In the matter of CB (A Child)
This post arises out of discussions on Twitter on New Year’s Day regarding the ‘Latvian case’ and the extent to which John Hemming is able or willing to accept the findings of various courts about the harm suffered by the child CB. I will set out a summary of my response and then a more detailed chronology of the case to support that summary.
On January 1st 2017 I published a tweet to which Mr Hemming objected. This was part of a discussion with other Twitter users about the nature and extent of Mr Hemming’s misrepresentations about the case of CB (A child) – ‘the Latvian case’
I said, in the context of a question about what the mother had done to make necessary changes to her parenting:
None. Because Mr Hemming told her she didn't need to change, that she hadn't done anything wrong. https://t.co/PIRN87UcTA
— Sarah Phillimore (@SVPhillimore) January 1, 2017
Mr Hemming denied that he had said the mother hadn’t done anything wrong and asked me to retract this statement and apologise. He referred me again to this blog post from 2015. I have already commented on Mr Hemming’s involvement in the Latvian case in this post and again in this post.
I concede that I owe Mr Hemming an apology. I don’t know when he first made direct contact with the mother in this case so I cannot imply that he was ‘advising’ her during the care proceedings in 2011. However, it is clear that by the time of her appeal to the Court of Appeal in April 2013 she had dispensed with her lawyers and was represented by ‘Mr H’ – who I shall assume is Tim Haines, one of Mr Hemming’s trusted advisers with his Justice For Families organisation. This assumption is bolstered by the fact that it was Mrs Julie Haines who was representing her in 2015.
It is also clear that Mr Hemming did concede on his blog that going out and leaving your 20 month old alone before the babysitter had turned up, was not great parenting. So I accept, it is misleading for me to suggest that Mr Hemming thought ‘nothing’ wrong had happened here.
However, what is abundantly clear, from his blog and his discussions via Twitter, he certainly didn’t think anything had happened to justify the removal of CB from her mother’s care and her eventual adoption. According to Mr Hemming, this was a case of a child adopted ‘because of nappy rash and a missed babysitter’.
So here is what I should have said
I don’t know when Mr Hemming first spoke directly to the mother. But he was clearly involved with her by 2013. He persistently and consistently asserts that this case was about no more than ‘nappy rash’ or a ‘late babysitter’ . This is utter, unmitigated hogwash and displays a chilling lack of concern for CB or recognition of the danger in which she was placed. The facts of this case – which I summarise below – show the clear and cogent reasons by which various courts have accepted that CB had suffered significant harm in her mother’s care and would be at risk of suffering more harm in the future if not removed. Mr Hemming’s continued misrepresentations about this case are wrong, ridiculous and dangerous. He should apologise for making them and agree never to repeat them.
But don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at the Court of Appeal judgment from 2013, from where I take the summary of facts and chronology set out below.
CB was born on 30th April 2008. On the 4th April 2009 the mother accepted a caution for the offence of being drunk in charge of a child under 7 when she was found at 1am with CB in a buggy, drunk and barefoot in the middle of the road. On 18th January 2010 a social work assessment concluded that this was not the mother’s usual behaviour and CB would be ok in her care. However in February 2010 the local authority received complaints that CB was screaming and running about ‘almost every night’ until about 2am. On 5th March 2010 the mother’s landlord called the police who arrived and found CB, aged about 20 months, alone and in a pitiful state.
What did the court accept about CB’s circumstances? From para 8 of the 2013 judgment:
- the room had a strong and overpowering smell of urine and faeces
- CB’s clothes were wet and she was shivering
- It was clear she had not been changed or cleaned ‘all day’
- She had only an empty bottle within reach
- Her nappy was so swollen she couldn’t walk properly
- Her skin was soaked in urine to extent that a rash was noted when she was examined in hospital
Para 11 of the judgment confirms that by 3rd August 2010 CB, who had been taken into police protection and then into foster care, had been assessed as having significant delay in ALL aspects of her development.
Para 17 confirms the finding that the mother had maladapted personality traits which made her prone to denial and repression and reliance on ‘avoidance strategies’ such as alcohol.
On 26th October 2010 the mother was again detained by the police on suspicion of being drunk. On 15th June 2011 care proceedings were issued and on 10th July 2012 a placement order was made by DJ Mc Phee. The mother appealed against this to HHJ Cryan who dismissed that appeal on 8th October 2012 which is how she ended up in the Court of Appeal in April 2013, where her second appeal was also dismissed.
So how does Hemming deal with this?
By minimisation, denial and apparent lack of any regard for the welfare of CB. His blog post refers to the case ‘starting with two incidents’. The first becomes simply a mother crossing the road after a night out with a friend, having slipped off her shoes because they were hurting her. No mention of fact it was 1am and the mother accepted a caution for a criminal offence.
The second incident he admits ‘was more serious’. CB had been ‘found home alone and with a full nappy’. But, he asserts, the mother had actually arranged a babysitter and her only mistake was to leave CB before the babysitter arrived. Mr Hemming goes on to quote the police report from the time which simply underscores how ridiculous his analysis is.
The report notes that the police arrived at the scene at 18.50. We know they were called by the landlord so presumably CB had been alone for some time by now. Shortly after the police arrived a female also turns up and tells the police that she was the babysitter and she had just popped out for 10 minutes ‘and had been looking after the child all day long’. The ‘babysitter’ was promptly arrested. At 19.08 a decision was made to take CB to the hospital as she was very cold and possibly dehydrated. At 20.10 CB’s older sister arrives. The mother does not turn up until 21.30.
Mr Hemming states that the mother ‘accepts and I agree that she should not have left home before the babysitter arrived’.
And that appears to be the full extent to which Mr Hemming or the mother would accept any wrongdoing here.
This ignores entirely:
- the fact the mother accepted a caution and therefore admitted guilt for being in charge of CB whilst intoxicated at 1am in April 2009;
- the disgusting state in which CB was found in March 2010, cold, wet, whimpering and clearly having been left in a filthy nappy ‘all day’;
- The ‘babysitter’ and the mother clearly giving conflicting accounts of when this ‘babysitter’ was due to arrive – the babysitter maintaining she had been there ‘all day’. If the babysitter had indeed been there ‘all day’ then given the state in which CB was found, the mother’s judgement in choosing this person to care for her daughter is seriously in question;
- That by August 2010 CB was found to be delayed in ALL aspects of her development, which points to significant neglect in her mother’s care.
The conduct of this case by the local authority does not escape criticism and nor should it. I note that earlier assessments of the mother which were positive are described as ‘naive’. I have to accept it must have been hard for the mother to process why initial positive reports about her parenting did not then translate into her daughter’s return to her care .Nor do I understand why it took so long to make an application for a care order given the findings about global developmental delay for CB in 2010.
But nothing in any failings or delay by the local authority can justify Mr Hemming’s persistent and deliberate mischaracterisation of this very sad case, as one where a baby was adopted for having a nappy rash. The impact on the mother has been obvious. She has been encouraged by Hemming and his entourage to see her conduct as attracting very little criticism, her child ‘stolen’ to meet adoption targets and the last 5 years of her life wasted in an utterly futile fight.
I’m not an idiot
I’m not an idiot. I realise that nothing I say here or anywhere else is going to stop Hemming. His distortions and misrepresentations about the family justice system are now part of his DNA. A great deal of his activities and his identity is tied up now with this crusading role. Presumably quite a lot of money too – I keep asking how much the Haines charge to take parents to the Court of Appeal and I have never got an answer, but I hear from some disgruntled parents that its about £1,500 a time.
But I hope that my activities in attempting to call him to account might give some others pause for thought about how much they take him seriously or how much they think it wise to engage with him.
As I have taken the time to deal with his blog post, perhaps he could return the favour and deal with mine? I’ve only been asking since September 2016.