Tag Archives: John Hemming

Keep on Running Part II

On 12th April 2018 Mr Justice Francis gave judgment in the case of CFA (Ireland) v F [2018] EWHC 939 (Fam) (12 April 2018).

This is a case about parents ‘fleeing’ from the UK to Ireland in an attempt to avoid child protection proceedings here. I have written before about this phenomenon and the dangers it can pose to parents and children. See  ‘Helping Parents leave the Jurisdiction’ first published in September 2015 and ‘Mums on the Run’ first published in September 2016.

This current is case is another illustration of the futility of this strategy.

I would be interested to know who helped the parents in this case leave the jurisdiction and what interest or investigation – if any – they made into what is described as the ‘extremely complicated’ background of the mother.

If previous cases are any guide, they made none because they don’t see this as relevant – the only goal is to get parents out of the ‘clutches’ of the evil child snatchers. It seems that the issue of ‘mums on the run’ is gaining increasing prominence. The influence of certain individuals such as John Hemming and Ian Josephs in the continued encouragement of this often futile endeavour, needs to be taken much more seriously by all those charged with securing the welfare of children.

Josephs is quite clear that he gives money to parents without any check or even concern about what challenges and traumas they have faced which might impact on their ability to provide safe care for a child. The most notorious example of this is of course Marie Black – a convicted paedophile who Josephs helped travel to France before her trial and conviction.

I have commented over the years that it is going to take a child to die before anyone takes this seriously. I really hope I am wrong about that.


Facts of this case and the court’s decision

CFA involved a child F, who was born in late 2017 and at the time of the court hearings was living in foster care in Ireland. Her parents had travelled from the UK to Ireland when the mother was pregnant with F and another sibling was in the care of an English local authority. The issue was now which country should decide where F should live as she was growing up.

Article 15 of the Brussels II regulations sets out the procedure the courts need to follow when transferring these cases.

Article 15(1) provides:

“By way of exception, the courts of a Member State having jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter may, if they consider that a court of another Member State, with which the child has a particular connection, would be better placed to hear the case, or a specific part thereof, and where this is in the best interests of the child:

The matter had first come before Judge O’Leary in Ireland on 8 January 2018 and she granted the Article 15 request to transfer. The parents appealed and it came before HHJ Donnabháin on 6 February 2018 who confirmed that earlier decision. The matter then came before the English courts. In February 2018 MacDonald J agreed with the Irish courts.

MacDonald J allowed the mother and father the chance to argue about why this shouldn’t happen and the parents put their arguments in writing and appeared before Francis J. After some confusion about whether the parents were physically in Ireland and attempting to challenge decisions made there, the hearing got underway but required considerably more time than the hour which it had optimistically been allowed.

Francis J was clear that factual background of the parents ‘fleeing’ was not relevant to the decision he was now making and he didn’t hold it against the parents ‘as a black mark’. He recognised that the Irish judgments contained some very important information and he cited it at some length. He found that the Irish courts had give very clear reasons as to why F’s case should be transferred.

HHJ Donnabháin had found that F has ‘a UK nationality and identity.’ Further, the mother’s circumstances also raised concern. At para 5 he said:

This lady’s background [by which he means the mother] is extremely complicated and requires the fullest access to all the medical, psychiatric, and social work reports which exist. These reports can only be ultimately relied upon to be produced in the United Kingdom and they are of fundamental importance to informing any court decision regarding the child’s welfare.”

And at para 13 he said:

I should say that it is obvious to me from the background that I have read about this case that the mother is entitled to the court’s greatest sympathy and understanding for she has had, it is undoubtedly true, an extremely difficult, troubled, and traumatic time. I need say no more about that for the purposes of this judgment but it is important to her that she knows that it is acknowledged by me when giving this judgment.

Francis J reminded himself of the observations of the President of the Family Division in Re HJ (A Child) [2013] EWHC 1867 (Fam) which commented that transfer requests were effectively a ‘summary process’ – to go into the merits of the case in any great detail would risk protracted and costly battles as to which is the correct jurisdiction. So the transfer decision must be made swiftly and what really matters in this case is the decision that will be made in due course by the court deciding where F should live as she grows up.

The proposed transfer must be in the best interests of the child and Francis J found that the  Irish courts had already made that assessment and found the transfer would be positively beneficial.

The parents’ arguments against transfer

The parents argued they are settled in Ireland and want to be assessed there. However the Judge responded that transferring the case to England would not prevent the parents being assessed in what they say is now their home country and he did not see this as a determinative feature.

Of more importance was their argument that if F came to England that would make it more difficult for them to see her. However, the Judge commented that there was nothing to stop the local authority, if they obtained an interim care order for F, to allow her to stay in the interim care of her current foster carers in Ireland: ‘There is nothing particularly unusual about that. Indeed, Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989 specifically provides for such placement’.

F’s guardian in Ireland made it clear shat F should not be moved in the interim and Francis J agreed.

…I am not saying that it would mean that there could not ever be a change of interim care, but it seems to me that a change of interim care is almost always to be avoided in these cases if the interim care is satisfactory. As far as I can see here, it is not just satisfactory but extremely good interim care that F is currently enjoying. However, there is no reason for me to think that the acceptance of a transfer request would alter the possibility of F continuing to be with her Irish foster carers.

The Judge however rejected the parents’ arguments that it would be contrary to F’s best interests to endure a short journey from Ireland to England and further comments that if F did end up living in England then the parents could be helped to travel to see her, at least in the short term.


He concluded at para 33:

I am completely satisfied that it is in F’s best interests for this case to be transferred to England. Moreover, the principles of comity require that I should have very considerable respect and regard for the Irish order, which I do, albeit that I am of course not bound to accept the request. However, having applied, I hope properly, the test which is set out in Article 15(5) and its interpretation by recent case law, I am completely satisfied that this court should accept the request and I now do so.

Further Reading

A case in August 2018 where an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice was highly critical of the actions of both the English and Irish authorities, who organised the removal of children from Ireland without the parents knowledge and without them having sight of the English LA’s application to enforce orders for removal.  See this post from The Transparency Project. 

The Irish courts  have also commented critically, as reported by the Irish Examiner:

Irish social workers must “stop immediately” the practice of acting in conjunction with their UK counterparts in seeking the return to Britain of children at the centre of care proceedings without the parents’ knowledge of that application, the Court of Appeal has said.

If it does not stop, social workers could face contempt of court proceedings, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said. He also expressed the “deepest misgivings” about the conduct of Irish and English social workers in one such case.

However In Lincolnshire County Council v J.MCA & anor [2018] IEHC 514 (25 September 2018) the Irish court ordered the return to England of a child removed by her parents after the making of interim care orders; following mistaken advice from a McKenzie Friend in England that the father’s ‘parental rights’ permitted them to do this.

Part of the parents’ arguments against return was that their English lawyers had not ‘fought’ for them and the English courts had made the wrong decisions. The Irish court pointed out that the decisions so far of the English courts were interim decisions only. They said this about the parents’ challenge to the English court system at para 39 of the judgment:

…the respondents have in substance made an allegation that the English courts are unwilling to protect their rights or those of the child. This allegation has been made without any supporting expert evidence or any affidavit from the lawyers who represented the respondents in the English courts or any evidence other than the opinion of the respondents. I have no hesitation in rejecting the submission. The respondents were afforded legal representation before the English court; appropriate hearings were conducted; a doctor gave evidence and was cross-examined; future hearings were being planned; this was all done in a similar fashion to how adversarial proceedings are carried out in Ireland. Further, the interim arrangement was in my view a humane one, involving the child being placed with her grandmother and the respondents being permitted three access visits per week. There is no evidence at all to suggest that the English courts are unwilling to protect the child’s rights or those of the respondents. In reality all that is offered is the respondents’ personal view that the doctors and the court were wrong in their diagnosis and that they were being treated unfairly by the courts. They could have advanced their case vigorously if they had stayed for the full hearing; and it can be done on their behalf at any future hearing, with appropriate evidence …


When they were bad – they were horrid. The dangers of unregulated McKenzie Friends

On 5th January I made a formal complaint to John Hemming about the activities of the Justice For Families group, [JFF] of which (I assume) he remains the Chair. I raised a significant number of very serious concerns, including that the activities of JFF put vulnerable parents and children at risk of harm by facilitating or encouraging them to leave the country rather than face care proceedings.

I have never received a reply to this complaint. Hopefully, now that Mr Hemming is now freed from the demands of his time spent electioneering, he can devote some time to answering the very serious issues I raise about how JFF operates and how it makes money.

I raise this matter again for two reasons. First because of the recent publication of research in McKenzie Friends which worryingly, establishes that they are more active outside the court room, where presumably they are subject to very little scrutiny – or none at all.

Second, because I have received the following information from a Ms Green about Tim and Julie Haines, the two most active and high profile ‘advisers’ for JFF.

I quote Ms Green’s email to me:

I contacted Julie Haines through a Facebook group. She and her husband Tim Haines met with us claiming that although they don’t cost as much as a solicitor, they would need to be paid as they “don’t work for nothing” and need to “pay their bills”.

However, once meeting with the Haines, they soon went through everything and said there would be a very good chance they could get our children back but there would be a cost. That cost was £1,500. We paid two payments of £500 as we met with them at least 2 maybe 3 times.

These payments paid for a pathetic attempt at a “grounds of appeal” and a “Skeleton argument”. Had we have got a hearing at London’s RCJ we would have had to pay another £500. However our appeal was refused.

We didn’t appear to hear from them after that and we knew they still had the major documents (doctors reports, professionals witness statements,etc). We asked for these back and they said at first they would see what the cost was to send them back and insisted they had a tracking number which already meant they had paid for it. We waited week and nothing. Two weeks…. decided to contact them and they insisted it had been posted and that they would check with their post office. I asked for the tracking number only to be ignored.

My texts and WhatsApp messenger soon got blocked. So we contacted them on facebook. Told them we wanted our documents back and began to tell other members on facebook to warn them only to be abused and blocked then removed feom the group. I found a few others who had encountered the same problem with large payments for next to nothing work (we printed everything) and then the theft of our documents. My husband then contacted Tim and all he got was denial and lies. Then told people on facebook our case “was never going to be successful” yet soon took our money and built up our hopes knowing we lent this money from my pensioner mum and that money was the last of my dad’s from when he died.

They insisted we go to “bank of mum and dad” but they fooled us into thinking we would win this and we didn’t. We travelled to [REDACTED] to them for all this. As much as we love our daughter so much, we now wished we didn’t bother to go to the Haines as we were just desperate targets.

We threatened [to go to] the police and they told us to go ahead, that they wouldnt find anything there. Told us also is we persisted to “harass” them, they would take us to court. So they now go on to make thousands from desperate families for rubbish knowledgeless court bundles and empty promises.


In 2010 I had a run in with the Information Commissioner after I left two files of confidential documents in my car. They were stolen after my car was broken into. I was very lucky to escape with a reprimand, rather than the £40K fine which could have been imposed on me as a data controller. The ICO told me that if this happened again, my career would be over.

And this is absolutely as it should be. If I want the status, the interesting work and the money that comes from holding myself out as someone capable of dealing with people’s confidential information and advising them at the most difficult times of their lives, I have to hold myself out to be accountable. If I fail to meet the necessary high standards demanded by my profession. I should be removed from that profession, to protect those vulnerable people who might otherwise fall victim to my incompetence.

So what redress do vulnerable parents have against JFF or the Haines? Are they registered with the ICO as data handlers? What processes does JFF have in place to keep confidential information safe? What is their charging structure? Are they insured? What training do either Tim or Julie have?

We don’t know the answers to any of those questions. JFF and the Haines are utterly unaccountable, offering ‘services’ to the desperate and vulnerable with no guarantee of quality or redress if they get things wrong.  This is simply wrong on every level.

As I doubt very much Mr Hemming will ever answer my questions, perhaps he and the Haines can do what they have been threatening for over a year – take me to court for ‘defamation’. So these issues can be ventilated in open court and a decision made about who is telling the truth.


See this article I wrote with Paul Magrath and note in particular the questions we think you should be asking:

What questions should I ask?

For those who cannot afford legal representation however, a good quality McKenzie friend can be a real help. We suggest that any one looking to get help from a McKenzie friend should consider the following questions and issues.
1.What are their credentials? Have they been trained in any related or relevant profession (not law, but maybe accountancy, police or social work)?
2.If they charge, how much are they charging and for what?
3.Have you checked whether you could get a similar service from a lawyer? (Some lawyers will “unbundle” services to provide, say, a consultation to help identify the issues in the case and how best to prepare the paperwork.)
4.What level of experience do they have in the kind of proceedings you are engaged in?
5.Can they provide references? Does their website include testimonials and, if so, can you check them?
6.How did you find them? (Or did they find you?) Have you googled them, checked Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media for comments by or about them?
7.Do they have an agenda? If they are from a volunteer organisation, what is their reason for volunteering? Are they promoting an agenda, and if so, does that accord with your case or might it be a distraction?
8.Have you searched on BAILII or other legal websites to see whether they have been cited or referred to in judgments – either adversely (such as those quoted above) or with approval (though it is rare for judges specifically to mention McKenzie Friends unless they cause trouble).

Further reading

AEY v AL (Family Proceedings Civil Restraint Order) [2018] EWHC 3253 (Fam) – discussion of how and when civil restrain orders can be made to prevent unreasonable litigators taking up the court’s time.


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 [email protected], 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 ([email protected]). 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.


John Hemming: An apology

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:

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.

‘Mums on the Run’ – Where do they go? How safe are they?

Mums on the Run #2. Tim answers some questions.

But not enough.

John Hemming’s gone very quiet, Tim is debating my mum’s vulnerability and the fact that I don’t have enough reported cases to my name to comment on the fact that Hemming and JFF appear to be encouraging vulnerable families to leave the UK and go to a house which is profoundly unsafe.

I have discussed all this in more detail here.

I have asked some questions of Hemming, JFF and Tim. I have got some answers from Tim via Twitter and his responses that thrown up even more intriguing questions.

For my own sanity here is a handy cut out and keep guide to the information we have at the moment. I will probably get it laminated.


Question put Tim’s response My comments.
When did JFF/JH/IJ start sending parents to Gena’s house We never started But a parent has provided a message from JH saying ‘why not go to Genas’?

Tim confirms JFF had a meeting and agreed to continue ‘not to send’ people to Gena. What was discussed at that meeting?

Why did JH buy Gena a caravan to house other parents if JFF weren’t sending them?

How much money has JFF/JH/IJ paid to Gena Not answered Gena says JH paid for a caravan at her address in France where parents could stay
If they paid her money, what was it for? Not answered
Is source of money donations from public or from private purse of JH/IJ? Not answered We need to know if members of the public are being solicited for money by JFF
What checks/risk assessment do they carry out Claims they have never sent any parents to Gena so never needed to assess her But JH has clearly advised a parent to go to Gena’s. So this response is untrue and we need to know more about their assessment process.

Why did JH buy Gena a caravan to house other parents, if JFF wasn’t sending them?

What did they know about the conditions at Gena’s house Claims never sent any parents there so wouldn’t need to know. So what on earth was being discussed at the meeting about Gena? Why does Tim say that JFF gave advice NOT to go to Genas? What did they know, and when did they know it?
When did they know that mothers were complaining about abuse and theft at Genas? Not answered Again, we need to know when the meeting was at JFF about Gena and what was said
When did they know that Gena was living with a man who poses a clear sexual risk to children? Not answered Again, we need to know when the meeting was at JFF about Gena and what was said
Do JH/JFF/IJ refer ‘mums on the run’ to any other people? Claims not. This is not supported by what others say. JFF need to be utterly open and transparent about their activities in this regard.


Some other issues

Attempts are now being made to show that the mother’s who have raised this issue with me are themselves mentally unwell and unfit parents.

So I ask JFF very clearly. You say you didn’t assess Gena because you weren’t sending anyone to her.

Then why were you advising and helping mothers to leave the jurisdiction that you are now describing as mentally unwell and unfit parents?

Just how many families have you helped leave the jurisdiction?

Gena says John Hemming has sent her 4 families.

Is this true.

Please be open and honest about what you are doing. Vulnerable children – and vulnerable mothers – are being put at considerable risk of harm by those who persuade them to leave the jurisidiction. If JFF and its advisers really are able to offer a good quality legal representation for parents, if they are ‘winning’ so many cases, then they don’t need to encourage parents to ‘flee’.

‘Mums on the Run’ – Where do they go? How safe are they?

For some time now I have been talking about and worried about the network of people who help parents leave the country if they are facing care proceedings. I am not convinced they are motivated by wanting to help people. I think they are more interested in showing they can get one over the ‘system’.

I have written about this before, particularly about how worried I am about John Hemming and Ian Josephs – who has given money to Marie Black, a convicted paedophile. I discussed their activities in more detail here:  ‘Helping Parents Leave the Jurisdiction’.

John Hemming set up ‘Justice For Families’ [JFF]  an organisation that;

campaigns to improve the operation of the family courts (including the court of protection) in order to treat families with respect.

John Hemming has often advised people to leave the country as they won’t get a fair hearing here – see Panorama ‘I Want My Baby Back’ in January 2014. There was a post on his blog in July 2015 about ‘mums on the run’ but that blog post no longer exists. The URL reads ‘Gena-and-kerry-mums-on-run-in-france’ [URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator and is a reference (an address) to a resource on the Internet.] There is a reference to it on the ‘Brummie.net’ site which confirms the name ‘Gena’. 

So I am going to assume that John Hemming knew about someone called Gena in 2015. I am also going to assume that John Hemming has been promoting Gena as a safe ‘host family’ in France for the ‘mums on the run’ as  I have seen Facebook messages from John Hemming to a parent saying:

‘Why not go to Gena’s?’ …’The advantage with Gena is she knows the system where she lives.’

EDIT – the link between John Hemming and Gena is beyond doubt. Also, he knew that she had reported her partner as aggressive. See this article from the Sunday Times in December 2015. 

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

I have recently been given some very disturbing information in copies of texts, emails and Facebook messages from three different parents who have had first hand experience of being ‘mums on the run’. All went to a house in France occupied by ‘Gena’ and her partner.  All were given the details by John Hemming and/or Ian Josephs.

The mothers speak of horrible conditions in the house. Of being physically and verbally abused and having money either taken from them or not given to them so they could not buy even nappies for their children. One mother had to call the French police; the French authorities are now apparently investigating Gena.

I am told that one of the mothers told John Hemming and Ian Josephs about what was going on.   I have seen a message to one parent from Tim Haines [one of the JFF Advisors] saying that JFF held a meeting and said they would no longer refer parents to Gena. I don’t know when the date of that meeting was or what actual discussions were had. It would be interesting to know.

Even more disturbing information came to light in September 2016. That Gena’s partner, who lives in the house with her, was found in court proceedings in the UK to pose a sexual risk to children. 3 children between the ages of 7-14 have made allegations that he sexually abused them.

Questions that need to be answered.

I am seriously worried about this.  I have challenged Ian Josephs many times about what information he got about the parents he helped to leave the country and whether or not he followed up their cases once they had left. He carries out no risk assessment and no follow up. He has already given money to one mother who went on to be convicted of really serious crimes of sexual abuse against children.

But now it seems the problem is even bigger and even more dangerous – not only do John Hemming and Ian Josephs have little interest in the backgrounds of the parents they help leave the country, these vulnerable mothers are being encouraged to go somewhere which is not safe. Not for them or their children.

I have for a long time now accused John Hemming of not caring much for the parents or children he claims to ‘help’. I have said that he is more interested in promoting his own agenda. If I am wrong about that, no doubt John Hemming could assist me understand his actions/motivations better, by answering the questions I set out below.

I hope that someone does not have to get seriously hurt or abused before people start taking this seriously.

  • When did JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs start sending parents to Gena’s house?
  • How much money has JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs paid to Gena?
  • If they have paid her money, what was that money for?
  • Is the source of that money donations from the public or is it privately funded by either/or John Hemming/Ian Josephs?
  • What checks/risk assessment did JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs/ carry out on Gena and those living in her house before advising other parents to go there?
  • When did they know that conditions at Gena’s home were not acceptable?
  • When did they know that mothers were complaining about physical and verbal abuse and having their money taken/not given?
  • When did they know that Gena was living with a man who poses a clear sexual risk to children?
  • Do JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs refer ‘mums on the run’ to any other people abroad? If so, what checks/risk assessment have they done regarding these other people?

If you are a parent who is thinking about leaving the country rather than face care proceedings PLEASE be careful. PLEASE be wary of people offering to ‘help’ you – they may not actually have your best interests at heart at all. PLEASE get some good advice from someone you trust.

There are some links here to organisations/people who may be able to help you.


EDIT – some screenshots to support information given above.

Further, link to video from BBC programme in Feb 2015 where Gena states she was hospitalised by her violent partner.


Mums on Run Screen shot 1


Mums on the Run screen shot 2

EDIT BBC programme 26th September 2016 – further interview with Gena. She takes 8 families a year. And she isn’t going to stop.


Calm Down Dear: Why I worry about John Hemming – and why you should too

For now too many years I have been ploughing what seemed like a very lonely furrow, trying to make people understand just what a dangerous and unhealthy influence John Hemming has had – and continues to have – on the nature of public debate and understanding about the child protection system. And consequently the damage he has done to a great many vulnerable people.

The weekend of May 15th 2016 however saw a welcome change. John Hemming managed to be so consistently and persistently wrong about something quite important that a large number of lawyers noticed and commented. John Hemming asserted that lawyers were on ‘effective retainers’ if they had ever acted for local authorities and that their Code of Conduct prevented this as a conflict of interest. It was explained at great length why this wasn’t so; see this post from Nearly Legal. For an entertaining summary of the weekend see this post from Hoaxtead Research.

Pink Tape blogger Lucy Reed also took the time to carefully explain why it did NOT mean a barrister was corrupt or ineffective if they from time to time accepted instructions from a local authority – on the contrary, this allowed the barrister to be more effective at making and running a case.

But as ever, Hemming wasn’t about to let some inconvenient facts get in the way of further promotion of his central agenda; that the family justice system is evil and those who work in it are corrupt. Despite contacting the Bar Standards Board and being told his interpretation of the rules was incorrect, he would not be daunted and was last spotted threatening to campaign for a change in the Bar’s Code of Conduct.

The consequences of any change to the rules which means barristers could not act for parents if they had ever acted for any local authority (or presumably they could not ever defend any criminal if they had once prosecuted another) would mean we would run out of available barristers very quickly. Maybe that is what he wants?

So why worry? A finger in every corrupt pie and consequent exploitation of the vulnerable

What was interesting however was the response from some. It was pointed out that it is ‘futile’ to engage with such as Hemming and that by pointing out this futility I was somehow encouraging him.

I wonder whether some more senior members of the legal profession just don’t understand:

  • the full nature and extent of his activities and
  • just what a game changer the internet has been to allow him to promote his agenda that family lawyers are inherently corrupt.

Whereas only 20 years ago conspiracy theorists were restricted to their lonely bedsits now they have access to professional tools that enable them to produce slick websites that can be seen all over the world. Anyone tempted to smile indulgently at the japery of John Hemming or think me a little odd and obsessive to keep on banging on about it, needs to understand that in every single nasty campaign against the family courts for at least the last 10 years, Hemming has been involved – either directly or by providing support to those who were.

I remain utterly baffled that his activities in supporting those such as Sabine McNeil and Ian Josephs appear to garner very little attention or censure. If you don’t know about the Hampstead Satanic Abuse Hoax, then I suggest you read this and consider the impact not only on the children in the case but the wider community, who have found themselves subject to many months of harassment and accusations from the world wide community of conspirators, alleging that they ate babies or wore their skin as shoes.

When MEPs came to London in November 2015 on a ‘fact finding’ mission to determine if the UK’s family justice system was really as abusive and corrupt as was claimed in a number of petitions (organised by Sabine McNeill) they spoke to some responsible people, such as the Co Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children and the Family Rights Group. BUT they also took time to discuss issues with John Hemming and his lackey Julie Haines, one of the named ‘McKenzie Friends’ on his Justice For Families website – and what they charge or what he pays them, he won’t be clear about.

Ms Haines has told me that she brings hopeless appeals to the Court of Appeal in the full knowledge that they are hopeless but as a mechanism to show the higher courts just how unhappy people are with the system. Which is all very well and good, but as a campaigning tool to spread awareness it is not merely hugely expensive and a drain on the public purse, it is diverting the attention of our judiciary away from cases where appeals might actually have some merit, and must be at enormous emotional cost to a parent who is presumably unaware that their case is simply being used as an example of a corrupt system. Presumably that parent had some hopes when JFF took on their case; hopes which will soon be dashed.

John Hemming has directly contributed to and supports the continued debasement of our public discussion about matters of huge important to us all – how do we protect children? How do we support families? Certainly since the death of Peter Connelley we have been pushed into ever more extreme positions; from Hemming’s promotion of parents’ rights to the exclusion of any consideration of the child at one extreme, to the Government’s continued push for more adoptions more quickly at the other.

To an extent I suppose we have got what we deserved. As a society we seem uncomfortable with nuance in our debate, are unwilling to accept responsibility and to learn from mistakes, preferring instead the culture of ‘blame and shame’  – for every child beaten to death by his parents, we want another social worker’s head on a plate.

But this really, really matters. John Hemming is encouraging parents to distrust and fear lawyers and thus encouraging them to deprive themselves of our help when they really need it. And his reach isn’t just to the vulnerable and desperate parents – it’s extending now to children.


I will leave you with the conclusion of Nearly Legal. I agree. And I think you should too. I am really worried about John Hemming.

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.


EDIT December 2018

Hoaxstead Research are covering the trial of Sabine McNeil for the breach of her restraining order which attempted to stop her continued harassment of the parents in the Hampstead case. Read here Sabine’s own account of the support and encouragement given to her by Hemming in her battle against the secret family courts.

Why do I worry about John Hemming?

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore

It seems that a lot of people genuinely have no idea about the full extent of John Hemming’s activities and the kind of people he supports. I am often asked on Twitter and elsewhere – but why don’t you support John Hemming? He does so much good and has exposed so much wrong doing?

So I am going to collect here the reasons why, so if I am asked that question again, my response can be speedy and efficient.

I accept that John Hemming has done some good for the family law system. I accept for example that he was right to be concerned about applications to send people to prison which were not being publicised or reported. He was right to be concerned about LA’s historic ignorance of and failure to comply with the Vienna Convention.

But. But. But. The harm he has done by his promotion of and support for the most malignant of the conspiracy cottage industry fantasists I am afraid far outweighs the good. And what is worse, he keeps on going and now appears to be the voice of our country to the European Parliament.

This is not right. This is not acceptable. This is positively dangerous.

But don’t take my word for it. Read these links and make up your own mind. I will probably be adding to this list

HIs historic activities



His distortion and misreporting of important cases




Including his eagerness to make serious accusations with no evidence in abuse of his position


See in particular para 88 of that judgment:

I find it not only unacceptable but shocking, that a man in Mr Hemming’s position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment, it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position. Unfortunately, as other aspects of this judgment will make clear, it is not the only part of the case in which Mr Hemming has been willing to scatter unfounded allegations of professional impropriety and malpractice without any evidence to support them.

His support for Belinda McKenzie and Sabine McNeill




[And if you don’t know why these women are dangerous, read the judgment in the P and Q case or this blog post by Barrister Blogger.]


His association with Ian Josephs and others of questionable repute



He gives vulnerable people really bad advice


Some credible people seem to accept him as legitimate





And his refusal to ever accept that he has done anything unwise or wrong…



EDIT. John Hemming is concerned that I ‘misrepresent his views’ about my claim that the refuses to accept wrongdoing over his patronage of Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie.

Apparently he had no idea what they were up to prior to January 2015 and therefore should not be criticised for failing to withdraw earlier as their patron.

So the questions must be now:

  • if you DID NOT know what they were up to before 2015, despite your longstanding involvement with Sabine McNeill, why didn’t you? and
  • if you DID NOT know what they were up to, why on earth did you offer them your patronage without at least some cursory investigation of their activities?

Read what Sabine was up to in 2011. And how commentators Avalon111 and Jimmy were able to recognise what John Hemming apparently cannot.

As of May 2016, Sabine doesn’t seem to realise she has been cut adrift by John Hemming. Her support for him remains strong.

EDIT December 2018

Hoaxstead Research are covering the trial of Sabine McNeil for the breach of her restraining order which attempted to stop her continued harassment of the parents in the Hampstead case. Read here Sabine’s own account of the support and encouragement given to her by Hemming in her battle against the secret family courts.


So yes, I am afraid I remain really worried about John Hemming.



Forced Adoption

I am a passionate believer in the value of adoption in appropriate circumstances… But I fear that, in making all those orders, I never gave much attention to the emotional repercussions of them. In particular I fear that I failed fully to appreciate that an adoption order is not just a necessary arrangement for the upbringing of some children… the order is an act of surgery which cuts deep into the hearts and minds of at least four people and will effect them, to a greater or lesser extent, every day of their lives…

Lord Wilson Denning Society Lecture 13th November 2014

Forced adoption’  is a phrase we often hear used by people like Ian Josephs  and the former MP John Hemming  We have provided links to their sites under their names – but we hope that if you visit their sites, you will also stay here and read what we have to say.

See this post for discussion of the case law which judges have to consider before agreeing to any care plan for adoption. See this post for general discussion of the law around adoption and placement orders. 


The debate begins

Adoption, the means by which a child’s legal relationship with his birth parents is eliminated, did not become law in England and Wales until the Adoption Act 1926; some time after the USA, Australia and Canada. Many babies born out of marriage in the Victorian era were ‘farmed out’ or placed with married couples who would pretend the baby was their own.  There were increasing concerns about the lack of regulation of this private adoption industry which led to statutory intervention. Under the Local Government Act 1929, local authorities (LA) were given powers to remove children from parents, if the LA decided they could not care for them.

See this post from the Guardian giving a time line of the history of child protection. 

In 1968, 25,000 adoption orders were made, reflecting a society where illegitimacy was still stigmatised, birth control less reliable and welfare benefits less accessible.  In 2014 only about 5000 adoption orders were made. Adoptions now rarely involve babies.

The often highly polarised debate about ‘forced adoption’ and what this means for child protection work, gained increased traction around 2007 and became the focus of renewed attention towards the end of 2013. This followed discussion of Alessandra Pacchieri  (the ‘forced caesarean case’ ) and media interest in reports of parents wrongly suspected of abusing their children who were actually suffering from various medical conditions.

You can read comment on Ms Pacchieri’s case and the judgment here. The court made an adoption order in relation to her child in April 2014. The case is here. For an explanation of what sparked John Hemming’s interest in the child protection system, see ‘Hemming’s Way’ the article by Jonathan Gornall in 2007.

However, despite the enormous reduction in adoption orders over 40 years, the debate about the entire concept of adoption continues to grow. There have been serious concerns about the child protection system for many years. Those unhappy with the UK’s approach to ‘forced adoption’  raised their concerns in November 2014 with the European Parliament’s Petition Committee.

In fact, it was this 2013 ‘forced adoption’ debate that encouraged us to set up this resource as we were concerned that a lot of justifiable criticism about the system was getting lost or taken over by those who wanted to believe the more extreme ‘conspiracy theories’  – i.e. that the entire system was corrupt and that social workers are paid bonuses to snatch babies from loving homes.

For a sad example of the damage that can be done to a parent’s chances of keeping their family together, by  a ‘siege mentality’ and belief that concerns about their parenting are fuelled by a conspiracy, see Hertfordshire County Council v F & Others [2014] EWHC 2159.

We have attempted to debunk some of the more specific myths here and in particular the frequently made assertion that adoption targets exist to take babies away, rather than to promote finding adoptive families for children who have already been through care proceedings and don’t have a permanent home.


The Conspiracy Theory: Allegations of Systemic Corruption

People who are unhappy with the current child protection system often refer to it as a system of ‘forced adoption’ which is almost unique in Europe.

However, this assertion is not supported by the 2015 Report by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development from the Council of Europe which notes that adoptions without parental consent are possible in Andorra, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey.  A further 7 countries permit adoption without parental consent in ‘rare’ circumstances. See further, this post from the Transparency Project. See also this post from Claire Fenton-Glynn confirming that EVERY European country has a mechanism to provide for adoption without parental consent. 

They say that children are taken from parents for no good reason in order to meet LA’s ‘adoption targets’ set by various Governments and this is shown by the increased numbers of children being taken into care.

It is further alleged that family courts are secret and people who try to speak out will be sent to prison. Parents aren’t allowed to see the evidence against them and lawyers, experts and Judges are all in each other’s pockets and just rubber stamp the decisions made by the LA and social workers.

There are many on line groups for parents who are convinced that their children were removed on the basis of deliberate lies. The view expressed here is typical:

UK Social Services/CAFCASS are the most prolific and serious perpetrators of Domestic Violence in the country. UK Family Law Courts a close second. One day, history lessons will describe the horrific details of what is happening to families all across the country. The descendants of those who have perpetrated this abuse, will be ashamed of their ancestors and try to distance themselves from them….

Worries about social work practice come from a variety of sources. Colin Brewer wrote in the Spectator in the aftermath of the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal:

The Rotherham report suggests, as June and I suggested 34 years ago, that social workers excel at empathy but lack the ability to carry out ‘coherently planned action’. Social work with troubled teenagers is doubtless even more challenging today than it was in the 1980s, yet the report’s conclusions reveal many of the unhelpful institutional and ideological features that we identified are still with us…

It seems these were not just individual failures, occasional and regrettable exceptions in a generally efficient professional culture, but a persistent feature of a profession that emphasises doing good rather than doing it efficiently. This happens despite the fact that social workers have relatively modest case loads, especially compared with doctors.

These are not fanciful concerns. We should all be interested in the state of our child protection services. However, while we accept that sadly there have been serious examples of injustice we don’t accept that this is a result of deliberate corruption within the system itself, or chasing after ‘adoption targets’.

What is clear is that a growing number of people DO believe exactly that. We need to understand why and what we can do about it.


Adoption Targets: How did this belief take hold?

In 2000, the government introduced a national target to increase the number of children adopted from care by at least 40% between 1999-2000 and 2004-5. Tony Blair had been horrified by the numbers of children who remained in care for long periods of time without a permanent home.

Therefore, these were not targets to take children from their homes in order to get them adopted but a well intentioned attempt to help children who were already in the care system and hadn’t been found a permanent home.

Claire Fenton-Glynn describes the situation in her study on the UK system, presented to the European Parliament in June 2015:

The Prime Minister’s Review of Adoption in 2000 put forward the belief that the system was not delivering the best for children, as decisions about how to provide a secure, stable and permanent family were not addressed early enough. As such, it advocated an increase in the use of adoption to provide children with permanency at an earlier stage. The Review gave the opinion that there was too great a focus on rehabilitation with the birth family, at the expense of the child’s welfare. It emphasised that the first choice should always be a return to the birth family, but where this was clearly not an option, adoption should be seen as a key means of providing permanence. Foster care, on the other hand, was viewed as a transitional measure, which should be used only as a temporary option.

Following on from this, the government produced a White Paper entitled Adoption: A New Approach, which outlined the government’s plan to promote the wider use of adoption for looked after children, establishing the target of increasing adoption by 40-50 per cent by 2004-2005.39 The White Paper also announced that the government would require local authorities to make a plan for permanence – returning home, placement for adoption, or special guardianship40 – for a child within 6 months of being continuously looked after.

It was in this context that the Adoption and Children Act 2002 was introduced, with the explicit aim of promoting the greater use of adoption. The Act changed the process of adoption itself, by making the welfare of the child the paramount consideration for courts and adoption agencies in all decisions relating to adoption, including in deciding whether to dispense with the birth parents’ consent to adoption.

The Government’s official position about targets to get children taken into care is clear: they don’t exist. Matthew Dalby of  the Ministerial and Public Communications Division of the Department of Education said in October 2014, in response to an email from a parent:

I must explain that there are no targets on the numbers of children in care. In fact the law is clear in that children should live with their parents wherever possible and that families should be given extra support to help keep them together. In most cases, support from the local authority (LA) enables concerns to be addressed and children to remain with their families.

The Transparency Project responded in September 2015 to John Hemming’s assertion that the London Borough of Merton has ‘targets’ to take children from their birth families. There are certainly concerns that ‘key performance indicators’ promoting adoption could risk impacting on the integrity of decision making for individual children; the Transparency Project is investigating further and has made a number of FOI requests to other local authorities; watch this space.

Judicial response to allegations of systemic corruption

John Hemming raised very specific allegations about the corruption in the family courts in the case of RP v Nottingham [2008] which were rejected by Wall LJ as being without evidence:

97. It is plain to me from these documents, that in addition to the allegations set out above, Mr. Hemming believes that HJ was in the pay of the local authority and thus was “the local authority’s expert”. For good measure, he asserts that the system is “evil” and that “there does seem to be little concern in the legal profession about the reliability of opinion offered in court.”. The clear implication behind the “witch findings” items on the website set out at paragraph 95 above is that “experts” like HJ are in it for the money; that they are happy to “manufacture ‘evidence'”; and that they are in receipt of “phoney” letters of instruction. The result, Mr Hemming asserts is a “disaster”.

98. In my judgment, these comments are not only wrong and ill-informed; the simple fact remains that they have no foundation in the evidence presented either to the Nottingham County Court or to this court. That they are made publicly by Mr Hemming once again strikes me as an abuse of his position.

Wall LJ went on to say at para 127:

In my judgment, the arguments advanced by Mr Hemming in this case are ill-informed and tendentious. They are contradicted by the evidence, and must be rejected. I think this most unfortunate. Nobody who works in the Family Justice System regards it as perfect: most of us see it as under-resourced and struggling to deal with the work loads thrust upon it. Constructive criticism, particularly from those in a position to bring about change, is to be welcomed. I am myself in no doubt that the system must change and adapt, and I have spoken many times in public in support of my belief that there needs to be greater transparency in order to combat the partial, tendentious and inaccurate criticisms made against the system. I therefore welcome the opportunity provided by this case to demonstrate that the system has operated properly, and that the criticisms made are unfounded.

Rejection of the official position

However, following the introduction of targets to speed up finding a home for children in care, some then argue that the ‘law of unintended consequences’  came into play and these targets acted to promote undesirable behaviour from those in the child protection system.

John Hemming has argued that these targets did little to help the older children already in care but rather had the effect of encouraging local authorities to issue care proceedings with regard to more ‘adoptable’ children so they would filter through the system, end up adopted quickly and improve the adoption rates.

This was denied at the time; see this report from BBC News On Line in 2008:

The Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan has denied claims that young children are being taken into care by local authorities to meet adoption targets. Mr Brennan has written to two national newspapers to say there has never been any financial incentive for councils to meet national adoption targets. The claims surfaced over the case of a baby in Nottingham placed into care just hours after being born. Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has accused the council of baby-stealing.

In a letter to The Times and The Daily Mail, Mr Brennan says there were national adoption targets designed to place more children in care into loving, family homes. But, he writes, “they ended in 2006; and there was never a financial incentive for local authorities to meet these national targets.”

The belief that children are removed from loving homes in order for LA’s to meet their ‘adoption targets’ persists to date.  There is no doubt that this version of events feels very ‘right’ to a significant number of people.

As Claire Fenton-Glynn comments:

While national adoption targets were set for some years, these ceased in 2006. The government emphasised that targets were intended to make sure more children who had been adjudged to need an adoptive placement were found permanent homes. They were not intended to affect the judgment of whether the child was in need of an adoption. However, despite the government’s statements, there is a danger that such targets do impact on such an evaluation, or at the very least, create the perception that they do so. Moreover, the government’s focus on adoption risks disadvantaging those children in care for whom adoption is not suitable. In the year ending 31 March 2014, only 16% of children who left the English care system were adopted, with others returning home, being placed with relatives, or with a special guardian, among other options. As such, an excessive focus on adoptive placements can mean that these others do not receive sufficient attention.

So what is really going on?

There are a number of elements we need to look at to try and work out whether assertions about a deliberately corrupt system contain any truth. Without doubt, the child protection system is not working well. We need to think more deeply why that is.

  • The continuing and repeating pressures on the child protection system which lead to growing distrust between parents and professionals;
  • The cost of care proceedings – why would a LA bear these costs without very good reason?
  • What do the statistics tell us about adoption rates for babies or very young children?
  • Adoption rates are now set to fall in the aftermath of the judgment in Re B-S.


A system under pressure

Helping children is a human process. When the bureaucratic aspects of work become too dominant, the heart of the work is lost.

The Munro Review of Child Protection Final Report

We consider the  history of concerns about the child protection system in more detail in this post. In brief, it seems that for very many years the system has become overwhelmed by the demands placed upon it. Excessive bureaucracy, dangerously high caseloads and low morale amongst social workers combine to work against good decision making and protecting children.

Some argue that it is the Children Act 1989 itself that has contributed to the problems, as it has pushed the law into ever less measurable levels of ‘abuse’ rather than setting out realistically measurable standards to govern the protection of children.

The fact that the system is under considerable strain and pressure is a serious problem for us all – but it is not evidence of deliberate malignity on the part of those decision makers.


The cost of care proceedings

It seems odd to suggest that LA deliberately set out to target children to adopt to ‘make money’ when you consider just how much care proceedings will cost them.  Research from the University of Bristol in 2011 said this:

Bringing care proceedings is a costly and time consuming business for local authorities. It has been estimated that each care case takes up 20 per cent of a full-time social worker’s working hours for a year (Plowden 2009). In addition, the local authority will have to contribute towards independent assessments ordered by the court and may need to instruct barristers (counsel) to represent it at court. In order to ensure that proceedings are used only where the local authority can prove its case and court orders are required, as well as to control expenditure, local authorities have established internal procedures for approving court applications. Legal advice and senior management approval are generally required even where an application if made for an order to remove or detain a child in an emergency (Masson et al 2007; DCSF 2008, para 3.3).

However, some will assert that the cost of care proceedings is actually an illustration of the problem – it’s a ‘gravy train’, keeping lawyers, social workers and experts in employment.  So if the financial burden on the LA does not reassure people that care proceedings are not taken lightly, what can we see from the statistics about children taken into care?

If Hemming and others are right, we should see a clear rise from 2000 in the number of babies or very young children taken into care and then adopted.


Lies, damned lies and statistics

See here for government statistics regarding looked after children. For more discussion of statistics put forward by John Hemming in August 2015, see these posts from the Transparency Project. The Full Fact Organisation considered the statistics in October 2015.

The statistics do NOT support an argument that more babies and young ‘adoptable’ children have been targeted since 2000, although it is clear that the number of children being adopted has been rising.

On 30th September 2014 the government issued a press release applauding this. Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education said:

Today’s figures show a significant and sustained rise in the number of adoptions – an increase of 26% in the last 12 months. This means thousands more of our most vulnerable children are finding the loving and permanent homes they so desperately need.

We also promised to remove delay and frustration from the process for both children and adopters. Today’s figures show that we are delivering on that promise. The system is working more quickly, as well as providing more support to families after an adoption has taken place.

However, In November 2014 Sir Martin Narey raised concerns that since February 2014 LA decisions to pursue adoptions are down by 46% and number of placement orders granted by the courts has halved.

His concerns were so great that the National Adoption Leadership Board issued ‘myth busting’ guidance about what the court does or does not say about when adoption is necessary.

For further discussion see Pink Tape’s ‘Take me to your Leadership Board’.  We look at this issue in more detail in the post ‘When can the courts consider adoption is necessary?


The rise and fall of adoption rates.

So there was no doubt that adoption rates were rising. But they are probably going to fall again given that decisions by LAs to pursue adoption have fallen by nearly half.

See further the excellent article by suesspiciousminds about newspaper reports in May 2015 concerning the ‘freefall’ in adoption rates after the ‘chilling effects’ of various cases. 

So have the anti forced adoption campaigners had an impact? Are they responsible for this fall by unmasking the truth behind ‘adoption targets’?

We believe the short answer to that question is ‘no’.  To consider this in more detail,  we need to look at the reasons behind the previous rise in the number of adoptions. There are a number of possible explanations:

  • First; that the governments plans to speed up adoption rates for the children already in care were working well; OR
  • LAs were generally under pressure to avoid another Baby P scandal and were pushing for adoption in cases where before a child might have returned home; OR
  • LAs were suffering the consequences of difficulties in recruitment and retention of social workers so cases were not being assessed as carefully as they should be; OR
  • LAs were deliberately targeting younger, more ‘adoptable’ children and social workers would lie to ensure the children’s removal from loving and blameless parents.


Can the statistics help us decide what’s been going on?

The danger with statistics is that often they can be used to prove any kind of argument you want. Some opponents of the system have at times offered quite contradictory views about what is going on – see this report from the Daily Mail in 2011 which asserted that adoption rates were falling because adoptive parents were afraid of being called paedophiles.

The blogger Second Daddy comments:

If you want to learn about Forced Adoption then look into it yourself, make your own mind up. If you want to see the raw figures for adoption in 2010, the year quoted by John Hemmings MP in the above Wikipedia article, it’s here. You’ll see that there were 4550 adoptions in England & Wales that year; John Hemmings stated that there were 1360 “Forced” adoptions that year, 29.89% of the total. 1000 of these he claims were “wrong”, 21.89% of the total, 73.53% of the “forced” adoptions. So a third of Adoptions are “forced”. That’s a fairly big number, and it is something we’re aware of and it is a concern, but. But. It’s a guess. With the greatest of respect, Mr Hemming has no idea how many of these were “wrong”. He pulled that figure out of his ass, he has no proof, just a hunch.

However, if it is true that local authorities are or have been targeting younger and hence more easily adoptable children to improve their adoption rates, we should expect to see that reflected in the statistics and we should be able to see a clear rise since 2000 of babies being taken into care and subsequently adopted.


We have found the following statistics.

In 1976 4,000 babies were adopted. In 2011, 60 (according to the Daily Mail).

The article ‘Adoption Targets Row; the Sector Responds’ from 2007 in Community Care gives the following figures:

  • 2,490 under-fives in care were adopted in 2006, up from 1,010 in 1995.
  • 4,160 under-fives were first taken into care in 2006, up from 2,870 in 1995.
  • 1,300 babies aged younger than a month when they were taken into care were adopted in 2006, up from 540 in 1995.
  • The average age at adoption in 2006 was four years and one month.
  • 3,700 children were adopted from care in 2006, up from 2,700 in 2000.

So we can see there has been an increase in children being taken into care and being adopted over time from a low starting point, but that the average age for adoption in 2006 was over 4 years old. So 4 years after Hemming argues that babies are being targeted, this does not appear  to be reflected in the average age on adoption.

Compare this with statistics from 2013 

6% (4,310) of children looked after on 31st March 2013 were under 1 year old
18% (12,360) were aged between 1 and 4 years old
19% (13,260) were aged between 5 and 9 years old
36% (24,450) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
20% (13,730) were aged 16 and over

The average age at adoption in the year ending 31st March 2013 was 3 years 8 months

2% (90) of children adopted during the year ending 31st March 2013 were under 1 year old
74% (2,960) were aged between 1 and 4 years old
21% (850) were aged between 5 and 9 years old
2% (70) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
<1% (10) were aged 16 and over

So we see that only 6% of looked after children in March 2013 were under one year old.  Only 90  (2%) were under 1 year old when they were adopted. There is a small decrease from the average age at adoption in 2006 of 4 years 1 month, to 3 years 8 months in 2013 – six years later.

However, in 2013, 13 years after LAs were supposed to be targeting babies, across the country, they have only managed to get 90 babies adopted and the average age at adoption is nearly 4 years old.

On these figures, if there is a deliberate conspiracy to target and remove babies and young children, then the LAs are doing a pretty poor job.

In 2013 there were still 3 times as many children needing adoption as there were adoptive placements. This also points against any argument that care proceedings are targeting the ‘adoptable’ children – otherwise why are there so many children in care who can’t find adoptive families?

See further the article in Community Care;  ‘An ideological approach to adoption figures means we are missing important trends’. 


ITV Exposure Documentary

On 15th July 2014 barrister Martha Cover stated on the ITV documentary Exposure – Don’t take my child  that orders ‘permitting adoption’ had risen by 95% in the past three years.  This seemed high to us so we are very grateful to Andrew Pack for doing some digging and commenting:

Placement Order applications since 2011, and Placement Orders made by the Court since 2011.  These taken from the Court stats spreadsheets.

  • In 2011 – applications made 5821, orders made 5109.
  • In 2013 – applications made 7178, orders made 6082.

That’s about a 20% increase. Annoyingly, I don’t have the stats for 2010, which is presumably when Martha is calculating from, but I’d be REALLY surprised if it was as high as claimed. For that to be right, the applications in 2010 would need to have been around 3500… Interestingly, you can see a downturn on both in the last 6 months (i.e. since the Re B-S stuff was really percolating through) – and it is almost 50% down in the first quarter of this year from the high point.

I reckon the error here is in taking the numbers of children each year who are subject to Placement Orders, which is going up at a significant rate, as demand for placements outstrips supply and we add to the numbers each year with new cases, but also don’t clear the decks of the children the year before who needed placements.

A 20% increase in something as drastic as placement orders is still reason for concern, but it isn’t 95%, not by a long chalk.

  • Andrew has commented further about statistics in this post for the Transparency Project.
  • To see government data showing the speed at which Local Authorities place children for adoption see these statistics from January 2014.


Follow the money

You may be interested in these articles by Andrew Pack for more detailed consideration of whether it is possible that there  is a financial motive or incentive driving care proceedings.

He comments:

What I would say, for the ultra-cautious people, is that I would agree that the lack of transparency on ‘payments and adoption targets’ is deeply unhelpful and creates a genuine reason for people to feel sceptical, uncomfortable and unhappy. The absence of clarity and transparency is itself very shabby. It may or may not have distorted how many times adoption was recommended in final social work evidence, it may or may not have had an impact on individual people’s cases. At this point, we don’t have the evidence to draw a proper conclusion and that in itself is wrong. It creates at best, a fishy odour, and as we well know, “Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done”

See also our post on the issue of bonuses paid to social workers.


Why we reject the allegation of systemic corruption

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

The court judgments, culminating in Re B-S that have so concerned Martin Narey were right to point out the dangers of sloppy analysis. But why had some cases got into such a mess?  Because the system was ‘evil’, the social workers were telling lies to get their bonuses and that all the lawyers and judges closed their eyes to this because its actually a government policy?

Or is it more likely , that what we have is a child protection system that is often inefficient and/or overwhelmed by case loads? where mistakes are made, but rarely due to deliberate malice?

The conspiracy theories take hold because they feel ‘right’ to a lot of people who may have good cause to feel that they have not been listened to or treated fairly. This can lead people to  be unable or unwilling to consider a reality which does not accord with their strongly held perceptions:

People say: “Let the facts speak for themselves”; they forget that the speech of facts is real only if it is heard and understood. It is thought to be an easy matter to distinguish between fact and theory, between perception and interpretation. In truth, it is extremely difficult.

For further fascinating discussion about the impact of cognitive bias and how hard it is to get people to abandon their narratives, even if they are based on a false premise, see this article ‘Your Brain is Primed to Reach False Conclusions’.


What is our reality?

We have not been able to find evidence to support the assertion that the child protection system is designed and maintained deliberately to be corrupt or ‘evil’. Recent research from Cafcass says that LAs were right to make applications for care orders in 80% of cases they reviewed.

But that of course does not mean the system is perfect. Far from it. If 80% of cases are ‘right’ we still have 20% which are not and that is worrying. There are also serious concerns that an ideological ‘push’ for adoption is masking proper consideration of statistical trends.

We agree with that justice needs to be seen to be done and there should be as much openness as possible about such serious matters.

  • We accept that there can be serious consequences when a system is overwhelmed by cases; individual practitioners may lack support, and there is a risk of bad or even no decisions getting made. There is a particularly sad example of that in the case of A and S in 2012 where the boys’ Independent Reviewing Officer had a case load three times in excess of that recommended by good practice.
  • Sometimes mistakes are made because lawyers and doctors got it wrong about the medical evidence. Here is an example of a case where the court decided there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that a child suffered non accidental injuries as this child also had rickets due to Vitamin D deficiency.
  • There is no doubt that the Government wishes to speed up the adoption process and there are legitimate concerns about how the new Children and Families Act 2014 will operate. See further this article by Cathy Ashley of the Family Rights Group and here for the views of Barnados on the need to speed up adoptions.
  • We note the conclusions of the the Report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Council of Europe which was concerned by the high numbers of children in England and Wales who were adopted without parental consent, and commented (see para 74) that the UK’s refusal to reverse adoption orders where there had been a miscarriage of justice was a ‘misunderstanding’ of the best interests of the child, who had a right to return to his birth family.
  • Possibly the most serious problem is that social workers in child protection work are asked to wear ‘two hats’ at the same time – they are tasked with supporting families at the same time as they are gathering evidence against them. The tension and difficulties inherent in this dual role are obvious. See Wrennall, L. 2004 Miscarriages of Justice in Child Protection: a brief history and proposals for change.

But what we don’t accept is that these problems – as serious as they undoubtedly are – can legitimately lead to a conclusion that the whole system is corrupt and operating to ‘steal children’ to meet government endorsed targets.

We think it would be a great shame for children and parents if legitimate debate about problems in the system is overwhelmed by allegations that have no basis in fact and which serve only to make parents even more worried and frightened about what the system might ‘do’ to them and their children.


The Way Forward.

However, we accept that it is odd, if adoption really is the ‘gold standard’ for children that other jurisdictions do not seem to share the UK’s enthusiasm for adoption without the parents’  consent.

We should always be open to more discussion and debate about what we should be doing to secure the welfare of children.

You may be interested in this post describing the different approach in Finland, where children who are taken into care will Iive with foster families or in institutional care.  
You may also be interested in this article by an adoptive parent in the Guardian from 2012, discussing the difficulties caused by lack of post adoption support.
There are also concerns expressed by adoptive parents that they haven’t been given the full picture about their children’s backgrounds and this has caused enormous problems for the family. 

  • We agree that everyone who works in the system should be aware of the dangers of an insular or paternalistic approach to child protection issues.
  • We agree that adoption may not be the best plan for every child and there should not be an automatic assumption that adoption is best. There is an interesting article criticising ‘adoption driven systems’ here.
  • However, we think for many children subject to a final care order, it will represent their best chance of achieving a stable and loving home throughout their childhood.
  • We agree that placements with family members should continue to be investigated thoroughly.
  • We also agree that we need more consideration to how we support adoptive placements after an order is made as studies show the breakdown rates for adoptions can be as high as 25%. There is interesting research from the US here which looks at rates of adoption disruption and why they break down. Research published on April 9th 2014 by the University of Bristol offers another perspective on adoption disruption rates, concluding that they are low but emphasising the importance of post adoption support, particularly for older and more challenging children.
  • Social workers need more help to deal with the bureaucracy of their job, so they can focus on working with and supporting families – the ‘reclaiming social work’ model needs wider implementation.
  • What we don’t agree with is a debate that polarises around the term ‘forced adoption’ and politicians who advise parents to leave the country rather than engage with social workers.
  • Where we all hopefully agree is that every child has the right to grow up in a safe home and that any child protection investigation must be carried out quickly and fairly.

We hope this site can be part of sharing resources and information to promote open and honest debate about the child protection system.

You can read here about government sponsored research into the reasons why people are motivated to adopt or foster.

You may also be interested in what we say about post adoption contact.



Key Messages from the Department of Education Research

The Department of Education published ‘Adoption Cases Reviewed: an indicative study of process and practice’ in 2013 which provides a comprehensive review of contested adoption proceedings. Its key messages are set out below. While the review certainly did not find that everything was perfect, it did not conclude there was any evidence of systemic corruption or orders made for trivial reasons:

  • The study confirmed routine local authority and judicial compliance with the required procedural and legal framework for adoption. Parents’ rights to due process in contesting and opposing care, placement and adoption applications were ensured. Decisions were taken by the court in an appropriate way, following the full testing of evidence.
  • Local authority practice in the study cases pre-dated current statutory guidance, in which permanence is required to provide the framework for all social work with children and families. Where it lacked this perspective, social work intervention could not be relied upon to pursue effectively the protection and care planning that might have secured child safety on a permanent basis at home.
  • In addition, quality assurance of child protection and care planning was insufficiently robust.
  • Where risk assessment and protection and care planning lacked confidence and decisiveness, the right of the child to have a safe and permanent family life secured in a timely way could be compromised. Similarly, the right of parents to effective intervention to help them make necessary changes could be neglected where permanence principles were not applied equally to the process of rehabilitation.
  • While no clear pattern of contestation emerged in these cases parents often argued that the local authority had sought merely to gather evidence to make the case against them, rather than intervene purposefully to support the changes required to keep the child safely at home.
  • Extensive use of independent expert evidence and advice provided a guarantee that harm and risk had been assessed fully and decisions appropriately informed, once the case was in proceedings. However, the use of experts also caused duplication and delay. Current proposals for reform will need to ensure such evidence is deployed effectively within the sharper case management regime.
  • This study suggests that the enhancement and quality assurance of the expertise and effectiveness of social work within the inter-agency system should attract policy attention. Timely and proportionate decision making is undermined as much by lack of case management continuity and of grip in making a judgement about parents’ capacity to change in the local authority as it is in the court.
  • The reform process should be underpinned by a review of the philosophy, organisation and support of local authority case management in protection and care planning, to ensure reliability of compliance with current statutory guidance that a permanence perspective is employed as a matter of routine.
  • The reform process should also include a review of the availability and effectiveness of post-placement support for birth parents in all forms of permanent placement, including placement at home.


Censorship and the protection of commercial interests – the woeful state of our debate about protecting children.

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore
On the morning of Friday August 21st I posted a comment on the Marilyn Stowe blog after the former MP John Hemming had written a guest post about adoption statistics. The biography attached to his post described him simply as a highly educated and respectable former MP and councillor. It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, silent as to any of his other activities which have caused me and many others serious concern over the years.

My comment on this piece, about the need to be aware of and alert to these activities of Mr Hemming, led to an invitation from that site’s owner to contribute a guest post. I was happy to do so as the issues I wished to raise are, in my view, serious and significant.

Later that day I received an edited version of my post and was asked to accept the revisions made. I did not receive that email until fairly late on Friday evening. It was not until sometime later that I was able to sit down and give these revisions my full attention. When I did, I was unpleasantly surprised by what I found.

Of course, it is entirely up to Ms Stowe what she permits on her blog. I cannot dictate to her what she publishes. But I am very unhappy to note that significant portions of what I wrote have been removed, despite everything that I had written being

  • true
  • highly relevant to my argument and
  • already published elsewhere and well and truly in the public domain.

Most concerningly, a sentence from the judgment of Wall LJ in RP v Nottingham had been removed.


Search Engine Optimisation versus open and honest debate

I queried this via email and was told that the site would be penalised in its google rankings by relying on links to other sites in the way that I had done and the commercial interests of the site must be protected.

As I pointed out in reply, it is difficult to see how including the final sentence of a paragraph from a judgment from Wall LJ would have negative implications for any Google rankings. Ms Stowe was also happy to include a link to my own site when discussing an article about other European countries, but would not include a link to a post setting out the connections between Hemming, Josephs and Booker.

I commented further:

I think this is a very important issue – either you are unable to post relevant information because it may damage the site’s commercial interests OR there is some other reason, as yet undisclosed to me, as to why this information can’t be published by you.
I am pretty ignorant of SEO issues and how Google issues penalties, so I will take your word about that. But I will remain very puzzled why the words of a former President of the Family Division in any way are relevant to issues of Google ranking and protecting your site’s commercial viability.
And it does of course raise a wider and even more important issue about how the necessary debate about the child protection system is best served if such an important and well respected source such as yourself, finds itself unwilling to discuss certain issues because they may impact on the commercial interests of the site.
Are your readership aware of these potential constraints? I certainly wasn’t.
[EDIT I have just received an email from Marilyn Stowe to say that they are going to ‘call it a day’ and will not publish my post. I have received no further clarification about why the edits to my post were required or necessary, other than that it is the policy of the blog to be ‘non confrontational’]

I am left in this rather uncomfortable position. If the reason given for the editing is correct, then information which is a) true b) relevant and c) in the public domain is being excluded from the debate on the site, to protect its google rankings and its commercial interests. However, I am unable to accept that as a reason for censoring a quotation from a judgment of a High Court Judge.

So what was I trying to say that wasn’t fit to publish?

I will set out my original post below and the edits and you can make your own minds up about the reasons for editing. But whatever the reasons, this cannot be the way to conduct the necessary open and honest debate about the child protection system that is needed now, more than ever.

I of course am happy to provide a right to reply to anyone I discuss in my posts. I am happy to be educated further about the impact of Search Engine Optimisation tactics on internet debate. I would also be delighted to know that Mr Hemming is prepared to renounce his links with Ian Josephs and Christopher Booker and to put his obvious drive and intelligence to better use.

But unless and until he does that, if he wishes to position himself as a credible and reliable voice in this crucial debate, others are entitled to have the fullest possible information about what he actually believes, with whom he associates and the risks they pose.

I set out my original piece below and will indicate in the text in bold what has been removed or altered. I have not included the minor edits regarding a choice of word or phrasing. It is the wholesale removal of pertinent facts to which I very strongly object.


Open and honest debate about the child protection system is needed now more than ever.

I am a family law barrister of 15 years experience and the site administrator of www.childprotectionresource.org.uk which was set up on 2014 in an attempt to provide accurate information to all those involved in the child protection system.

This guest post arises out of another guest post published on this site by John Hemming. 

On the face of it, this post looks like a respectable attempt to analyse statistics around the number of children adopted in the UK. I accept now, and have accepted for years, that we urgently need an open and honest debate about what is really going on in our child protection system.

Although Mostyn J (and many others) are simply wrong to opine that there are ‘only’ 3 (or even no other) systems in Europe that permit forced adoption – see this post from Claire Fenton Glynn – it is true that England and Wales are by far the most enthusiastic proponents of ‘forced adoption’ of all Council of Europe member states and we are entitled – even morally obligated – to discuss this and to understand why.

However, just because the debate is necessary and important, does not mean we should not take care about who is contributing to it and what they are saying.

I have been concerned for many years about the motivations of many of those prominent figures in the debate and the impact they are having. Mr Hemming is described in this guest post as a highly educated and respectable former city councillor and MP.

But there is another side I think it is important to share. Disclaimer: My run ins with Mr Hemming now extend to four years of internet debate. He has made formal complaint about me to the Bar Council (not upheld) and gave an interview to the Daily Mail following his expulsion from the mumsnet website in 2014, which curiously felt it appropriate to publish both my real name and my mumsnet user name side by side. It is entirely possible that my dislike for what I perceive as Mr Hemming’s tactics of intimidation, [this has been edited to read: ‘it is entirely possible that my dislike for Mr Hemming’s tactics…] means I am not able to take a dispassionate view about his activities.

Therefore I present to others the facts so that they may make up their own minds.

The family law system as ‘evil’.

A good starting point to understand why Mr Hemming has nominated himself as a crusader against the ‘evil’ family justice system can be found in Jonathan Gornall’s article in 2007. Mr Hemming then repeated his allegations about the ‘evil’ and corruption of the family justice system to Wall LJ in the case of RP v Nottingham in 2008

It is plain to me from these documents, that in addition to the allegations set out above, Mr. Hemming believes that HJ was in the pay of the local authority and thus was “the local authority’s expert”. For good measure, he asserts that the system is “evil” and that “there does seem to be little concern in the legal profession about the reliability of opinion offered in court.”. The clear implication behind the “witch findings” items on the website set out at paragraph 95 above is that “experts” like HJ are in it for the money; that they are happy to “manufacture ‘evidence’”; and that they are in receipt of “phoney” letters of instruction. The result, Mr Hemming asserts is a “disaster”.
98. In my judgment, these comments are not only wrong and ill-informed; the simple fact remains that they have no foundation in the evidence presented either to the Nottingham County Court or to this court. That they are made publicly by Mr Hemming once again strikes me as an abuse of his position.[This sentence has been entirely removed with no warning or indication to the reader that Wall JL’s paragraph has actually been cut short]

This remains Mr Hemming’s position in 2015

Mr Hemming repeated again in a comment on my blog in August 2015 that the system is ‘evil’ and then opined that children are taken into care just because their parents smoke. He made no response to my challenge that this was clearly a nonsense assertion.

But it is not simply comments like that which raise concerns. Mr Hemming unfortunately does not restrict himself to comments. He takes action – and he has clear and active current links with others who, in my view, pose a significant danger to vulnerable children. [This has been edited to say simply ‘pose a risk’]

One such person is Ian Josephs. I provide a full discussion of his activities on this post, together with links to support my assertions.  [This has been entirely removed and replaced by ‘who assists mothers facing care proceedings to leave the UK]
In brief, it has now come to light that Marie Black, convicted of a number of serious child sex abuse offences in July 2015, was assisted by Ian Josephs to leave the UK rather than face probable care proceedings. [this sentence has been removed entirely]When challenged, Mr Josephs asserts that he is doing ‘nothing’ wrong, he would help ‘any’ mother facing the evil of forced adoption and he undertakes no prior risk assessment before handing out money, and undertakes no follow up once the parents leave the country. He estimates he has spent at least £30,000 and ‘assisted’ 200 families to date.

This network supporting ‘mums on the run’ is clearly supported by Mr Hemming, who writes about it on his own blog and appears on a video on Youtube with Mr Joseph. The links between Hemming, Joseph and Christopher Booker are also depressingly clear.

I have to give Mr Hemming recognition for bringing to light some important issues which were over looked. It is right, for example, to be concerned that recent cases involving children from other countries showed a widespread ignorance of our obligations under the Vienna convention. He is right to be concerned that the apparent promotion of adoption over other options for children in care, may have had a distorting impact on the practice of various professionals.


The impact of assertions that the system is ‘evil’

But why must he have this debate in the context that the family justice system is ‘evil’? How is this helping anyone? I am dealing with an increasing number of parent clients who are unable to engage with the system due to their massive amounts of distrust and fear which such irresponsible hyperbole promotes. It is beyond depressing and irritating to be constantly told I am a ‘legal aid loser’ with my ‘snout in the trough’. I have faced these and similar comments over many years from both Mr Hemming and Mr Josephs.

I remain concerned that positive outcomes from Mr Hemming’s campaigning were thus no more than a fortunate by-product and do not reflect his dedicated aim. That aim would appear rather to be to encourage partial and misinformed debate about the family justice system, including an appearance on national television in 2014 to tell parents to leave the country as they won’t get a fair trial.

This kind of comment coming from a serving MP – as he was at the time – can only have had massive impact on some very desperate and vulnerable people.

Desperate need for open and honest debate

We urgently need open, honest debate about what on earth is going on in child protection system. And I don’t think we will get that from Mr Hemming given his current associations and clearly expressed views about the ‘evil’ of the system – presumably that evil extending to all who work in it, including me.
But as ever, I am delighted to be proved wrong.