What happens if you don’t know the whole story… or you don’t care? The links between Hemming, Booker and Josephs.
“Any person who embraces one party’s version of events and treats it as the whole truth is making a serious mistake. In most family cases the version given by one side is partial and tendentious; on any view it does not give the other side. The only sensible course is to see what the court says in a judgment on all the evidence”. Sir Nicholas Wall
This is a post by Sarah Phillimore
On the 27th July 2015 the BBC reported that Marie Black had been found guilty of child sex abuse charges. EDIT – and on May 13th 2016 her application to appeal against her conviction was dismissed.
Marie Black, 34, of Norwich, stood trial with nine others, including five women, at Norwich Crown Court. Black denied 26 charges. A jury found her guilty of all but three counts.
She was convicted of offences including rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. Two men were found guilty of child sex abuse and another woman was found guilty of assault.
Michael Rogers, 53, from Romford, was found guilty of 14 counts including cruelty, rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. Jason Adams, 43, from Norwich, was convicted of 13 similar counts. Carol Stadler, 60, from Atkinson Close, Bowthorpe, Norwich, was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm but cleared of nine other charges, including serious sexual assaults.
Six other defendants were cleared of all charges.
Allegations were first made about Marie Black in 2010. Further evidence was available in 2012 and she was arrested in 2013.
Christopher Booker and Marie Black
But this is not the first time Marie Black’s name has appeared in the media. On 7th July 2012 Christopher Booker wrote about her in an article in the Telegraph. Marie Black and her partner had ‘fled’ to France to give birth to their daughter after being under investigation by Norfolk Social Services. Norfolk wanted to apply for a care order for their child but the court ruled that the child was habitually resident in France and therefore the Norfolk LA had no jurisdiction. Christopher Booker commented:
This is a landmark case which should give cheer to those scores of parents who flee abroad for the birth of children threatened with seizure by our social workers. For this reason, perhaps the British taxpayer’s expenditure on this episode – estimated at £250,000 or more – was not entirely wasted.
He wrote about her again in 2013 – ‘Another couple flee to France only to have their baby taken away’. This was to report on another parent who had successfully left the jurisdiction to escape care proceedings and relied on the Marie Black case as precedent. Christopher Booker referred to the ‘happy ending’ for Marie Black and her child and applauded the help she had been able to give another parent in the same position:
The mother had already been in touch with Marie Black and Brendan Fleming (although there is still no order from a British court to authorise all that has happened). When the couple appeared in a French court to contest the demand that their baby be deported, the judge was shown a statement citing the Marie Black judgment, making clear that, since Britain had no jurisdiction over the child, deporting her would be illegal. The judge, seemingly out of her depth, adjourned the case, suggesting that it should be heard by a more senior judge in three weeks’ time. We may hope that the new judge can recognise that the law is clear, and that the British authorities had no legal right to arrange what amounted to an act of kidnapping.
But the ending for Marie Black (and presumably her child) we now know was very far from happy. She has been convicted on 23 charges of serious child sexual abuse, including rape.
Encouraging and supporting parents to leave the jurisdiction
Christopher Booker is sadly not alone in simply accepting uncritically any complaint made by parents about the child protection system. He is often supported by the former MP John Hemming and Ian Josephs.
John Hemming has also been subject to serious judicial criticism . Of interest is also this article by Jonathan Gornall in 2007 which explains why Hemming first became interested in ‘waging a war’ on children’s services.
Booker goes rather further than simple uncritical acceptance but instead often ignores published judgments and established facts when writing his articles.
- See this post from the Transparency Project.
- He has been criticised by a Judge as being ‘unbalanced, inaccurate and just plain wrong’ in his reporting of family cases. See this post from the UK Human Rights Blog.
- See further this from Pink Tape in 2011. And again, in 2015.
And its not just Christopher Booker’s reporting about the family justice system which is criticised. As George Monbiot commented in the Guardian in May 2011
I have begun to wonder whether there’s a single subject Booker has tackled in recent years which he has not distorted out of all recognition. For how much longer can this go on?
Sadly for all of us, its still going on.
Its one matter to simply write things that are stupid and wrong. It is another, and more dangerous matter, to encourage and even pay for parents to leave the UK, rather than face investigation into the quality of their parenting. I don’t know if Christopher Booker has ever given a parent money to fund leaving the jurisdiction – but he certainly associates with and is sympathetic to those who do.
He has apparently commented on the criminal trial of Marie Black in May 2015 – making his disdain for the criminal process clear and likening this case to ‘crazy’ allegations of ritual abuse in previous cases which were like an ‘epidemic of collective hysteria’.
The ‘mums on the run’ network – giving money to parents
It is clear that there is a network of people who act to help these parents ‘flee’ the UK. This website describes it in these terms (and then goes on to discuss articles written by Christopher Booker):
The situation can be stated in a very simple manner. There is now a network of Good Samaritans spanning six countries. The countries are the UK, Ireland, Belgium, France, Spain and Cyprus. Parents, mainly mothers, are fleeing with children and heavily pregnant women and teenaged girls are fleeing to have their children born in a foreign country where their citizenship will make it difficult if not impossible for the British authorities to bring them back for forced adoption.
Now for the very simple bit. The hard-pressed volunteers in the network are seeing no Irish or continental European parents and none from Cyprus. All the fleeing parents are British, desperate to escape from UK Social Services, now commonly referred to as the ‘SS’.
We also know that some in the network put their money where their mouth is. One who openly admits giving cash to parents to help them leave the country, is Ian Josephs. He is based in Monaco and is the author of the infamous ‘ten Golden Rules’ which advises parents not to co-operate with social workers and to think very carefully before reporting even sexual abuse of your children.
BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts programme in January 2014 ‘Forced Adoption and the Mums on the Run’ examined the network of people helping parents leave the UK rather than face investigation.
Mr Josephs was interviewed and confirmed that he has spent about £30,000 helping parents and he did not conduct any kind of risk assessment about the danger these parents might pose to their children. An article in the Daily Mirror in July 2014 confirmed this figure and said it involved 200 families.
Ian Josephs helped Marie Black leave the UK. She wrote to him from France.
We hope you are well.
Attached is a recent photo for you of L, she will be 10 months old this thursday and is trying to walk already! She is so happy and laughs so much. We feel lucky everyday to have L home with us and we are looking forward to her 1st Christmas.
We get on well with the social worker here and she took us swimming last week and this week will be a baby group. She is also looking into if she knows anyone who can help us with French lessons too.
She commented on how happy L is! We have even been to see Mr Mondin the manager of social services who helped us in Court with a shining report and he has a photo of L on his desk, he was so happy to see us all together last week.
Thank you again in our rescue operation!
Marie, Joe & L
No risk assessment before they leave, no follow up after they’ve gone.
In the interview with the Mirror, Josephs claims he ‘ploughs through’ ‘piles of documents’ before agreeing to help but other than that he is silent on what criteria he uses to judge whether or not it is safe to send these parents out of the country. He is reported as saying:
I know what I do is controversial. People ask how I know the people I’ve helped don’t go on to do something wicked, but my reply is that even killers are entitled to lawyers. These woman are entitled to a fair chance to keep their children if they have not been convicted of any crime of cruelty and aren’t on drink or drugs.
Not only is no or no adequate risk assessment conducted before giving these parents money, there is no formal follow up or investigation as to how their children fare once they leave the jurisdiction. Sadly, the poll conducted by the Daily Mirror attached to its interview with Ian Josephs, shows 66% of those responding agreed it was right to help ‘pregnant mums’ leave the UK. So its not only Christopher Booker who is willing to uncritically accept reports of a ‘happy ending’.
Ian Josephs later said he does ‘not care’ if the parents have done anything to justify intervention. Because forced adoption is wrong and that justifies his actions. ‘ I don’t care who it is. They have every right to escape’. See this video from 6 mins 50 seconds.
Connections between Booker, Josephs and Hemming
Ian Josephs has close connections with both Christopher Booker and the former MP John Hemming, in their self appointed roles as critics of the child protection system and champions of its many alleged victims.
- both Booker and Josephs appeared at a ‘Stop Forced Adoption Conference‘ in Birmingham in December 2012, together with Brendan Fleming, the solicitor who represented Marie Black with regard her daughter.
- There is cross fertilisation from Josephs’ website to Booker’s articles.
- Also see this article.
- See this post from Head of Legal in 2013, discussing the joint activities of Booker and Hemming around the ‘forced C-section case’.
- John Hemming was interviewed for the January 2014 Panorama documentary ‘I want my baby back’ and there advised parents to leave the jurisdiction as they wouldn’t get a fair hearing in the UK. He continues to promote ‘mums on the run’ on his blog – see this post from July 2015. [EDIT – JH now appears to have removed this blog post]
- See the Justice For Families e-conference with John Hemming and Ian Josephs on 3rd September 2014, ‘Refugees from the UK’. Brian Rothery claims one family arrives in Ireland every week.
It’s not always a ‘happy ending’
However, as the Marie Black case demonstrates, it is naive and dangerous to simply take at face value a parent’s assertions that they are nothing but the ‘victims’ of the corrupt family courts. Marie Black has been tried and convicted in a criminal court, on the criminal standard of proof and found guilty by a jury of her peers – this is just what Ian Josephs has been campaigning for, that no parent should lose their child without a criminal conviction. He said to the Daily Mail in March 2012
‘It’s time the criminal rules of justice applied in the family courts. We need parents to be considered innocent until proven guilty and also be free to talk about what is happening in those courts without being thrown into jail.
So presumably Marie Black would not now qualify for his help to leave the country.
Just how many more ‘unhappy endings’ are out there? If Josephs has paid 200 parents to leave the UK, just how many dangerous parents have been helped to escape scrutiny in this way? We don’t know, because he doesn’t care to find out.
How much longer are Booker, Hemming and Josephs going to be permitted to carry on like this? Just what kind of tragedy will it take to shine a light on their activities?
Apparently Christopher Booker will be writing about the Marie Black case in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph. It will be interesting to see what he says and how – if at all – he will try to justify his role in these events.
If he isn’t actually handing over cash to parents to get them out of the country, with every dangerously false and inaccurate article he writes he is certainly encouraging and supporting those who do.
EDIT Sunday 2nd August – there is no article from Christopher Booker in today’s Sunday Telegraph. Further speculation is probably unhelpful given that I am not clear if Marie Black intends to appeal against her conviction. I hope it is a safe conviction. If its not safe I hope it is overturned speedily.
BUT whether the conviction stands or falls, the activities of Booker, Hemming and Josephs remain open to serious criticism. If Marie Black is not a child sex offender, the risk remains that other parents might be. And they are being supported to leave the country with their children – not merely with encouraging words in a newspaper, but with cold, hard cash.
I hope I am not alone in finding this both appalling and dangerous.
EDIT Sunday 9th August 2015 Christopher Booker has now commented in more general terms.
EDIT September 28th 2015. Marie Black is sentenced to a minimum term of 24 years.
EDIT December 4th 2015 – for the latest wilfully misreported case, see this blog post by suesspiciousminds about the Latvian family ‘helped to flee’. Christopher Booker reports the child’s injuries as a ‘slight mark’ whereas in fact they were more akin to a rope burn, the child said his father did it. It’s ironic that Josephs continually asserts that only parents who are convicted in a criminal court should lose their children; but he helps them leave the country before they can be charged with any criminal offence.