook group is removed or suspended. I note in particular that the JFF Facebook group is currently soliciting copies of court judgments from parents without any reference to permission from the President of the Family Division to conduct such ‘research’

How I would like you to respond to this complaint.
8. The remedy that I seek is that you or any person purporting to operate with the approval of JFF;
a. refrain from further publication of unevidenced, inflammatory or demonstrably false denigration of the family justice system; and
b. refrain from any further publication of any suggestion that parents facing care proceedings should leave the jurisdiction because they cannot secure a fair hearing and
c. remove Tim and Julie Haines forthwith as having any official connection or remuneration from JFF; and
d. take down the ‘Stop Forced Adoption’ Facebook Group.

Summary of my complaint

9. I make this complaint as a family law barrister who for many years has been seriously concerned by the activities of you and your organisation. It is clear to me that the activities of JFF can be criticised under two broad headings
a. Having a serious and detrimental impact on the proper working of the family justice system; and
b. Putting numerous vulnerable parents at risk of or suffering actual financial or emotional exploitation.

10. There are a variety of activities I could cite in support of these contentions. To provide an exhaustive list would make this complaint disproportionately and unhelpfully lengthy. I therefore propose to restrict the substance of this complaint to the following 3 examples to support the broad headings of complaint set out above. However, I must stress that what follows is not intended to be an exhaustive list of reasonable complaints that could be raised against the activities of JFF and I reserve the right to refer to further and better particulars, should this become necessary at any future stage.

JFF consistently, inaccurately and unfairly denigrates the competence and integrity of those working within the family justice system.

This risks undermining the rule of law and the Article 6 ECHR rights of parents in care proceedings. JFF promotes the message that parents will not get a fair hearing in care proceedings in England and Wales: You have stated since at least 2014 on a variety of platforms, that parents should not to engage with their lawyers in care proceedings. You have stated that publicly funded family lawyers are not independent and that it is not possible to get a fair hearing in this country.

JFF facilitates or encourages vulnerable parents to leave the jurisdiction and thus puts them and their children at serious risk of harm.

As a corollary to your frequently stated position that it is not possible for parents to have a fair hearing in care proceedings, JFF has directly facilitated parents leaving the jurisdiction by providing accommodation in the form of a caravan or several caravans at the property in France where Gena Jones lives, despite taking no or no reasonable care to ascertain if Gena Jones is able to provide a safe environment. You know or ought to know that her current partner was responsible for putting Gena Jones in hospital by beating her as she confirmed this in a newspaper interview in 2015.

The JFF ‘Advisers’ Tim and Julie Haines are not fit or proper people to offer advice or assistance to vulnerable parents in care proceedings.

Both have been either abusive or threatening on social media, are prepared to publish false statements about the working of the family courts, encourage parents to make unmeritorious appeals and to share confidential documents. They have wholly failed to be transparent about the amounts they charge parents – there is no published information I can find to confirm what JFF charges parents for any assistance they give.

Evidence in support of the assertions set out above.

11. With regard to the public denigration of the family justice system in general and family lawyers in particular your behaviour in this regard has been longstanding. The examples listed below of your public pronouncements when Chairman of JFF are certainly not intended to be exhaustive. I can provide examples of many more from 2008 to date if required.

12. In 2013 you made an allegation in Parliament about the collusion of family lawyers in a particular case. It was reported here in the Express newspaper :

In a highly unusual accusation, John Hemming said lawyers for Jacque Courtnage colluded with Derbyshire County Council to prevent her analysing a document he believes would have cleared her of abuse allegations.

13. You continue to assert that lawyers who represent local authorities cannot also represent parents as by representing local authorities they have lost their independence and are in breach of their professional duties. A solicitor, Giles Peake,  attempted to explain to you in 2016 why this was not so, and he commented in the following terms:

Why is this important? Why pay attention to the ramblings of a former MP whose credibility has been demolished by the Courts? Because a lot of desperate and unhappy people do pay attention to him. His advice, including recommending to parents fleeing abroad to frustrate care proceedings, has been acted upon by people. If Mr Hemming now suggests trying to challenge lawyers on the erroneous basis of conflict of interest, or worse, that people should consider a prospective lawyer to be tainted with conflict of interest if they have ever acted for the other side, he is damaging people’s interests, stupidly and unnecessarily.

14. The article in the Independent on 12th January 2014 states with regard to yourself:

 “An MP has advised parents suspected of abusing or neglecting their children to leave the country if they fear being denied a fair hearing in the family courts”. It is written with reference to your appearance on the BBC Panorama Programme ‘I want my baby back’ which aired on 13th January 2014.

You are quoted on the BBC News website on 13th January 2014 in this way:

He said the process was so unfair that parents should leave the country to avoid social services and the courts. “All the cards are held by the local authority. It has large resources to fight the cases – it does all the assessments,” he said. “My advice to people – if they can afford it – is just to go abroad. You can’t get a fair trial here, because you can’t rely on the evidence being fair.

15. I have commented about your activities in encouraging parents to leave the jurisdiction and go to Gena Jones house in the following post, published on my website www.childprotectionresource.online on September 17th 2016.  I have repeatedly asked you to explain the circumstances in which women are sent to Gena Jones; you have repeatedly failed to reply.

16. The comments on this post are interesting. Gena herself confirms:

“John hemmings have put families in my direction for advice” and “John hemming helped pay towards a caravan that is in my garden that some parents stay but often they moan that they want to stay in my home and get to sleep in a real bed. He’s put about 4 or families I think for advice and it’s advice about the laws in France i.e. Social services rights how to look for a place to rent every day living stuff”. Gena confirms that many of those who come to her are vulnerable, having substance abuse issues and mental health difficulties: “Many of the parents who came to mind could not cope with the culture shock the isolation as there’s no shop or towns for miles and many have issues i.e. Drug drink and mental health !”

17. I have been sent extremely worrying information via Facebook from a number of mothers who say they stayed at Gena’s. This includes allegations of serious verbal abuse and money and possessions being taken from them. I am told the French police have been involved. I have been sent pictures of Gena’s partner posing with what looks like an assault rifle. I have been sent copies of various messages posted by Gena on social media sites in aggressive terms and using extremely foul language.

18. Tim Haines seems confused about whether or not JFF have given advice to people about staying or not staying with Gena. He confirmed on 19th September 2016 there had been a JFF meeting to discuss Gena because they were aware that a JFF client had gone to Gena’s ‘expressly against JFF advice’. However, he then claimed that JFF did not give such advice to any parent.

19. Tim Haines has made further abusive and threatening comments online following my publication of the blog post referred to above.
a. On the blog post itself he commented: “The only other comment I intend to make is that the rest of this article is stuffed with inaccuracies and half-truths, and a barrister ought to be ashamed of themselves for concocting such a stack of bollocks – unless, of course, they are so used to doing that for a living that they didn’t even notice!”
b. I have been sent copies of messages Tim Haines sent to one of the women who alerted me to the situation at Gena’s. I consider his message to be abusive and threatening and it confirms that JFF had serious concerns about the situation at Gena’s. He says: ‘I sent you a private message and you passed it to Sarah Phillimore? How fucking dare you! You just did yourself big damage’; further
c. ‘Because Phillimore has posted a whole page of bullshit blog attacking JH. YOU are doing more harm than good. Contacting Phiullimore (sic) is NOT the way to get Gena shut down’

20. With regard to how the Haines are paid for what they do; Tim Haines claims that he and Julie Haines claim only ‘out of pocket expenses’ but refuses to elaborate on what this means or how much is usually claimed (see Tweet 19/9/16 09:19).However I received a message from one parent via Facebook complaining that Tim Haines ‘has slated me for £1,500’ (tweet 20/09/16 23.03). Tim’s reply is ‘bollocks’ (Tweet 20/09/16 23.22). Tim Haines states ‘I’m paid a small wage which covers the work for JFF clients. At least I have goodness in my heart’ (Tweet 19/09/16 12.26) but refuses to elaborate on how much he is paid or by whom. He calls me ‘twisted’ and ‘an idiot’ (19/09/16 12.52/19/01/16 12.57) then ‘stupid, deaf, illiterate’ (19/09/16 13.03) and someone who made a career out of ‘wrecking families’ (Tweet 19/09/16 10.46).

21. Worryingly, he states that JFF is a small organisation ‘and can only assist a small fraction of the thousands of parents who approach us’. (Tweet 19/09/16 14.07).

22. Julie Haines [REDACTED]

28. I further noted the following examples of how Mrs Haines choses to express herself on a Facebook page that is open to all:
a. 25.12.16 ‘To all social wankers hope you enjoyed having a day off child stealing Happy Christmas!
b. ‘Sunday’ ‘from us three here to all of you. Let’s keep getting the bastards. Make 2017 count. We’ll still be here with you. ‘
c. ‘Saturday’ ‘Forced Adoption is ‘not exceptional in law’ I believe this is the key to getting the child stealing Nazi’s/Marxists stopped’.

29. In light of this kind of behaviour from Mr and Mrs Haines, it is very alarming to note that the JFF Facebook is publishing the following statement urging parents to send copies of court judgments to them:

JFF is asking all parents who have a Placement Order Judgement from within the last six years, if they could kindly send copies by email to (pennylilac@yahoo.co.uk). We want to reassure you that it is completely confidential and that these can be sent in confidence. The purpose of this request is to accurately assess whether or not children are forcibly adopted legally e.g: if dispensation to parental consent has been dispensed correctly. The stats and information we get from this will be given to John Hemming to use in Parliament and possibly for a media campaign regarding numbers of children illegally kept under a Placement Order and or Adopted’.

30. I consider that it is highly inappropriate to encourage parents to send to the Haines such documents. Not only is this a potential contempt of court, I raise serious doubts about the Haines’ abilities to fairly assess the quality of decision making, on such limited information and with such a clear pre-stated bias towards an assumption that children are ‘illegally kept’.

31. It does not appear that JFF have sought any necessary permission from the President of the Family Division to conduct any legitimate ‘research’ in this way and therefore such solicitation of such sensitive documents must cease immediately.

32. I shall await your response with interest.

 

13 thoughts on “Ignorance is no defence: The dangerous activism of Justice for Families

  1. Kate Wells

    I read this with interest Sarah. Firstly I can only applaud your long held determination to expose the atrocities committed by ex MP John Hemming. I can’t comment on the issues that you raise about the way in which Hemming is breaking the law, but I have absolutely no doubt that you are right. Hemming talks utter nonsense – an issue that has been proved time and time again, going back to the Mumsnet days.

    His main contention is that there is a conspiracy between social workers, guardians, indeed anyone involved in care proceedings and the judge, to ensure that an Order is made to remove the child from the parents. He has in the past included the lawyers for the parents in this collusion and I see from your letter Sarah that he is still “beating this drum” as he has accused lawyers acting for a parent to collude with Derbyshire County Council. The issue of conflict of interest is not one that I can address as I am not a lawyer but this has been explained to Hemming in the letter of complaint, both by yourself and another lawyer Giles Peake at No.13 of the letter. However I suspect this will stretch the limits of Hemming’s intellectual understanding, and will thus be ignored.

    For a time I was on the Stop Forced Adoption site. My original intention was to attempt to support and provide what legal knowledge I had, as there were many requests from posters and the responses were totally incorrect. In the main the people on the site were more to be pitied, as they were grieving for children who had been removed from their care and many had been adopted. The site really was one for slagging off social workers – everyone complained of the same thing – social workers lying in court – there was not a single post where anyone even hinted that things might have gone awry. Lying scumbags was the usual term and “lining their pockets.” There were repeated claims about bonuses every time a child was adopted ranging from £5,000 to £15.000 as far as I recall! One poster claimed to hear a social worker discuss in court how she was going to spend her bonus.

    Someone posted on the “best way to kill a social worker” and it was pretty sick making, as they described various violent ways they would use to commit this murder

    I was accused of being a social worker and I said quite truthfully that I wasn’t but I had knowledge of child care law and of the way in which children’s services operate. They told me I sounded like a social worker which was fair comment and maybe I should have been honest and said I was a retired social worker. However the insults were heaped upon me before they found out the truth so it didn’t make much difference. I noticed that Hemming rarely appeared on the site – maybe one oh is well loved soundbites e.g. “United Nations are interested” then there would be dozens of requests for more information – all fell on stoney ground. As we know only too well Hemming doesn’t like to involve himself in debate. I also noticed there was very little comment from T & J Haines, though this was to change when I started to ask about their role as McK Friends.

    I mentioned that I thought it unwise to advise parents not to use lawyers and instead be “represented” by him and his wife. I mentioned that he had no legal training nor any understanding of child development………………and WOW he came out fighting – “I told you not to annoy me….” He then said he saw himself as somewhere between a lawyer and a barrister – I replied that he was “arrogant” – and he certainly didn’t like this. It was about this time that he started to heap unpleasant and personal insults on me, including Nazi social worker (although others had used this term beforehand) I found this offensive as my father was a Polish Jew and my ancestors were caught up in the holocaust. However I simply said that for a short time when I was a student I was a member of the International Marxist Group (IMG) so could not be described as a Nazi. This of course made no difference. Julie Haines continued to call me a Nazi Marxist! She called me a “dirty marxist mare” – nice eh! In fact out of the two of them I found her to be more foul mouthed than her husband.

    I then took up the matter of Gena Jones and Tim H did not like that one bit – denied that Hemming had arranged for anyone to go to France etc. I pressed him as I had information and found something on U Tube (I think) of young mothers with babies in the home of Gena Jones. I also knew from you Sarah that young vulnerable woman were most definitely being sent to these caravans and that you had proof from some of the woman who had been there. And then Haines shot himself in the foot saying that he and someone else were travelling to Gena’s home. I asked why they were going and he said “to rescue a woman” – I asked why they would be rescuing a woman if they hadn’t arranged for her to go there in the first place…” Haines replies “I’m going with some else because he can’t drive 2 cars…” which didn’t make sense unless they were bringing several women back. He continued to claim that it was nothing to do with him – he was simply helping a friend. He then started with the personal insults and said “What the hell has it got to do with you anyway……….” I think once people resort to personal insults they have lost the argument.

    The people on this so called JFF thread hold Hemming and the Haines in great esteem and are sycophantic – grovelling to them if they think they have caused offence. Haines told me that he and his wife are very well known in the Court of Appeal and many of the Lords and Ladies think very highly of them. I have no idea if this is the case, but if so it is a matter of concern.

    I think I picked up something on Twitter about Hemming suing you Sarah (still struggling with Twitter) – I’m sure you’re quaking in your shoes.If there is to be a court case please can I be there -nothing would please me more than to see you make mincemeat out of Hemming.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am still waiting to be sued. As truth is a defence to defamation, and I don’t publish anything unless I can verify it from another source, I am happy to have this ventilated in open court.

      I agree with you. The foul mouthed abuse the Haines dish out on a regular basis is quite a chilling indication of how they conduct themselves. Their complete refusal to be transparent about the money they take from vulnerable parents. And Hemming presiding over all. It really is a sad and disturbing picture.

      thanks for commenting, and thanks for your efforts in trying to spread information rather than spin and lies. It’s a lonely, thankless task, as well I know.

      Reply
  2. Angelo Granda

    I don’t know if readers will find this helpful but, in regard to Sarah’s complaint regarding JFF and its activities, it is possible that Mr.Hemming has legal reasons for not replying to it.
    Many readers, particularly parents who are aggrieved at injustices piled upon their children by the child-protection system professionals , will recognise the sweet irony that Sarah is having difficulty obtaining what she thinks is an adequate response to her complaint within reasonable time-scales. They will identify with the authoritarianism and regular violation of time-scales, complaints procedures etc. by Local Authorities. In one case, despite three letters of reminder from the complainant, it took six or seven months for it to finally reply that it was having trouble contacting its own solicitors who had handled the case. Three months later ,it then said that decisions had been made in Court thus it would look no further into the complaint, see the complainant in person or look at clear evide3nce of malpractice.
    Likewise, when a complaint was made to Caffcass through its ‘official procedures’ about the dishonesty and malpractice of a children’s guardian, it took them three months to reply saying that they could not even record the complaint ( let alone investigate it and examine evidence) because some of the matters had been dealt with by the Family Court. That excuse is also used by the LGO.
    I sympathise with Sarah. Unfortunately when dealing with complaints procedures the wheels often turn very slowly and often bring one up against a brick wall. This is something parents have to get used to. It looks like you ,too, have wasted your time.
    The one consolation she has, of course, is that she can publish details. Parents are strictly of discussing their complaints due to secrecy laws ( or should I say, the lack of transparency). The LA’s and child-protection professionals have their backs well- covered.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Mr Hemming’s failure to reply to me has very little, I suspect, with his concerns for the legalities but rather more to do with the fact that he has no defensible reply regarding the majority of his or JFF’s activities.

      I appreciate that the LA complaints process doesn’t seem very good and many people reasonably complain about it. But that does not in any way excuse Mr Hemming for all that he does which puts vulnerable people in harm’s way.

      Reply
  3. Jonathan Ritchie

    JFF consistently, inaccurately and unfairly denigrates the competence and integrity of those working within the family justice system. = FREEDOM OF SPEECH

    JFF facilitates or encourages vulnerable parents to leave the jurisdiction and thus puts them and their children at serious risk of harm. = FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

    The JFF ‘Advisers’ Tim and Julie Haines are not fit or proper people to offer advice or assistance to vulnerable parents in care proceedings. = FREEDOM OF BELIEF

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Jonathan – I suggest that, rather urgently, you acquaint yourself better with the provisions of the ECHR and note how few of these rights are ‘absolute’ – for pretty obvious reasons.

      the rights of my fist end where your nose begins. The Haines do not have a right to exploit vulnerable people in pursuit of their own freedoms. They run a serious risk of falling foul of the law if they do. And they will then find that bleating about their ‘freedoms’ doesn’t avail them very much.

      Human rights are all about an ongoing and essential recalibration of what we may do or must refrain from doing to one another. They are not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the stupid or the dangerous.

      Reply
  4. Angelo Granda

    Obviously, I don’t know what the JFF complaint procedures are or how long they promise to carry out investigations in .However, I do think you have waited too long already, Sarah, and we can all take our own inferences. Thanks for publishing your complaint.
    There seems to be disagreement about whether parents can rely on a fair hearing at the Family Court. Do you have any reason to doubt the fairness of hearings? E.g. Lack of transparency; conflict of interest on the part of solicitors( as opposed to barristers ) ; failure by LA’s to train staff to an adequate standard of competency; wrong, misleading information held on file; safeguards always followed; not enough funds to support families leading to unnecessary removal; shortage of Court time leading to summary proceedings; CAFFCASS unfit for purpose; is there anything you can think of or are you entirely satisfied the hearings are completely fair?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      There is almost nothing in this world that is ‘completely’ one thing or another, save the prospect of our imminent deaths.

      Do I think hearings are ‘mostly’ fair? Yes I do.
      Do I think there are serious problems with the system which means that we sometimes don’t get the right outcome for children and families? Yes I do.

      I agree that sometimes information on files is misleading or even wrong. But that’s where I come in – a lawyer paid for by the state to help parents. Of course I accept, its not good when these errors creep in at an early stage and are not corrected. I suspect the cause of that is largely stress, overwork and too many different cases. Mistakes will be made. Social workers and lawyers are only human.

      Does that mean I am complacent and think we should stop trying to make things better? No it doesn’t.

      but I want to approach the problem with a clear eyed appraisal of what the problem actually is, otherwise it can never be fixed.

      I think there needs to be less focus on a ‘child rescue’ model of child protection and more sensible analysis of what the family’s problems actually are and whether they are problems that can be fixed or at least made not so bad by some kind of state intervention and support. This will mean increasing the numbers of social workers, so they have a case load they can manage. This will reduce their stress and inevitably make the quality of their decisions better. the government then needs to invest in more support at community levels. There needs to be much more joined up thinking between different kinds of agencies and support.

      Reply
  5. jai patch

    I reserve the right not to be automatically placed on JFF’s team, as some of your comments strongly imply. That said, I am and remain amazed, even horrified, by your claim that you consider the family justice system largely fair. I have been involved in helping a family make multiple applications for leave to appeal, where their papers display blatant corruption on the part of both the local authorities and the courts. I accept that I may not have the skills in law of a professional, but they had the services of a professional with an excellent reputation during proceedings, and his performance was craven. The injustice in their case does not require legal insight: it is startlingly obvious. Certain that they would have no access to justice,after the LA had been caught out lying again,and were found out withholding promised independent assessments, they fled to France, before giving birth to their next child. After receiving extremely damning and inaccurate reports from the uk, the french authorities took their child while they undertook assessment and observations. After 6months the French have no concerns and they now have their baby unsupervised every day and 3nights a week, and the french social worker says he sees absolutely no sign of what the uk have alleged.
    If they had stayed in the uk, the loss of their baby would have been guaranteed on the basis of the previous corrupt findings. This marked disparity between child protection systems must surely give one pause… And make one consider that there is at least some truth in the criticisms JFF level against Uk child protection.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      hmmm. I wonder if this is the family who you asked me to advise on appeal and sent me a copy of the judgment in their case? If it is that family then I can’t share at all your characterisation of the ‘blatant corruption’ on the part of the UK authorities.

      If it’s another family, then sorry for casting aspersions and good luck to them. I can’t comment on what the French authorities do or don’t do.

      If you are keen not to be lumped in with the JFF lot, perhaps you might like to give your comment on why Hemming is refusing to respond to what I say are serious and well evidenced concerns about his organisation.

      Two wrongs, after all, do not make a right.

      Even if you are right about the UK system being deliberately corrupt – and I don’t agree you are for the reasons which I set out exhaustively on this site – why does that make JFF justified in exploiting vulnerable parents and sending them to a location in France which on any analysis is NOT SAFE.

      Reply
  6. Angelo Granda

    A Parent’s View.

    Obviously, it would need a Court hearing to decide if Mr Hemming has broke any laws during the course of his political campaigning, supporting families against the CS etc. I don’t know but, if he has, then readers should ask themselves this question.
    What has he in common with the Local Authorities?
    Answer:- In child-protection, they both claim to act in the ‘best interests’ of children and will aim to excuse all their actions legal or illegal on those grounds.
    When a Local Authority abuses its own official complaints procedures, on the balance of probabilities it is seedy and dishonest and so it has to conceal the truth. If JFF does or did have such an official procedure and has abused it, then the same applies to that organisation. The LA’s are led by politicians and Mr Hemming is a politician too. Politician’s often get away with breaking the law. We cannot.
    When a complaint is made, procedures are in place to be followed strictly not to be ignored. Time scales for investigation and for corrective action to be taken ( where necessary) are an essential part of the rules. When complaints are not registered, not looked into impartially, delayed or when prompt corrective action is not taken etc. then we have CORRUPTION. When a Local Authority is involved, we have institutional corruption. If anyone had any doubt that they faced it in their individual case, if the LA abused its procedures ( if you made a complaint) then all doubt is removed. The LA is corrupt. Also when LA’s promise to ‘learn lessons’ and take corrective action then move offending staff on rather than sack them, they spread the corruption knowingly.
    Those who post or comment on the CPR do children and the General Public NO FAVOURS if they seek to deny or minimise the intrinsic corruption we witness in the CP system. I don’t know whether readers saw one of my previous comments in which I referred to a ‘monolith’ of false ideology and dogma. There is a false belief that when LA’s take children into care , they do so in the interests of the children involved. The truth is that they take them into care in the interests mainly of those who thrive on the care system and it is always in those people’s interests to procure more and more children. The LA’s and the carers financial interests and comfort come first. The only ones who can be relied upon to put children before themselves are their own natural family. The Law recognises that simple fact of life and tells us that they are to remain with family except in the direst circumstances. I suppose that is why family conferences are not promoted by LA’s.
    History tells us all the above is true. Throughout history, we have seen corruption. Just read Dickens or watch the Oliver Twist films. Children in care live a life of misery, disadvantage and degradation on gruel whilst their carers sit at the top table stuffing themselves with the best fare. I have visited residential homes in this century ( indeed I have worked in one) and I have witnessed it acted out. Never will rehabilitation home be encouraged unless they are forced to because their income is affected. KW has commented only the other day on the 20th century abuses we all know were commonly inflicted on children with unmarried mothers. That power over people corrupts is a truism which lawyers, especially barristers, should hold sacred rather than turn a blind eye. Even nuns, brothers ( monks) and priests working within the church are prone to corruption by power over others. Corruption is intrinsic to power and as Social Workers and carers are human beings too, not one of them is incorruptible. The good ones don’t do it again but when to just one of them, especially a manager holding the purse-strings, it becomes habitual, their corruption spreads and poisons the whole system.
    In the last couple of days , again we have seen evidence of corruption given to a Public Enquiry regarding children stolen from families and taken to Australia. Transportation to the colonies dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries as does the shanghaiing of children ( and adults) for service in the Navy. Child-slavery was common also then and is becoming prevalent again right now. Girls are forced into service of rich families. The latest evidence to the Public Enquiry ( long delayed) includes testament of sexual abuse and concrete evidence of the same arose during ‘Operation Cleopatra’ which exposed the ‘ culture of child-sex abuse’ which existed within one particular Social Services department through the 1940’s into the 90’s. How widespread the corruption is not a precise question we can answer. Likewise the question of ‘conspiracy’ is not one any of us can answer with precision. The precise question is does institutional corruption exist at all and the answer is ‘Yes, it does)!
    In my opinion, this is why LAWYERS like Sarah, our esteemed sponsor, should forget about any pretensions that they can in some way reform the care system. They are not social workers and although they might include themselves as part of the CP system, their primary duty to CHILDREN is to uphold the Law. No matter what changes are made ( even to the law) corruption will always bare its ugly face and new procedures and orders will be flouted by those who look upon the law as just one aspect they must overcome to attain their illegitimate aims.
    Perhaps barristers could avoid imprecise allegations of ‘conflicts of interest’ if they were to bear in mind precisely that institutional corruption does exist and approach each case with the assumption of it. Indeed, the Law has always recognised that power corrupts . I believe that is the reason why strict guidelines and safeguards are in place already and why it is laid down that they are to be followed scrupulously. Failure in just one( for example, not considering extending family placements, not talking to parents or not offering support) should mean ‘NO ORDER’.
    Lawyers should also put themselves into the shoes of citizens they are trained to represent and make automatic appeals in serious cases mandatory when permission is asked. It may not be convenient for Family Courts but citizens take preference. I believe that is the precise answer to the precise question ‘How can we correct the imbalance of power that exists? When cases are not conducted correctly ( in any way) the only remedy is an appeal to a higher court.
    More radical solutions to the transparency problem should also be executed right now not next year or the one after. In PUBLIC law cases ,Family Courts should be forced to follow Crown Court practises and protocol with regard to PUBLIC disclosure etc. including the PUBLICATION of all names.
    I know certain readers consider my humble comments convoluted g—–e ; maybe they are but if this one succeeds in convincing just one reader to reject the ‘monolith’ that the LA’s act in children’s best interests, it will have been worthwhile writing it.

    Reply
  7. Kate Wells

    I don’t have the inclination to read your long convoluted post (your description which is quite apt) I just want to take issue with a couple of comments you made in your first para. You say “LAs are led by politicians” – not so. Different departments of LAs have directors, deputy directors and a tier of senior managers,who provide the lead in their particular field. Also John Hemming is NOT a politician. He lost his seat in the last general election.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: When they were bad – they were horrid. The dangers of unregulated McKenzie Friends | Child Protection Resource

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