The woeful state of our debate Part V: Linda Arlig, Her Hammer and some Nails.

The curious ‘rhetoric case’ of Linda Arlig

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore

Over the past two years I have been repeatedly referred to a document authored by Linda Arlig of the Department of Social Science, the Psychology Section of the University of Orebro, Sweden.  It is called ‘The Rhetoric Case: Persecution strategies in a child care order investigation’.

After the most recent of such referrals, by a McKenzie friend who is adamant that professionals routinely lie and are corrupt, I thought I had better actually read it and make up my own mind.

It is a very curious document. I attempted to find out more about Linda Arlig and the University of Orebro because it did not seem to me that this could be a serious academic investigation from a credible institute.  I found a copy of her report (first posted December 2013) on the website for the Nordic Committee for Human Rights. At first blush this looks a very professional set up, until perhaps one visits the ‘about’ tab and reads:

In Sweden, and the other Nordic countries, the welfare state has permitted the social authorities to take children into public care. The instrument used is the Law on the ward of Minors (LVU). Thousands of children have been – and are being – taken from their parents and placed in foster homes among complete strangers. These foster homes are often of poor quality and their prime aim is to earn money off the foster children. Foster parents are very well paid to take care of foster children. The families whose children are taken into public care are often lone parents, unemployed and/or on welfare. Immigrant families are very often exposed and affected in this context. The social authorities are very quick to jump to the conclusion that these parents could impossibly be suitable parents. It goes without saying that this is not necessarily the case. The fact that a person does not fit into the very competitive work-market does not make him or her unsuitable as a parent.

In the Nordic countries, quite unlike the Catholic countries of Europe, very little respect is shown for family and private life. The right to respect for private and family life is guaranteed by the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

So, a website with a clear and partial agenda, one that might come to a surprise to the Forced Adoption campaigners in the UK who say we stand alone in Europe as a beacon of repression and unfairness to birth parents. But not perhaps John Hemming, who attended a conference with the NCHR President in 2014.  So I draw some conclusions about the agenda of the NCHR from the company they keep.

EDIT: I draw even more negative conclusions about the integrity of the NCHR when I see who else they associate with, including Sabine McNeill and Ian Josephs. 

The University of Orebro appears to be a real place although my google sleuthing reveals very little else about Linda Arlig.

It  may be that some of the difficulties I have with the paper stem from poor translation, despite four people being credited with the translation to English. For e.g. frequent references in the text are made to a ‘social secretary’ which I assume from the context must mean ‘social worker’.

However, poor translation can only account for some of the criticisms I am about to make.

The general point about rhetoric

The purpose of the ‘art of rhetoric’ is to use language to control, steer and influence people. There are various strategies one can adopt in order to further this end, such as using emotional and stirring language or keeping quiet about inconvenient bits of information. It is clearly not a helpful strategy in the child protection field where language should be as clear and precise as possible in order to assist the court make proper findings about what has actually happened or is likely to happen, and thus to make the best order for the chid.

This report in particular

Having printed it off to read – the font on the NCHR site being too small for comfort – I have 98 pages. The Abstract states :

The purpose of this study is to make a critical examination of six official reports in an LVU (Care of Young Persons Act) investigation, to detect the possible occurrence of persecution strategies in the social welfare service reports and, in that case, to define the strategies used and examine whether the investigation complies with the legitimate claims of objectivity and impartiality.

In the official reports, fifty-six different persecution strategies appear. Definitions of the strategies found are produced, and their application in the case will be shown in passages from the reports. The main patterns seen in the investigators’ actions are: “Power defines reality,” and “influencing and persuading the reader”. Two techniques were found in the material, withholding and fabricating, which co-operate to make an investigation defective.

The strategies have been divided into six groups depending on their purpose:
Persuading the reader through language: contains twelve strategies that the investigators use to try to make the reader come to the same conclusion as themselves.
Making the client seem pathological: contains eight strategies that describe the client as peculiar, mentally unstable, aggressive, etc.
Ignoring objectivity aspects: contains seventeen strategies such as, for example, ignoring the client’s perspective, suppressing information, exaggerating information, fabulation, irrelevant statements, etc.
Exercising power and control: contains six strategies that are all connected with the authorities trying to take control of the client’s life.
The authorities know best: comprises five strategies containing blind faith, moralising, self-justification, emphasis on the social authorities’ resources and exceeding the limits of one’s competence.
Feel-think-believe-experience-interpret: contains nine strategies that are influenced by the investigators’ subjective interpretations, arguments, etc.

Throughout the investigations, the client’s perspective is ignored and references to sources are missing. My conclusion is that the investigations are defective, and that they violate the Constitution Act, Chap. 1, Para. 9, containing directives concerning objectivity and impartiality. The documentation of the case contains a considerable number of distinct persecution strategies.

However my report appears to contain reference to only one distinct case; that of Elizabeth and Anne Edner. The first 42 pages are taken up with explaining what is meant by persecution strategies with frequent references to Edvardsson, I assume another Swedish academic.

Lying as a strategy

One particular alleged ‘persecution strategy’ piqued my immediate interest; the assertion that professionals routinely fabricate evidence.

  • Arlig asserts  that to ’emphasis that the authority knows best, data are [sic] fabricated by means of various persecution strategies’  in order to create ‘monster parents’  [page 9/98].
  • Arlig refers further to ‘secret evidence error’ where ‘one keeps evidence secret. If evidence is missing there is fabulation or lies’.
  • She cites Moijer (1989) who says that some experts use professional terms to impress their audience or ‘sometimes simply to mislead’
  • para 5.4.2. at 34/98 makes explicit reference to the ‘fabulation strategy’ where an investigator ‘generalises, exaggerates, or shifts from making intimations to presenting them as certain facts… this is expressed through words being removed, added, changed…’
  • Para 5.4.4. at 35/98 makes explicit reference to the ‘Lying strategy’  where ‘a statement is consciously made although the author knows that it is a lie’.

Thus the immediate and obvious problem of this report is that Arlig is clearly keen to fudge completely the distinction between:

  • a deliberate lie, told with conscious knowledge that it is untrue; and
  • a statement that is misleading because the wording used is exaggerated, imprecise or incomplete.

That she wishes to fudge this distinction is clear from this paragraph at 35/98

Lies can be presented in different ways… there is the clear lie, which consists of saying something when one knows that it is not the case. But being misleading by concealing the truth can be just as effective …. the result is often the same’.

The fudging of this distinction is a problem for the credibility and integrity of her work. There is an immediate and serious distinction between the two offences. Neither are desirable, but the deliberate telling of a lie is at the highest end of the scale of moral turpitude for a professional. It is an entirely different and bigger problem than the issue of misleading the reader through careless or imprecise use of language.

I cannot then find any further attempt to distinguish between the ‘fabulation’ and the ‘lying’ strategy, but of course, whenever I am referred to this report by those of the Forced Adoption lobby, they invariably cite it as ‘proof’ that social workers routinely ‘lie’ to ‘win’ cases against parents.

The methodology of the report

Is curious to say the least. Arlin comments at 10/98 that ‘the examination of the material was not based on a critical investigative method. One important starting point in this work was not to form any opinion about whether the application for care with the backing of LUV was right or wrong’.

However, the material that she did examine did NOT include the actual application for the order to remove Anne from Elizabeth’s care and that ‘makes it impossible for me to check from where the original information was obtained’.

This makes a nonsense of the whole endeavour. Elizabeth Edner is clearly described in the papers as having serious historic problems with alcohol misuse. Her baby daughter was removed from her care when she was found drunk in charge of her. Attempts were made to keep mother and baby together at a family welfare clinic but Elizabeth absconded and the police had to be involved. Concerns about Elizabeth’s mental state and irrational and aggressive behaviour (including starting fires) continued and Anne remained in foster care.

If we haven’t actually established whether any or all of this is true then it makes a mockery of the exercise that Arlig then undertakes. Despite her starting point of not making any assumptions about whether the application for a care order was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ she goes on to apparently conclude that it was ‘wrong’ judging from the sheer range and scale of the ‘persecution strategies’ that she finds in the paperwork that she does have.

Arlig is a wonderful example of the old saying – to the man with a hammer, everything is a nail. Her eagerness to identify such ‘persecution strategies’ is at times comical. One report about Elizabeth expresses concern that she has repeatedly telephoned the chairman of the social welfare committee at night, behaviour described as ‘desperate and boundless’. Arlig is able to identify from this concern [72/98]

… an antidemocratic strategy, since the committee members appear to have no office telephones and it is democratic right to contact politicians. The idea in the text appears to be that one should not make use of one’s democratic rights or act democratically in one’s own defence’.

Calling a local politician frequently, at night, presumably at their own home is hardly a convincing example of a rational exercise of one’s ‘democratic right’.

Arlig is entirely unconvinced that anyone should have had any concerns that Elizabeth described the police who tried to intervene after she locked herself in a room with Anne as coming in black clothes ‘like black witches’. This is explained [63/98] as ‘normal’ and simply an example of language as metaphor. Maybe. Maybe not. But I fail to understand how a social worker writing in a report that they found this reaction to the police troubling is automatically indulging in a ‘persecution strategy’.

Some good points

The tragedy about this report is that there are some good and useful discussions about the way in which social workers can and do present evidence in an unhelpful way. All legal practitioners will be sadly familiar with the social worker who exceeds his or her competence in offering for e.g., a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition, or is over confident in their opinions, or who has missed out some important piece of information that puts a parents’ behaviour in a clearer context.

I fully accept that there needs to be more understanding of how and why parents can react in ways which social workers perceive as aggressive or violent. I accept there needs to be more understanding of how the extreme stresses of child protection investigations very often can impact badly on parents and not allow them to present themselves consistently as ‘their best selves’.

But this report is not the way to go about it. The evidence presented about Elizabeth Edner is sadly clear. Accusing the social workers of adopting various deliberate ‘strategies’ against her to make their case is surely an argument that can only be made if there had been investigation of the primary facts – her alcohol misuse, her poor mental health – and those primary facts had been shown to be false or grossly exaggerated. Rather, the snippets of the investigation that Arlig cites appear to show a the compassion of the social workers, and their attempts to see things from Elizabeth’s perspective; recognising the stress that was upon her and how this might impact on her behaviour.

But the bottom line appears to be that this was a mother who put her daughter at immediate physical harm due to being drunk when responsible for her primary care. Arlig continually criticises the social workers for presenting a picture of Elizabeth Edner as an aggressive and mentally ill alcoholic – despite the clear information presented that this was actually what she was.

The sad irony is that a piece of work designed to show case the dangers of rhetoric is itself just another example of it.

EDIT: HHJ Horton’s judgment concerning Hampshire CC in November 2015 deals with what he calls an ‘exceptional’ case of deliberate lying on oath and alteration of reports by social workers. Let’s hope he is right about the ‘exceptional’ bit. 

64 thoughts on “The woeful state of our debate Part V: Linda Arlig, Her Hammer and some Nails.

  1. angelo granda

    A Parents View.
    I hope readers understand the difference between lies, opinion and forensic facts valid in a court of law.
    For example, some SW’s will invent outright lies and lodge them under oath with Court. They might quote a Mum as saying ‘they came dressed in black like witches’ when she has said no such thing.That is hearsay evidence, i presume , but a lie nevertheless.So if a parent claims to a lawyer ‘ I never said that’. Who will the court believe?

    A Social worker might write the clear and succinct statement ( copied from a template) in a core-assessment that a parent fails to understand the ‘concerns’ and will not accept support which is on offer . In fact the SW might not have even explained the concerns to the parent or even considered any support so that is what i call a strategic lie.A Whopper!

    Then Police and Social Workers might say clearly and succinctly that a parent was drunk in charge of a child.That is opinion without any basis in forensic fact unless the parent has had blood tests at the time to confirm it.Yet the uncertified opinion will be taken as valid in a family court.Is that fair? They will reinforce the opinion by saying deviously the parent ‘smelled of alcohol’.Even though alcohol is colourless and odourless.

    Another example of deceit and a lie ‘by omission’. They will state to court. “Police called to the house and arrested Mum on suspicion of neglect and being drunk whilst caring for the child. This was noted in case files”.Yet they forget to note in case files, discover by fair enquiry or mention that Mum was released after interview without charge because there was no realistic evidence to support the charge and that there was another sober parent present when the alleged offence took place.

    There are many different ways in which the LA can pervert the course of justice.Alas family lawyers are not very good at spotting the malpractices.It is known that SW’s lie but they will never be accused of perjury because criminal perjury is so hard to prove ,apparently.Perjury is very,very rarely prosecuted.

    My opinion is that whether the lies are perjury or not, they are still untruths and the perpetrators should be locked up for perverting the course of justice.

    I would add that lawyers and judges do not seem slow to spot untruths and deceit emanating from respondents.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is vital that we distinguish between an outright lie – very dangerous – and a report which gives a false impression because of use of careless language or ommitting important background information.

      In my experience, deliberate lies are rare. Other failings are more common. But they are fairly easy to track down and challenge once you have read the case materials.

      I don’t understand your criticism of a SW saying that police arrested mother on suspicion of being drunk. There are many obvious signs of drunkness which are evident without a blood test. The person’s behaviour is a strong indication. I don’t understand what you mean by no smell – people who have been drinking have a very distinctive smell as their body metabolises the alcohol. It is very easy for me to detect when clients have been drinking; I can smell it on their breath for eg.

      BUT if that ‘suspicion’ was not actually a fact and the person arrested doesn’t have a problem with alcohol then you can prove it by getting various tests, for e.g. of liver function. Police and SW are entitled to act on ‘suspicions’ if there is some credible evidence to fuel these suspicions and there is a child involved. But the court won’t make an order based on ‘suspicion’ – there will have to be a fact that the court finds proved.

      The problem in a lot of these cases is I suspect that parents put a lot of energy into denying that they have a problem – for e.g. with drink – when a better use of their energies would be to deal with the problem they obviously do have, and which many other people have noted.

      My serious criticism of Arlig’s work is that she picks a case study where there does not appear to be any shred of doubt that the mother had serious problems with both her use of alcohol and her mental health, and yet Arlig uses this case as an example of SW presenting evidence unfairly against her?? Not the best example I would have thought.

      1. angelo granda

        Sarah, If the accusations of drunkenness are malicious or untrue by genuine mistake, you cannot prove it by liver function tests.The only conclusive forensic test is a blood test on the day as with drink-driving. Particularly if a Police Officer was investigating an alleged offence of being drunk in charge of a child, a case of criminal neglect , he would be remiss to rely on guesswork.
        Likewise,in my opinion,a family court should not remove a child without conclusive evidence of drunkenness.SW’s just cannot be trusted.

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          No, my point was that historic alcohol abuse can be evidenced by liver function tests. If you are saying that X was NOT drunk on a particular day, it will help that assertion if you can show there is no evidence of persistent alcohol mis-use.

          1. angelo granda

            Yes, the CS prefer judgments to be made on scant,inconclusive evidence like a liver-function test. If the Police did také the wise precaution of testing a parents blood on the day, i have no doubt the results would be suppressed if negative until after the civil case was over.
            The CS suppress a lot of evidence . No care order would be made on one liver function test alone. I simply used that as an example of how evidence could be adduced that someone was abusing alcohol. but it is merely one part of a large jigsaw.
            If a Police enquiry, for example, decides there is no realistic evidence of child neglect thus no charges are to be brought, it will not be announced until the civil case is over! That isn’t for sinister motives. Its because the police often take so long to announce what is going on in their investigations. The family courts can’t wait that long.
            In one case,the medical evidence showed that the children showed no signs of neglect and were well looked after.The CS refused to reveal the evidence to the Police who were forced to apply for a court order at the final hearing.As soon as they saw that the children had not been neglected,the CPS dropped the case like a brick. What court order would the police apply for in a family case?? that makes no sense. The police do not apply for care orders. They have powers under the Chidren Act to remove children but only for 72 hours.
            If the Police had wished to, they could have requested the medical evidence from parents weeks before,would not have had to get a court order and cleared the case up before the final hearing. I don’t understand this point. Police do not play a role in care proceedings, other than providing evidence which may assist to prove or disprove threshold.
            Parents might be silly,Sarah,but they are not daft and being streetwise, they know immediately when they are being fitted up.They have the overall view,know everything which has gone on,know exactly what they have done and what they have failed to do and lawyers should pay more attention to them. I do not agree that ‘being fitted up’ is a common occurrence and I am afraid – in my experience at least – that it is more likely that a parent is being paranoid, resentful or in denial of their own problems. I hope I do listen to my parent clients but the tragedy is if they present their narratives in an aggressive way, they make it hard for people to engage and listen.
            If a parent tells her lawyer she was not drunk, she means she was not drunk. Instead of assuming she is in self-denial,she expects her own lawyer to listen to her,také up the gauntlet on her behalf, demand conclusive proof of intoxication on the day and when none is forthcoming, rip the SW and Police reports to shreds in the witness box as a drink driving lawyer would. I agree that a lawyer should act on instructions and seek to demonstrate that the client was not drunk if she says she wasn’t. But the court can only make decisions on the evidence in front of it. If the evidence is to show she was drunk on the balance of probabilities, that is what the court will find. a lawyer cannot magic evidence up out of nothing or make weak evidence strong. But of course, a lawyer should always do his/her best to promote the client’s case.
            It appears to many parents that their opponents are adversarial but their own lawyers are not.This may well be the wrong impression but it is the one they get. Are we all wrong? Yes. I am afraid it is far more likely – in my experience at least – that the parents have a very weak case. Rather than acknowledge this (which will mean accepting they are at fault) they blame the lawyer for not doing a good job. But as I said above, even good lawyers are not magicians. If a parent has a clear history of serious concerns, that is the evidence before the court and that cannot be finessed or wished away.

  2. angelo granda

    The Police asked to see medical evidence of neglect to aid their enquiries but the CS ( who are supposed to support and assist them) refused to show them the medical reports.
    The Police had to go to the civil court Judge and get an order for themselves to see the evidence.

    The CS could have shown the Police the medical evidence long before but they suppressed it because it proved the children were happy and showed no signs of neglect. neglect issues . Well, that is ridiculous and inexcusable. Different agencies are supposed to co-operate and work together to promote the child’s welfare. Of course that evidence should have been shared with the police.

    Sarah, your comments only make me more adamant that family courts should not hear serious cases and make decisions on a balance of probabilities.

    You reveal so much that is wrong about the Court ( and your own) attitude to evidence. A statement from a SW and a Policeman that a parent ‘appeared to be intoxicated’ and ‘smelled of alcohol’ is not together with a negative liver function test clear forensic evidence of drunkenness. Any finding by a Judge on such evidence that a parent was likely to have been drunk is purely speculative guesswork.Even if a parent had a glass of whisky in their hand ,was merry and tipsy and had a history of alcohol abuse,that is not CLEAR evidence of either drunkenness or child neglect. I thing the permanent liquidation of families without clear evidence is wrong. I reject your assertion that there is something ‘wrong’ about my attitude to evidence. I have made it very clear what i have written on this blog and elsewhere that the most important thing is the evidence, its clarity and integrity. In the majority of cases in which I am involved the evidence IS clear.

    The attitude that if a parent denys it ( aggressIvely or not) they are probably in denial is fundamentally wrong, in my opinion. What you say supports the common complaint that they are simply ignored. I don’t think you understand how easy it is for the LA to amass false and misleading evidence.Your mention of a clear history of serious concerns,for instance.It is so easy for SW’s to pick out negatives from files but when they ignore the history of positives,the reports are biased.Surely you understand that.
    I don’t believe the Family Courts even look closely at the evidence.Perhaps they are short of time. Do you? the family courts are under immense pressure of both time and resources. That is why it is my job to help them. It is a little insulting for you to suggest that I am unable to spot what is misleading in case papers. I remind you that in the recent Hampshire case where SW WERE found to have lied and fabricated evidence it was the cross examination of the parents’ barrister that revealed this. That is why lawyers are an important part of the process.
    In one case,a social worker described a child’s bedroom as having ‘no bed just a dirty mattress on the floor’, The Police photographs clearly showed a very nice child’s bed with a quilt and pillow ( in dissaray because the child had been dragged out of it). The parents complained but were told they would not acknowledge concerns. Then they should have sued their lawyers for negligence for not cross examining on the photograph. That is exactly the kind of point I enjoy.
    Its no good giving examples like that in a Family Court because the lawyers will not listen and give the benefit of any doubt to the CS.
    I could go on at great length but what is the point? There doesn’t seem to be any point because you believe what you believe and whatever I say is dismissed. I hope I have shown I can keep an open mind. SW can and do lie – we have a recent and horrible example. But these are not the majority of cases. Parents are sometimes ignored – but in the majority of cases the worries about them are well founded. We need to focus on what we can agree needs to change, rather than going round and round and round in this continual circular argument.
    My conclusion is a simple one.The family Court should have its powers limited.It is little better than the infamous ‘star chamber’ which was abolished and consigned to history in the seventeenth century if my memory serves me correctly.
    I am not getting at you personally,Sarah.You only follow your honest beliefs but the Court should také a really close look at itself. I agree. That is why I support the urgent need for more openness and transparency. I would be happy with open courts, provided that we can protect children from having their names and details widely shared, as that isn’t fair on them.

    1. angelo granda

      On the subject of openness and transparency,do you think it would be a good idea if a permanent, video record of all the lower court (including magistrates court) hearing were made and made freely available to both parties ( preferably within 7 days of the final hearing)?

      I will welcome comments from all and sundry on this suggestion.

      One serious problem parents face is that if they exercise their rights to appeal,they must apply for permission first.This can be refused not because there are not reasonable grounds for appeal but because the lower court judge has had the benefit of witnessing the oral evidence.Also that he has had the benefit of being able to assess body language,intonations etc, of the various witnesses.
      If a video existed,permission could not be refused for those reasons at least.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        It is great in theory but I can’t see how it would happen in practice as it is going to be resource heavy. Who is responsible for the recording? who buys the equipment? Where are recordings stored? I don’t really know anything about this. but if the police are more and more wearing cameras on their uniforms, maybe this could be rolled out to magistrates/judges??

        1. angelo granda

          Who is responsible currently for making court transcripts? There are stenographers with their machinery in courts although it is not altogether a straightforward process for prospective appellants to obtain and study a transcript within the 21 day deadline for appeal.That is not strictly fair !
          Perhaps , in the interests of justice,the Court Transcript Service staff could be supplied with the training,expertise and eqipment needed to record DVD’s.

          1. angelo granda

            Traffic Warden’s use digital video cameras and recording devices on their uniform headgear too!
            Why not call them in to instruct the honourable Judges in their use.The Judge could then be supplied with a custom-made wig with all the requisites.
            After all, this is the 21st century.Nowadays even the refs at rugby carry recording devices.
            It could be financed by the sacking of the present Court transcript service.

  3. Sam

    Court transcription is done by private firms as far as I am aware and you don’t have to get a transcript before lodging an appeal, it just needs to be ordered . I also love the idea of family court judges wearing a camera in their wigs, but they don’t wear them. I do think that it may be very helpful to hear recordings rather than reading transcripts sometimes especially as transcripts are not always accurate.,

    1. angelo granda

      How can prospective appellants and their legal team possibly decide correctly (and fairly) on the viability and chances of an appeal succeeding (to justify a legal funding application) without a full and complete transcript of oral evidence or a video ?
      It’s no good ordering one to arrive later.They need it after 7 days to give ample time to put in an application complete with skeletal evidence within 21days.
      If a judge requires transcripts to consider an appeal, then they need one to put in their arguments for it.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I take a full note. Its not as good as a transcript but its 80% there. That is what allows me to determine if I have grounds to appeal or note.

        1. angelo granda

          Would it be in the -best interests of the children’ if a dvd of the hearings was made ? Can you think of any valid resasons they might come up with that it is in the children’s interests not to have one? There will be no danger of them being identified or of them being upset.
          It doesn’t really matter who wears the wig.It could be the Court Usher or a solicitor.
          To save taking notes, you could order one for your own private use.It might be possible to have the camera in a buttonhole even, it does not have to be a wig if they are considered outdated.
          If we want openness and transparency ,it is a good idea.
          I imagine the only party to object will be the L.A.

  4. Sam

    I am not saying it’s right or wrong it’s simply what happens. Transcripts can take weeks if not months . The applicant for appeal should have a fair idea of what has happened by either taking notes during the hearing or asking for a copy of their lawyers notes.

    1. angelo granda

      I suppose your right,Sám,but the whole point of a DVD would be to stop a high court judge refusing leave to appeal on the grounds of not having the benefit of hearing the oral evidence,body language etc.They would no longer be able to use that excuse !

      I suggest that as we pay the Judge’s salary,he or she should be forced to wear one of the specially made wigs whether they want to or not.
      Also , as the Courts of Justice represent the Crown,a private firm may be persuaded to provide all the equipment free in return for Royal Approval and the insignia ‘By Appointment of Her Majesty’. They could then supply the wigs worldwide.

  5. Sam

    Well best of luck then trying to get a judge to wear a sponsored wig whether they want to or not . Angelo you have so cheered me up . Thank you!

    1. angelo granda

      Sám, May i ask you a couple of serious questions?
      Did your barrister go through their notes with you word for word and ask you what you thought merited an appeal? Or did the barrister simply tell you he or she had examined her notes and that their advice was that a) there was no scope for appeal, or b) there was not enough chance of winning an appeal to justify an application for legal funding?
      If there was a dvd, a parent could go through every piece of oral evidence and tell the barrister exactly where and when the professionals gave false evidence.You said there were some little fibs and some more serious.
      If a dvd were made,there would be no escape for them.It would certainly inspire them to be more honest.It would also make the lawyers judges more impartial if they realised there was a chance of the Appeal Court seeing the unabridged DVD.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Why on earth would you go through a DVD after the event and say ‘o look! there’s the false evidence!’ you need to challenge the false evidence WHEN IT IS GIVEN.

        1. angelo granda

          .If a respondent jumped up in court when the evidence is given and cried out “That is not true,your honour”, he is simply ignored,disbelieved or punished for contempt.
          I am no lawyer ,of course, i may be wrong but i think the whole idea of an appeal is that evidence should be re-examined in detail afterwards .

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            You seriously misunderstand what I am saying.

            When you are a parent in care proceedings you must respond IN WRITING to the LA case. You must respond to their threshold allegations and the SW statement. If you identify a lie in those documents you respond to that in your statement and then your lawyer will cross examine the social worker in court about that lie.

            If a lie is raised for the first time in court and you have not had the opportunity to respond, you alert your lawyer immediately and seek an adjournment if you have evidence available but not immediately to hand to disprove the lie.

            What seems to be happening is that parents are NOT engaging with proceedings, not giving instructions to their lawyers and then attempting to overturn decisions made at first instance on the basis that lies were told. It is simply too late by then. You must challenge what you don’t agree with AT THE TIME.

            Your second very dangerous misunderstanding is that appeal courts re-examine the evidence. They generally don’t. They look at the decision of the first instant judge and ask if it was wrong. To try to appeal on the basis that you want to introduce new evidence is very hard and you will have to show there was a VERY good reason that evidence wasn’t available in the first hearing.

  6. Sam

    Angelo No the solicitor did not go through everything with me , but that may have been due to unfortunate circumstances beyond their control and normal practice may have been to do so. I can see what you are driving at , after all a judgement is not an impartial document but the judges interpretation of what happened in court. I think the problem will simply be the system is overloaded and care applications still appear to be increasing despite the case law supposedly leading to LA’s to think twice and provide support before proceedings.
    I still feel an awful lot of the problems you cite would be eradicated if most cases were heard in something based on the family alcohol and drug court model. Obviously sexual abuse and physical injury cases couldn’t be but I really don’t see why a neglect or emotional harm case wouldn’t be suitable to be heard in this way. That way the parent can talk directly to the judge, they know what they have to do to get their children home and there is a multi disciplinary team to help them achieve those goals if possible.

    1. angelo granda

      I have never even heard of the Family Alcohol and Drug Court and i don’t know what the model is.
      The only time i have seen a case heard in the informal way you describe was one in which the LA and the parents agreed.The proceedings weren’t adversarial.It was not even a full-size courtroom;it was a small, friendly-atmosphered room with a round table around which all three parties sat and it was a DJ running the proceedings.There was no argument thus no barristers required just solicitors.Unlike a lot of cases ,both parents had the same solicitor and no attempt had been made to separate them or drive a wedge between them.The parents were able to join in the semi-formal discussions,talk to the judge,give information and make suggestions.They had been involved in the core-assessment,separate, fair and comprehensive orange-book assessments lasting eight weeks, separate parenting assessments over a number of weeks,a psychological assessment followed by a couple of home visits by the Guardian who assessed them.
      The LA had the legitimate aim ( as per the Children’s Act) and that was to put a full-care order in place but to allow the child to live at home with the parents.They were willing to offer support and they provided it.
      Every report came out positive for the parents.
      Not one word was said against them!
      This leads me to believe that whatever the CS want they will fix things to assure they get what they want,be it rehabilitation,foster-care or adoption.
      The adversarial cases i have experience of in the Family Court have been completely the opposite!,Assessments not done at alLproperly.Case not conducted properly,both SW and Guardian for removal,procedures not adhered to. Assessment in favour of removal
      Parents separated with different solicitors.Barristers brought in.
      I think the Social Workers control the cases from start to finish,legitimate aims or illegitimate.In fact one of the expert psychologists ,off the record, told me so.

      I think more parents should come out and describe their experiences.We need to establish a pattern of malpractice to help put a stop to it generally.,

  7. angelo granda

    I commented to Kate Wells when i first found the CPR that I had seen both sides of the coin.
    In fact i can say with quite a lot of confidence that my experiences are unique.
    I have seen exactly the SAME CONCERNS dealt with by two different CS departments and two different Guardians with two quite opposite outcomes.One of the departments was honest throughout and followed due procedures,involved the parents in the assessments,gave correct information to the court and never gave one piece of fraudulent evidence.The other made an immediate decision, flouted all due procedure and misled all the courts from start to finish.
    That is why i can be so direct and can make my assertions with such confidence that i am right and so certain that other victims like you are unlikely to be in denial.
    Victims all tell such similar tales of biased assessments and perjurous evidence.That cannot be a coincidence.What we have to do is establish a pattern of misbehaviour as i said before and get someone to win a couple of test cases.

    1. angelo granda

      Sám,Brilliant…..A great development.A week or three ago,i suggested similar on one of the threads ( i don’t remember which) but it is important that HOPE should never be taken away from mum or the children.
      When a safety net is in place to catch struggling families and when procedures are followed meticulously,when cp staff are thoroughly honest and open,make it absolutely clear to parents how they have to change before children are returned from TEMPORARY FOSTER CARE, they do react positively and will reform themselves. Also when the it is known the safety net is there,it is a FACT of life that folk are unlikely to fall into it again.
      Actually , when they were building a great suspension bridge, workers were falling to their deaths into the river on a regular basis.When a net was slung beneath the bridge to catch fallers, hardly anyone fell into it.It must have been psychological.

      However,when you have a Local Authority and CS with illegitimate aims out to také children away,they could even get round the sort of court you are describing( drug and alcohol).They would just have to exaggerate the scenario,forget to be open and honest with you and follow procedural guidelines, pervert the course of justice by stating on oath that the Mum does not acknowledge concerns,refuses to accept the support and work with professionals and is unlikely to change in time-scales relevant to the children.
      Courts should see fair and impartial, independent assessments only.The CS do not satisfy the criteria for independence.The LA employs them and its wealth and power prevails.
      On the subject of violence and sexual abuse of children, the answer to that is simple.They should firstly be dealt with by a criminal court which will make proportionate decisions with the over-arching priority to protect the children involved.If it is a dire case of serious child- abuse with malice involved then the parent will be sent down.If innocent,no action will be taken.If cleared because there is not sufficient evidence to convict, the judge can refer all the facts to the CP system but the Family Court should not také sanctions exceeding those open to the Crown Court.With violence, there will be degrees of it,mild cases could be forgiven but alleged grievous bodily harm will be dire because it must have been malicious.Sexual abuse is very,very dire and definitely perverted and malicious. Thus proportionate action should be taken.For action to satisfy the requirements of the ECHR,all the procedural safeguards and guidelines to be followed to prevent abuses and authoritarianism.

  8. angelo granda

    QUOTE: What seems to be happening is that parents are NOT engaging with proceedings, not giving instructions to their lawyers and then attempting to overturn decisions made at first instance on the basis that lies were told. It is simply too late by then. You must challenge what you don’t agree with AT THE TIME.:UNQUOTE

    Thank you for this advice,Sarah.I do understand that .You are correct,of course.That is why I think more parents should come on to the forum and describe their real life experiences of proceedings( as a whole) in more detail.
    Let me try and give you some facts according to parents and you should start by accepting them as possibly being true,rather than with the suspicion we are ‘in denial’.

    1. Parents approach a case with the attitude that their lawyers are working solely on their behalf. We do not instruct them how to defend us.We follow THEIR instructions and we trust THEM to ask for adjounments,express our thoughts Etc. in Court. There are many occasions when we tell our lawyers that evidence is untrue and possibly perjury in the belief they will put our protests to Court on our behalf.Very often,the lawyers reply by advising us not to fight the case in that way but to co-operate,accept the fraudulent evidence and to trust the experienced Judge to spot all consistencies in the evidence and make a fair decision at the final hearing.FACT: If a parent trys to insist that the lawyers contest the false statements AT THE TIME,the lawyers often threaten to cast them adrift and suggest they seek other representatives.FACT:Parents will bow to the professional legal opinion.Sarah,put yourself into the position,if you can,of a semi-literate ,vulnerable mother.

    2.Often parents will manage to convince their lawyers that certain evidence is wrong and tell them of documents which will support their claims in Court.The lawyers will write to the LA ( and send a copy to all parties) requesting the production of documents.The LA will ignore the letter.Sometimes the lawyers will ask for a Court order that the documents be produced.The LA will ignore the Court Order.Sometimes,when forced to,the LA will eventually produce some documents at the final hearing but:- a) any document which supports the parents claims conclusively will not be included in them.Because of time schedules ,a parent may not notice the absences until afterwards.and b)crucial expert assessments,care-plans etc. are made before the final hearing without professionals having seen the repudiating documents.In other words,correct procedures are flouted and the hearing is not a fair one.The parents often have little knowledge of the guidelines,codes of practice,professional etiquette etc. and rely totally on their lawyers to enforce the procedural safeguards.Unfortunately,often very scant regard is paid towards the scrupulous adherence to correct procedure.
    3.One of the guidelines says that parents are to be interviewed by the CS team and asked about their agreements and disagreements with ‘concerns’.Often the team flouts that guideline.So when they state the professional ‘opinion’ that parents do not acknowledge concerns of professionals,are uncooperative and that they are unlikely to change,it is the opposite which is true.No-one has asked the parents which concerns they accept and which they don’t. FACT: After an ICO was issued and after a DJ ordered the CS to assess the case further,make care-plans etc. a parent telephoned the key social worker and asked when the process was due to begin.She replied,i do not have to involve you,SEE YOU IN COURT! The parent demanded to talk to the team manager who repeated it.SEE YOU IN COURT! When the parent complained further the team manager stated ‘ We do not need to talk to you or visit you at home because you are contesting the threshold criteria’.Likewise,some parents are told the same because ‘you have agreed the threshold criteria’.FACT: In those circumstances,when a key social worker states on oath that the parent has been fully involved in the care-plan,it just is not true! The parents expect their lawyers to argue such points not to turn a blind eye.

    Sarah,this post has been a lengthy one.I can give many more examples but it would make tiresome reading.Can you at least agree that when SW’s don’t include parents in assessments.on the balance of probabilities,they are likely to be part-invention?

    You have no need to supply us with detailed comments on my post.Just make brief ones and bear my complaints in mind next time you represent a parent and next time you attend a meeting.Listen to us,above all.

    I believe the question of fair trials( article 6),proportionality ( article 8) and also article 3 contraventions are of far more importance to parents than the ‘forced adoption’ debate which appears to také up too much of our time.

    All opinions welcome. The detailed experiences of court proceedings by parents will be especially helpful.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Ok, I will try and keep it short and sweet.

      Lawyers take your instructions. TELL YOUR LAWYERS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE
      If a lawyer says – don’t challenge the lies/inconsistencies, we will just leave it to the Judge to spot – SACK THEM AND GET BETTER LAWYERS
      If however your lawyer says – I know you say the SW is lying but there isn’t any evidence and you are going to weaken your case if you keep going on about it – LISTEN CAREFULLY TO YOUR LAWYER. IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT, TELL THEM. IF THEY WONT LISTEN, SACK THEM.

      Sorry, you have said a lot more but you don’t seem to welcome my detailed comments, so I hope the above covers the most important points. basically, you are NOT passive audience members to a theatrical production. You are active participants and agents of your own destiny. Your lawyer can help you but you have to engage and work with them.

  9. angelo granda

    I am sorry Sarah,but when parents enter into proceedings,it is impressed upon them in no uncertain terms by their solicitorsthat they are not involved in an adversarial process,that the aim is for a fair and impartial investigation to be made,that child-protection experts will make independent,well-informed,realistic appraisals of their family circumstances and that it is their responsibility to cooperate and work WITH the system to the best of their ability in the paramount interests of their family. THEY ARE NOT TOLD IF THEY ARGUE WITH PROFESSIONAL EVIDENCE IT MAY BE HELD AGAINST THEM IN JUDGMENT ,not told the emphasis is on them to collect evidence in support of their claims and not told that their censored and abridged statements to Court comprise their evidence-in-chief.They are led to believe that professionals will discover and present ALL the evidence to court including that contra-indicative of the case for removal.
    I believe strongly that parents become victim to a not so clever confidence trick and that it is incumbent on their lawyers to make the truth known to court when correct procedures are flouted.It is also up to the Guardian to do so.

    I have said all this before,of course,but do you believe it?

    1. angelo granda

      Readers,I meant to say ‘ they ARE told if they argue with professionals,it will be held against you in judgment’.

  10. forcedadoptionian josephs

    Well in theory parents instruct solicitors.In practice solicitors instruct parents and usually tell them to work with social services……. the very people who have said they want to take their children !
    Nine times out of ten the solicitor or barrister will tell the hapless parents “we won’t agree to an interim care order but we won’t oppose it either”.Surprise,surprise away go the children for fostercare for a few months where they are then said to have settled down so well that permanent fostercare is said to be best for the older ones and forced adoption for the toddlers and babies .
    The wicked mantra “the children’s interests are paramount” sounds good except that it usually translates into putting them where they are judged to be” better off” .Logically happy little gypsy girls in delapidated caravans should if following this guideline, all be handed over to middle class families of doctors,lawyers,and stockbrokers where they might at first sight be better clothed,better fed and even better off but without the love of their real families they would probably be traumatised,angry,resentful and miserable………

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Children physically abused by their parents are likely to be ‘traumatised, angry, resentful etc, etc’

      Why did you think it was a good idea to help the parents of this child leave the country? And how much help did Booker give you?

      Your friend Christopher Booker described these injuries as a ‘slight mark’. Really? Did you see the injuries? Here is what the Judge said:
      The written evidence available to me indicates that on 12th November 2015 D was seen at school with a burn mark on his neck and another mark on his thigh. The appearance suggested injury with a rope. He said his father was responsible for the neck, an injury inflicted, he said, with a belt. He said his mother was responsible for the injury to the thigh. N was examined and was found to have bruising to the cheek for which he does not appear to have provided an explanation.
      The parents have been seen. The father says that the injury to the neck was caused by him in unclear accidental circumstances which I am afraid need more explanation. The mother said that the injury to N’s cheek arose from an incident in school but on investigation the only relevant incident at school concerned the oldest child. The parents agreed with Police and local authority that while investigations took place, the children’s safety would be ensured by their temporary residence with the grandparents.

      If this child is hurt again by his parents, will you feel any responsibility/regret about your actions?

  11. angelo granda

    Sarah,Whilst we await a response from forcedadoptionian josephs, i have read the two judgments on the link you have provided.
    May i ask you to look again at them and to imagine you are a lawyer representing the family concerned?
    From a parents point of view, i can see inherent flaws in both judgments , lapses of procedural correctness on the part of the LA and the Police and i have to say also that i don’t see any clear evidence that the children are at imminent risk of significant harm.
    Before i comment further, how would you argue the familys case bearing in mind its human rights etc?t, Can you think of anything?

    1. angelo granda

      In a case where a family is from Latvia,have lived in the U.K.for a period of only 4 years, hold Latvian passports not UK passports,are ineligible for UK naturalisation at the time of the application,have sought assistance from the Latvian Ambassador,have left England and Wales and are in another country at the time of the application and are en route to its mother country, I do not see how any reasonable person could find that it ‘seems clear’ that habitual residence is here and that England is the only country with jurisdiction (under European Law.

      What is the usual procedure in civil cases were an Authority to bring action against a foreigner not currently residing here? Surely,the complainant would have to serve documents if and when he returned to this country.

      I can understand criminals being extradited from other countries and brought back here to face the music but these parents are not criminals.Were there any facts to support criminal charges or any significant risk to any child, the Police would have arrested them pending a charge or further investigation and issued bail with conditions or remanded them in custody.

      It is a fact acknowledged by the parents (not just reasonable cause to believe)that two of the children suffered minor injuries in their parents care. That does not meet the high test for emergency removal at all.It is important that the parents have the responsibility to protect the children from repetition.The children are at no more emergency risk of danger than they were last week.Had they been so then,the LA had the duty to apply for an order then.There is no evidence of criminal behaviour or serious harm or the Police would have taken protective action in line with their duties.

      The Local Authority have exceeded their authority by imposing separation on a family without a court order.Any ‘agreement’ the parents signed has no legal validity (it is likely it was signed under duress).Furthermore,it cannot be said the move back to Latvia was ‘covert’.The family contacted the authorities at the embassy;the embassy have kept the Local Authority informed of the family’s movements right down to the time and date of the planned flight home.The grandparents had no legal duty to report events to the Local Authority.

      I think this Judge has bent over backwards to grant the order the LA wanted by exercising too much of his discretion in its favour.However,in a family court,he does have wide discretion.I don’t think the orders should be granted without serving notice on respondents and there is never any need to do so.If there was genuinely a risk of imminent harm and a real emergency,the LA should make a complaint to the Police who can investigate and issue an arrest warrant if proportionate.They can then intercept the family at the aerodrome before they board the aeroplane.
      However, given they have already seen the parents,assessed all the risks and found no need for emergency removal,i imagine the sw’s are making a mounain out of a molehill.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Habitual residence is a question of FACT
        Whether you approve or not, it is highly likely that a family who has lived in this country for four years and who have children at school will be deemed integrated into this society and habitually resident here. This will give the English court jurisdiction.

        You may minimise the injuries to these children if you wish. But you need to understand that injuries to the face and neck which the child asserts was caused by the parents; for which the parents cannot offer consistent explanation will sound a warning bell.

        The LA did not impose separation. It asked that the children go to live with the grandparents whilst further investigations were carried out. This seems perfectly sensible.

        You cannot reasonably assert that it is right for Ian Josephs and Christopher Booker to get to decide which children are at risk and which are not. You think this is a ‘mountain out of a molehill’ and I can only hope that you are right. Because if you, Josephs and Booker are wrong, this child has been sent away in the company of adults who have assaulted him. That is not a happy thought, even for the proudest adherents of parents’ rights.

        [EDIT – re Habitual residence, this case is about to be considered by the Supreme Court

        1. angelo granda

          Thanks for your comments,Sarah,as always.
          I don’t want to minimise the injuries or argue about it but i do feel SW’s often maximise injuries.
          A problem is that the cp system oft goes awry when the CS become involved.
          I wonder if school called the parents in and asked for full explanations and an account of the home situation BEFORE calling in the CS.
          It might have been more wise to have monitored he situation. If the children regularly attended with bruises and complained about Dad,it would be different.
          On a constructive note,Sarah.The Police ,when they arrest a suspect,have a limited period in which to charge him and také him before a court.
          It may be useful if a time limit were put on the CS ‘investigations’. Say,one week.How long did they expect the children to stay apart from their parents. One week,two, a month?.
          If sw’s cannot be clear on time-scales ,the Law should set them in the children’s best interests,when informal agreements,contracts of expectations and S0’s are involved.

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Because they HAVE to maximise these injuries. Because when children are beaten to death, it is always the SW who are chased, pilloried and blamed. They have been forced into a culture of over reaction due to the highly irresponsible media coverage of child deaths and the public baying for some one to blame.

            If the LA won’t set a sensible time limit on investigations, then the parents can. I would have said, if I were one of those parents – I quite understand why you need to investigate this. I suggest my children stay with my parents until the end of January 2016 and then I will take my children home. If you are not happy with that you will need to issue care proceedings’.

            there will then be a strict 26 week time frame for proceedings to conclude.

  12. angelo granda

    The very worst thing to do is to maximise issues and overreact.So many families are treated unfairly and children traumatised because of that fault.
    Procedures should always be followed closely and no-one can blame them afterwards if things go wrong.The first priority is to carry out an open-minded, impartial investigation into the facts.
    My guess,here,is that they haven’t yet interviewed the parents or why are the written notes to court so scant and unclear.Is it a rope-burn or does it just appear to be one?The boy claims it was caused by a belt.Are the injuries severe or very minor?.We don’t know without a doctors report.An injury which requires further explanation.That should have been investigated fully BEFORE any decision to interfere in family life was taken.
    I believe that IS the Law.
    A cp conference should have been initiated BEFORE it was suggested removal was necassary.So simple! The opinions of relevant professionals involved with the children are vital to fair enquiries as are medical reports.The parent’s full explanations should have been taken down officially and signed by them.Give a judge clear evidence .

  13. angelo granda

    A Court is entitled to expect that,when a social worker asserts evidence to a court,that the social work team has acted in accordance with guidance and that assertions being made are backed up by contemporaneous paediatric and other professional opinion based on FACTS and legal principles.
    X.Council.v.B (EPO’s) (2005) 1 FLR 341 (Mumby.J.)
    Children’s Act procedures as laid out in the statute are of vital importance and play a considerable role in correct decision-making.
    It is impossible to make a realistic appraisal if sw’s do not follow them scrupulously,their evidence is UNLAWFUL..

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      We have had this discussion many times. Yes procedures should be followed. No, it does not automatically follow that a failure to adhere to procedures renders a social worker’s evidence worthless. Children need to be protected, even if procedures are not met.

      But of course, serious procedural failures should always be challenged and corrected. But what you cannot do is rely on serious procedural failures to ‘magic away’ any genuine child protection concerns.

      Procedural failures may make it more difficult to discern what is actually going on or may lead to the wrong decisions being made, which is why they are so serious. BUT they don’t determine a case.

  14. angelo granda

    Laiser-faire attitudes towards legal guidelines and principles which we see in Family Courts leads to the contravention of human rights.
    The Court takes disproportionate decisions.
    In my opinion,Sarah,your contention tha procedural failures can be glossed over is correct but only in less serious cases.
    Cases where interference with family life to the extent of removing children are very,very serious .Proceedings have to be held in a court which has standards high enough to deal with such serious decisions.
    A murder case cannot be heard in a magistrates court much less a civil court.
    Crown Courts pay strict attention to procedures and have methods of working which at least endeavour to satisfy citizen’s rights to a fair and impartial hearing.
    It is obvious that such matters cannot be dealt with by a court where conflicts of interests exist for a start.
    I think the ECHR ideas of proportionality are spot on.Safeguards have to be put in place and MUST be followed ! If they are not then the test for proportionality cannot be met.
    Yes,Family Courts can issue orders and sanction protective care–plans but unless it will guarantee a fair hearing,it should pass serious cases up to another Court which will.
    I think barristers should appeal when they can demonstrate that a LA has not conducted a case incorrectly and my view is shared by government advisers .
    They flout them to abuse the system for their own illegitimate aims.

    1. angelo granda

      Of course,I meant to say barristers should appeal when cases HAVE been conducted incorrectly.Slib of the beyboard.
      I hope my opinion is clear to readers although i know many of you may disagree.
      All comments welcome.
      Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to EVERYBODY!

  15. Sam

    It seems to me the principle that the child’s welfare is paramount is just used as an excuse when cases are conducted wrongly. I think there should be a proportionality built in., there doesn’t appear to be at present. In that recent case where it was proved that social workers lied on oath , the children were still kept in care . Surely what should have happened was that a support package was placed around the family to allow all to recover from their ordeal. The child’s welfare is once again a subjective measure and has probably changed over the years as each new fad comes along or as outside circumstances dictate resources. What one sector of society considers a good upbringing would appall another.
    I would also have thought if a local authority had a cast iron case they would not have to resort to under hand tactics. I am sure a two fold approach would work for procedural errors, make less of them by tightening up loopholes such as non recording of meetings and amending the law so that parents can sue if procedural errors still occur.

    1. angelo granda

      The problem is that we will go round in circles until the day when lawyers come around to ‘discerning’ what is going on and to how sw’s ensure that decisions go their way.
      The greatest principle of the oldest Law is,
      One does not like to generalise ,but too many family lawyers apparently are unable to understand that it is essential to justice that sw’s find out the truth properly by conducting a REAL ,thorough investigation in accordance with guidelines.If they don’t , they can only make things up thus their evidence must be false and incomplete.Because of that the various decision-making bodies cannot but make unrealistic appraisals.
      My apologies to Kate Wells and to other SW’s who may think this comment is a generalisation.We have discussed it before but, in my view, most sw’s are thoroughly incompetent and should not be in the job.
      In all honesty,I do not believe they have had it explained to them in training how to conduct a child-protection investigation or any investigation.I include senior team-leaders in this denunciation.
      They do not want to know the truth and they show it! When faced with it, they will stare at the floor as though it is written there.
      Sám and Sarah,i have been employed by two city councils in the past.I have been involved with security on a contract basis and have myself conducted investigations.
      The very first task of any competent investigator is to gather together ALL evidence from every source,to interview and record in great detail statements from all those involved in a case and to ask each person to supply evidence(written or otherwise) which supports their particular claims. It is most vital not to miss out parents ,of course , and most important that an investigator approaches each case with absolute impartiality.
      SW’s and Team Leaders do not even bother to call parents to the office,talk to them or ask them to prove their claims.They seem to be convinced that all they have to do is go through computer files and medical, school files and so on and that is all they need to do.
      They make up what they assert to court to support their own litigation.Anything hostile to their case is missed out.
      By failing to follow safeguards which are so clearly laid out in the Law, LA’s. abuse the system . Deliberately!
      They look at past precedent and they say to themselves “it’s okay,don’t worry about doing a proper investigation.Don’t bother with the procedures because when it comes to the crunch,the Court will decide our view of what is in the children’s best interests is more importance than the truth’.
      Lawyers buy it every time .Respondent lawyers face conficts of interest and unfortunately,court hearings are unfair because of it.
      I am running out of steam and new words to convince readers what needs to be done. Perhaps Sarah should try and condense Parents views and put them in a new post.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        SW’s and Team Leaders do not even bother to call parents to the office,talk to them or ask them to prove their claims
        Because that is not their job. their job is to protect children. Once they think they have enough evidence they then have to apply to court. It is during the COURT PROCESS that the evidence is tested. you say they should gather ‘all’ the evidence from ‘every source’ and interview ‘all’ involved. This just isn’t their role or their remit. If you want SW to do that, you will need to find the funds to employ about triple the present number of workers.

        Of course, I would expect SW to have some conversations with the parents but they do not have the same job as a police officer investigating a crime. Their remit is to keep children safe. So they may have to act quickly and without much consultation with the parents if they think the situation is sufficiently serious.

        1. angelo granda

          But that goes against McFarlane and the High Court ! They say the duty of the CS is to carry out open-minded, impartial investigations and to report what they find.
          The law also says that Children’s Act frameworks and principles have to be followed scrupulously to enable realistic appraisals. It is a social worker’s duty to protect children but only in a lawful manner!
          If we want to PROTECT children all we have to do is apply those rules. Not make unrealistic decisions.

          1. Sarah Phillimore

            Yes but THEIR investigation is not the same as a POLICE investigation. They do not have the time or the manpower to take statements from everyone who is involved. They will talk to the parents, schools, HV etc and make notes. But they don’t sit them down and interview them for hours. They don’t have forensic teams to take blood samples and fingerprints etc.

            If they have information that a child is at serious risk right now, they may have to take swift action without even talking to the parents.

            You simply cannot conflate a child protection investigation with a police investigation into a criminal offence. The two are very different things because they have very different aims – one is to protect children, the other is to identify and punish criminals.

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      But Sam that just doesn’t work for the children. Despite the lies, the judge found that they were still at risk of harm and that risk couldn’t be managed. Yes, in most cases I would be amazed that the SW feels a need to lie as they usually, I am afraid, have all the evidence and more that they need.

      the fact that a SW lied doesn’t magically mean the child will be safe with the parents. If ‘support’ instead becomes 24/7 supervision, then that isn’t support and it isn’t affordable.

      1. angelo granda

        Please tell me ,Sarah, is it a Courts job to decide what is or is not affordable? Does the L.A. put in evidence of its financial position,balance sheets etc?
        Does the Family Court look into the finances and all alternatives to removal thoroughly before liquidating a family?
        In a parent’s view, it does not! Do you?

  16. Sam

    Sarah I do not buy the lack of money argument at all . It appears to cost around £4000 per week to keep a child in a children’s home. From memory it’s around £38000 per child per year in foster care. That is one hell of a lot of money that could be spent keeping families out of proceedings. Of course there is the cost of proceedings themselves . I have no idea what they are but must run into thousands. That’s not counting the money likely to be spent over a lifetime mopping up the mess of a person coming out of care on services such as mental health,lack of education etc plus their children likely to be taken into care themselves. I do not think the courts recognise the actual harm caused to parents and the effect on their ability to parent caused by involvement with children’s services. Perhaps we need a controlled academic trial featuring families being supported and the traditional way most LA’s work by using a child rescue narrative,with a cost analysis. On a different point ,no it isn’t a criminal offence but parents effectively receive a sentence far worse than if they had committed a crime. It is longer for a start and there is no one to help the parent rehabilitate.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You make the mistake of thinking that politicians are rational beings, with an interest in sensible long term planning. They play to the Daily Mail. They cut essential services to save money which ends up costing them much more in the long term.

      Of course it would not only be more humane but vastly cheaper to intervene earlier in families lives. Instead this Government shuts down children’s centres and destroys provision for children’s mental health services. The cost of all this years down the line will be immense in both financial and human terms.

      But its not a deliberate corrupt policy. Its simply the obvious consequence of a political system that cares only about power and getting re-elected. Only the short term policies count.

  17. forcedadoptionian josephs

    Owned by: Jim Cockburn and Janet Rees through Ideapark Ltd

    Income from foster care in 2014**: £127.2m

    Payouts to owner in 2014: £7m

    Highest paid director salary and other benefits: £406,000

    Founded by carers Jim Cockburn and Janet Rees in 1994, Foster Care Associates (FCA) has become the biggest foster care company in the UK, and even has branches in Finland, Australia and Canada. The FCA website assures potential foster carers that it does not have any “shareholders or private equity interests to serve”, but this is only half right. Unlike many of its rivals it is not owned by a private equity firm. But it certainly does have shareholders – principally Jim Cockburn and Janet Rees, through a holding company called Ideapark Ltd.

    The latest accounts of Core Assets Group Ltd (Foster Care Associates is a trading name) show the company paid out £7m in dividends to Ideapark Ltd in 2014, and £11.6m the year before. Ideapark Ltd’s accounts show it only paid out £50,000 to Cockburn and Rees in 2014, but a whopping £9.2m the year before
    Adoption is a strictly money based industry; Social worker plus hired gun expert says baby is at risk .Parents deny it. Judge believes the “professionals” are on balance of probabilities more likely to be correct .Baby goes to fostercare and then adoption by strangers.Companies like the one above make millions while families are needlessly broken up and the children and parents suffer horribly.
    That is the reality !

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      What a pity therefore that Ian Josephs, Hemming et al seem strangely silent on the government’s plans to increase privatisation of the child protection industry. Why on earth don’t they put their campaigning energies to better use? Some things should not be driven by profit.

  18. Sam

    Do you know Ian when and why children’s homes stopped being run by local authorities? Though thinking it through there has always been some other provision such as Barnados . I am no financial guru but its seems blooming obvious to me that private companies exist to make as much profit as possible. That’s why PFI is such a ropey idea as well.

  19. Sam

    Yes I would love to know, and who profits. I know a number of them are run by groups who are traded on the stock exchange. I am also aware that some do the minimum they can to enrich the quality of children’s lives. They also site homes in run down areas where both property and labour is cheap.
    Local authorities could obviously be most cost efficient if they ran them in house so why not? It’s not lack of housing, as all councils I have ever known actually own quite a number of properties including farms.
    In a 2 child unit at £ 3000 per week, though I think it’s nearer £4,000 the gross income would be £312,000. Lets say they employ 10 staff at £ 18,000 per annum and a manager at £35,000 , which is about right, that’s total staff costs of £215,000 . Of course there would be normal household bills,insurance , utilities, food etc but that would hardly be more than £25,000. That leaves a profit for the shareholders of £75,000 per annum. I suspect it’s more profitable than farming animals. It is all rather sickening.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Nothing to do with the basics of human life should be run for profit. Because the line dividing profit from profiteering is a very thin one. I have no problem with people making money by selling things that they make, or by their own labours. But when people make money by charging to look after vulnerable people and then giving those vulnerable people a substandard service so they can cream off more profit, that is shameful.

      I think children’s homes fell out of favour because so many children were abused in them.

      We really are a revolting species.

  20. Sam

    I hold my hands up I got it wrong if these statistics are to be believed. It seems that the cost to LA’s and that paid to private companies is similar. I do stand by the fact that private companies must be making a profit to run the homes though. It is on average just under £ 3,0000 a week per child. That’s a hell of a lot of money that could support a family even 24/7. Other European countries provide family support workers, not qualified social workers to help out until a family can get back on it’s feet. Surely time limited support has to be a more sensible option. A number of LA’s offer very little .

  21. angelo granda

    We all appreciate money can be made by carers be they public or private.We all know politicians (particularly local ones) often act in their own interests.We all know that public authorities are regularly overcharged by private profiteers who often fix prices between them and run immoral monopolies and unlawful cartels.
    It has been going on since umpteen years b.c. but i think we are going down a dead-end discussing it on here. If anyone wants to address it go to trading standards or the ombudsman.

    SW’s and Children’s Legal Panel solicitors are all inexorably connected with the LA’s thus families do not get a FAIR hearing in accordance with Article 6.
    It lies with our lawyers to protect our human rights! Apparently,family lawyers and courts are too lax and allow correct procedures to be ignored. That cannot be right.It is always in the best interests of children to follow the procedural safeguards or the SW’s will abuse the system and get away with it.

    Sám,on the question of paying for treatment.KW seems to think the CS have to pay for mental health services.It doesn’t.Either the NHS pays or one goes privately.I have asked Sarah if the Family Court has to make judgments as to what is affordable or not.If it does ,then it is not a true court of justice !
    It is simply a professional tribunal which should have its powers curtailed..

  22. ian josephs

    Foster care has become a lucrative business. Whether it should be a business at all is another question.
    Google any of the names below to find out million £ profits and directors monster salaries for a particular company:
    Foster Care Associates; National Fostering Agency, The Foster Care Agency; Acorn Care and Education, Fostering Solutions, Pathway Care Fostering and Heath Farm Fostering; Partnerships in Children’s Services, Orange Grove, ISP, Fosterplus and Clifford House; Swiis Foster Care; Capstone Foster Care; Compass Fostering, The Fostering Partnership, Eden Foster Care and Seafields Fostering; Caretech

  23. angelo granda

    QUOTE: You cannot conflate a child-protection investigation with a Police investigation into a criminal offence. The two are very different things because they have very different aims – one is to protect children, the other is to identify and punish criminals: UNQUOTE.

    The Authorities claim different. They say it is the duty ,therefore the aim of the Police to protect children, not the CS. The Latvian family above is an example. An allegation that father caused criminal harm to his son. That was a matter for the Police. The school should have informed them not the CS.

    An official letter from The PUBLIC PROTECTION DEPARTMENT to an M.P:-

    ‘ The overarching priority in any investigation into alleged criminal offences relating to children , is the immediate safety and welfare of any child identified as being potentially at risk of harm’. It is the duty of the Police to carry out criminal investigations. To safeguard children, they can arrest suspects who pose a risk. If further investigations are necessary, they can hold a suspect in custody or impose bail conditions to exclude contact with children. If criminal charges are brought, the Police must present the suspect to a Magistrates Court (within 24 hours). The Magistrates can imprison a suspect or impose bail conditions pending further proceedings. If it finds a suspect guilty and a danger to children, the court can impose a gaol sentence. It can also make appropriate exclusion, supervision and probation orders. Both the Police and the criminal courts are qualified to make a decision as to the proportionality to circumstances of any action it takes.

    It isn’t the DUTY of the CS to ‘ PROTECT’ children in those circumstances. It hasn’t the power or the ability. Criminal allegations should be reported to the Police who have a duty to investigate fully. The onus is on the Police and/or the criminal courts to protect children.

    In any event, a mere allegation of iniquity is not of itself sufficient to justify interference with a child’s family life in the public interest. Such an allegation will only do so if, following such investigations as are reasonably open to the recipient, and having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the allegation in question can reasonably be regarded as being a credible allegation from an apparently reliable source.

    I suggest that the Police, in close contact with CS departments, are often too quick to neglect their duty and ‘pass the buck’. It is possible that ,working in close liaison together, the two agencies deliberately plan to leave domestic violence and other criminal, domestic cases e.g. drug abuse in the social work sector. Both would potentially benefit from such a policy. The LA finances both!

    Whatever the case, the CS are then left to sort out criminal behaviours, a job for which it is totally unqualified. In particular, civil courts are not suitable to hear criminal allegations; defendants must be treated as innocent until proven guilty! Not vice-versa.

    The matter of real danger and risk to children is not to be confused with the matter of projected ‘significant harm or risk of significant harm to children in the future’ as meant by the Children’s Act. There is a big difference!

    Following a criminal investigation (not while it is ongoing) when all the facts and circumstances of the case are known, the CS may convene a child protection conference as it can in cases where there are not criminal allegations.

    The duty of Children’s Services is to lead a child-protection investigation. It must carry out a full and fair investigation of facts and report its findings to the child –protection conference whose DUTY it is to put measures in place to ‘protect’ vulnerable children. I am afraid this does not agree with you Sarah, when you say they ‘may have to act quickly without much consultation with parents’ and that a thorough investigation ‘just isn’t their role or remit’. It is clearly laid out in the guidelines that parents are to be kept informed of concerns , be fully involved in the creation of assessments, be questioned fully as to agreements and disagreements, have them recorded and circulated amongst professionals and that their wishes and feelings are to be taken into account. The Law also stipulates that investigations are to be open-minded and impartial and that all evidence contra-indicative of any case for removal must be revealed. If you write to the Director of Children’s Services, he or she will lay out the CS duties for you. Most of what I write here is reproduced from a letter a director wrote to a victim’s M.P.

    The CS repeatedly and systematically abuses our children and our human rights whilst claiming deceptively it has a fundamental duty to ‘protect’ children. It has appointed itself to it! It has no more duty to protect our children than we have ourselves. No more duty than any other citizen. We have parental responsibility for our own children. Even under a care-order, the LA share parental responsibility with us, not the CS. The LA’s delegate the children’s care to the LAC review system under the leadership of an independent reviewing officer whose duty it is to protect our children along with us.
    Lawyers and advocates should treat social workers who hold citizens to ransom and crush our family rights with contempt. Magistrates , independent advocates and IRO’s should too! They should not support what amounts to human rights abuse. Parents who attend cp conferences and LAC reviews will not have failed to notice how the CS habitually misinforms, deceives other professionals and flouts correct procedures. Lawyers, especially, have a duty to our forbears, our children, our grandchildren and our fellow citizens. The emphasis is on them.

    They should recognize that the dictum ‘the best interests of children’ which is used to justify inhumanity is false. The best interests of children can only be served by strict adherence to the Law by all parties.

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