PAIN CASE WIN BY CAMILLA CAVENDISH THE TIMES

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3645904.ece

We were accused of abusing the child we adore: It’s the most harrowing ordeal imaginable – yet it happens more and more. Three innocent couples share their stories

By Alison Smith-squire

PUBLISHED: 00:56, 7 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:21, 7 March 2013

Full-time mother Christine Butcher, 42, lives with her partner, Pete Jensko, 47, an artist, and their 15- month-old daughter, Madison, in Witney, Oxfordshire. In November 2011, the couple were accused of causing strange marks to their daughter’s body. Christine says:

Watching Madison take her first tentative steps last week, her arms held out to me in case she fell, tears cascaded down my face.

Had social services got their way, our precious little girl would have been adopted months ago and I might never have seen her again. Whenever I think about it, the agony is unbearable.

Madison was just three weeks old when we took her to see the GP because, for 48 hours, she’d hardly taken any milk.

Christine Butcher, 42, and partner Pete Jensko, 47, were accused of causing strange marks to MadisonChristine Butcher, 42, and partner Pete Jensko, 47, were accused of causing strange marks to Madison

He examined her and found some purplish marks the size of a 10p piece on her legs and chest. We thought nothing of it: there is a history of eczema in the family, and the marks came and went. But the GP immediately referred us to the John Radcliffe Hospital, where a consultant asked us if we had ever ‘swung’ Madison round. We were shocked – of course we hadn’t.

We assumed we’d be able to take her home. But the situation quickly escalated. One of the doctors told us we were strongly suspected of abusing Madison and told us not to leave the hospital.

We were horrified, but indignant, too, and brushed aside his words – after all, we’d done nothing wrong. We said we would return the next day because we hadn’t come prepared to stay overnight.

We had no idea what immense powers social services have – but we were soon to find out. That evening a doctor rang us at home and said we had one last chance to go back to hospital with Madison. Otherwise they would call the police. We were intimidated, but Madison was contentedly asleep, so we stayed put.

It seemed ridiculous – I still didn’t believe anyone could think we had harmed our baby.
At midnight, two police officers and an ambulance turned up on our doorstep. Madison, apparently, had to go back to hospital for a vital blood test.

'We assumed we'd be able to take her home. But the situation quickly escalated'‘We assumed we’d be able to take her home. But the situation quickly escalated’

We were terrified by the seeming urgency of the treatment and went straight back to the hospital with her. But doctors didn’t specify what the ‘urgent’ blood test was for and, in the event, it was not carried out for two more days. Instead, we waited and waited in a room, with endless people coming and interrogating us – it was very frightening.

It felt like our every move was being watched – and I was deeply concerned for Madison’s health. What if something really was wrong with her? The pressure was unbearable.

Over the next three months, Madison was allowed home for some of the time. But doctors kept finding reasons why we had to go into hospital with her. There, we would be monitored for days on end – and the accusations came thick and fast. During this time, we had six interviews with doctors, two with social services and two with the police.

As well as accusing us of swinging her around, they told us marks on Madison’s legs were evidence of trauma where we had dragged her along the floor.

I was even accused of harming Madison in hospital. As part of social services’ monitoring, doctors observed me feeding her. One found a tiny tear under her top lip and said I must have caused it.

We denied the accusations with every ounce of strength we had. But the authorities refused to believe us. They kept on and on with their accusations. I began to feel like we were never going to escape from them.

Just days after Madison turned five months old, while we were visiting her in hospital, we were told that she was going to be taken into care. I begged, railed, pleaded – to no avail. I thought I would go mad with grief and rage. The wheels of the social services were in motion, and there was nothing we could do to stop them.

I wept as we picked out toys for her to take with her, and wrote a long letter for carers, detailing the temperature at which she liked her milk, and how she wouldn’t settle to sleep if she didn’t have her favourite teddy in her arms. It was agony, absolute unrelenting agony.

When we left Madison at the hospital – I couldn’t bear to watch a foster carer take her away – Pete and I sobbed as we clung to each other. I’ll never forget my anguish; I couldn’t breathe and I ached for my baby girl.

Time between our four supervised 90-minute visits a week passed so slowly. But at home, I couldn’t bear to see Madison’s things. If I caught sight of a toy or Babygro, I broke down.

'We didn't want to have to explain to people why Madison wasn't living with us. Although we'd done nothing wrong, we were still so ashamed'‘We didn’t want to have to explain to people why Madison wasn’t living with us. Although we’d done nothing wrong, we were still so ashamed’

Pete and I put everything of hers in the nursery and locked the door: it was the only way we could cope with our loss. That’s what it felt like – a huge, profound loss.

We became recluses. We didn’t want to have to explain to people why Madison wasn’t living with us. Although we’d done nothing wrong, we were still so ashamed.

Finally, in July last year, after eight months of suspicion, there was a preliminary court hearing where one doctor finally said that we hadn’t hurt Madison. She diagnosed her lip ‘tear’ as a blister caused by a viral infection, and the marks on her body as neonatal lupus, a usually harmless condition that causes a rash. Social services immediately dropped the case.

Three days later, Madison came home for good. I can’t describe the moment she came back – by then I was a wreck, emotionally and physically. I hadn’t slept properly since the day she left, and I felt like I had aged decades. But I knew I never wanted to let her go again.

Part of me still can’t believe she won’t be taken from us. I watch her sleeping at night and just quietly cry, I’m so scared of losing her again.

We are different parents now – nervous, edgy – and I hate letting her out of my sight. We are also both very, very angry. Despite being put through indescribable anguish, we’ve never received an apology.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2289299/We-accused-abusing-child-adore-Its-harrowing-ordeal-imaginable–happens-more-Here-innocent-couples-share-stories.html#ixzz2NFkI

Aunt of little girls orphaned in Alps massacre ‘wants to adopt them after they were put into foster care’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2276427/Saad-al-Hilli-Orphans-Alps-massacre-adopted-aunty-foster-care.html#axzz2KbQ5pZ

Enfants volés : le Royaume-Uni persiste

http://podaudio.rtbf.be/pod/lp-tvs_transversale_samedi_020213_13663…

Stolen Children: United Kingdom persists

KT

Posted on 01/02/2013

Despite the scandal, the adop-tion forced to continue. Radio coverage Saturday.

Cross

Scary. Words fail to say that the feeling is removed listens to the story of Florence Bellone (First Saturday at 12 h).

This is actually the third part of the survey * conducted by the journalist on the issue highly “touchy” forced adoptions in Britain. Where it is found that, despite the warnings of other states and despite the scandal caused the situation has not changed one iota. A former social worker, who is now working alongside parents threatened describes precisely this frightening mechanical and dehumanized, perfectly oiled and often illegal, which applies to all.

A system in which, midwives, psychiatrists and even school plays an active role. “Parents can not win whatever they do,” a lawyer customary analysis of this type of business. For the credo of all social services can abuse: “We try to protect children from the risk of significant harm has been identified as a possible” Either use the gun against a fragile bird.

Not only rule is exaggerated caution, but the system provides no support from family or potentially vulnerable difficulties. “The government has cut funding to contribute to the work on preventive difficult parents, forcing to support more children,” admits the social worker.

Overmedication, annihilation of family ties, destruction and crime: the consequences of these abuses are huge on children and their families. The scandal is much bigger than it is based on networks of collusion and corruption, and also generates huge profits, highlighted by the reporter. If the UK is a pioneer in the field, worrying signs exist elsewhere in Europe

* Crowned Lorenzo Natali Priz

Stolen children in great Britain: the scandal continues …

In Britain, thousands of children, mostly from poor families or middle class, they are removed each year by the authorities and put up for adoption without the consent of their parents. And the law makes it difficult to talk about it. Florence bellone wanted to break the law of silence. This Saturday at 12am in Transversales on the First. Third part of the large survey of Florence Bellone, set wave by Jean-Marc Vierset.

In 2010 and 2011 Transversales released two issues devoted to abuse the system of social protection of children in the UK, which too often result in forced adoptions.

These reports our correspondent Florence Bellone earned him the prestigious European Lorenzo Natali Prize for Human Rights. They provoked many reactions and many letters.

Despite alarms and launched, not much has changed. Yet even states are worried. Slovakia and identified 25 cases of Slovak children removed from their parents residing in Great Britain and grabbed the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe.

As a reminder, each year, the British social services, assisted by the police, kidnap thousands of children in poor families or middle class. Based on surveys often superficial or minor complaints or bad, these families are considered socially vulnerable or suspected child abuse. Children are placed in foster care before being put up for adoption without parental consent.

The fact that European countries such as the United Kingdom knowingly removes children from their own families and do adopt without the consent of the birth parents remains, despite reports of Florence Bellone, a little known phenomenon, as affected families do not have the right to discuss their case outside the court family, let alone talk to a journalist in jail. The “gagging order” (gagging order) protects the state at the expense of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Parents have come to use alternative media to describe their ordeal and especially find their children … For two years, they are also likely to confide in Florence Bellone, since the law of silence does not broadcast outside the UK borders …

Having received numerous testimonies in families in the first two stories in this third edition, Florence Bellone investigation especially in the heart of the system itself. An investigation difficult since many system employees refuse to speak, even anonymously. His investigation uncovers downright illegal practices. It also shows the substantial financial profits generated by this system adoption for private sector adoption agencies and providers that host families are the largest property investment companies. Some agencies have an extensive portfolio to all Anglo-Saxon countries and the Far East. Our correspondent also highlights the collaboration of psychiatry doubtful that well-oiled system.

http://www.rtbf.be/info/emissions/article_enfants-voles-en-grande-pic/bretagne-le-scandale-continue?id=7918767

Enfants volés : le Royaume-Uni persiste

http://podaudio.rtbf.be/pod/lp-tvs_transversale_samedi_020213_13663…

Stolen Children: United Kingdom persists

KT

Posted on 01/02/2013

Despite the scandal, the adop-tion forced to continue. Radio coverage Saturday.

Cross

Scary. Words fail to say that the feeling is removed listens to the story of Florence Bellone (First Saturday at 12 h).

This is actually the third part of the survey * conducted by the journalist on the issue highly “touchy” forced adoptions in Britain. Where it is found that, despite the warnings of other states and despite the scandal caused the situation has not changed one iota. A former social worker, who is now working alongside parents threatened describes precisely this frightening mechanical and dehumanized, perfectly oiled and often illegal, which applies to all.

A system in which, midwives, psychiatrists and even school plays an active role. “Parents can not win whatever they do,” a lawyer customary analysis of this type of business. For the credo of all social services can abuse: “We try to protect children from the risk of significant harm has been identified as a possible” Either use the gun against a fragile bird.

Not only rule is exaggerated caution, but the system provides no support from family or potentially vulnerable difficulties. “The government has cut funding to contribute to the work on preventive difficult parents, forcing to support more children,” admits the social worker.

Overmedication, annihilation of family ties, destruction and crime: the consequences of these abuses are huge on children and their families. The scandal is much bigger than it is based on networks of collusion and corruption, and also generates huge profits, highlighted by the reporter. If the UK is a pioneer in the field, worrying signs exist elsewhere in Europe

* Crowned Lorenzo Natali Priz

.Stolen children in Britain: the scandal continues .

Third part of the large survey of Florence Bellone!

In 2010 and 2011 Transversales released two issues devoted to abuse the system of social protection of children in the UK, which too often leads to forced adoptions.

These reports our correspondent Florence Bellone earned him the prestigious European Lorenzo Natali Prize for Human Rights. They provoked many reactions and many letters.

Despite alarms and launched, not much has changed. Yet even states are worried. Slovakia and identified 25 cases of Slovak children removed from their parents residing in Great Britain and grabbed the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe.

As a reminder, each year, the British social services, assisted by the police, kidnap thousands of children in poor families or middle class. Based on surveys often superficial or minor complaints or bad, these families are considered socially vulnerable or suspected child abuse. Children are placed in foster care before being put up for adoption without parental consent.

The fact that European countries such as the United Kingdom knowingly removes children from their own families and do adopt without the consent of the birth parents remains, despite reports of Florence Bellone, a little known phenomenon, as affected families do not have the right to discuss their case outside the court family, let alone talk to a journalist in jail. The “gagging order” (gagging order) protects the state at the expense of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Parents have come to use alternative media to describe their ordeal and especially find their children … For two years, they are also likely to confide in Florence Bellone, since the law of silence does not broadcast outside the UK borders …

Having received numerous testimonies in families in the first two stories in this third edition, Florence Bellone investigation especially in the heart of the system itself. An investigation difficult since many system employees refuse to speak, even anonymously. His investigation uncovers downright illegal practices. It also shows the substantial financial profits generated by this system adoption for private sector adoption agencies and providers that host families are the largest property investment companies. Some agencies have an extensive portfolio to all Anglo-Saxon countries and the Far East. Our correspondent also highlights the collaboration of psychiatry doubtful that well-oiled system.

http://www.rtbf.be/lapremiere/emissions_transversales?emissionId=1005

A mother on a visit to the UK loses three children to social workers

A particularly disturbing case emerges, as the media wake up to the soaring numbers of children being taken into care.

The number of children taken into care every month has reached a record level Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM GMT 11 Feb 2012

The media, it seems, are finally waking up to the enormous increase in the number of children being taken into care in this country. It was reported last week that care applications in England are likely this year to hit an all-time record of 10,000. In just four years, the rate at which children are being removed from their parents has far more than doubled, from 380 in January 2008 to last month’s 903.

The impression we are given is that, since the torturing to death of Baby P in 2007, our social workers and courts have become much more vigilant in wishing to avert any repetition of that scandal. But this is not exactly confirmed by the fact that the percentage of children being removed for “physical abuse” has actually fallen from 12.5 per cent to 10 per cent. The proportion of those removed for “neglect” has remained the same, at 44 per cent, while that of those seized for “emotional abuse” (or just “the risk of emotional abuse”, that vague term now so fashionable among social workers as an excuse for seizing children) has risen from 25 to 28 per cent.

The real elephant in the room, however, is the seemingly ever-growing number of children who are being seized from competent and loving parents for what appear to be, at best, the flimsiest of reasons. Among half a dozen new cases which have come to my notice just in the past fortnight is that of a French mother who came to England last November with her three young daughters, for a brief visit to their father, from whom she is amicably separated. He lives with his 10-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

The day before the mother was due to return home to France with her girls, I am told that she was having a bath while the father was downstairs cutting his eldest daughter’s hair. He accidentally cut her head slightly, drawing blood, which was noticed when she arrived at school. She explained to a teacher what had happened, with the result that social workers arrived to take her into care. The father was arrested and charged with “assault, neglect and ill-treatment”.

The mother describes how she was summoned to a police station, where she was told to sign a form she didn’t even read. This later turned out to have been a Section 20 order under the Children Act, by which parents may voluntarily put their children into care. Her girls, all under six, were taken off by social workers, and the mother was herself arrested and charged with having failed to protect the oldest girl from the “assault”, even though she was elsewhere in the house. She was given police bail and her passport was removed, so that she must remain in England at very considerable expense, to face criminal trial in April.

Her children, separated from each other, are now in foster care. When, two weeks after her arrest, she attended a case meeting at the council offices, the social workers told her that they were already drawing up an adoption plan for the girls. Although she was initially allowed supervised contact with them for six hours a week, the social workers insisted that an interpreter should be present, so that they could understand the conversation between mother and daughters. Because of the difficulty and expense this entails, their contact has now been reduced to three hours a week.

Although this particular case has unusual features, in other ways it is far from untypical of stories I hear several times a week, and which raise a very large question mark over just how pleased we should be that the seizing of children is running at a record level. The BBC may continue to present to us programmes such as its current series Protecting Our Children, showing our “brave” social workers removing children from sadly dysfunctional parents who seem unable to give them proper care. But the contrast of these to the cases I report week after week, where social workers tear families apart for no good reason, supported by a dehumanised court system, could not be starker.

Our children’s minister, Tim Loughton, insists that such cases are a handful of unfortunate exceptions. If only he would listen to the evidence, he might learn how misinformed he is.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9075866/A-mother-on-a-visit-to-the-UK-loses-three-children-to-social-workers.html

A father’s nightmare

A bizarre episode involving a father’s separation from his children shows up our farcical law, says Christopher Booker.

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM BST 02 Jul 2011

Last month, a French-Italian language teacher, who had been happily bringing up his two daughters “somewhere in southern England” since their mother walked out on them seven years ago, was plunged into an inexplicable nightmare. It seemed one of his girls had been overheard by a teacher telling a friend that she had been “fighting” with her father. The girls were taken by social workers to hospital, where neither showed any marks or sign of injury – hardly surprising, since the girl and her father had merely been having an argument.

The girls were taken into care; the father was arrested by the police and allowed home on bail, although no charges have been brought. The girls attempted to smuggle notes to their father via a school friend, to say that they loved him and wanted to come home. A teacher discovered one of these notes, prompting a search of the bags of all the pupils for others.

The father was presented by a social worker with a scrawled “agreement”, laying down the strict conditions on which he could have brief “supervised contact” with his daughters once a week, any breach of which would lead to the contact being instantly terminated (such conditions being routinely imposed on parents whose children have been snatched).

One condition was that he and the children “will only speak English to each other during contact”, although they normally talk to each other in a mixture of French and Italian. The father said he was unable to sign such a document. Even though the emergency order under which the children were seized expired last Monday, the judge adjourned hearing the council’s application for an interim care order until next week. This means there is no order in force allowing the council to keep the children.

The father is utterly bemused that such “Kafka-esque events” could happen in Britain. His surprise is understandable. There is not another country in Europe where the law would allow such a bizarre episode to take place. Here, alas, the courts and our MPs have allowed it to become commonplace.

Comments on this story have been disabled for legal reasons

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8612734/A-fat…

A mother’s fall causes her to lose her child    By Christopher Booker 7:12PM GMT 15 Jan 2011

A woman who was temporarily paralysed in a fall had her baby taken into care while she lay in hospital, writes Christopher Booker

Anne Gedde

In recent months, I have reported on many disturbing examples of how our system of “family protection” has gone horribly off the rails, but none is more bizarre than this week’s. As usual, I am legally barred from identifying the mother at the centre of this case or giving many other details, but she is in her mid-thirties, has various academic qualifications and some time back returned to England after 10 years working in America. There, among other things, she had worked as a counsellor in Guantanamo Bay, but what she saw there led her to start a new career as a financial adviser.

In September 2009, after a difficult pregnancy, she gave birth to a daughter, by an old friend with whom marriage was not possible. Two months later, she was sitting on her mother’s windowsill, dressed in a coat and hat ready to go out, when she fell, snatching at a curtain in a vain attempt to save herself.

She woke up in hospital, paralysed from the neck down. Soon afterwards, a nurse handed her a phone. It was a social worker from the local council, to tell her that her daughter – who was being looked after by her sister – was to be placed in care and put up for adoption within six weeks. “I was so paralysed,” she says, “that I couldn’t wipe the tears from my eyes.”

Because she was very fit (having been something of a star athlete), she made a miraculously quick recovery, and was discharged from hospital – after a psychological evaluation which confirmed that her fall was accidental and that she posed no risk to herself or anyone else. Still, in January last year the social workers applied for an interim care order. She was told that this was because her baby was at “potential risk of harm” due to her “suicide attempt”, and that she was in a “violent relationship” – whereas there had been no man in her life for over a year.

The interim order was issued, as is routine, but the social workers were told to produce evidence for their case, and the baby was allowed to remain with the mother’s sister’s family. The mother was given a hair-strand test which, she was startled to be told, showed “traces of cocaine” and “chronic excessive drinking”, though she rarely drinks, and a re-test for cocaine was negative.

In March, another hearing was cancelled because the council’s documentation was not yet available. In April, a case management conference was cancelled because the local authority was “not prepared”. Another hearing was adjourned in May because the council’s paperwork was incomplete, and in June it was cancelled, for the same reason.

The baby was still in the care of her aunt and the mother was allowed regular visits, in the presence of a “contact supervisor”, who was impressed by the happy bonding of mother and daughter. This supervisor was invited by the mother to attend a Family Group Conference, which looked at a pile of her reports provided by the social workers. When the mother queried some of the documents’ dates, particularly one or two which were critical of her, the supervisor insisted, to general surprise, that they weren’t written by her. The social workers were asked to look into how the notes had been “edited” – but the supervisor was suspended from the case and has subsequently been given little work by the council.

In August, an order was made that the baby should be put into foster care, and that no family members other than the mother should see her. (The aunt’s young daughter, who had come to look on the baby as her own little sister, was heartbroken.) In September, the baby was placed in a foster home 35 miles away (making regular visits extremely taxing). A new contact supervisor, however, remained positive about the mother-baby relationship.

In October, an Issue Resolution Hearing was cancelled at short notice when the council’s legal team said it had not been supplied with necessary documents. In December another hearing was cancelled for the same reason. The magistrates then said they wanted the case sent to a county court.

It now seems the next hearing will be in May, 18 months after mother and child were parted. Fortunately, the mother is a bright, determined and organised woman, whose child is the centre of her life. Otherwise, subjected to such treatment, like many parents before her she might long since have cracked.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8262049/

Social services took my children

Social services took my children

Eileen Fairweather has investigated child care scandals for the past 20 years. But even she was shocked by the way an increasingly Stalinist state has torn apart one woman’s family.

Charlotte is forbidden to see her children

A mother’s nightmare: Charlotte’s children now live with a distant relative. She is forbidden from going within half a mile of their schools or residence

Photo: Alamy

10:30PM GMT 26 Feb 2011

A brilliant postgraduate recently asked me to attend a final care hearing in Britain’s notoriously secret Family Courts. She feared that social services were about to wrongly remove her children permanently from her care, and wanted a journalist to bear witness. I specialise in investigating social services, but refused. I thought this mother had a better chance of being reunited with her young children if she did nothing to provoke the authorities.

I was wrong. In January, the High Court made her daughter and son (both under 12) the subjects of a special guardianship order. They have now been placed with a distant relative they barely know and, under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989, the mother has been barred from contact until they are 18, on pain of imprisonment.

She has not been prosecuted for any kind of abuse, or committed any crime. She does not drink, smoke or use drugs, and has no mental illness. Numerous high-flying professional friends describe her as kind, stoical and a loving mother. However, her children were taken from her owing to psychological vulnerability, during a period of great stress. Social services concluded that this put them at risk of “significant harm”.

What does this tell us about modern Britain, and an arguably ever more Stalinist state? Court-ordered reporting restrictions mean that I cannot use identifying details. Charlotte, as I shall call her, was a former RAF cadet, law graduate and legal practitioner. After the court decreed that she should never see her children again, she said: “My children were deeply loved and privileged, and everything I lived for. I am trying not to remember anything because of the deep pain it causes me. I cry constantly.”

Intelligence tests place Charlotte in Britain’s top nine per cent. But she was adventurous and preferred the outdoors to offices: she had her own horse, skippered her first boat at 19, and later won a prestigious bursary enabling her to study for a vocational university degree.

She was thrilled. But she was also a single parent (to Emily and Oliver; not their real names) and struggled to cope at university. Charlotte moved to the town just before term began, with no nearby family or friends. Her ex-partner provided no support so she bought a wrecked house cheaply at auction. Her nanny proved unsuitable, so she spent hours driving between school, nursery and child-minder.

She was the only woman on her course. When a tutor postponed classes to the evening, after the nursery closed, she accused him of sexual discrimination. Her combative manner did not endear her. Her tutor accused her of “haughty” rudeness. She apologised, but felt unwelcome on the course. Meanwhile, a cascade of events brought her to the attention of social services.

Labour, in its dying days, used panic about child abuse to introduce continual monitoring of families. All state employees in contact with children are now expected continually to note and electronically pool their observations. The eight-page, 60-section Common Assessment Framework (CAF) asks invasive questions: how a child feels about its developing body; whether parents encourage cultural diversity; and if they work too hard to play with children. Labour recommended CAFs for the 50 per cent of British children it defined as “in need”.

Critics warned that this would produce a nation of snitches, and allow children to be removed through the accumulation of subjective judgments and untested tittle-tattle.

Charlotte’s plight amply illustrates this. Just before her first term began, a librarian expressed concern about Charlotte’s daughter being left in charge of her son. A police officer called shortly afterwards about her nanny’s lost passport. He reported the home’s poor condition, and an “unrelated male” on the premises (her builder).

A nursery worker noted that her son sometimes wore the same clothes as the day before, and arrived in a wet nappy (Charlotte had no hot water yet, and their morning journey took an hour). A teacher said that Charlotte’s queries about the quality of her daughter’s school meals meant that she did not cook enough at home.

A multi-agency CAF assessment was recommended. The first professionals were sympathetic. A health visitor in December 2008 described Charlotte “trying to juggle child care, studying, building work. Extra stressed this week: problems at university – timetable errors.”

Neither she nor the police saw any need for child protection, and a social worker confirmed: “Charlotte shows warmth and affection… she also has a good relationship with her health visitor and has acted on all advice given.”

Charlotte’s father’s died that Christmas. Her parents split up when she was tiny but she still mourned him deeply. She soldiered on, gained top marks and bought her daughter a pony. She wanted to provide a Swallows and Amazons childhood – she had roamed freely on her bike and horse from a young age. But that was in a vanished Britain. She could not understand why it was considered risky to let an older child temporarily mind a younger one in a library.

Grieving, isolated and exhausted, she asked the university medical centre for counselling. No one agreed who had responsibility for this incomer, who had a local and a university doctor. Ten months later, she was still not on a waiting list. On October 16 2009 she blurted out to her GP that sometimes she thought of suicide and taking her children with her, rather than leave them motherless. She says now: “I deeply regret that. My pain was acute, but I would never harm myself or my children. I had had thoughts of hurting myself – images but not plans, what is called ‘ideation’, but no intent. I did not want to hurt myself so I was seeking help to deal with the images. I was desperate to stay healthy for the sake of my children.”

Her doctor alerted social services: Charlotte needed “extra support”. But new child protection procedures – over-cautious, inflexible and based on tick lists – mean that parents needing practical help increasingly find their children wrongly classified as “at risk” rather than “in need”. Adult and children’s social services have been separated, there is almost no budget for the former and no longer a holistic approach to families: a parent in need is often treated as a threat.

The council repeatedly sought to remove her children. They were initially deflected by a psychiatrist and by police, who described happy and safe children. But a child protection plan meeting found there was a “risk of neglect”.

By January Charlotte was so stressed that she feared she could no longer cope, and made the mistake of telling social services. She thought it might secure support; instead, every word was logged and used against her.

In February 2010, Cafcass – the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – was enlisted. Britain’s secret family courts primarily rely on its judgments. If a solitary Cafcass guardian decides against a parent in a care or custody dispute, the parent is powerless. The guardians are unaccountable.

The guardian recommended within days that Charlotte’s children be removed and fostered. She was now allowed to see them only briefly once a fortnight at a “contact centre”. Three watching social workers critically analysed everything the family said and did.

On one occasion, she took her little boy to the lavatory. A male social worker ordered her not to shut the door – he wanted to watch to ensure the child’s safety. She slammed the door and was accused of assaulting the man.

Charlotte feared that the foster carer and Cafcass were asking her children increasingly leading questions about abuse. “I remember one contact session,” she says, “when Emily was crying and screaming, saying she wanted me and that I was not horrible to her. I did slap her once. It has haunted me ever since. Then they said that I’d dropped Oliver when I was feeding him and hit him round the head. It wasn’t true. I’d just told Emily jokingly once how he bit me when I was breast-feeding him and I tapped his cheek to make him stop. And there is no medical or other evidence that I ever hurt either child.

“The last time I saw them, Oliver became distressed and clung to me and made it very clear he wanted to come home with me. I believe this is the reason the Cafcass guardian claimed that she saw me pinch the children.”

Charlotte asked for further contact to be filmed, to protect her from further false allegations. Social services refused. That was the last time she saw her children, on April 28.

She felt that whatever she said was distorted. So she tape-recorded a phone call – heard by The Sunday Telegraph – asking why the guardian had removed her children. The woman said she lacked “boundaries”: Charlotte was not adept enough at hiding stress. On that basis, half Britain’s mothers might lose their children.

Cafcass commissioned a psychologist to evaluate Charlotte’s ability to parent her children. The psychologist had qualified in 2005.

The psychologist’s conclusions were not favourable. Charlotte countered by gathering dozens of letters of support. None of the witnesses were consulted or able to give evidence in court. In May 2010, Charlotte applied for the right to appeal. A local newspaper reported the court case: “Refuting the claims that she threatened to murder her children and attacked the social worker as ‘entirely false’, the mother agreed she had been ‘under great stress’.”

The court refused her permission to appeal. Charlotte was told she could write to her children weekly. “But whatever I wrote they vetted and would not send. My last letter to my daughter included memories of a day that was very special to her because she and her friends took the ponies swimming in the river. I was told off for being insufficiently ‘upbeat’ and ‘too emotive’.”

She then arranged for an assessment of her mental health by an experienced psychologist, who recommended a short course of therapy, family assessment and a gradual reunification with her children, but his advice was not taken.

Charlotte could no longer concentrate on anything save fighting for her children. She dropped out of her university course, lost her bursary – and her home. She discovered that spending on family proceedings and Cafcass has hugely increased. “Since 2008 [and Baby P], 2,000 more children are being taken by councils each year. Most councils confirm that they spend little, if anything, on residential family assessments – which case law says is mandatory to meet Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention.”

Charlotte fell apart after the final court decision over her children. “I cannot think of a way out. I have trapped myself inside a room just staring into a computer screen for eight months now because I cannot face the reality of my situation.”

The court order bars her from going within half a mile of her children’s new residence or schools. She may send cards four times a year.

“My case is a perfect example of how social services can literally take any child because there is no route of redress and no requirement for any real evidence. The courts are just there to rubber stamp whatever Cafcass recommends. There are no standards or safeguards. Any parent accused of abuse or neglect should be allowed a second, independent opinion.

“Every detail of my life has been analysed and distorted. I have been accused of enduring mental health problems simply because I left home young and for a time did not have a good relationship with my mother. I only went through normal ups and downs. But, although I briefly suffered a couple of times from depression, I was never hospitalised or medicated. I begged for my children to give evidence, a recorded contact session and a residential assessment. But everything was refused.”

I have investigated child care scandals for two decades, and am used to people contacting me with sob stories about “wicked” social services who turn out to be mad, bad or both. But Charlotte struck me as sane, decent and bright. I listened to her and talked to people who knew her case and concluded that a terrible injustice has been inflicted on her and her children.

The case against her seems a patchwork of trivial concerns, twisted together to reflect her in the worst possible light. How and why can such a thing happen? Some critics claim that children are being whisked into care to meet government targets for adoption. Conspiracy theorists talk of children being removed in order to supply paedophile or even satanic abuse rings.

Charlotte probably didn’t help her case by, in her despair, turning to this rag-bag movement and echoing some of their wilder claims on the internet and in her dealings with social services, who saw this as further proof of her instability. Yet many child care scandals have indeed revealed the presence of sex-offenders within the system: I myself exposed the shocking Islington children’s homes scandal in the Nineties. (Independent inquiries later confirmed that every one of the borough’s 12 homes included abusers, drug pushers or otherwise suspect staff.)

But just as often, it seems to me, injustices take place owing to human error – and moral laziness. At some point one key person decides to follow just one direction – the “bad mother” line – and every other professional falls into step.

Several factors, however, made Charlotte vulnerable to interference by the authorities. She was a bright, loving middle-class mother – often the easiest kind for social workers to deal with. She was no feckless, promiscuous single mother living off benefits. She was self-sufficient, Christian and celibate, and extraordinarily hard-working. She organised different activities every day for her children, fed them wholesome home-made food. But she was psychologically fragile, because of her background.

Her parents’ marriage broke up owing to her father’s drinking. Charlotte’s mother had to work hard to raise her children alone, and her feisty daughter admits that she became difficult in her teens. This culminated in her taking an overdose.

This may have weighed against her. “But,” she asks, “how many moody teenagers make half-hearted attempts like mine? I have sometimes struggled with depression, particularly after my father died, and I asked for help, but I never imagined it could be used against me like this.”

The earliest professionals involved with Charlotte’s case warmly backed her: she was a good mother doing her best. But the determination of the Cafcass worker to remove the children coloured everyone’s view. The course was set and no one dared challenge it.

Charlotte is now considering taking her case to Europe or even going on hunger strike. “That may seem crazy but legal action takes years and I don’t know what else I can do. The grief of losing your children is too much to bear.”

Why do our family courts rely on ‘hired gun’ experts?

Recent revelations bring the authority of expert witnesses called by social services into severe doubt.

David and Julie Nevin of Swansea, with their 22-month-old son Reilly - Why do our family courts rely on 'hired gun’ experts?

David and Julie Nevin of Swansea, with their 22-month-old son Reilly Photo: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency

7:00PM GMT 24 Mar 2012

There was one highly unusual thing about the newspaper report yesterday on a Welsh couple, David and Julie Nevin, whose young son was removed by social workers for nine months, with a view to possible adoption. Two paediatricians had suggested that a small bruise on the boy’s forehead was caused by parental abuse – but, in this very exceptional instance, a judge found the doctors’ evidence unconvincing and ordered the boy to be returned to his parents. Hundreds of similar cases each year remain unreported because the evidence of “experts” is almost invariably accepted by the courts.

Devastating new light was recently shed on the “expert” evidence on which our courts so crucially rely by Professor Jane Ireland’s report analysing 126 psychological reports used in family cases. A fifth of their authors, the study found, had no proper qualifications; 90 per cent were not in practice but earned their living from producing reports for social workers, and two thirds of the results were “poor” or “very poor” in quality.

The publication of this damning report, which had been delayed for six months, coincided with the reporting to the General Medical Council of another psychological “expert”, Dr George Hibbert, accused of writing hundreds of reports framed to suit the views of social workers. He had allegedly earned £6,000 a week for each family he was asked to “assess”.

A charge commonly heard against these psychiatric and medical “experts”, endorsed by countless informed observers, is that too many of them are just “hired guns”, regularly employed by social workers to come up with the evidence they need to justify removing children from their parents. Naturally, those in charge of the system are anxious to deny such claims. In 2009, Lord Justice Wall, now our senior family judge, went out of his way, in one well-publicised case (W (Children) EWCA Civ59), to claim that to regard experts as “hired guns” was “a misconception”: their impartiality was a glory of our family justice system. Yet that very case, involving the Webster family, has become a byword for the fallibility of “experts”.

Three children were taken from their parents after metaphyseal bone fractures in one of them had been diagnosed as evidence of parental abuse. When the parents refused to admit to this, a psychiatric “expert” testified that this showed they must be guilty of both physical and psychological abuse. The children were sent separately for adoption.

When the wife again became pregnant, the parents escaped to Ireland to avoid the baby being taken. But they also began to track down independent experts who might take a more informed view than that accepted by the court. Eventually no fewer than five experts, including one of the most respected paediatricians in the land, testified that the bone fractures came from natural causes. This led to the parents being allowed to keep their fourth child. But Wall ruled that, though the case was clearly distressing, it was too late to return the adopted children.

In another published judgment in 2010 (EWHC B12), Mr Justice Bellamy summarised a case that cost taxpayers more than £1 million, involving three children removed from their parents by Coventry council. Social services, which had been intervening in the family’s life for 10 years, found a psychiatrist who reported, on the basis of medical records, that the parents had been fabricating various medical conditions. Bellamy, in his judgment, excoriated this 235-page report, for which the “expert” was paid £35,000, and ordered that the children be returned to their parents.

Last year, however, Bellamy ordered the publishing of another judgment (EWHC 2011 B8), in a case I had several times reported, which arguably showed that he too was susceptible to experts whose one-sided evidence had not been questioned. The judgment (continaining several remarks directed at me, some of which he later had to retract) ordered the removal of a baby from its devoted mother, accusing her of having harmed her child, on evidence remarkably similar to that which proved so flawed in the Webster case.

I now have files full of similar examples of families torn apart on the basis of “expert” evidence. Only very occasionally do these get publicity, via a higher court. Last year, for instance, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by Judge Orrell that three children should be removed from their parents. It had been arrived at after a 15-minute hearing where a medical expert testified that bruising on one child could possibly have been caused by “pinching”. The parents had not been allowed to challenge this evidence. Mr Justice Thorpe memorably observed: “I am completely aghast at this case. There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter. Once you lose a child it is very difficult to get a child back.”

The removal of children into care by what the BBC calls our “brave” social workers is now at a record level of some 900 a month. In a Commons debate last week, Jonathan Djanogly, a junior Justice minister, stated in answer to John Hemming MP that some 90 per cent of these family care proceedings rely on the evidence of expert witnesses, the average case being based on four such reports. These make for their authors a remarkaby good living. (A senior paediatrician, a doctor tells me, can receive £100,000 for writing one.)

Recent evidence seems to confirm there is much more here which those professionals whom Mr Djangogly described as “stakeholders” would not wish to see exposed to public view.

UK social workers snatch a child from France

A baby born in France has been seized by English authorities in a landmark case.

Our 'child protection' system is tearing many families apart

English social workers seized a newborn baby from its mother in France Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM BST 31 Mar 2012

An English court recently made legal history by using EU law to authorise social workers to travel across the Channel to snatch a baby from its English parents, even though it was born in France. I have often written about pregnant mothers fleeing abroad to avoid their babies being seized as soon as they are born. But social workers have never been authorised before to track down a baby abroad to return it to a country where it has never lived. In this ground-breaking case, however, they may have overstepped the mark.

The couple emigrated to France last year when the woman became pregnant, to live with the man’s mother. They feared that if they stayed in England their child would be seized, on grounds they believed to be highly questionable. The social workers, however, were not to be deterred. After the baby’s birth, two of them arrived in France, bent on taking it back with them.

The French authorities opposed the removal of a child born in France to another country where it had no “habitual residence”. A French court agreed, though, that it should be put in local foster care until the legal issues were resolved. The social workers, insisting that they had legal authority, nevertheless took the baby back to England.

Only last week, I am told, did the distraught parents at last see the document which supposedly authorised this: a court declaration made under Article 39 of EU Regulation 2201/2003 (known in the trade as “Brussels II”). But Articles 39 and 42 of this regulation clearly lay down that such a removal from one EU country to another can only take place when “the parties” have been present in court, and that the order has been properly served on them. In this case, I gather, the parents had no knowledge of the order until after their child was taken to England.

So eager were the English social workers and courts to lay hold of this child that it seems they may have failed to follow the procedures laid down by EU law. This unhappy case could make legal history in ways they did not anticipate.

MY THOUGHTS

we have been on this case from day 1, as soon as the Mother contacted me, i passed her onto an adviser that was in Paris at the time.

I have been contacted by 5 different Parents this week, where the families have come to live in the UK,and Social Services are involved and removed all children.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9177265/UK-social-workers-snatch-a-child-from-France.html

You’ve suffered ‘care’, so you lose your child

Social workers judge that being brought up in care makes you unfit to be a parent.

Our 'child protection' system is tearing many families apart

A baby has been taken into care, because her mother was brought up in care Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM BST 07 Apr 2012

Critics of the Government’s plans to extend the secrecy of Britain’s court system are still insisting that, where courts operate behind closed doors, this is likely to allow justice to be horribly abused. They are, of course, quite right. But they do not point out that a perfect illustration of their case is what goes on daily in many of our family courts.

Last week, I learned of the case of a sensible but desperately unhappy 17-year-old, who has just lost her child forever. She herself has spent most of her life in local authority care, although she maintains that she was quite rightly taken away when young from her mother, who was a drug addict and an alcoholic.

The girl nevertheless seems to have triumphed over such adversity and, having found a boyfriend, she last year had a baby. The couple would have been only too happy to bring up the child together. The boyfriend is said to be “a brilliant dad”.

But social workers, as is their wont, told her that if she wanted to keep the baby, she must stop seeing him, and sent her for a six month “assessment”.

She apparently passed this test with flying colours and was found to be a “competent mother”. But the social workers were still not satisfied. They tried in vain to establish whether, because of her background, she might have problems with drugs or alcohol. So they then paid thousands of pounds to have her assessed by a psychological “expert”.

He could find nothing wrong with her, but he was prepared to agree with those paying his fees that, because she had been brought up in care, she might have difficulty bringing up a child. Her daughter might therefore be exposed, in that vague term beloved by social workers, to a “risk of emotional harm”.

After a great deal of public expense on three groups of lawyers, a court found, I gather, that, the young mother having been brought up in care, her daughter must now in her turn be put into care. No testimony from the mother was heard.

What does it tell us about our system of “care” when, as it seems, social workers and the judiciary are in agreement that the system is not capable of bringing up a person who is fit to look after her own child?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9191488/Youve-suffered-care-so-you-lose-your-child.html

Social workers told to return snatched baby to France

At least in this case, the family has won their baby back.

Our 'child protection' system is tearing many families apart

UK social workers have taken to snatching children abroad who have never even lived here Photo: ALAMY

6:30PM BST 26 May 2012

Two parallel stories last week highlighted what has become one of the most bizarre features of our “child protection” system – the fanatical determination of our social workers to track down mothers who have fled overseas to escape their clutches, and bring their children back to “care” in England.

On March 22, I reported, in anonymised form, the case of Joe Ollis and Marie Black, who escaped to start a new life at his mother’s home in France, so that they could keep the child they were expecting. Norfolk social workers had threatened to seize the baby as soon as it was born, because of the mother’s domestic problems in a previous relationship. The social workers were authorised by a court to go to France (at a cost of £8,000) and bring the baby back to England.

Fortunately, at a later hearing, a French journalist, who had been following this unhappy story, ran into Brendan Fleming outside the court. He is the one solicitor who has won a reputation for fighting the manifold abuses and injustices of this crazily corrupted system. He took on the case and challenged the judge’s ruling in the High Court. It appeared to have been in breach of EU law (“Brussels II” as it is known). It had also breached the famous “Hedley judgment”, by ruling that a baby born in France could be considered as having had “habitual residence” in England – even though it had never been here.

Last Monday, lawyers for Norfolk caved in. A High Court judge discharged all the earlier orders, ruling that the baby must be returned to France and closing the case (which

is why I can now name the parents and the local authority).

The social workers, I gather, have tried to protest that this is a problem, because the baby hasn’t got a passport – though this didn’t stand in the way of their bringing the child to England in the first place. But an important principle of law has been upheld, and a dreadful injustice is on the way to being reversed.

How ironic that, in the same week, Welsh social workers seemed just as determined to track down another couple, who recently escaped to Spain to avoid their child being seized at birth, because of incidents involving the mother’s previous partner.

On Thursday, after a court had placed orders on the child, even though it was born in Spain, a social worker led a team of six policemen round the homes of the mother’s divorced mother, father and sister, threatening them with prison if they did not reveal the couple’s whereabouts. At the direction of the social worker, all three homes, I gather, were searched from top to bottom.

The child’s grandmother and grandfather were separately arrested and held in custody for several hours before being released without charge. The police also confiscated parcels due to be delivered by the grandmother as part of her job, refusing to give them back.

I hope that this second awful case can also be taken on by the doughty Brendan Fleming, who for so many parents has become a shining light in the nightmare world in which they find themselves.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9291613/Social-workers-told-to-return-snatched-baby-to-France.html

A baby is still held in Norfolk, despite judge’s orders

The High Court has ruled that a child abducted by UK social workers must be returned to France.

Our 'child protection' system is tearing many families apart

UK social workers have taken to snatching children abroad who have never even lived here Photo: ALAMY

6:30PM BST 02 Jun 2012

Last week, I reported two examples of how determined our social workers can be in tracking down families that have fled overseas, to seize their children born abroad and bring them back to Britain.

The first of these concerned the baby daughter, born three months ago to Marie and Joe who, when Marie became pregnant last year, went off to live with his mother in France. Thanks to Freedom of Information requests, we now know that Norfolk social workers spent nearly £6,000 on air fares, nearly £2,000 on hotel bills, £750 on car hire, and another £9,661 on French lawyers, to bring the baby back to Norfolk. They claimed they were entitled to do so because the child was “habitually resident” in England even though it had never lived here.

This argument was accepted by a Norwich judge. But two weeks ago, in the High Court, Mr Justice Bodey ruled that, under EU law, the British courts had no jurisdiction over the child. He ordered that, by last Friday, the baby should be handed over to the French authorities, who were also expected to comply with certain conditions.

It turns out that the French social workers, who have been involved in the case since the child was born, see no reason for their further involvement. They know Joe and Marie well, have no concerns about them, and cannot see why the baby should not simply be given directly back to its parents. They also cannot understand why they should obey the orders of a British court which admits it has no jurisdiction. But the result is that, contrary to the judge’s ruling, and to the parents’ utter dismay, the child is still being held by the Norfolk social workers.

There have also been developments in the other case, involving a couple who escaped to Spain for the birth of their daughter.

Last week I described how, in an attempt to track them down, a senior Welsh social worker led six policemen to the homes, in turn, of the mother’s mother, and her father (the grandparents are divorced) and her sister. Each was threatened with imprisonment unless they revealed the mother’s whereabouts. The grandmother was arrested and held in custody for 14 hours. The grandfather was also held in custody (though he didn’t even know that his daughter had gone abroad), and, on the orders of the social worker, the police searched each of the three homes from top to bottom, confiscating laptops, mobile phones and a camera, which they said would be returned in a month.

Now, I am told, the same social worker has told the mother’s sister that her 10-year-old daughter could be taken into care. The social worker approached the girl’s school, where a robust head teacher apparently said that he knew the family well. He and his staff had no concerns over the girl, one of their star pupils, and could see no reason for any intervention by social services. So this unhappy drama continues.

Again the question arises, as in many other cases I have followed: why did those policemen seem so willing to obey the orders of a social worker, when there appear to be no good reasons for the state to be involved in the lives of this family at all?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9307113/A-baby-is-still-held-in-Norfolk-despite-judges-orders.html

The baby abducted from France is still being kept from its parents

Social workers display an astonishing contempt for the High Court.

UK social workers have taken to snatching children abroad who have never even lived here - The baby abducted from France is still being kept from its parents

UK social workers have taken to snatching children abroad who have never even lived here Photo: ALAMY

6:30PM BST 09 Jun 2012

One of many things to surprise me, as I have investigated the nightmarish underworld of our “child protection” system, has been the contemptuous way in which our social workers seem so willing to disobey the orders of judges. This is the third week running when I have had to report on an order given by Mr Justice Bodey in the High Court on May 21, that Norfolk social workers must, “as soon as practicable”, return to France a baby born in France to an English couple who last year settled there.

These council officials had spent nearly £20,000 of taxpayers’ money travelling to France to seize the baby, on the argument that it was “habitually resident” in England, even though it had never lived here. Judge Bodey rejected their bizarre argument, ruling that the English courts had no jurisdiction over the child. He discharged the orders made by a lower court and ruled that the child must be returned to France no later than June 1.

The social workers at first said they could not meet this deadline, because the baby didn’t have a passport (though that had not prevented them from bringing it to England in the first place). A stream of emails from the lawyers representing the distraught mother were ignored, until finally the council was threatened with further legal proceedings and the social workers agreed to return the child to France. But now they say they cannot do so until June 15 because one of them is on holiday.

It is truly remarkable that, while some 200 mothers a year are imprisoned for “contempt of court”, for breaching orders made by judges in family cases, when social workers similarly show contempt for court orders, they and the councils they work for seem to believe they can do so with impunity.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9320905/The-baby-abducted-from-France-is-still-being-kept-from-its-parents.html

A baby comes home – but a mother remains in jail

A girl taken from her parents in France has finally been returned, but Vicky Haigh’s case has no such happy ending

Joe Ollis and Marie Black with their daughter Luna, newly returned home

Joe Ollis and Marie Black with their daughter Luna, newly returned home

7:00PM BST 07 Jul 2012

There were contrasting outcomes last week to two of the stories I have been reporting involving parents whose children were removed from them by our family courts. In France there were tears of joy when Marie Black and Joe Ollis were reunited with their baby daughter Luna, born in France in February but then seized by Norfolk social workers, to be brought back to England to live in foster care. Although this action had been sanctioned by a British court, a High Court judge ruled in May that the seizure was illegal, because Luna was born in France and was therefore outside UK jurisdiction.

Despite further prevarication by the social workers, they eventually obeyed the judge’s order that the child should be returned to France. Last week, finally, Luna was handed by a French court back to her parents. “At first,” they tell me, “she was quiet and withdrawn after her time in foster care, but now she is alert and cheerful.”

This is a landmark case which should give cheer to those scores of parents who flee abroad for the birth of children threatened with seizure by our social workers. For this reason, perhaps the British taxpayer’s expenditure on this episode – estimated at £250,000 or more – was not entirely wasted.

Rather less happy was the outcome of the Court of Appeal hearing on Wednesday at which, as I reported last week, the former racehorse trainer Vicky Haigh awaited a response to her appeal against a three-year prison sentence for breaching a “non-molestation order”. The order had prohibited any further contact with the daughter whom Miss Haigh had lived with for the first seven years of the girl’s life. The breach occurred when she walked by chance into a petrol station and saw her daughter sitting alone in her ex-husband’s car. She opened the door to speak to her, the girl’s father came back, and there followed a brief, heated exchange, lasting under a minute. For this, Miss Haigh received the longest sentence, by far, ever handed down for any breach of such an order, even those involving physical violence.

Only allowed to observe Wednesday’s hearing via a video link to her prison in Yorkshire, she heard allegations that she had been planning to kidnap her daughter (for which no evidence has ever been produced), and reference to a very hostile judgment on her case made last year by Lord Justice Wall, head of the family courts, which he ordered to be published. The judges agreed to reduce her sentence by nine months, the most they could consider without allowing her, under the rules, to be freed immediately.

John Hemming MP, who has followed her case closely, described her unprecedented sentence as “ridiculously harsh for what was a minor technical breach of a court order”. That same morning, one newspaper reported that a woman who had a long record of criminal violence and had been found guilty of breaking a champagne bottle over one man’s head, then using it to stab another, walked free from court with a suspended 12-month sentence. The report was headlined “What does it take to be jailed?” The answer may lie , Mr Hemming suggests, more in the fact that Miss Haigh has been outspokenly critical of the failings of our family court system than in that brief encounter in a petrol station.

Adoption halted as court told baby milk led to ‘innocent’ couple being accuse of abuse

Adoption halted as court told baby milk led to ‘innocent’ couple being accuse of abuse

Vitamin supplements in baby milk may have led an innocent couple being condemned for battering their newborn son, a top family judge has heard

Adoption halted as court told baby milk led to 'innocent' couple being accuse of abuse

Adoption halted as court told baby milk led to ‘innocent’ couple being accuse of abuse Photo: ALAMY

By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor

11:58AM BST 20 Sep 2012

The boy, who cannot be named, was taken away from his parents and was poised to be adopted after multiple broken bones were put down to child abuse.

But Lord Justice McFarlane halted the process yesterday after hearing how an extraordinary combination of medical events could have led to a case of congenital rickets being overlooked.

The parents, who have fought a three-year custody battle, have been given a final chance to get their son back.

It came after lawyers had what they described as a “light bulb moment” and understood the full significance of the child’s medical records.

Michael Shrimpton, for the family, who are from the north of England, told the Court of Appeal in London that there is evidence that the boy was born with a Vitamin D deficiency, inherited from his mother, leading to “soft bones” and rickets.

It suggests that the broken bones could have occurred during his difficult forceps birth, or even in the womb.

Blood tests to check for signs of vitamin deficiency, when the boy was four weeks old were normal.

But the court heard hat it is possible that it was “masked” by the formula milk given to him by his mother – which contained Vitamin D supplements.

He added that there was “striking” evidence of severe abnormalities in the functioning of the baby boy’s liver, an organ instrumental in processing Vitamin D.

The judge temporarily halted the adoption process and ordered urgent medical reports.

Having a child taken away is an “exceptionally awful” ordeal, he remarked, adding that it was essential to examine whether the Vitamin D deficiency explanation for the boy’s injuries was “more than an intellectual possibility”.

He also noted that there was no evidence of emotional difficulties, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, or any signs of dysfunction within the family, to indicate a risk of child abuse.

Mr Shrimpton said that one of the country’s top endocrinologists, Professor Stephen Nussey, who has carried out pioneering work on the causes and effects of Vitamin D deficiency, will be instructed to carry out that task if he is available at short notice.

Observing that medical knowledge on the causes of infant injuries is in a state of constant movement, the barrister added: “This is an important case. It is starting to take on the appearance of a leading test case”.

After hearing expert evidence in June last year, a judge at Sheffield High Court ruled that one or other of the parents must have been responsible for the baby’s injuries. The same judge refused to change her mind earlier this year and freed the boy for adoption.

However, Lord Justice McFarlane observed: “Medical knowledge of how some children may have bones that are more susceptible to injury than normal children has moved on”.

Emphasising the extreme urgency of the case in light of plans for the boy’s imminent adoption, the judge gave the parents 28 days to obtain a report from Professor Nussey, or another expert, in support of their case.

The local authority involved in the case had informed the Appeal Court that suitable adoptive parents have already been found for the boy but no further steps in the process would be taken prior to the court ruling on the case.

The case will return to the Appeal Court once the expert medical report has been obtained.

The worst scandal I have seen in my 50-year career

Our ‘child protection’ system is severely dysfunctional, but it has not come to the centre of national attention because it hides its workings behind a veil of secrecy

A mother and her daughter have been fighting a care order - Child protection system tears two more happy families apart

One mother had her child taken away after falling out of a window and becoming temporarily paralysed. Social workers portrayed it as a suicide bid, and her as an alcoholic and a drug addict Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM BST 13 Oct 2012

Scarcely a week goes by without more evidence emerging to indicate that our “child protection” system is so dysfunctional that it should be looked on as a major national scandal. On one hand, we see the number of applications by social workers to take children into care soaring to nearly 1,000 a month, having more than doubled in the four years since the tragedy of Baby P. On the other, we hear of horrific episodes, like those recently reported from Rochdale and Rotherham, where social workers and police turned a blind eye to the systematic mass-rape of underage girls, many themselves in state care.

For three years I have been investigating scores of cases of children seized from their parents for what appear to be quite absurd reasons. This outrage has not yet come to the centre of national attention only because our child protection system hides its workings behind a veil of secrecy. I have been amazed to discover how our family courts routinely turn all the cherished principles of British justice upside down. The most bizarre allegations, based on hearsay, can be levelled against parents who are then denied the right to challenge them.

Although I have reported on several such cases more than once, they drag on through the courts so long that I haven’t been able to explain how they ended. I summarise three of them here to indicate why this is the most disturbing story I have covered in all my years as a journalist.

The fateful fall

My first case centres on a mother who, five months after the birth of her daughter, fell from a first-floor window. Lying in hospital, temporarily paralysed from the neck down, she took a call from a social worker who told her that her baby was being taken into care. Although no one had suggested that her fall was anything other than an accident, the social workers made out that it was a suicide bid and that she was an alcoholic and a drug addict. A psychiatric report and clinical tests found that none of these accusations were true.

The mother had to make a weekly 80-mile round trip to have “supervised contact” with her daughter. The contact supervisor wrote glowing reports on how closely they seemed to be bonded. But when, at a case conference, a social worker was challenged by the supervisor for having excised any references to this from her reports, it was the supervisor the council suspended. After a succession of hearings at which, I gather, the judge became increasingly impatient with the social workers for their sloppy handling of paperwork and repeated requests for adjournments, it seemed the case was going the mother’s way. Her wish for her daughter to be returned to her was supported by the child’s “guardian” (an official appointed by the court to represent the child’s interests).

But then, for no clear reason, fortune swung back the other way. Two years after the case began, the judge ruled that the child should be sent for adoption. As the mother made a final plea to the Appeal Court, a lurid report in the local paper repeated all the original claims of the social workers: that the mother was an alcoholic, a drug addict and had tried to commit suicide. A family friend tells me she witnessed the distraught mother being allowed a “goodbye session” with her daughter, the centre of her life for three years, whom she will never be allowed to see again.

The runaways

My second case centres on a mother who fled to Ireland with her teenage son because social workers had been making enquiries about them, due to the fact that the father, who had been out of their lives for six years, was an alcoholic prone to violence. When they had been happily settled in their new home for six months, with the boy doing well at school, British social workers brought the father to Ireland and persuaded an Irish judge, on evidence that mother and son were not allowed to see, to order the boy’s deportation back to England. He was so depressed that he attempted suicide. (I spoke to the boy in hospital shortly afterwards).

After being taken to England, the boy was placed in foster care, where he managed repeatedly to convey to his mother that he was desperately unhappy. Although bright, he was initially sent to a special needs school, where he was bullied for being so different from the others. He was denied the right to attend court to express his wishes, in contravention of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights. Neither he nor the mother had anyone to speak up for them and, although there is no evidence that she ever harmed her son, it was ruled that he must remain in foster care until he is 18 (normally, children are released from care when they are 16). The mother continues to work in Ireland, denied any further contact with her son until he is old enough to return to her.

Parents who lost their six children

My third case is the strangest and most disturbing of any I have covered. I first came to it shortly after the mother of a large family had given birth to her sixth child. Her new baby had been torn from her arms in a hospital bed by six policemen and three social workers just three hours after the birth. Three months earlier, the social workers had removed five older children from the family home in the belief that the mother was a “sex worker” engaged in child trafficking with her husband, whom they claimed was not the father of any of the children. The social workers also had a letter, allegedly written by one of the children, claiming that her mother had beaten her.

What made all this particularly odd was that, one by one, these claims seemed to crumble. DNA tests showed that the children all came from the husband. The letter was in a different hand from that of the child supposed to have written it, but no graphological tests were allowed and it was eventually admitted that the letter had been “destroyed”.

For a time, the parents were allowed occasional supervised contact with their children, although for this they had to travel for four hours. The oldest child claimed at one meeting that she had been sexually interfered with in her foster home – after which she was never allowed to see her parents again.

But the case against them began to seem so flimsy that the baby was returned to them. However, they subsequently took the baby to a hospital to ask for advice on a puzzling complaint. A junior doctor carried out blood tests which apparently showed nothing amiss, but when the family’s name came up on a computer, the social workers were summoned. More tests were carried out, the parents were accused of giving their child a dangerous drug and the baby was again taken into care.

Events then took a still more serious turn. The couple were arrested, accused of planning to abduct their older children (even though they had no idea where they were) and fly them abroad in a private plane. They were sent to prison on remand, while a long list of further charges was compiled, ranging from physical abuse of their children to a claim that they had sought to kill the baby.

At their trial, 44 prosecution witnesses were called. Only two were allowed for the defence. The children spoke on video link, but their parents were not allowed to question them. The parents were given long prison sentences and a family court then ruled that the children must all be sent for adoption.

However odd all this may seem, I know enough about this family, and a story I have followed since 2010, to believe that it represents a travesty of justice which says much about what our child protection system has become.

NOW A WAVE OF WARMIST ALARM WASHES OVER THE BARRIER REEF

One global warming mini-scare has barely faded away – with the realisation that polar ice is not vanishing, the extent of Antarctic sea-ice having just broken all records – when the next arrives.

A paper from the US National Academy of Sciences claims that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral in 27 years and could soon be all but gone. Nearly half this loss, apparently, is due to damage from the more frequent cyclones brought by man-made global warming. Much of the rest is caused by coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, fostered by warming seas.

One puzzle is that no one has noticed such a scary loss of coral before. (Even the researchers admit that undamaged coral is still growing at nearly 3 per cent a year.) Another is that the evidence indicates cyclones being more frequent in the past than recently. Similarly, rises and falls in that starfish population are a natural phenomenon, nothing new.

As yet another scarelet bites the dust, part of the explanation may lie in the fact that researching into the world’s largest coral reef has become a £130 million a year industry. Governments are not going to pay out that kind of money just to be told that nature is doing what nature does.

Judge approves seizing a baby born abroad, against EU law

In a disturbing extension of social workers’ powers, a child born in Spain has been deported to the UK

A mother and her daughter have been fighting a care order - Child protection system tears two more happy families apart

Babies that have never lived in Britain have been seized and brought here – contrary to EU law Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM GMT 03 Nov 2012

There has been a very disturbing development in the case of a Welsh couple who fled to Spain in March to prevent social workers seizing their baby, which was born a month later. For months, the child lived happily with her mother, who set about building a new life, taking out a long lease on a flat and starting a business.

She took heart from the story of Marie Black, who fled to France with her partner last year to avoid their expected child being snatched. Although Norfolk social workers were authorised by one judge to bring the child back to Britain, another judge then ruled that, under an EU law known as “Brussels II”, this was illegal, because the child was never “habitually resident” anywhere but France. He ordered that the baby be returned to its parents.

For the mother in Spain there was to be no such happy ending. In September, the social workers enlisted the aid of the Spanish police in deporting her baby to Britain – as was retrospectively approved by a British judge, despite her QC arguing that this was illegal under Brussels II. The judge rejected the argument, and refused the mother leave to appeal. The QC drafted a case for leave to appeal, arguing that bringing the child to Britain was illegal under both EU law and Spanish law, since the child should not have been removed from Spanish jurisdiction without permission from a Spanish judge.

A question now arose, however, as to whether the Legal Services Commission would fund a further hearing. Ian Josephs, who runs the Forced Adoption website, contacted the mother’s solicitors offering to underwrite any funds required, but did not receive an acknowledgement – any more than I did last week when I asked the solicitors whether the case was proceeding. (They were quick to send my email on to the council, however, which contacted me because it was desperate not to be identified.)

The distraught mother has now totally disappeared so that even her partner and her own mother do not know what has happened to her. John Hemming, the only MP who campaigns on such issues, describes this case as “truly appalling. It appears to give the social workers licence to go anywhere abroad to seize children who have never lived here, in clear breach of the law as it was still being upheld by the High Court as recently as last May.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9652763/Judge-approves-seizi

Father banned from family home by social workers over unfounded allegations

Father banned from family home by social workers over unfounded allegations

A father of four who was forced out of his own home by social workers over unfounded allegations of sexual abuse has been reunited with his family.

A father of four who was forced out of his own home by social workers over unfounded allegations of sexual abuse has been reunited with his family.

Man cleared of child abuse at Derby Family Court and allowed to rejoin his family. Photo: RII SCHROER

By Patrick Sawer

9:30PM BST 25 Jul 2009

In a three-year ordeal, 48-year-old ‘Anthony’ remained barred from living with his wife and younger children even after a jury acquitted him on 15 charges of abusing his eldest daughter.

Despite reports from schools and independent assessors which raised no concerns over the children’s welfare, Derbyshire social services decided not to accept the ‘not guilty’ verdict of the criminal trial, and instead to take the case to a family court, where there is a lesser burden of proof.

That tactic failed on Friday when a family court judge found that none of the allegations against Anthony, a care worker, had been proved.

Following the judge’s verdict, he told The Sunday Telegraph: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed and overjoyed. It’s such a relief to be able to go home now and be with my family again and see my children normally instead of for just a few hours a week.

“It was the intention of social services to split me and my wife up, but they have only made us stronger.”

Anthony’s wife ‘Christine’ – who has backed him at every stage – said: “Justice has been done at last and it’s absolutely fantastic. There were many times when I feared we would not win because it felt the entire system was against us. But now we can go home together and start rebuilding our family life.”

Christine, a computer consultant, added: “We were persecuted because social services refused to change their attitude and admit their mistakes.”

The churchgoing couple, who live in a detached house in a country town, found their life turned upside down three years ago when their eldest daughter, now in her early twenties, accused her father of having sexually abused her since the age of 12. The shocking claim came after a series of angry teenage rows with her parents over her future education and the kind of boyfriend she was seeing.

The rows culminated in the daughter leaving the family home and telling her boyfriend that she had been sexually abused by her father.

The boyfriend reported this to police, who arrested Anthony in spring 2007. Four months later he was charged with sexual abuse and released on bail.

Christine said: “We were totally stunned. We had never had any trouble from her before and she had always got on so brilliantly with her dad. It was a complete bolt from the blue.”

When Anthony was eventually cleared of all charges, following a four day trial in April last year, during which his eldest daughter gave evidence against him,

the couple were ecstatic.

But a further bombshell awaited them. A few days later social services informed them the not-guilty verdict had made little difference to their attitude.

Christine, 42, said: “Social services said there was not enough evidence to prove he was not a risk to the children. Despite my husband being found not guilty by a jury they wanted to hold a family court hearing to determine that on the balance of probabilities something had taken place. That’s a far lower standard of proof than was required in the crown court.”

Last December, five months after Anthony’s acquittal, social services told him that if he didn’t leave the family home altogether they would start proceedings to have his daughters taken into care.

This came despite the fact the girls were being regularly interviewed by independent welfare professionals – who reported no concerns about their

home lives – and that social services had up until that point agreed to Anthony living at home

The girls’ primary and secondary schools even wrote letters to the social services department saying they had no concerns about their welfare.

At the same time, a report by social workers handling the case admitted: “There appear to be no concerns with regard to their [the children’s] presentation. There are been no concerns expressed with regard to the parents’ capacity to parent their children. Social care recognise that the children are not currently presenting in a concerning way.”

Yet despite the report noting that Anthony had been found not guilty of all charges, it still insisted that “he presents as a potential risk to the children”.

Desperate not to have the children taken into care, Anthony moved out just before the New Year into rented accommodation five miles from the family home.

He was only allowed to see his other daughters for two hours a day, under supervision.

Last week a family court in Derby held a hearing to determine whether Anthony posed a threat to his children or could be allowed home.

Following several days of evidence, in which the couple’s eldest daughter again took the stand against her father, Judge James Orrell found in favour of Anthony.

He said: “This has been one of the most difficult fact-finding hearings of this kind I’ve had to deal with. The evidence on both sides has been finely balanced.

“Although I do not find that [the couple’s eldest daughter] has lied to me, her evidence has not persuaded me that on the balance of probability her father sexually assaulted her. I do not find any of the allegations proved.”

The Judge also found that Christine had acted in the best interests of her daughters at all times.

Though jubilant at the outcome, the case has left Anthony and Christine bitter. Christine, who was supported by John Hemming MP, said: “Social services don’t have many resources but they don’t seem to be able to focus on the right priorities. Instead they focus on easy targets like us.

“We are a nice, quiet, middle-class family they feel they can just push around and bully. ‘B’, the original social worker, believed my daughter’s claims, that became the official line, and it’s hard for that sort of institution to change its view.”

Derbyshire social services said: “We always act in what we believe to be the best interests of the children involved. We believed we had grounds for pursuing this case and we await the final judgement in four to five weeks’ time.”

* Names have been changed to protect their identities.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/5906213/Father-banned-from-family-home-by-social-workers-over-unfounded-allegations.html

YVONNE STORY

YVONNE STORY

Yvonnes Story – UK Social Services Tried to Take my Granddaughter – A Families HellBy Teresa | 23rd Mar 2009 | in Forced Adoption StoriesimageYvonne Stewart-Taylors Granddaughter was born in the U.S.A. on 26th May 2002 after her Mother went into premature labour 3.5 months early on a beach in Mexico. Her parents were transported by Air ambulance to University of San Diego hospital where the labour could not be halted. The little one was born by emergency ceaserian section weighing in at just 2lb 6oz. The baby stayed in intensive care for 10 weeks during which time I visited the new family and tried to help support them.She had only a 50% chance of survival. It cost Barclays travel insurance over $1 million for her intensive care. In August 2002 she was flown by Air Ambulance from San Diego to Newcastle Upon Tyne where we were told we would have a problem getting her into the British system because she came into the U.K. without a passport and holds an American Birth certificate only.We were at a loss as to how, at a time of heightened national security, S.A.G.A, working on behalf of Barclays insurance could have managed to bring her into the UK illegally. FromNewcastle she was brought by ambulance to Lancaster Royal Infirmary and later discharged. Finally we had her home. As a caring family we all cared for her and loved her, she was and still is the centre of our Universe.On Jan 03, 2003 she was admitted to hospital with a severe chest infection, remaining there for a few days and then sent home with a broken femur. I asked for a full inquiry into how this could have occurred. A locum pedeatrician at Lancaster diagnosed “Non-accidental Injuries” and Social Services took out an interim care order; accusing the family of child abuse.We asked them to wait until doctors in San Diego could be consulted. We were refused. We endured 8 months of child care proceedings and had to fight the system. When San Diego Doctors finally sent e-mails to her Mother stating she had been born with significant OOP (osteopenia of prematurity); a bone condition which effects premature infants.We had been told that if one of six family members did not admit to hurting her she would be placed for adoption. We were all questioned by police regarding child abuse, including her great grandfather who had lost his wife (my Mother) a few months previously to terminal cancer. Police asked him why he came to visit us so regularly?After 8 months the family court dispersed the child protection case to Australia, where after a few weeks it was disposed of as a waste of their time and resources. We had seen her for only 2 hours per week for 8 months, under social services supervision. Some weeks we didn’t see her at all because social services didn’t have enough staff.We went through hell.Had it not have been for the arrival into the UK, from Australia of her maternal grandmother, social services would have removed her from her birth family -she was still being breast fed at the time, and social services had no mother and child foster provision to place her in. Her Australian granny oversaw her care 24/7 without respite for 8 months; preventing them from being able to take our granddaughter away.We were made to prove our innocence and treated like criminals. The social workers were so set on an agenda of ‘baby for adoption’ that one even changed the wording of the Australian social worker’s report to try and mislead the Court. Pergery of a document admitted to court. Social services went to great length to protect her from the mixed-race paternal family.Later, when we complained, they admitted partially discriminating against us on racial grounds. They were not compliant with The Amended Race Relations Act, and had inadequate policies in place.Our suffering and sense of loss was immense. We had all endured 8 months of hell.We celebrated when the Family Court judge said we could bring her home and her parents could then take her to be with her Australian family. We were sad to see them go but relieved that social services had to let go. She had been neglected by the NHS, we had been falsely accused, and yet she did not become another of the thousands of children who have been wrongly removed from their birth families and illegally adopted in the UK. Our one saving grace was American Doctors’ e-mails and the fact that she is an American Citizen with no claim to British Citizenship until her parents are married, which to date they are not.Had social services placed her for adoption to a UK couple they would have contravened international law.We have exhausted all the complaints procedures only to either be ignored or fobbed off. The NHS were presented with our formal complaint along with the police in December 06 and to date the NHS has not answered our complaint. Social services have refused to answer the Australian complaint and the police have not addressed our concerns either.My Husband who works for Cumbria Constabulary has, twice in the last two years, faced disciplinary action directly associated with this case and could lose his job after 6 months of investigation into his alleged misconduct at work. The authorities are now hell bent on making us criminals.Not one family member has ever been prosecuted or charged with any offense yet we are listed on a secret police intelligence computer as ‘prospective child abusers’.We have requested the removal of our names and been refused. My Son, his daughter and her Mother do not feel safe to return to the UK, as the social worker has said he will get her next time. It has cost us approx £25,000 and the Australian family the loss of their home, business and caused the family unit of 30 years to almost breakdown. We fear that due to the stress of it all her parents relationship will not endure much longer. The good name and character of our families has been tarnished and I can no longer function normally day to day. I lost my jobs, and fear my husband will soon lose his. We will be forced to sell our home and leave the UK in the near future. Institutionally racist Cumbrian Authorities have done us and our granddaughter nothing but harm and they are not even going to be dealt with, for this huge miscarriage of justice.People aware of this case.Tony Blair Prime Minister, Margaret Hodge Minister for Children, John Hemming MP, Beverly Hughes Minister for Children, Tim Collins MP, Tim Farron MP, Chief Constable Baxter (Cumbria Constabulary), Joan Stocker, County Council.Non can intervene in individual cases or right the wrongs of the flawed family courts. The only chance we have of justice, is to go to the European Courts with others who have had their families torn apart.We are fortunate we still have our granddaughter. The sad reality is that the UK child protection racket is nothing more than a liscence for the Family Law Franchises to make money, at tax payers expense and rip innocent families apart for financial gain. Sadly while vital recourses are wasted on innocent families, children who really need protection are being abused. Many thousands of pounds of tax payers money have been wasted on this case to protect what was essentially an illegal immigrant.US congress are also aware of this case involving one of their citizens and we intend to tell this story as widely as we can in three countries in the hope of naming and shaming those who havedeliberately abused us as a family. We want to raise awareness of this case in the hope that it will highlight the abuse of innocent families in the UK by Government Agencies who appear to be a law unto themselves and answerable to none. We believe that this case sets a president as American Dr’s as well as UK Dr’s were involved. If we had relied on UK Doctors we would have certainly lost her to the system. The fact remains that she is not even British.The current system is flawed, open to abuse and damaging or destroying families. How much longer can this continue? Why do social workers have and abuse, so much power?Note. I am not bound by the Court’s gagging orders to be silent as I was never a party to Proceedings. The parents do not have the same freedom I have to speak about this, as they are bound by the courts not to speak about it. I have deliberately concealed names to protect the innocent. I do feel strongly that this case should be made public, especially if it raises the profile enough to force changes to occur in the future and prevent others from enduring what we have been through. No, family should have to suffer as we have done.Incidentally, our family were interviewed re-child abuse by my husbands work colleagues, is it any wonder we are still being looked at and treated like criminals by local police? Policiesand procedures have not been followed by Social Services or the Police.

Yvonnes Story – UK Social Services Tried to Take my Granddaughter – A Families HellBy Teresa |23rd Mar 2009 | in Forced Adoption StoriesimageYvonne Stewart-Taylors Granddaughter was born in the U.S.A. on 26th May 2002 after her Mother went into premature labour 3.5 months early on a beach in Mexico. Her parents were transported by Air ambulance to University of San Diego hospital where the labour could not be halted. The little one was born by emergency ceaserian section weighing in at just 2lb 6oz. The baby stayed in intensive care for 10 weeks during which time I visited the new family and tried to help support them.She had only a 50% chance of survival. It cost Barclays travel insurance over $1 million for her intensive care. In August 2002 she was flown by Air Ambulance from San Diego to Newcastle Upon Tyne where we were told we would have a problem getting her into the British system because she came into the U.K. without a passport and holds an American Birth certificate only.We were at a loss as to how, at a time of heightened national security, S.A.G.A, working on behalf of Barclays insurance could have managed to bring her into the UK illegally. FromNewcastle she was brought by ambulance to Lancaster Royal Infirmary and later discharged. Finally we had her home. As a caring family we all cared for her and loved her, she was and still is the centre of our Universe.On Jan 03, 2003 she was admitted to hospital with a severe chest infection, remaining there for a few days and then sent home with a broken femur. I asked for a full inquiry into how this could have occurred. A locum pedeatrician at Lancaster diagnosed “Non-accidental Injuries” and Social Services took out an interim care order; accusing the family of child abuse.We asked them to wait until doctors in San Diego could be consulted. We were refused. We endured 8 months of child care proceedings and had to fight the system. When San Diego Doctors finally sent e-mails to her Mother stating she had been born with significant OOP (osteopenia of prematurity); a bone condition which effects premature infants.We had been told that if one of six family members did not admit to hurting her she would be placed for adoption. We were all questioned by police regarding child abuse, including her great grandfather who had lost his wife (my Mother) a few months previously to terminal cancer. Police asked him why he came to visit us so regularly?After 8 months the family court dispersed the child protection case to Australia, where after a few weeks it was disposed of as a waste of their time and resources. We had seen her for only 2 hours per week for 8 months, under social services supervision. Some weeks we didn’t see her at all because social services didn’t have enough staff.We went through hell.Had it not have been for the arrival into the UK, from Australia of her maternal grandmother, social services would have removed her from her birth family -she was still being breast fed at the time, and social services had no mother and child foster provision to place her in. Her Australian granny oversaw her care 24/7 without respite for 8 months; preventing them from being able to take our granddaughter away.We were made to prove our innocence and treated like criminals. The social workers were so set on an agenda of ‘baby for adoption’ that one even changed the wording of the Australian social worker’s report to try and mislead the Court. Pergery of a document admitted to court. Social services went to great length to protect her from the mixed-race paternal family.Later, when we complained, they admitted partially discriminating against us on racial grounds. They were not compliant with The Amended Race Relations Act, and had inadequate policies in place.Our suffering and sense of loss was immense. We had all endured 8 months of hell.We celebrated when the Family Court judge said we could bring her home and her parents could then take her to be with her Australian family. We were sad to see them go but relieved that social services had to let go. She had been neglected by the NHS, we had been falsely accused, and yet she did not become another of the thousands of children who have been wrongly removed from their birth families and illegally adopted in the UK. Our one saving grace was American Doctors’ e-mails and the fact that she is an American Citizen with no claim to British Citizenship until her parents are married, which to date they are not.Had social services placed her for adoption to a UK couple they would have contravened international law.We have exhausted all the complaints procedures only to either be ignored or fobbed off. The NHS were presented with our formal complaint along with the police in December 06 and to date the NHS has not answered our complaint. Social services have refused to answer the Australian complaint and the police have not addressed our concerns either.My Husband who works for Cumbria Constabulary has, twice in the last two years, faced disciplinary action directly associated with this case and could lose his job after 6 months of investigation into his alleged misconduct at work. The authorities are now hell bent on making us criminals.Not one family member has ever been prosecuted or charged with any offense yet we are listed on a secret police intelligence computer as ‘prospective child abusers’.We have requested the removal of our names and been refused. My Son, his daughter and her Mother do not feel safe to return to the UK, as the social worker has said he will get her next time. It has cost us approx £25,000 and the Australian family the loss of their home, business and caused the family unit of 30 years to almost breakdown. We fear that due to the stress of it all her parents relationship will not endure much longer. The good name and character of our families has been tarnished and I can no longer function normally day to day. I lost my jobs, and fear my husband will soon lose his. We will be forced to sell our home and leave the UK in the near future. Institutionally racist Cumbrian Authorities have done us and our granddaughter nothing but harm and they are not even going to be dealt with, for this huge miscarriage of justice.People aware of this case.Tony Blair Prime Minister, Margaret Hodge Minister for Children, John Hemming MP, Beverly Hughes Minister for Children, Tim Collins MP, Tim Farron MP, Chief Constable Baxter (Cumbria Constabulary), Joan Stocker, County Council.Non can intervene in individual cases or right the wrongs of the flawed family courts. The only chance we have of justice, is to go to the European Courts with others who have had their families torn apart.We are fortunate we still have our granddaughter. The sad reality is that the UK child protection racket is nothing more than a liscence for the Family Law Franchises to make money, at tax payers expense and rip innocent families apart for financial gain. Sadly while vital recourses are wasted on innocent families, children who really need protection are being abused. Many thousands of pounds of tax payers money have been wasted on this case to protect what was essentially an illegal immigrant.US congress are also aware of this case involving one of their citizens and we intend to tell this story as widely as we can in three countries in the hope of naming and shaming those who havedeliberately abused us as a family. We want to raise awareness of this case in the hope that it will highlight the abuse of innocent families in the UK by Government Agencies who appear to be a law unto themselves and answerable to none. We believe that this case sets a president as American Dr’s as well as UK Dr’s were involved. If we had relied on UK Doctors we would have certainly lost her to the system. The fact remains that she is not even British.The current system is flawed, open to abuse and damaging or destroying families. How much longer can this continue? Why do social workers have and abuse, so much power?Note. I am not bound by the Court’s gagging orders to be silent as I was never a party to Proceedings. The parents do not have the same freedom I have to speak about this, as they are bound by the courts not to speak about it. I have deliberately concealed names to protect the innocent. I do feel strongly that this case should be made public, especially if it raises the profile enough to force changes to occur in the future and prevent others from enduring what we have been through. No, family should have to suffer as we have done.Incidentally, our family were interviewed re-child abuse by my husbands work colleagues, is it any wonder we are still being looked at and treated like criminals by local police? Policiesand procedures have not been followed by Social Services or the Police.

If We Cut Legal Aid, Do Families Not Bleed?

If We Cut Legal Aid, Do Families Not Bleed?

Camilla Cavendish
September 30 2010

As a poignant case in Coventry illustrates, slashing legal help for vulnerable people could prove disastrous.

Two days ago, the parents of three children won the right to name the local authority that had tried three times to take those children into care before admitting that it lacked the evidence to support its claims. Coventry City Council landed taxpayers with a £400,000 bill, which Judge Clifford Bellamy, sitting in the High Court, said was a “matter of concern” when the “children were happy, settled and, within the bounds of what is possible in the confines of their overcrowded home, well cared for.”

On the day that the High Court is due to rule on a last-ditch attempt to save the legal aid contracts of 1,100 family law firms, this is a story that shows just how much we need legal aid and how it can be abused.

In 2002, after the couple’s second child was born prematurely, Coventry council was contacted by a health worker who was worried that the family were over-using medical services and subjecting the children to unnecessary hospital admissions. This immediately triggered suspicions of “fabricated illness,” a condition in which parents exaggerate children’s medical symptoms. The suggestion was that the parents were more worried than was normal about their premature baby. His name was placed on the at-risk register under the category of emotional abuse.

Yet the parents’ attitude was not entirely surprising. One child suffers from serious visual and co-ordination difficulties. One had a hernia and a haematoma, and was almost killed by an overdose of morphine wrongly administered by a nurse. Their GP said he did not view their visits as excessive.

A more relevant concern was perhaps that the house owned by this family is clearly too small for them. The council worried that the house was chaotic and untidy and that the family were in debt. What they needed was support. What they got was, they felt, harassment. The council repeatedly noted that they showed a “marked failure” to engage with social services, and that the children did not have a relationship with their paternal grandparents. “We are still looking over our shoulder,” the mother told me yesterday.

The case against these parents rolled on through the system, gathering more and more nonsense on the way. In the High Court, Judge Bellamy found that social workers had relied on one medical report, compiled for them by an expert, without properly challenging that expert, and without considering the children’s genuine health problems. Only one health professional had ever expressed a concern about fabricated illness six years before the case was brought. Judge Bellamy ordered Coventry council to pay 100,000 towards the parents’ court costs, and has allowed it to be named although the council racked up more public funds resisting this, claiming that “this family could now be identified in their community, and this could cause them harm.” The family wanted the council to be named. They want accountability. They want an apology.

The parents were lucky to have a good legal aid solicitor. For most of the case, they and their solicitor stood alone against the council, the guardian ad litem and the children’s solicitor. Their team had to read through 4,500 pages of health and social work records presented by the council an outrageous burden. Far from having his nose in the trough, Brendan Fleming, who acted for the parents, made representations to the court that the medical report was excessively long and wastefully expensive.

The question is now how many solicitors will continue to be able to do such work. This afternoon the High Court is expected to rule on whether the Legal Services Commission LSC) acted lawfully in awarding new legal aid contracts to only 1,300 of 2,400 family law firms. These contracts were due to start tomorrow but have been suspended until November, pending the outcome of the Law Society’s judicial review.

The LSC says that its aim is not to cut the budget, simply to allocate the same amount of legal aid between fewer high-quality firms. But there is widespread concern that some experienced childcare lawyers have been left off the list in favour of others that charge knockdown prices. I have watched both at work, over the years. I know whom I would prefer to have on my side in navigating the very complex family justice system.

I find talking to lawyers about legal aid a bit like talking to advocates of the international baccalaureate. The top-line argument is easy to grasp, but the detail quickly becomes opaque. Every change that has been made to legal aid has brought apocalyptic predictions from the legal profession. The introduction of fixed fees two and a half years ago, for example, does not seem to have led to the disastrous short cuts that were predicted. But I suspect that, just as the lawyers have shouted themselves hoarse, we maybe now at a genuine tipping point.

As the Government undertakes yet another legal aid review, there is clearly a risk of cutting to the point where some people who need legal aid are denied it or that it becomes, increasingly, a trainee solicitor acting in the Crown Court without supervision.

Money is tight. Kenneth Clarke’s Ministry of Justice must deliver 2 billion of cuts from its 9 billion budget. The legal aid budget is 2 billion and rising inexorably. Far too many cases seem to come to court that should be settled outside particularly divorces and custody battles in which one parent is using the children as pawns to fight the other.

Yet the family justice system is in a terrible state. Cafcass, the organisation that is supposed to provide children ‘s guardians to the courts seems to be in meltdown. Cases are delayed, waiting for guardians, which can only harm children whose parents really are a danger. Social workers are overwhelmed. If lawyers start to take short cuts then the risk of wrongly removing a child, or wrongly leaving one, can only rise.

Coventry council treated the legal aid budget, quite wrongly, as a limitless pot to pursue a traumatised family. Yet that family could not have defended itself without legal aid used wisely by a good lawyer. The Government has no duty to bankroll solicitors. But it needs to tread carefully to make sure that it does not deny access to justice.

Camilla Cavendish was named Campaigning Journalist of the Year 2009 for her work in exposing miscarriages of justice, which convinced the Government to open the family courts to the media in April 2009.

© Times Newspapers Ltd 2010 Registered in England No. 894646 Registered office :1 Virginia Street, London, E981XY

Council to pay after wrongful care bid for children

Council to pay after wrongful care bid for children

Coventry City Council has been ordered to pay £100,000 towards parents’ court costs after it tried to put three of their children into care.

Judge Clifford Bellamy said the council had “fallen below accepted standards” in its decision making process.

The council had accused the parents of pretending their children were ill, saying they had been subjected to unnecessary medical tests.

It later withdrew its care applications and said it regretted its mistakes.

The judgement was made in February, but the judge has just allowed the council to be named after an application by was made by the BBC.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

In my judgement, the local authority’s conduct of this case falls outside the band of what is reasonable”

Judge Clifford Bellamy

The children’s parents also told the judge they wanted the council to be named.

Colin Green, director of children, learning and young people at Coventry City Council, said it had been a complex and difficult case but the children’s welfare had always been at the heart of it.

He said he accepted that mistakes were made which the council regretted and that it would not be appealing against the order to pay the contribution towards legal costs.

The court heard that in June 2008 the council applied for care orders for three children, known as X, Y and Z.

In June 2009, in a final threshold document, the council said the parents had subjected all three to unnecessary hospital admissions, medical examinations and tests and that they had lied about or exaggerated the children’s symptoms.

In January 2010, the authority gave notice it intended to withdraw proceedings for X and Y, but would continue with Z.

In February, it gave notice it wished to withdraw the proceedings relating to Z.

Report’s ‘shortcomings’

Judge Bellamy said the council had abandoned all of the matters it relied upon in its original documents by belatedly acknowledging it had little or no material in which to satisfy the criteria set out in its threshold document.

He also said the council had not taken steps to evaluate information in relation to the children’s involvement with health services and that it had relied completely on a medical report, when it should have raised shortcomings in the report with its author.

“In my judgement, the local authority’s conduct of this case falls outside the band of what is reasonable,” he said.

The council must pay £100,000 towards the family’s estimated costs of almost £400,000, paid for with taxpayers’ money through the Legal Services Commission.

The figure was a “matter of concern” in a case where “at the 11th hour” the authority sought leave to withdraw its application for care orders for the three children, now aged now aged 12, nine and eight.

In response, the council said it particularly regretted its analysis of the medical report.

“This assessment, the judge concluded, did not include sufficient evidence of fabricated or induced illness as had been concluded by the medical expert,” Mr Green said.

He also said the case was not reviewed effectively at key points and that the council had not “stepped back” to see the whole picture.

Coventry City Council dropped bid to take children into care due to costs

The local authority which tried to take three siblings into care but dropped the case after having run up huge costs in public money has been named as Coventry City Council.

Judge Clifford Bellamy, who dealt with the original care proceedings, has issued a judgment in which he agreed to a BBC application that the council at the heart of the case should be identified.

In his original judgment, handed down in June, Judge Bellamy criticised the council, which was not being named at that time, over its handling of the case.

He also ordered it to pay a total of £100,000 towards the family’s estimated costs of almost £400,000, which were funded with taxpayers’ money through the Legal Services Commission.

Such a figure, the judge said, was a “matter of concern” in a case where “at the 11th hour” the authority sought leave to withdraw its application for care orders for the three children.

The “wider” costs issue had caused him concern, he said, adding: “In recent times the cost of family legal aid funding has been a matter of governmental concern and public debate.”

It has been reported that expenditure on family legal aid has grown from £399 million in 2001/2002 to £582 million in 2007/2008 – a real-terms increase of 24%.

The judge said: “Although some may say that when it comes to issues relating to the welfare of a child the question of how much the proceedings cost should be secondary to the overriding requirement to achieve an outcome that is in the best interest of the child, this must be tempered by an acceptance that the availability of resources to fund public law Children Act proceedings is not limitless.”

The case related to the authority’s application for care orders in respect of three children, now aged 12, nine and eight, over allegations that their parents subjected them to unnecessary hospital admissions, medical examinations and tests and that this had been achieved by their having lied about or exaggerated the children’s symptoms.

Judge Bellamy said it was a case that fell under the broad categorisation of fabricated or induced illness (FII). The judge emphasised: “An allegation of FII is a very serious allegation to make against a parent and one that should not be made lightly.

“Before making an allegation of FII a local authority should be rigorous in satisfying itself that the evidence available, if accepted by the court, is capable of establishing to the requisite standard that there has in fact been fabricated or induced illness.”

Read More http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2010/09/27/coventry-city-council-dropped-bid-to-take-children-into-care-due-to-costs-65233-27351594/#ixzz1mCVYtXcx

Scandal of ‘unqualified’ experts who advise our family courts: Decisions about the care of thousands of children routinely flawed

Well done to Solicitor Nigel Priestley from Ridley and Hall i am glad that we sent channel 4 news to you,to expose the truth about  expert witnesses, and sometimes the misleading evidence that they give within the family court arena, some of these so called profeshionals are not adequately qualified to make such a diagnosis.

In a recent landmark case a Pediatrician diagnosed a Mother with MSBP without ever seeing her or the children.

Many thanks to our families that helped with regards to the making of this report.

Scandal of ‘unqualified’ experts who advise our family courts: Decisions about the care of thousands of children routinely flawed

By Katherine Faulkner

PUBLISHED: 01:48, 13 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:31, 13 March 2012

Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified ‘experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals.

More than a fifth of these vital reports are being produced by people who are completely unqualified, the Channel 4 News investigation found.

‘Experts’ used in hundreds of family court proceedings are frequently unqualified or unreliable, the study reveals.

In some cases, reports on parents or children are being given to courts by doctors who have not even seen the individuals concerned.

Shocking: Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified ‘experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals

Until now, these ‘expert witnesses’ – often psychologists or psychiatrists – have largely escaped scrutiny due to the draconian secrecy surrounding the family courts.

But in a unique study for the Family Justice Council, Professor Jane Ireland – a forensic psychologist who has herself been an expert witness – examined over 100 expert witness reports used in family court cases.

Incredibly, she found that 20 per cent had been produced by people who were not qualified at all.

A further fifth had been carried out by people who were writing reports in areas entirely beyond their knowledge and qualifications.

Concerned: One mother involved in family court proceedings told how a psychiatrist who had never seen her wrote a 14-page report on her and her family

In addition, as many as 90 per cent of the reports had been produced by ‘expert’ witnesses who were no longer in current practice at all, but were simply working as ‘professional expert witnesses’.

Often, these professional experts – who rake in thousands of pounds in fees from the chaotic family courts system – have not practised for years, leaving them out of touch with developments in their field.

They are often appointed to assess the suitability of a parent or parents to continue to look after their child in care proceedings brought by local councils.

They can also be used in access cases following the separation of a child’s parents.

Thousands of children have their futures decided in the family courts every year and because of strict rules on what can be reported, often little is revealed about what happens once the court doors are closed.

In the past, parents have bitterly complained that they have not even been allowed to know the names of the paid expert witnesses who testified against them.

That has now changed but Professor Ireland, of the University of Central Lancashire, said 65 of the 100 reports she examined were ‘poorly’ or ‘very poorly’ carried out.

Some reports were found to ‘cite opinion without conducting a formal assessment’ or show a complete lack of understanding of the conditions discussed.

One was even found to have ‘completed an assessment on the mother without actually seeing her’.

Professor Ireland said an ‘urgent review’ of expert witnesses in the family courts was needed.

‘I think we were very concerned and perturbed by some of the reports that we read,’ she told Channel 4 News.

‘Some of the most startling results were the sheer number of expert psychologists . . . who are reporting that their entire job is the production of assessment reports for courts.

‘I think the results from the research are enough to suggest that we do need an urgent review across the range of expert witnesses that the courts are employing.’

The Family Justice Council is an independent public body set up in 2004 and funded by the Ministry of Justice.

It is charged with monitoring the family justice system and advising the Government and the courts on how the system can be improved.

One mother involved in family court proceedings told how a psychiatrist who had never seen her wrote a 14-page report on her and her family.

The day after the psychiatrist signed off his report he was suspended by the General Medical Council for a separate offence.

Despite this, his report was still used by the courts.

‘He’s never seen us, never spoken to us,’ she said, ‘and yet he’s ended up writing 14 pages, with recommendations, that he could not possibly have made if he had spoken to any of us or had he read through the court papers.’

She said her custody case dragged on for five years because of the competing testimonies of no fewer than eight expert witnesses.

‘The court system in England is barbaric,’ she said.

‘It does not allow parents to be given a voice, it doesn’t allow their children to be given a voice.

‘But what it does instead is it focuses on employing expert witnesses – at huge expense.’

Nigel Priestley, a family solicitor in Huddersfield, said: ‘If the statistics are that 20 per cent are unqualified, that is not just a mess, that is staggering.’

For the full report, see Channel 4 News on March 13 at 7pm.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2114173/Child-care-scandal-The-unqualified-experts-advise-family-courts.html#ixzz1p0gXIMLb

Boy hides from social workers in the jungle

Britain’s zealous social workers have rarely gone to such lengths to seize a child from loving parents, says Christopher Booker.

A mother and her daughter have been fighting a care order - Child protection system tears two more happy families apart

A mother and her daughter have been fighting a care order Photo: ALAMY

7:00PM BST 16 Oct 2010

Of all the stories I have covered about zealous social workers seizing children from loving parents without cause, none is more bizarre than the one that looked as though it would be concluded in the High Court last Friday.

After London social workers had spent thousands of pounds vainly trying to track down, in the Ugandan jungle, a four-year-old boy who had evaded their clutches, the council indicated that it wished to close the case. But in a last minute twist, the judge gave the social workers three more months to find the child – so the story hasn’t yet got a happy ending.

The boy’s mother is a Ugandan Catholic who has lived in Britain for more than 20 years, has degrees in IT and finance from two London universities, and has held down good jobs. Six years ago, however, she was temporarily homeless with a young daughter. She appealed for help to the social workers of the borough where she then lived. She was told she could put her little girl in foster care, but could be given no help herself. When she refused to hand over her child, a care order was made on the grounds of the mother’s “neglect”.

The mother was arrested at work, in front of her shocked colleagues, by six policemen, one armed with a pistol, and held in custody so her daughter could be seized. With court approval, the social workers then gave the girl to her father, despite the fact that he had a criminal record and was HIV positive.

Three years later, with a new partner, the mother had a son. Since she was on a register, the social workers where she now lived wanted to seize the child, but she left hospital a day before the papers arrived and they lost the trail. For three years the little boy lived happily with his parents, until last year the social workers of a third council caught up with her and began asking questions. Fearful that he would be seized, she took her son to Uganda to live with her family. Only six months later did the council serve papers with the court.

In March this year, she returned to England with her mother, who is infirm and suffers from dementia. When she arrived at immigration, with her mother in a wheelchair, she was arrested by four policemen. As she was taken off into custody, she asked the police to contact social workers to arrange help for her mother, who was in need of constant care and spoke no English. Having confiscated her passport, the police refused to assist and held her in the cells for 36 hours, leaving her mother helpless. A shocked Ugandan stranger intervened and took care of her until her daughter was released. But the police held onto their passports, meaning the mother could neither reclaim their luggage nor get work.

The council hired an agency staffed by ex-social workers to track down her son in Uganda. For six months – trying to enlist the help of the Ugandan authorities – the agency got nowhere, to the point where last week the council seemed ready to admit defeat and ask for the case to be discharged – at which point I would have been free to report it in full, naming all those involved.

Due to an unexpected intervention, however, the judge ruled on Friday that he would not discharge the case until social workers have had three more months to find the child (who lives happily in a remote village, only distressed at being apart from his parents). Meanwhile the mother cannot have her passport, and therefore cannot reclaim the luggage from Heathrow or get a job. (She earns a little money running a market stall but otherwise depends on her partner.) I doubt the child will be found, but I must postpone the happy ending until January.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8068395/Boy-h…

The doctor who broke up families: Psychiatrist who damned hundreds as ‘unfit parents’ faces GMC probe

  • Dr George Hibbert could be struck off over his conclusions that hundreds of parents had ‘personality disorders’
  • Millionaire is now being investigated over shocking suggestions he distorted the assessments to fit the view of social services
  • Lib Dem MP writes to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke demanding a full parliamentary inquiry

By Katherine Faulkner

PUBLISHED: 22:41, 16 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:24, 17 March 2012

Extraordinary: Dr George Hibbert faces claims he deliberately misdiagnosed parents with mental disorders – decisions which meant their children were taken away from them

A leading psychiatrist faces extraordinary claims he deliberately misdiagnosed parents with mental disorders – decisions which meant their children were taken away from them.

Dr George Hibbert faces being struck off over his conclusions that hundreds had ‘personality disorders’ after assessing them at his private family centre.

He was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by social services for the reports which tore children from their parents – many of them young mothers.

He is now being investigated over shocking suggestions he distorted the assessments to fit the view of social services.

In one case, he is alleged to have wrongly diagnosed a ‘caring’ new mother –  named only as Miss A – with bipolar disorder because her local authority wanted the  baby adopted.

After being confronted with this allegation, Dr Hibbert offered to surrender his licence to practise as a doctor rather than face a General Medical Council inquiry.

But his request has been rejected by the GMC which says there are still ‘unresolved concerns regarding his fitness to practise’. He will now face a full fitness to practise hearing.

Yesterday John Hemming MP, who has raised concerns about Dr Hibbert in Parliament, described the claims as shocking.

The Lib Dem MP – alerted by a whistle-blower – said he had since spoken to ‘three or four’ other families who said the same had happened to them.

He has written to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke demanding a full parliamentary inquiry.

Mr Hemming said: ‘He is someone about whom a number of people have complained. I am told that at least one person has refused to work for him because of what she saw as his unethical provision of reports to suit the demands of local authorities.

Rich: Two Porsches can be seen parked outside the home of Dr Hibbert near Swindon. He is worth more than £2.7million

‘Much of the decision making in care proceedings rests on reports from experts such as Dr Hibbert,’ he told Parliament.

He added that supposedly independent experts such as Dr Hibbert, 59, were often little more than ‘the hired gun of the local authority’.

The lack of transparency over such experts was leading to ‘thousands of miscarriages of justice in care proceedings’.

'It seemed like nobody got out without their baby being taken away'

Earlier this week, a study for the Family Justice Council revealed how life-changing decisions about the care of children are routinely being made on the basis of flawed evidence. A fifth of ‘experts’ who advise the family courts are unqualified.

Dr Hibbert charged local authorities £6,000 a week for every family in his care and £210 an hour just to read documents such as medical records.

By 2007 his company, Assessment in Care, was making a profit of around £460,000 a year from  his lucrative arrangement with social services.

He is now worth more than  £2.7million. Last night a black Porsche Turbo, thought to be worth around £120,000, and a grey Porsche 911 Carrera, worth around £80,000, were parked on the gravel driveway outside his £500,000 country cottage.

A former honorary lecturer at Oxford University, who has previously advised the government on care assessments, Dr Hibbert left the NHS to set up his private assessment centre in 2000.

Since then, hundreds of parents in contact with social services – usually mothers and babies – have been referred to his centre to  be assessed.

Concerns were first raised in 2007, when mother Miss A complained that Dr Hibbert had wrongly diagnosed her with a bipolar disorder.

One consultant psychiatrist accused Dr Hibbert of having ‘no evidence’ for some of his claims and of deliberately ‘exaggerating’ and ‘misrepresenting’ aspects of the woman’s behaviour.

Her report is among a number of documents being examined by the GMC with regards to Dr Hibbert.

Miss A, who has seen her son just a few times since, said Dr Hibbert was ‘corrupt and evil.’

‘Nothing will ever make up for what he has done to me and my child,’ Miss A said. ‘I want to make sure this man is exposed and that he can never do this to anybody else.’

In a letter sent to Miss A, a GMC investigations officer confirmed Dr Hibbert ‘has now applied for voluntary erasure from the medical register’.

In demand: Dr Hibbert was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by social services for reports which tore children from their parents ¿ many of them young mothersIn demand: Dr Hibbert was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by social services for reports which tore children from their parents – many of them young mothers

The letter continued: ‘He has no intention of returning to clinical practice in the future.’

However, the GMC officer concluded it was in the ‘public interest’ for his request to be denied ‘in view of the nature of the performance allegations and in the view of the conduct concerns.’

He has not been available for comment at his two-storey detached cottage in the small village of Blunsdon near Swindon. His assessment centre next to his home appeared to be closed.

From Wednesday's Mail

A spokesman for Dr Hibbert at the Medical Protection Society, the indemnity organisation for doctors, said professional confidentiality meant Dr Hibbert was ‘unable to comment on allegations raised in relation to care of a patient’.

Paul Grant, of Bernard Chill & Axtell Solicitors, who represents Miss A, said: ‘Our client has instructed us to launch proceedings against Dr Hibbert and the local authority.

‘We believe this distressing case may be the tip of a very big iceberg.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116175/The-doctor-broke-families-Psychiatrist-damned-hundreds-unfit-parents-faces-GMC-probe.html#ixzz1pO1FKMuf

DOCTOR FACES ADOPTIONS SCANDAL AXE

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/308835

MY THOUGHTS

One down, many to go, corruption that aids the Local Authority’s with reference to their child stealing antics for profit has been highlighted tenfold this week, LONG MAY IT CONTINUE.

he ‘experts’ who break up families: The terrifying story of the prospective MP branded an unfit mother by experts who’d never met her – a nightmare shared by many other families

By Sue Reid

PUBLISHED: 22:45, 28 March 2012 | UPDATED: 11:57, 29 March 2012

Lucy's son was nearly taken into care when she was wrongly accused of putting his life in dangerOrdeal: Lucy’s son was nearly taken into care when she was wrongly accused of putting his life in danger

A little over a year ago, Lucy Allan led what most people would regard as an eminently respectable life.

The middle-class mother, a Tory councillor, was happily married to her stockbroker husband, Robin, and doted on their ten-year-old son, who loved going to school and was a passionate cricketer.

Indeed, such was Mrs Allan’s standing in the community that this accountant and former investment banker was on David Cameron’s A-list of potential MPs and a prospective Conservative candidate at the last election.

She devoted her spare time to her council duties. Twice a month, she sat on the local fostering panel, which oversaw the removal of children from their parents and placed them with new families.

It was heart-rending work, as she recalls. ‘At each fostering meeting we were presented with horrifying cases of abusive parents, almost always depicted as “substance abusers”, mentally unstable or “unable to put the needs of their children over their own needs”.

‘Often, this portrayal was supported by an expert report from a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical doctor,’ says Lucy.

‘It never occured to me, or any member of the panel, that the information we were presented with might be a distorted, twisted fiction — or that the reports were anything other than independent.’

Now, her view has changed. She suspects that many of the damning reports were written by experts who had never met the families in question, to suit the wishes of social workers under pressure from the Government to increase the number of children adopted.

As a result of this process, more and more children are being taken into state foster care.

So why has her faith in the system she once facilitated been shattered? Because, thanks to a bewildering chain of events, this eloquent, educated woman found herself under attack from social workers and fighting to stop her own son being taken into care.

Hers is a Kafkaesque story involving family experts who passed judgment on her fitness as a mother without, in some cases, even meeting her.

Ordeal: Lucy Allan with her adored son, whose identity we are protecting

Lucy’s story is particularly disturbing in the light of a report released this month which found that decisions about the futures of thousands of children are being based on flawed evidence from well-paid ‘experts’, some of whom are unqualified and, time and again, never meet the families concerned.

The damning study by Professor Jane Ireland, a forensic psychologist, examined more than 127 expert witness reports used in family court cases in three areas of England. She found that 90 per cent were produced by clinicians who no longer practise, but instead earn their living entirely as ‘professional expert witnesses’ paid for by council social work departments. Sixty-five per cent of the reports were poorly or very poorly carried out.

This has led to accusations from MPs, lawyers and families that many of the experts are on a gravy train — ‘hired guns’ paid to write precisely what social workers want to read.

This month the Mail reported how just such an accusation has been levelled against one leading psychiatrist, Dr George Hibbert — who faces allegations that he deliberately misdiagnosed parents as having mental disorders, which led to them having their children taken by social services.

John Hemming, a Lib Dem MP who is calling for a national inquiry into the use of expert testimonies in family court hearings, says this dubious system has resulted in families being torn apart and hundreds of children being wrongly taken for adoption from innocent parents.

It is a scenario Lucy Allan feared could happen with her own son. Her nightmare began last March when, aged 46, and having begun to feel depressed for no apparent reason, she decided to go to see a doctor.

‘I am close to my son, so I was worried that he knew I was feeling sad. I went to my local GP surgery expecting to be given a course of anti-depressants and then feel better,’ she recalls.

She was seen by a young female locum, who listened to what Lucy had to say, and then told her she wanted to refer her to social services to ‘see if the family needed support’.

The locum turned to Dr Peter Green, a consultant forensic physician and head of child safeguarding in Wandsworth, South London, where Lucy lives. A flamboyant figure with flowing grey hair and a penchant for bow ties, he has written thousands of reports for the family courts.

According to documents seen by the Allan family, Dr Green told the locum his view was that Lucy was ‘very self-centred’ — this despite the fact he had never set eyes on Lucy or spoken to her. (When she later complained about the conclusions he had drawn without even having seen her, the doctor is alleged to have told her he had relied on a ‘gut feel’).

Families torn apart: Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has called for a nationwide inquiry into the use of expert testimonies in family court hearingsFamilies torn apart: Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has called for a nationwide inquiry into the use of expert testimonies in family court hearings

To Lucy’s horror, following Dr Green’s assessment, the locum informed social services that Lucy’s son was at significant risk of harm from his mother.

Thus it was that a woman whose job it had been to make decisions on the fostering panel about which children should be removed from their families suddenly found herself under the most intense scrutiny.

‘Instead of reading reports on another mother’s “emotionally abused” child or her “chaotic” home life, I was reading the same accusations in reports about me and my family,’ she says.

Social services insisted they interview her son, but as the inquiry unfolded, the evidence from his teachers suggested he was happy and thriving. An independent report from an NHS psychiatrist also said Lucy was ‘no risk to anyone, including her son’.

But social services hired their own psychiatrist from the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, south-west London — at taxpayers’ expense naturally.

‘Instead of reading reports on another mother’s “emotionally abused” child or her “chaotic” home life, I was reading the same accusations in reports about me and my family’

 Lucy Allan

Without meeting Lucy or her son, and based only on information provided by social services, the private psychiatrist stated in an ‘expert’ report that there was an ‘urgent need’ for the assessment and treatment of Lucy.

The psychiatrist added that there was ‘no way’ her depression would not have a ‘significant impact on her parenting’.

As the investigation dragged on, Lucy underwent a series of interviews by social services and by experts paid by them to examine her and her family. Many of their subsequent reports, says Lucy, were inaccurate, biased and took her family’s words out of context.

For example, her son had mentioned that when he got off the school bus, he always asked Lucy how she was, but this was described in one report as: ‘Her son demonstrates inappropriate anxiety for the wellbeing of his mother on a daily basis.’

When Lucy admitted taking sleeping pills for insomnia and diazepam for anxiety, another report on her said such ‘drug abuse would make her barely conscious on a daily basis’.

Her confession of sharing a bottle of wine with husband Robin most nights was written up as ‘alcohol abuse’, and the risk of Lucy harming her son was deemed to be ‘substantiated’.

All this begs the question of how often such judgments are passed down by ‘experts’ and social workers on those less well equipped than Lucy to defend themselves.

She has spent the past year trying to clear her name, paid out £10,000 on legal fees and has had to pull herself off the A-list of David Cameron’s potential Tory candidates, quit as a school governor, and, of course, resign from the fostering panel. ‘I am now ineligible for the Criminal Record Bureau check required for working with children or young people,’ she says sadly. Her son’s social services records state that she was once considered a ‘risk’ to him, and it will remain on his file till he is 18.

Finally, at Christmas, the council’s social services said officially no action was required concerning Lucy. She is trying to rebuild her life with the help of husband Robin — who, incredibly, was never interviewed by social services — but still fears she could come under scrutiny again.

‘Alcohol abuse’: Social Services’ verdict on Lucy’s confession that she and her husband shared a bottle most evenings

‘The system is designed to silence people,’ she says. ‘I have been prescribed anti-depressants and I am better. But at the back of my mind is the fear that if I complain too loudly about the child protection system they will be back at my door.’

No doubt she would agree with Nigel Priestley, a lawyer involved in family law, who said recently: ‘Just about the most draconian act the state can carry out is to remove a family’s child. What is at stake is the loss of their children, and on the basis of a report which might, or might not be, questionable.’

Those who write these reports — often psychologists or psychiatrists, but also medical doctors and consultants — do not face the glare of public scrutiny precisely because of the secrecy of the family court system. Lucy can describe her ordeal only because her case never got as far as those closed courts — no parent who appears at one of these hearings, which operate in every town and city in the land, is allowed to speak to anyone later about what has happened there, even to their own MP.

Every year, 200 mothers or fathers are jailed for ‘contempt of court’ for breaking this silence — while the same family courts request the removal of 225 children each week, 97 per cent of whom are never returned to their families.

Now, there are demands for an American-style ‘class’ legal action against the Government by parents who have had dubious or even bogus reports written about them. Paul Grant, a legal adviser at Bernard Chill & Axtell Solicitors in Southampton, says devastated parents have contacted him after his firm took on the case of a mother, known only as Miss A, who claims she was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder by psychiatrist Dr George Hibbert because social workers wanted her baby adopted.

Now, Hibbert could be struck off by the General Medical Council, which is investigating extraordinary suggestions that he deliberately misdiagnosed ‘caring’ mothers as having ‘personality disorders’ in order to help social workers take away children.

When he was confronted with the allegation about Miss A, Hibbert offered to surrender his licence to practise as a doctor.

This week, his spokesman said he is ‘unable to comment due to his professional duty of confidentiality’. But I have learned that Porsche-driving Dr Hibbert amassed up to half-a-million pounds a year from his work as an expert witness, and from his reports on parents and children for social services departments.

Accounts for his company, Assessment in Care Ltd, show that profits soared from £23,000 in 2001 to a peak of £468,000 in 2007. It is now worth £2.7million, according to Companies’ House records.

Paul Grant says that Miss A’s distressing case ‘may be the tip of a very large iceberg’. He adds: ‘We contend that when a practising clinician becomes a professional expert witness with a private company, there is no registration process, and no machinery to vet what they do.

‘By failing to put in a regulatory framework, we would argue that the state is failing to protect families under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which says everyone has the right to a private and family life.’

As Dr Hibbert’s professional conduct comes under scrutiny, it is emerging that he is not the only one whose actions are being questioned.

The Mail has been contacted by scores of parents who believe they have been mistreated on the word of these ‘experts’. We have been told by lawyers about clinicians charging £1,800 a day to appear at family courts, on top of the thousands of pounds a time they receive for writing the reports, which often contain lies, ambiguities and insinuations.

One mother said she had her children taken away because an ‘expert’ said she ‘liked shopping’; another was criticised as mentally unfit for ‘burning the toast’, and lost her child, too.

In another case, an expert was paid handsomely to write a report based on the observations of a social worker who said a five-year-old girl was ‘monosyllabic’.

‘By failing to put in a regulatory framework, we would argue that the state is failing to protect families under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which says everyone has the right to a private and family life’

Paul Grant, legal adviser at Bernard Chill & Axtell Solicitors

Yet we are told a secret tape recording of the social worker’s interview showed the child chatting away about school, her family and her home. The little girl has since been removed from her mother.

We have also been told about a gregarious 47-year-old business adviser in the north of England who had to fight to keep her five-year-old daughter after being labelled a ‘totally isolated schizoid’ by a psychologist, who we understand is trained only to treat children, and should never have been involved in the analysis of adult behaviour.

The psychologist in question (who writes up to 100 expert reports a year) charged £6,000 for his written opinion on the mother, her husband and child. Yet the mother says she was given no chance to deny the ‘schizoid’ report — and kept her girl by the skin of her teeth only after the child’s nanny vouched for her parenting skills.

In another extraordinary case, after a woman was found by a psychologist to be a ‘competent mother’, the social workers are said to have insisted on commissioning a second expert’s report. It agreed with the first.

They then commissioned a third, which finally found that the mother had a ‘borderline personality disorder’. All three of her children were taken away for adoption.

So how have such apparent travesties been allowed to go on virtually unchecked in child protection?

Knee-jerk reaction? Since the harrowing case of baby Peter Connelly more youngsters than ever before in British history are being removed from families every weekKnee-jerk reaction? Since the harrowing case of baby Peter Connelly more youngsters than ever before in British history are being removed from families every week

No other country in Western Europe removes so many children from their parents. The numbers taken into care — the first step towards adoption — have doubled in a decade to more than 10,000 a year.

The last Labour government set adoption targets and rewarded local councils with hundreds of thousands of pounds if they reached them.

The targets have been scrapped after protests from MPs and lawyers, but the dangerous legacy persists. Social workers now get praise and promotion if they raise adoption numbers. David Cameron is also demanding more adoptions — and that they are fast-tracked.

Since the case of 17-month-old Baby P, more youngsters than ever before in British history are being removed from families every week. Many say this is a knee-jerk reaction, which is probably true. But it’s not the whole story.

‘It’s time the criminal rules of justice applied in the family courts. We need parents to be considered innocent until proven guilty’

 Ian Joseph, author and expert on forced adoption

It is the 1989 Children Act — which introduced a blanket secrecy in the family courts — that is the real culprit. It encouraged a lack of public scrutiny in the child protection system and what MP John Hemming calls the ‘twaddle and psychobabble’ peddled there, which has caused dreadful miscarriages of justice.

Ian Joseph, who has written a book on forced adoption, told me this week: ‘It’s time the criminal rules of justice applied in the family courts. We need parents to be considered innocent until proven guilty and also be free to talk about what is happening in those courts without being thrown into jail.’

Until that happens, hundreds more children may be seized from their families on the word of experts — many of whom are either not qualified or are receiving huge sums of money to play God.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2121886/The-experts-break-families-The-terrifying-story-prospective-MP-branded-unfit-mother-experts-whod-met–nightmare-shared-families.html#ixzz1qX6nZXts

British couple who moved to France to start new family have baby seized by social workers who tracked them from Norfolk

By Andrew Levy

PUBLISHED: 23:34, 1 April 2012 | UPDATED: 06:35, 2 April 2012

Heartbreak: The couple have had their newborn baby daughter taken away by Norfolk Social Services despite moving to France

A British couple told yesterday how social workers travelled to France to seize their newborn baby after they moved to the country.

Officials intervened after accusations that the mother’s five other children had suffered physical and sexual abuse.

But the woman and her partner say the claims emerged only after the youngsters had been taken into care at her request during a period of personal and financial upheaval.

Now they have begun a legal battle to have their four-week-old girl returned to them.

The couple say they were told to attend a court near their home for an ‘informal meeting’ following a hearing in front of a French judge they had not been informed about.

When they arrived, they were taken into a room guarded by six gendarmes and a British social worker ordered them to hand over their baby.

The mother said: ‘It was just awful. We went into a room and I breastfed my baby for the last time. I placed her in her pushchair and walked away. What else could I do?

‘We saw her in a contact centre three times after that but she was then taken to England. We have no idea when we’ll see her again.’

She added: ‘They have now taken away all six of my children and I have done nothing wrong.

‘You read about these horror stories where over-zealous social workers steal someone’s kids and think it can’t be true. But it is. No one has presented any hard evidence about the abuse my five older children supposedly suffered. But they were taken away from me and on that basis my baby was considered to be “at risk”.’

The woman’s husband was jailed for 12 months in 2007 after he assaulted her and one of their children.

She moved from her home town in Norfolk and started a relationship with another man. But when he also started to show violent behaviour she moved in with a friend before Norfolk social services moved the family into a hotel in early 2010.

Relying on child benefit to pay for food and the taxis needed to transport her children, all aged under 10, to different schools, she struggled to manage and eventually allowed her abusive husband to give his support.

‘I know it was not the best thing to do but I had no choice,’ the mother said. ‘I was desperate.’

When social services found out, she says they threatened to take her children away. In desperation, she suggested they arranged care for them while she found a new home and a job.

The woman said she was told they would be looked after for a maximum of eight weeks. But she was still asking for them to be returned six months later when she was told they had made claims of sexual abuse against a number of family, friends, teachers and even other children.

Criticised: Last year a judge at Norwich County Court (pictured) accused the mother of being ‘in the thrall’ of her former violent partners

In August last year a judge at Norwich County Court levelled criticisms against the mother, including that she was still ‘in the thrall’ of former partners and that she had lied about having a heart condition when she was absent one day during court proceedings. She later admitted to the court it was due to complications with her pregnancy. She said yesterday she did not want to reveal she was expecting again.

The judge raised severe reservations about the case presented about the alleged abuse but went on to rule that there had been physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

The mother still had the option to appeal but says she had realised social workers would never allow her to be reunited with her children.

By now she was with another man, a childhood friend who was the father of her unborn child, and she took up his offer to start a new life by moving to his mother’s home in south-west France.

They relocated in November last year and she gave birth to their daughter in February.

Within days, social workers had obtained a UK court order stating the child was ‘at risk of significant harm’ and requesting the French authorities to assist returning it to Britain.

A legal source involved in the case said: ‘The court claims the baby was subject to its jurisdiction in the UK because the mother had no intention of living in France and was just there to escape social services.’

Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services at Norfolk Council, said: ‘The decision to remove a baby from his or her natural parents is only ever taken by the court after a thorough assessment of the child’s welfare and need for protection.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2123702/Social-workers-seize-baby-French-swoop-Anguish-British-couple-moved-abroad-child.html#ixzz1r5tvtoBV

CHANNEL 4 NEWS EXPERT WITNESSES IN THE FAMILY COURTS

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/channel-4-news/4od#3325407

The first two cases highlighted were PAIN cases, many thanks to all our clients for contributing wit reference to this cause, and well done to both the Ladys that were interviewed.

Do expert witnesses harm family courts cases?

http://www.channel4.com/news/ch4-special-report-do-experts-harm-family-court-cases

The first two interviews are PAIN CASES.

C4 News – the story of an “exceptionally rare outcome” for a Ridley and Hall client

http://www.ridleyhall.co.uk/news/1362/

Wrongly accused Essex mother wins council apology

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-18492363

Social workers followed me to France to snatch my baby

After a landmark court victory, a British mother tells her harrowing story

By Sue Reid

  

At a cottage deep in the French countryside, a baby girl kicks her feet in the air and smiles at her father, Joe, as she is cuddled by her mother, Marie.

Little Luna is home at last — reunited with her parents at the end of an historic legal battle against British social workers which began when Marie became pregnant and moved to France from her home in Norfolk.

Soon after Luna was born in February, social workers from Norfolk snatched her from her family, flew her to Britain, put her into the care of foster parents and began making plans to have her adopted.

Reunited: Marie, Joe and baby Luna

They had accused Marie of putting Luna ‘at risk’ of harm by keeping in touch with her violent estranged husband, who is not baby Luna’s father and who had previously been jailed for assault.

It is an allegation 31-year-old Marie strenuously denies, saying she never wants to see the man again. But social workers spent up to £250,000 of taxpayers’ money in court and legal fees to try to prove their case.

It is believed to be the first time British social workers have snatched a baby born abroad from its parents — a baby who had never set foot in Britain — and brought it back to this country for adoption.

For 12 weeks, Joe and Marie were allowed to see and speak to their daughter just three times, and only then via video calls to Luna’s foster family on internet phone system Skype.

Then in a landmark decision, the High Court in London ruled Norfolk social services’ actions were illegal. Because Luna was born in France and her parents had a permanent home  there, she was outside England’s jurisdiction.

The little girl was returned to the couple after French social services concluded they were trustworthy parents. Joe and Marie were told: ‘Your new life is ahead of you with your baby — go and enjoy her.’

Marie said this week at their home near Cahors in south-west France: ‘We were so excited. Luna went to sleep that first night back with us as though she had never been away.

‘I lost the chance of breastfeeding her, and we missed her first smile. We blame the English social workers’

But she added: ‘I had lost the chance of breastfeeding her, and we missed her first smile. We blame the English social workers.’

The couple now plan to seek compensation from Norfolk social services for unnecessarily separating them from their baby.

John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who has advised many parents whose children have been removed by social services, said: ‘The Norfolk social workers don’t seem to recognise any limits on their legal authority.’

The couple’s solicitor, Brendan Fleming, added: ‘I find it amazing that social workers flew to a country outside their jurisdiction and brought this baby to Britain at a cost of thousands of pounds of public money.’

Social workers are under immense pressure not to make a mistake following the Baby P case in London in 2007. He died after suffering many injuries despite being seen by Haringey social services and NHS doctors.

This has led to a big increase in the number of children taken into care — mostly against their parents’ wishes. Meanwhile,  there has growing criticism of the accuracy of evidence given by psychological ‘experts’ in the family courts and a growing mistrust in social services.

As a result, increasing numbers of parents under investigation have fled abroad, worried their children will be forcibly removed from them by social workers.

It is estimated that there are now at least 300 families living overseas for this reason, in countries such as Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and France, where the social services try to keep troubled families together rather than taking their sons or daughters away.

Marie and Joe have certainly had turbulent personal lives, though they are intelligent and obviously very much in love. They met at school in Norwich at 14, and had a relationship for five years.

Joe ended up working in Rugby as a builder, but returned to Norwich after he fell out with his girlfriend and was homeless.

Tragedy: Social workers are under immense pressure not to make a mistake following the case of Baby P

In the meantime, Marie had married young and had five children by her abusive husband before fleeing his violence. At one stage, she lived with her children in a hostel for abused women.

But when this proved difficult, she asked social services for help. They took the children into temporary care, and have refused to return them (we have hidden Marie’s face here to protect her other children’s identities).

Social services accused her of secretly keeping in touch with her husband, putting her children, including Luna, at risk of violence.

Marie insists her only contact with her ex-partner came when she was living in the hostel and, in desperation, asked for his help in transporting her children to and from their schools. She bitterly regrets this.

‘I am the last person who would want to see my husband — particularly as I repeatedly reported him to the police,’ she said.

Joe and Marie then embarked on a fresh relationship after becoming Facebook friends. They set up home together, and last summer Marie became pregnant.

During one of the family court cases over her other children, Norwich social services learned she was expecting — and warned Marie her baby would be taken into care and prepared for adoption.

The couple were horrified. They were already planning a new life in France, where they could share a house with Joe’s mother in the village of Frayssinet-le-Gelat, near Cahors, where she has lived and worked as a landscape gardener for ten years.

Last November, when Marie was 20 weeks’ pregnant, they left Britain. ‘We needed a fresh start, but we did not run away,’ insisted Joe.

In France, he started work as a general builder. But ten days after Luna’s birth in hospital, a letter was left in their postbox by a courier from Norfolk social services, saying they planned to put Luna into care in England.

‘I was distraught,’ said Marie. ‘They said I had to “return” her to England, although she had never been to England. They said she was “at risk” from me because of my husband.’

The couple wrote back to Norfolk social services saying they were not going to cooperate in an ‘illegal kidnapping’. But by early March, social services in France had been contacted by Norwich social workers.

‘We were cuddling Luna, and even the male French social worker in charge of our case was welling up’

Joe and Marie were invited to meet a female judge and local social workers in a Cahors court house to discuss their baby’s future. At the end of the meeting, the judge said that until matters were ironed out, Luna must go into the care of a French social services.

‘We left without Luna and I cried all the way home,’ Marie said.

‘For the next few weeks, Luna was fostered by a woman locally. We were allowed to see her at a social services centre twice a week.’

However, on Friday, March 23,  matters changed for the worse. At the end of a visit to Luna, Joe noticed gendarmes outside the centre as two English social workers walked inside to take six-week-old Luna to Britain.

‘We were cuddling Luna, and even the male French social worker in charge of our case was welling up,’ said Joe.

‘We put Luna in her car seat on the floor, and left the centre so we would not have to watch her being carried off by strangers.’

That was the last they were to see of their daughter — apart from three Skype sessions — for the best part of three months.

It was then that their English solicitor, Brendan Fleming, advised Joe and Marie to ask the High Court in London for an urgent ruling on their case. The couple flew to England for the May hearing, when a judge told Norfolk social services that France, not England, had jurisdiction over the baby.

In mid-June, Luna was returned to her French foster mother, while social services in France looked into their case. And finally, Marie and Joe were exonerated.

Two weeks ago, the couple got the news they longed to hear. ‘You can take your baby home,’ said a judge at a hearing in Cahors.

‘We walked out into the street cuddling and kissing our daughter,’ said Joe.

‘Now the nightmare is over and she is ours for ever.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2182245/Social-workers-followed-France-snatch-baby.html#ixzz22tVjPn6r

THE DAY THEY TOOK MY CHILD

 
 

Inspirational women of the year: Alison’s son was snatched away after she was wrongly branded a child abuser…now she fights for justice for other mothers

By Laura Topham
UPDATED: 08:29, 16 April 2009

The months Alison Stevens spent apart from her son still haunt her.
Twenty four years on, she cannot forget the pain she felt when social services took away her three-year-old without warning – or just cause.
Doctors should have diagnosed brittle bone disease when Alison took Scott to A&E with a broken leg. Instead, they decided he was being abused by his parents and put him in care immediately.
It took 12 long, tormented weeks for Alison and her husband, Andy, an electrician, to clear their names and win their son’s return. The joy and relief they felt at having their family reunited was immeasurable. Alison was left so affected by the experience that she was determined to help other people fight similar injustices.

alison stevens

Wrongly accused: Alison Stevens

Since then, she has helped thousands of parents as the head of the national organisation Parents Against Injustice (PAIN).
‘I will always remember the hurt and confusion I felt back then,’ says Alison. ‘It was horrendous finding Scott’s hospital bed empty, then being told by nurses they thought we were to blame for his injuries. For months we had to visit him in a foster home when we desperately wanted to have him home.
‘I am compelled to help other people because I understand what they are going through and how badly the system can work. This can happen to anyone and, when it does, you feel powerless.
‘The toll it takes on you is indescribable – parents call me on the brink of suicide. But through PAIN I am able to help them get their children back.’ While the agony still feels fresh to Alison, it was back in 1985 that her son Scott was put in care. He had been having a bath with his brother Lee, then five, when he tried to get out and slipped awkwardly, hurting his leg.

‘Leaving him was like having my heart ripped out’

When Alison and Andy took Scott to hospital, doctors insisted he stay in for observation.
‘Returning to the hospital that evening to visit Scott, I never suspected anything was amiss,’ says Alison.
‘But when we reached his bed it was empty.
‘A nurse took us into a room and explained that social services had taken him away because his fracture wasn’t consistent with an accident. The doctor said that we must have twisted his leg. I was distraught.’
Alison and Andy returned home, scared and confused, not knowing where Scott was and having no idea how they could get him back.
Through Yellow Pages, they discovered PAIN, a national organisation offering advice to parents wrongly accused of child abuse.
‘I called them and cried down the phone,’ she says.
‘They were very comforting, and put me in touch with a solicitor, who specialised in child protection cases, and a doctor for a second opinion.’
The doctor asked whether Scott was small for his size and if his eyes had a blue tinge – both of which were accurate – then explained his symptoms sounded like brittle bone disease. Social services continued to refuse to let the couple know how the case was proceeding.
Then, two days later, police arrested Andy for grievous bodily harm. He was released 12 hours later due to lack of evidence. Yet it was two weeks before the family was finally told where Scott was and allowed to visit him.
An interim order granted them two hours’ access, three times each week. ‘His foster home was with a one parent family in a scruffy council house. It was a really rough, messy environment,’ says Alison.
‘When we said goodbye, Scott started screaming. He was asking why we’d sent him away and telling us he hadn’t been naughty.
‘Leaving him was like having my heart ripped out – I just wanted to take him home.’ Alison was put in touch with a brittle bone specialist by PAIN as well as another family whose sons had been taken away in similar circumstances.
Then, three months after Scott had been removed, their solicitor called and said social services had admitted it could have been accidental. The following day, Scott was returned to his parents. ‘It was wonderful having Scott back, but he was a changed child,’ says Alison.

‘In the past month, I’ve had three families reunited. That’s the best news you can ever hear.’

‘He was constantly angry, used terrible language and wanted everything straightaway.
‘He had clearly grown used to having no discipline, and it took three years before he returned to the little boy we had known. And he still thought he’d been naughty, which was heart-breaking.’
But it wasn’t only Scott who was left affected – Alison developed the inflammatory disorder Crohn’s disease six weeks after Scott was taken, which she puts down to the stress she suffered as a result of losing her little boy. ‘The worry was so bad it left me with health problems,’ says Alison.
‘Since then, I’ve had depression, a hiatus hernia and inflammatory bowel disease.’
The family waited a year for an appointment with the brittle bone specialist, who swiftly diagnosed the disease.
Yet Alison’s experience left her wanting to help other parents, so she set up a support group in Leicester and started working with PAIN, looking after the Midlands and Yorkshire.
In 2002, the Department of Health – which had paid for three full-time paid workers – stopped funding PAIN and the organisation was forced to close.
But Alison was determined to reopen it and took over running it on a voluntary basis, in addition to her full-time work as a hospital nurse. She is now helped by two other people. Alison’s achievements have been remarkable.
It was PAIN that pushed for the Parents Allowed in Case Conference Bill in the Nineties. This month, her three-year campaign with John Hemming MP to open up family courts will pay off, as journalists and charity representatives such as herself are finally allowed to attend case conferences, enabling greater public scrutiny of procedures.
She is trying to change the situation for enhanced CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks because any allegation remains on a person’s file, even if social services take no action – 17,000 people are affected by this. But while Alison is proud of these campaigns, it is her day-to-day work with parents – ‘Just being there to listen’ – that remains most important to her.
‘Just looking at my little granddaughter spurs me on.’
‘When someone is in that situation, they want to talk to someone who can empathise,’ she says.
‘Last week, one woman who called was incredibly upset and, after speaking to me, said she had been thinking of suicide.
‘In the past month, I’ve had three families reunited. That’s the best news you can ever hear.’
Alison takes ten phone calls a day and responds to countless emails and messages asking for advice and guidance.
She regularly attends case conferences and court with parents. Fitting in this huge workload around full-time nursing is difficult.
Even on holiday in Egypt two months ago, Alison found an internet cafe and dealt with inquiries – though she still had 300 emails when she returned home. She feels indebted to the group.
‘Without it, I might not have won back my son,’ she says.
‘Today, Scott is 27 and has his own baby daughter, Holly. Just looking at my little granddaughter spurs me on.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1170370/Inspirational-women-Alison-wrongly-branded-child-abuser-fights-justice-others.html#ixzz2HhF0amGk

PAIN CASE WIN BY CAMILLA CAVENDISH THE TIMES THE FULL STORY

It was a routine hospital visit. Baby Maddy wasn’t putting on weight… What happens when the state takes your child away?

1 of 2

Pete Jensko with his daughter, Madison, at their home in Oxford Jude Edginton

  • Pete Jensko with his daughter, Madison, at their home in Oxford. Portrait by Jude Edginton

    Pete Jensko with his daughter, Madison, at their home in Oxford Jude Edginton

 

Last updated at 12:01AM, January 5 2013

When the Jenskos worried their month-old daughter wasn’t putting on weight, they took her to hospital. It was a visit that would ultimately lead to their child being placed in foster care – and her parents being accused of abuse

Little Madison Jensko, 13 months old, is playing with shiny toys on a rug in her parents’ sitting room. Dressed in a stripy dress and blue tights, her dark curls tumbling around her pretty face, she bats contentedly at Alfie Bear until her mother, Christine, pops round the corner into the kitchen – and then she wails. “She’s so clingy since it happened,” says Christine, 42. “I can’t leave her. And she just screams when we’re at the doctor’s.”

If Madison is nervous, it may be because she spent five months last year with foster parents. Oxfordshire County Council took Madison into care in February 2012 after her parents sought medical help for a baffling series of illnesses – and were accused of abusing her.

In July, two days into what should have been a ten-day hearing, a judge exonerated the parents and the local authority withdrew its case. The family are now trying to rebuild their shattered life – but they want an apology.

At their small, two-storey house in a quiet cul-de-sac in Witney, Oxfordshire, Madison’s parents, Christine Butcher, 42, and Pete Jensko, 47, describe their ordeal. There are the usual signs of family life – a changing mat by the sofa, a finger painting by Madison on the wall. A collage of photos of Pete’s four children from a previous relationship is propped up above the computer. Pete’s electric guitar lies in a corner of the kitchen – although his Iron Maiden sweatshirt jars with his earnest spectacles and gentle manner. With a mother from Leicester and a father from Antigua, he became a 3-D computer artist after getting a degree in English and media from De Montfort University in Leicester. He and Christine, who looks toned and composed in a tea dress over skinny jeans, met at a gig where he was playing. She was a sales assistant in Essex until she met Pete and got pregnant with Madison, the beloved first child she’d feared she was too old to have.

Christine speaks quietly but determinedly about the events that followed Madison’s birth. Her glossy shoulder-length hair falls over her face as she flips through the reporter’s notebook in which she started keeping notes, “because I didn’t like the way we were being treated. That’s how I am, organised.”

Almost as soon as Madison was born in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, in October 2011, it was clear that all was not right. She was small, weighing 5lb 10oz, with a nasty red mark on the side of her mouth that Christine says no one else seemed to notice. Christine lost so much blood during the birth that the midwife called the resuscitation team, who failed to come, so she asked Pete to keep pressing the button until they did. (Pete says he made a complaint about this to the hospital. He believes this set staff against him.)

In the first month, Madison, bottle-fed from birth, didn’t feed well. “She was always shaking her head when you showed her the teat,” says Christine. “I was really worried.” Pete, who had been present at the births of three of his four previous children, was worried she was not putting on enough weight. In November, the couple went to the GP, who referred them back to the hospital.

This was when things started to go wrong. The couple were shown into a cold room where they waited for hours. They had no food with them, there was nowhere to lay Madison down safely, and by the evening they were desperate to get home. Madison was examined by a doctor who took her vest off awkwardly, catching her finger, and she cried. “He asked, ‘Have you dropped her?’ ” says Pete. “I said something sarcastic like, ‘Oh yes, I drop her all the time.’ ” The hospital said she needed a blood test, but couldn’t say when it would happen. The couple decided they would go home and return in the morning. Maddy started drinking her milk, and Christine thought maybe she’d overreacted. But as they prepared to leave, a consultant phoned the room and said they must remain in the hospital or she would tell social services. “I put the phone down on her,” says Christine. “If it was that important, she should have come down to see us.”

At this point, neither seems to have realised how serious things were. They’d been home for half an hour when the phone rang with what the couple claim was the same doctor saying, “This is your last warning.” It had taken them an hour to get home, Maddy was asleep in bed and they weren’t budging. They clearly thought it was ludicrous. “We’re both quite stubborn,” says Christine. “We don’t like being told what to do. And Maddy wasn’t in danger.”

Just after midnight, to their amazement, there was a knock at the door. Two police officers were standing outside, and an ambulance. “The police said, ‘You’ve got a critically ill child you’re refusing to treat,’ ” recalls Pete. “I said, ‘She’s fast asleep upstairs.’ The officers were perfectly decent, they looked at Maddy, then got on the phone and said something that sounded like, ‘This isn’t the situation we were led to expect.’ And they left.”

The following day, at the hospital, Maddy was examined by a consultant paediatrician who Pete believes was determined from the outset to find evidence of abuse. Drops were put in her eyes to see if she had been shaken. An X-ray was done that showed nothing. On that day and subsequent days, the couple feared that their biggest concern – Maddy’s low weight – was given a lower priority than the quest to prove that she had been abused.

To be fair, the hospital was confronted with a baffling set of afflictions. Maddy was developing more red marks like the one she was born with. These were later linked to neonatal lupus, but they must have looked bad. She also had an enlarged liver and a very high blood platelet count.

“It was very frightening,” says Pete. “We heard all sorts of things being mentioned: immune problems, genetic illnesses, cancer. Then we started to hear the phrase ‘non-accidental injury’. It’s bad enough having a child who’s ill when you don’t know what’s wrong, without also being told that you’ve done something to them that you know you haven’t.”

The illness and the suspicions took over the couple’s lives. A nice social worker (whom I will call Jen; not her real name) started to visit them from Oxfordshire County Council. “I thought that only happened to the kind of people who are on Jeremy Kyle,” says Christine. But she became friendly with Jen. And their main thought was for Maddy. A barrage of tests proved inconclusive. Despite desperately wanting a diagnosis, Pete began to feel they were subjecting his baby to overtesting – three full skeletal X-rays in three months – in a quest to prove something against him.

That Christmas, Christine spent five days sleeping next to Maddy in hospital and walking her up and down the corridors. “I was worried sick,” says Christine. “There was something seriously wrong with her; she looked so ill.”

The uncertainty continued, with the couple feeling that no one was listening properly to their pleas to focus on why Maddy wasn’t feeding better. Then, on February 28, an X-ray showed that Maddy had a rib fracture (it is now suspected that she has a bone disease). “I was shell-shocked,” says Christine. “My whole world sank. The paediatrician said that Maddy would not be going home. I phoned Pete in tears. I said they’re going to take the baby away, you’ve got to come down here. I was so scared – all I could think was that a stranger was going to have her.” Maddy was 4 months old.

At the raw memory of that moment – the moment she knew her child would be taken away – Christine judders to a halt, tears trickling down her cheeks. Pete sits, unable to speak. We all know that Maddy is safely asleep upstairs, having her afternoon nap. But we also know how close they came to losing her.

It is a while before Christine can regain the composure to explain what happened next. “When Pete arrived, we were shown into a little room. Pete kept challenging the doctor, saying, ‘What is wrong with her?’ Jen [the social worker] came in. She was crying, too; we made a right pair. She said, ‘Chris, I’m really sorry, but it’s not looking good for you. Things are going to go a lot further now.’” The local authority were going to take Maddy into care on the grounds of grievous bodily harm.

“I was just constantly crying,” says Christine, “panicked and scared.” Pete says that he also cried, “but I kept saying we’re going to get her back”.

“We didn’t have a clue where Maddy was going to go,” says Christine. “Jen was taking her to foster parents, but we weren’t allowed to know where they lived. I made a great big list of all the things she needed. I wrote notes to the foster parents saying she likes her milk very warm, which toys she likes. I said please look after our little angel.”

Christine was allowed to stay with Maddy at the hospital until a court hearing could be arranged – although, as she says, “It’s not right: if I really had been an abusive parent, I could have done anything to her.” Pete went home on his own to pack up Maddy’s things. Christine stayed up all night at Maddy’s side. “The whole night I just kissed and cuddled her and told her how much we loved her.”

The next day, the social worker arrived to take Maddy. “Jen said, ‘Do you want to go out first and I’ll take her to my car after,’ ” says Christine. “I didn’t want to walk out crying as I knew we hadn’t done anything wrong. There was no point in screaming, so I walked out of the hospital with my head held high.” How did she say goodbye to Maddy? “I kissed her, said, ‘We’ll see you soon, baby girl,’ and walked out.”

The next five months are a blur. The couple were in shock. The contact centre where they were allowed to see Maddy under supervision for 90 minutes, 4 times a week, was an hour’s round trip. “You get like a robot,” says Christine. “You get on the bus, see her, try to feed her quickly so you can have more time to play.”

For Pete, the experience was even more shattering. “Those five months, I was terrified. I didn’t want to interact with her in case she cried. They were taking notes all the time. I was scared of losing my other children. I didn’t know how to be. I would think, ‘Please God, don’t let her cry.’ I put things right with my other kids after I split up with my ex. But this has messed up my relationship with my daughter.”

As the months wore on, the system set them against each other. A social worker told them that if they admitted to having hurt Madison, they would get support and get her back.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3645904.ece

What it feels like… to be accused of harming your baby

When Victoria Ward’s son broke his leg, a two-year nightmare began, as she and her husband were charged with child cruelty

Mia Aimaro Ogden Published: 24 April 2011

A young baby throws his hands up, as if he's giving up (Universal Stopping Point) After more than a year, the police dropped the case (Universal Stopping Point)

P oor little boy, what have you done? You’ve broken your leg.” The doctors swished the curtains around us and started whispering, and that’s when I knew: they thought we’d hurt our son. They thought this was child abuse.

William was only three months old. He was born at home, 8lb 10oz, a good, healthy weight. A happy little boy, he was just starting to roll over when all this happened. We did the usual things: baby yoga, singing — we were just ordinary, thirtysomething parents with a very precious, much-longed-for first baby.

The nightmare came out of nowhere. He’d woken up three nights before screaming, which was unusual. Obviously, we were inexperienced, and we didn’t know what was wrong. We had this awful night where he wouldn’t feed, couldn’t settle. He just kept on crying. None of us got much rest.

We took him to the GP the next day, but she couldn’t find anything wrong with him; all seemed normal. Then, that night, when we were getting him ready for bed, I said to my husband, Jake: “Don’t you think one of his legs looks bigger than the other?” And when we put him in the bath, he was only kicking on one side; that was unusual, because he loved to splash. And I thought, that’s it, that’s the cause of the crying: there’s something wrong with his leg.

We took him back to the GP twice and were finally sent to A&E at Addenbrooke’s, in Cambridge. There, they immediately did an x-ray, “to rule out anything untoward”. And that’s when the radiographer told us that William had broken his leg. I was utterly shocked. Suddenly, it all started to make sense: the jerking and crying when we touched him. Everything fell into place.

That’s when everything started to unravel, too. The doctor told us that William’s injury was considered to be a suspicious fracture. They were going to run more tests — and they didn’t want us to go home. A kind paediatrician said to us, “Sometimes, unexplained things happen to children and they stay unexplained”, which gave us some reassurance. But when they did the tests the following day — a full-body x-ray and a retina examination — what they were looking for was child abuse. It wasn’t about the fact that he might be ill, or hurt, and that was hugely frustrating for us. The radiologist decided the x-rays showed shadows on William’s arms, which meant they might have been broken in the past. So, suddenly, someone’s saying, “It’s not just this injury: you’ve hurt your baby before.” That’s when they called the police.

We were interviewed that afternoon, in hospital, by the police and social services. All we could say was that we didn’t know how William had broken his leg. We racked our brains for every possibility, but we were such overprotective parents: we never left him alone.

They arrested us for grievous bodily harm and child cruelty. Social services agreed that they would let us take William home after four days, provided we were never left alone with him. We had to move his cot out of our room. My parents came up from Devon to “supervise” us, initially for 15 days, while we waited for a child-protection conference, when we thought things would be sorted out. They stayed for 15 months.

It was a kind of schizophrenic existence: on the one hand, we had this beautiful baby boy, and we were both at home — Cambridgeshire county council immediately suspended us from work — so we got to enjoy being with him. Daytimes were all about family and maintaining normality, and then he went to bed and the reality hit us: we had to fight an almighty care battle with social services, as well as a criminal case with the police.

At the child-protection conference, a paediatric radiologist looked at the x-rays and said: “A baby’s bones change and grow so fast — chances are, the shadows are perfectly normal.” So, no broken arms. But with William’s leg, unless we could prove how it happened, we would be held responsible. And we couldn’t prove how it happened, because we didn’t know.

It all stemmed from that 10pm on a Monday night when he’d woken up crying. At the hospital, they’d asked us: “Could he have got his foot caught in the bars of his cot?” He would have had to twist it to get it free — and he had a twisting fracture. There was just no other explanation. We filmed William sleeping after he came home from hospital. He would start tucked in, but he’d kick his way out of his bedding and end up lying across the cot. Often, his leg would poke through the bars. That had to be it.

After more than a year, the police dropped the case against us. But my parents were still living with us, and social services hadn’t ceased their involvement: nobody wanted to be the one to say, “Let’s sign this off.” Finally, the local authority decided to take us to court, with a view to putting William into care if they found us guilty. We gathered evidence from expert witnesses: a rheumatologist who suggested the tendency for bones to break more easily was linked to hypermobility, which runs in my family; and a paediatrician who stated that you can’t conclude the parents did it if there’s no witnessed accident — there has to be a grey area. Which was what we’d been saying all along.

The court hearing lasted two weeks, and we had to wait another six before the judge’s ruling. Her report said: “There is no cogent evidence that these parents injured their son.” In other words, William was not at risk. It was over. We couldn’t really celebrate. How could we feel happy to be told what we’d known all along: that we didn’t hurt our child. There was a huge sense of anticlimax and a need to do something positive.

We feel so strongly about the injustice of the system that we want to tell our story; normally, care proceedings are shrouded in secrecy. We’ve just won a landmark judgment allowing us to publicise the case. Parents should have the right to speak out if they feel it’s the right thing to do.

William is now a normal little boy, covered in bruises, playing football, climbing trees. We don’t want him to be this overprotected child. We’ve all moved on with our lives.

Parents Against Injustice: parentsagainstinjustice.org.uk

 

 

The night the stars turned out to honour the Mail’s six Inspirational Women finalists

By Helen Weathers

UPDATED: 02:58, 12 May 2009

Enlarge   Sarah Brown and Helen Mirren

Leading the charge: Actress Helen Mirren and Sarah Brown at the Daily Mail’s Inspirational Women of the Year Awards in London’s Marriott Hotel last night

It was a night when a host of stars gathered to pay tribute to six remarkable women.

At a glittering ceremony at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, the Daily Mail’s Inspirational Women Of The Year were honoured by Prime Minister’s wife Sarah Brown, Dame Helen Mirren, TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky and many other big names from the worlds of celebrity and business.

Sponsored by M&S and in support of the charity Wellbeing Of Women, the awards celebrated the stories of six inspiring finalists from all walks of life.

The evening was the culmination of several weeks in which the Mail’s readers nominated women who deserved to be honoured for their unsung dedication to others. The entries came in their hundreds, but in the end the judges chose Sylvie Silver for her remarkable spirit of selflessness…

Standing at just 4ft 10in tall, what Sylvie Silver lacks in physical presence she more than makes up for with a dynamism that ensures that, once met, she is never forgotten. Her height means that as the wing commander in charge of the London Air Training Corps – comprising 30 squadrons – most, if not all, of the capital’s 1,300 air cadets aged between 13 and 19 tower over Sylvie.

And although some of the teenagers are from the roughest, most deprived areas in London, with difficult or tortured childhoods, Sylvie has never once felt intimidated or anything less than up to the task of transforming these youngsters’ lives.

If that means this pocket dynamo having to stand on a box to present them with their gliding wings or to give a speech from behind a lectern, then so be it.

Her ‘gang’, as she likes to call it, is the antithesis of street culture with its drugs and knife crime, and offers teenagers the chance to belong to an organisation which will hopefully give them the skills, values and selfdiscipline to safely navigate their way to a productive life.

‘People say I have the ability to shut people up with just a look,’ laughs Sylvie, 54, who was last night named the Daily Mail’s Inspirational Woman Of The Year at a starstudded gala dinner at the Marriott hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.

Natasha Kaplinsky

Claudia Winkleman

Glamourpusses: Newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky and television presenter Claudia Winkleman came along to offer their support at the special event

‘When I was appointed Wing Commander five years ago a lot of senior staff in the ATC thought: “Good grief, what have we got here?” All I can say is that although I may not have physical presence, I do have a presence and a passion for what I do. I’m small, but very noisy.

And it is not just in the ATC that Sylvie has made her mark, changing lives for the better. She used to work as a special needs classroom assistant in a primary school, helping young pupils before moving into the community to help adults with learning difficulties.

A one-woman whirlwind, she has taken on a succession of selfless roles which have allowed her to use her dynamism and charisma to change other people’s lives for the better.

When she became a care assistant in a nursing home, she recognised how the quality of life for older people in a care setting could be vastly improved with stimulating conversation and activities to encourage the elderly to recover their independence and self-esteem.

As a result, today Sylvie is director of a charity called NAPA – the National Association For Providers Of Activities For Older People. Despite dividing her attention between so many important causes, she still finds time for her family.

Married to husband John, 58, for 36 years, she has brought up two children, and now also cares for her elderly mother Joan, 88, who suffers from vascular dementia.

Rachel Stevens

Rachel Stevens

Star turn: Rachel Stevens looked stunning in a knee-length asymmetrical blue dress

Four days a week she is busy working for the charity, while several evenings a week she devotes what spare free time she has to the ATC, where she has a natural ability to command respect from her cadets. ‘We had one cadet who was 6ft 6in tall and weighed 16st and all of the staff found him difficult to handle, but I never had a problem with him. All I had to do was look him in the eye and say: “Sergeant, no” and he’d reply: “Yes, Ma’am.”

‘He is now a prison officer and doing very well in life. It’s not size that counts, but how you relate to people which earns you respect. The ATC really cares about these young people, and they sense that.

‘Recently, I visited our base in Shoreditch and there were three lads, quietly studying in a classroom and being taught a B-Tech in public services. The commanding officer told me none of these three boys had been in school for the past year. They were consistent truants, but here they were, listening and concentrating hard.

‘I was so amazed I said to one of them: “James, what brings you here? Why can you sit here and study during your own time but not at school?” And he said: ‘Because they care about me here.” It’s that simple. They are fantastic kids who simply need to feel they belong, and we provide an alternative to gangs.

‘Sometimes these youngsters bring tears to my eyes. We had one 16-year-old cadet from one of the toughest estates in Pimlico, and when I presented him with his gliding wings his mother told me: “You have been his salvation. If it hadn’t been for the air cadets, I know he would have been in a police cell by now.”

‘She was a single mother, struggling to bring up her son as best she could, but she knew that without the ATC he could have drifted into a life of crime. What we’d given him was self-esteem, safety and a sense of purpose, and it’s that which makes it all worthwhile.’

Sarah Brown and finalists

Making a difference: Pictured with Sarah Brown are (l-r) finalists of the competiton Jackie Bethel, Liza Parry, winner Sylvie Silver, Betty Orr, Alison Stevens (partly obscured) and Julie Bailey

Although only one per cent of cadets go on to join the Armed Forces, the ATC – founded in 1941 – provides cadets with the chance to learn to fly gliders and taste service life, develop life skills and leadership qualities, champion good causes in the community and take part in sporting events at a national level.

‘It is marvellous to see these young people thrive,’ says Sylvie. ‘We are a totally inclusive organisation, anyone can join – boy or girl. We have youngsters of all races, creeds, size and social background.

‘Our only rule is that we have a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs.

Three weeks ago, three cadets were found puffing cannabis and we had to ask them to leave. We provide a safe, drug-free environment.

‘Youth culture is all about having a sense of belonging and many young people find that in a gang. What we aim to do is to provide a gang with the right values, with strong values, with good values.

ONE OF our biggest squadrons is in Wanstead in the rougher end of Essex, where some parents, despite having the best values, struggle to keep their heads above water and drugtaking is rife, but they know that the ATC provides somewhere safe for their children to go, to learn and to make friends.’

Esther Rantzen

Christine Bleakley

Cary Grant

Red carpet colour: Esther Rantzen went pink while presenter Christine Bleakley opted for a classic black ensemble while celebrity vocal coach Carrie Grant chose a green dress complete with flowing train

The daughter of a security officer and a dinner lady, Sylvie says she was born ‘busy’ and needs little sleep. Getting up at 6am every day, Sylvie is rarely in bed before midnight.

Sylvie met husband John, a warehouse operations manager, at an ATC dance when she was 16 and has been involved with the organisation since 1975.

She has combined that with bringing up her family in South-West London – her daughter Kate, 30, is now a civil servant, and her son David, 28, a physiotherapist.

‘When the children were young I was a full-time mother, but being involved with the ATC gave me another life outside the home and kept my brain stimulated,’ says Sylvie, who describes her husband as an ‘absolute saint’ for supporting her passion for helping others, even when it has impinged on family life.

After the years Sylvie spent with special needs pupils and adults with learning difficulties, it was when she started work as a care assistant in a private nursing home in Esher, Surrey, 12 years ago, that her life took another dramatic shift.

‘The day that changed my life happened quite unexpectedly. It was one of those lightbulb moments. I was walking past an frail old lady in her 80s when I asked her if she’d like a cup of coffee,’ says Sylvie.

Lisa Rogers

Linda Barker

Sian Lloyd

Making a show: Presenter Lisa Rogers, former Changing Rooms designer Linda Barker and ex-weathergirl Sian Lloyd

‘I could have just gone and fetched it for her, but instead I said: “Right, come on, you can help me.” I wheeled her chair to the office, put the kettle on and said: “You put the coffee in the cup, so it’s just the way you like it,” and she replied: “Do you know, this is the first time in three years that I’ve heard a kettle boil?”

‘It made me realise just how important it was to this woman’s self-esteem to be able to do things for herself, things that most of us take for granted, the little things which allowed her to feel independent.

‘Of course, there are some elderly people who like to be waited on hand and foot and feel they have earned the right to be, which is fine for them. But there are other elderly people for whom that robs them of their self-esteem.

‘They want to feel absorbed, they want to have good conversations, they want more than bingo on a Friday, or to sit in a chair staring at a wall. But often they feel – doing nothing for much of the day – that they don’t have anything to talk about. Having everything done for you can be disabling, in a way.

‘It is very important for the majority of elderly people, some of whom don’t have any relatives to visit them, to talk about their lives and how they want things done. It is through conversation that carers learn that a person likes to have fish on Friday or which cardigan they want to wear on a particular day.

AND THE OTHER FINALISTS…

THE FAMILY SAVIOUR

Alison Stevens, 51, from Leicestershire

Twenty-four years ago social services took away Alison’s three-year-old son, Scott, after mistakenly deciding he was being abused. In fact, doctors should have diagnosed brittle bone disease when Scott broke his leg. Mother and son were reunited, but the incident inspired Alison’s work as head of Parents Against Injustice (PAIN). She fits in her demanding, unpaid work around her full-time nursing job. This month her three-year quest with John Hemming MP to make family courts more accountable succeeded as journalists and charity representatives have finally been allowed to attend case conferences.But Alison insists it is her day-to-day work with parents that remains most important to her. ‘In the past month, I’ve had three families reunited. That’s the best news you can ever hear.’

Julie Bailey

THE WOMAN WHO SHAMED THE NHS

Julie Bailey, 47, from Stafford

The shocking death of Julie’s mother, Bella, inspired her campaign to ‘Cure the NHS’. Bella went into Stafford Hospital with a mild hernia, but died days after she was dropped by a nurse attempting to lift her alone. Shocked by the dreadful conditions she saw while visiting her mother, Julie wrote to MPs, the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister, and held meetings in the cafe where she works. With the help of other grieving relatives, she formulated a complaint to the Healthcare Commission. Earlier this year, an investigation into Stafford Hospital stated that as many as 1,200 patients may have lost their lives as a result of its appalling standards of care.

Betty Orr

THE COMMUNITY CRUSADER

Betty Orr, 59, principal of Edenbrooke Primary School, Shankill, Belfast

Betty had been principal for just a few months when the IRA’s Shankill Road bomb killed nine innocent people and injured many more on the school’s doorstep in October, 1993. Under her dynamic leadership, Edenbrooke forged relationships with schools in the Republic, and across community divides within Belfast. ‘Even after the bomb, and especially during the Loyalist feuds in 2000, there were shootings, families were put out from their homes at gunpoint,’ says Betty. ‘I had to do something.’ With funding from Barnardo’s and the Government, Betty set up counselling services for the shell-shocked children and helped many families to find new homes. ‘This community has hit rock bottom several times, but you have to do what you know is right, and for as long as you need to,’ she says.

LIZA PARRY.....WITH JACKIE BETHEL

THE MERSEYSIDE CRIMEBUSTERS

Jackie Bethel and Liza Parry, both 43, of Merseyside charity The Social Partnership

This charity began life 15 years ago to tackle alcohol and substance abuse on Merseyside and help addicts rejoin the community. It now also helps the homeless and those who have fallen into criminality. Since these two inspirational women became part of the senior management in 2005, the number of people back in work rose from 108 in one year to around 500 each year. Perhaps their greatest achievement is overseeing a project on the Woodchurch Estate in the Wirral, where alcohol abuse was prevalent and crime was high. Since the project began two years ago, the local crime rate has dropped by 75 per cent.

‘There are some fantastic carers working in our nation’s care homes, but the tragedy is that it’s the five per cent of care homes which are poor which get all the negative attention. Ninety-five per cent of homes are very good, and it’s wonderful what they do achieve with the budgets that they have.’

However, the problem of inactivity among older people in care homes was highlighted in a Help The Aged Report, published in 2006, which stated: ‘Studies suggest that almost 50 per cent of care home residents’ time is spent asleep, socially withdrawn or inactive, with only three per cent on constructive activity.’
Having had her interest in the care of the elderly sparked by her new job, Sylvie, typically, decided she wanted to make a difference. She became an activities adviser in care homes – offering elderly people an ‘active choice’ – and joined NAPA, which then had only 400 volunteer members.
A grant from the Big Lottery Fund in 2003 has allowed the charity, founded in 1997, to grow into a nationally recognised organisation with 2,000 members, funded by a number of grants, membership fess and donations.
Sylvie shares her duties at NAPA one day a week with communications director Sally Knocker, 41, who secretly nominated Sylvie for the Mail’s Inspirational Women Of The Year awards.
As director, Sylvie travels widely, overseeing the training of care home staff in how to improve the quality of life of elderly residents by integrating activities into their daily lives.
One of NAPA’s innovations was to create a ‘conversation corner’ in such homes, with various themes to stimulate conversation.
WE MAY have a conversation corner themed on the 1940s – or a laundry corner or one with Welsh dressers or a beautiful old china dinner service – so that people can talk about their experiences,’ says Sylvie.
‘Once, I brought a group of elderly women residents together and said: “You have lived through almost every decade of the 20th century, you have had the most amazing experiences,” and I asked them to discuss what they thought had changed women’s lives more than anything else during that time.
‘It was an incredibly interesting conversation and they all agreed that the contraceptive pill had had the most dramatic impact, allowing women control over their fertility, and to choose if and when they had children, which many of them thought was a good thing.
‘The staff at one care home I visited in Hampshire had created a pub in one of the rooms where they held their “pub quiz” nights. One of the manager’s sons was a kitchen fitter and he’d created this pub from scratch, and all the residents really appreciated it.
‘Many people dread getting old and going into a care home, and there is a fear of ageing in this country.
‘But sometimes going into a care environment can be the best thing if there is someone there to make sure it is a rich experience. It can be very isolating living alone in your own home with carers flying in and out four times a day.’
Sylvie admits to feeling ‘totally overwhelmed’ when she discovered she’d not only been nominated, but selected to be a finalist for the Mail’s Inspirational Women Of The Year awards.
‘When Sally told me what she’d done, I joked: “You’ll be done for fraud!” I just couldn’t believe it and I felt very humbled.’
As for winning such a prestigious award, Sylvie still can’t quite believe it, even though seeing the success of her air cadets and the joy that NAPA has brought to so many older people is reward in itself.
She may be only 4ft 10in, but today she’s walking very tall indeed. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1180677/The-night-stars-turned-honour-Mails-Inspirational-Women-finalists.html#ixzz2N9DCGMLw

PAIN CASE WIN UNEXPLAINED FRACTURE CASE JUDGMENT

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1AkC3j0fp9Ir4wsLv9tSV6Osi4iTc67ln5_S…

Mr Justice Baker comments on exceptions to 26

weeks time limit in care cases BASED ON RECENT PAIN CASE WIN JUDGMENT

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed113427

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1AkC3j0fp9Ir4wsLv9tSV6Osi4iTc67ln5_S…

Parents win battle to keep their children out of care-PAIN CASE WIN.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Social workers have failed to prove that three children who suffered a variety of injuries were abused by their parents.

A High Court judge refused to grant care orders to a local authority which raised concerns about the safety of the youngsters – two boys and a girl aged between 13 months and two years.

Mr Justice Baker said the couple – who cannot be identified but are in their 30s and come from Devon – were “simply dotty” about their children.

He said it would be “surprising” if “such parents” could have inflicted injuries and suggested that the causes could be medical or accidental.

The judge published his decision in a written ruling after hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in Exeter.

Mr Justice Baker said medics at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter had alerted authorities in the summer of 2011.

The judge said the alarm was raised after the girl – born in February 2011 – collapsed and was then found to have a subdural haemorrhage and fractures.

Her brother was then found to have subdural haemorrhages and nine rib fractures.

Investigations began and the children went to live with grandparents, the judge said.

The younger boy was born in April 2012 and placed in the joint care of his parents and grandparents as part of a written agreement with social workers.

Less than a month later he was admitted to hospital with skull fractures and a subdural haemorrhage, said the judge.

Following that incident local authority bosses had begun legal action with a view to removing all three children from the care of the family.

Mr Justice Baker said an ”important feature” of the case was that each parent suffered from a ”range of medical conditions” and that the family’s medical history was ”complex”.

The judge said it could not be known which “unusual” medical features and conditions had been transferred to children and had “an impact on bone fragility”.

He said the father’s “most troublesome ailment” was kidney stones, which were associated with imbalance of calcium and other minerals. He said one of the children also had a kidney problem. And the judge said there was a “possible association” between calcium imbalance and reduced bone density.

Mr Justice Baker said another “striking feature” was a lack of external signs of injury. He said the children had been “seen very frequently” at home by a range of health workers and been regularly examined by a very experienced health visitor. But he said “not a single bruise or mark” which suggested a fracture was seen.

He said the children’s mother and grandmother had told how the youngest child was hurt when he accidentally fell from a Moses basket onto a wooden floor – an account he accepted. He said medical evidence was “consistent” that explanation.

And he said apart from the injuries there was not a “scintilla of criticism” of the way the couple had cared for the children.

“My impression is that the longer this process has gone on, the greater the degree of uncertainty. Gradually the inquiry unearthed a number of unusual features,” said Mr Justice Baker.

“The picture that emerges … is that these are doting parents who are devoted to the children and provide them with a very high level of care.”

He said the local authority – Devon County Council – could be named but neither the children nor members of their family should be identified.

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Parents-win-battle-children-care/story-18829210-detail/story.html#ixzz2Rr7ryuB1

Judge: parents were too besotted to hurt children -PAIN AND BACHE SOLICITORS CASE WIN

A judge has refused to allow social workers to take three children with serious and apparently unexplained injuries into care after seeing that their parents were “simply dotty about them”.

Judge: I can't believe parents harmed children, I can see they are 'simply dotty about them'

Staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital first raised the alarm in the summer of 2011  Photo: PA

Mr Justice Baker ruled that even though the injuries looked suspicious, there was “not one scintilla” of evidence that their parents had deliberately inflicted them, other than the injuries themselves.

In an unusually frank admission, he told the court that he accepted he “may be wrong” and that the parents might have lost control and hurt them.

But he said had been swayed by seeing how evidently “besotted” they were and was convinced it was unlikely.

Instead, he said, the balance of evidence pointed to a rare combination of medical factors, including an inherited condition which can cause soft bones.

In a judgment handed down at the High Court in London, he set out how the children, a twin girl and boy aged two and a boy aged 13 months, from Devon, had suffered an array of including broken ribs and internal bleeding.

It was clear, from medical investigations that they had been caused on more than one occasion.

But, crucially, despite the severity of the injuries, there had never been any bruising or other external sign of abuse.

Staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital first raised the alarm in the summer of 2011 when the twin girl was brought in after collapsing and was found to have a subdural haemorrhage and fractures. Her twin brother was later also found to have haemorrhages and nine rib fractures.

Investigations began and care proceedings begun, although the twins were eventually sent to live with grandparents.

The twins’ younger brother was born in April 2012 ad was also later admitted to hospital with skull fractures and a subdural haemorrhage.

The judge said doctors had been right to raise the alarm and that social workers had been right to initiate care proceedings.

But, the more the parents’ complex medical history was investigated, the more it became clear that there might be an alternative explanation.

Even more significantly, he was struck by a mass of evidence of normal and happy family life which carried on during the 19-month investigation – including 19 albums of family photographs and a bulging scrapbook of children’s artwork.

“I bear in mind, of course, the importance of not reading too much into photographs, but I do consider that the albums produced by the parents, and the enormous art book proudly produced by the mother in the course of the evidence, are significant evidence demonstrating how much these parents love their children,” he said.

“They were, and are, besotted with them.”

He added: “It is an important part of the evidence in this case that, save for the injuries, there is not one scintilla of criticism of the way in which the mother and father have cared for these children.”

He said it was clear in hundreds of smiley photographs that the children were happy and well cared for.

“Put simply, this couple are simply dotty about their children,” he said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10021981/Judge..

These loving parents were branded abusers – yet the courts won’t let them clear their names: SUE REID on a chilling case that raises profound new questions about justice and Britain’s culture of secrecy

  • Parents cleared of wrongdoing but barred from proclaiming innocence
  • Accused of causing broken bones in three young children
  • But injuries were caused by inherited disorders

By Sue Reid

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Playing in their large garden, this family look happy and content.

A pair of twins, a brother and sister aged two, reach out to cuddle their parents who, in turn, cling tightly to their youngest child, a boy of one who keeps crawling off at a fast pace towards the flower-beds.

The children are blissfully unaware that if doctors, police officers  and social workers had had their way, this scene would not be taking place at all. By law, in many cases such as theirs involving family courts, it is not possible to name those involved or identify where they live. 

But we can reveal that nearly two years ago, the parents were wrongly accused of the most horrific crime: shaking their children, injuring their brains and breaking their bones.

At one stage, a police officer told the family: ‘This is the worst case of child abuse I have ever come across in my 16-year career.’ 

During 19 months of investigations, the parents were barred from being alone with the children. Therefore the twins’ maternal grandparents (both in their late-70s) had to care for them at night while the parents slept in a separate part of the family’s home, the connecting door locked on the orders of social workers.

Cleared: The parents of these three adorable children are completely innocent but cannot be identified

Cleared: The parents of these three adorable children are completely innocent but cannot be identified

Astonishingly, a bell on the electric gate at the garden entrance was also disconnected by social workers.

They said it was so they could make unannounced visits to check the parents were not attacking their children.

When the mother gave birth to her third child, by Caesarean, social workers claimed there was a risk that she would hurt him. They threatened to take the baby away (even though he was being breast-fed) until the mother could be supervised round the clock in her hospital bed.

But a little over two weeks ago, a High Court judge decided that the parents had not harmed their children. Mr Justice Baker said the couple were ‘besotted’ about them and should not face ‘one scintilla’ of criticism.

He refused to allow the youngsters to be taken into care by Devon Council and, in all probability, be put up for adoption.

The judge said the couple suffered from complex medical ailments which may have been inherited by the children and which made their bones and skulls fragile.

He concluded there was a ‘real possibility’ that — rather than being the result of abuse — the twin girl’s elbow was broken when her arm was pinned down by two doctors as they tried to insert a tube for blood tests.

A fracture of her brother’s rib was also ‘likely’ to have occurred at the hospital during a medical examination.

‘I was made to feel an evil woman by social workers. They treated me like a liar.’

– Mother of three who cannot be named

As the mother says now: ‘It has been a nightmare. So many mistakes were made. We have lived for months under this massive terror that council social workers would take our children away. I was made to feel an evil woman by social workers. They treated me like a liar. We were accused of being child abusers by the police.

‘Now we learn that some of our children’s injuries may have been caused at the hospital where doctors were accusing us.’

It is, indeed, a disturbing story. But as this family get on with their life, there is another worrying aspect to this case.

It concerns the judge’s decision that the family cannot be identified and that their whereabouts must be kept secret until the children are grown up — even though they have done nothing wrong.

The ruling, by Mr Justice Baker at the High Court in Exeter, means that if this family allow the media to use their real names, they will be in contempt of court and risk being sent to prison.

They are frightened even to speak about their ordeal to neighbours or friends because in doing so they could identify themselves and the children as having been participants in the family court case.

The couple feel they have no choice but to comply with the ruling. However, they have agreed to brief the Mail anonymously about their plight.

These gagging orders have become normal in such family court cases where parents are eventually found innocent of any wrongdoing. Last week, Bill Bache, the family’s lawyer and an expert on family courts, said: ‘This ruling impinges on this family’s freedom of speech. This is very troubling.’ 

And John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP campaigning against court secrecy, added: ‘These rulings stop innocent families talking openly about their experiences and they protect the doctors, social workers and police who wrongly pointed the finger of blame at them.’

His views are endorsed by Alison Stevens, who runs the charity Parents Against Injustice.

She said: ‘Most innocent parents who win their children back face a gagging order from the family courts. It means the mistakes made by social workers, doctors and the family courts are concealed.’
So how did this travesty occur?

Broken bones: The judge concluded it was likely the children received their injuries in the hospital which was treating them

Broken bones: The judge concluded it was likely the children received their injuries in the hospital which was treating them

The couple — she a 39-year-old teacher and he a former hotel manager of 31, whom we will call Elizabeth and William — met five years ago. 

They began to live together nearly three years ago — owning a bungalow in Devon — and were delighted when, after IVF treatment, Elizabeth became pregnant and gave birth in February 2011 to the twins.

Both babies were a good weight, appeared healthy, and were taken home from hospital five days later. But their daughter had trouble feeding. She lost weight and was prescribed a special high-calorie bottled milk.

She soon put on weight, and a health visitor who saw her at home when she was four months old, wrote in the child’s medical records: ‘Much better weight gain. Looks healthy and happy. Feeding improved greatly.’ 

Yet, three hours after that visit the baby collapsed. She stopped breathing and was taken by air ambulance to Devon and Exeter Hospital. There, doctors held down her right arm as two tubes were inserted into her hand.

‘This is probably when the fracture to her elbow happened,’ says her mother — a view endorsed by Mr Justice Baker in his published judgment on the case.

 ‘Scores of families have had their lives destroyed by false accusations… They have been convicted on what is medics and social workers’ opinion and dogma rather than fact.’

Rioch Edwards-Brown, campaigner for accused parents

The baby recovered and went  home. But three days later she was taken back to hospital with suspected meningitis.

The child was given an MRI scan which detected bleeding inside her skull. Doctors gave her a lumbar puncture (a spinal fluid test which cleared her of the disease), holding her so firmly by the legs during the procedure that her blood vessels ruptured, causing red marks.

Meanwhile, her twin brother was coming under medical scrutiny, too.

The hospital’s consultant paediatrician Dr James Hart, who was treating the girl, asked for the boy to be given a MRI scan. This revealed inter-cranial bleeding and a number of rib fractures.

An X-ray on the girl also exposed a single rib fracture and — tellingly —  a fracture of her right elbow.

The hospital immediately alerted police and social services. Dr Hart said he thought the children had been shaken by either of her parents.

An official investigation was launched and it was only because the grandparents offered to care for the children that the authorities were persuaded not to remove them from the family.

‘The consultant paediatrician continued to insist we had shaken the children and caused the injuries,’ says Elizabeth today. 

As a result, she says that she and the children’s father had to be ‘locked’ in a separate flat all night and were told they couldn’t be left alone with their children at any time.

The police also visited the home and as part of their investigation searched through the children’s toys.

Things became worse, when the mother became pregnant again last summer and gave birth.

When the little boy was three weeks old, he fell out of his Moses’ basket on to a wooden floor, a distance of between 18in and 24in. Despite the low height of the fall, a subsequent medical examination revealed that he had suffered skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.

This was enough for Devon Council social workers to again apply to the family court — unsuccessfully — to take all three children into care.

Crucially, the family’s medical  history was not investigated by the hospital.

Innocent: Mr Justice Baker said the couple were clearly 'besotted' with their children and had not harmed them

Innocent: Mr Justice Baker said the couple were clearly ‘besotted’ with their children and had not harmed them

It was left to Elizabeth to try to see if there was a link. After hours researching on the internet, she realised that her own medical problems — she suffers from easy bruising and painful joints — could have been passed on to the children.

She therefore went to a rheumatologist who diagnosed a tissue disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which can cause bone fragility and bleeding within the skull. 

Her partner, it turned out, also had health problems: chronic kidney stones which are associated with a calcium imbalance and reduced bone density.

When Elizabeth told the court what she had discovered, it sent the couple for an independent medical examination by one of the world’s top geneticists (and an expert on Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) in London.

He said the children were likely to have inherited disorders from their parents which ‘had an impact on their bone fragility’. 

‘It was a turning point for us,’ says Elizabeth now. ‘I believe my three-week-old baby’s injuries from the fall also pointed to his genetic disposition to fragile bones. 

‘I believe many other parents with similar genetic disorders are being wrongly accused of shaking their babies and child abuse. They should be told what happened to us.’ 

So how did this scandal happen? 

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS) came to public attention in Britain in 1997 when British au pair Louise Woodward was convicted in the U.S. — she was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter — of shaking a baby to death.

SBS was said to show that any brain-bleeds or fractures of children’s bones were sure signs of deliberate abuse of babies by parents or carers.

Among the most ardent supporters of the SBS theory was Sir Roy Meadow. Trusted by the family courts, where he regularly appeared for councils accusing parents as an expert witness, Meadow was finally barred from medicine after giving evidence at the trial of Sally Clark, a solicitor whose two children had died suddenly. 

Falsely accused: Solicitor Sally Clark was wrongly accused of killing her two children

Falsely accused: Solicitor Sally Clark was wrongly accused of killing her two children

He wrongly claimed there was a 73 million-to-one chance of a middle-class mother, like Sally, losing two children to cot death. Clark was subsequently convicted.

He has since successfully appealed and retired. As for Sally, she was imprisoned for three years before being freed on appeal, and has since died. 

Rioch Edwards-Brown, a campaigner for accused parents, says: ‘Scores of families have had their lives destroyed by false accusations that they hurt or killed their babies by violently shaking them. They have been convicted on what is medics and social workers’ opinion and dogma rather than fact.’ 

After Sally’s conviction was overturned, it was found that ailments such as vitamin D deficiency which causes rickets, birth trauma (even in some Caesarean deliveries), and hereditary diseases could mimic the physical signs of the syndrome.

The Court of Appeal ruled that due to the growing confusion surrounding SBS, a conviction should never be made when there are conflicting medical opinions given in a trial. There has to be real evidence of an assault.

However, in the family courts — where guilt is decided on a ‘balance of probabilities’ — hundreds of parents every year are still being accused of shaking their babies and have had them removed into care and adopted.

Worse, these judgments are always made behind closed doors. Even if the parents have not hurt their child, secrecy rulings obstruct them from identifying themselves and openly proclaiming their innocence after the case is over.

That is just what is happening to Elizabeth and William.

Mr Justice Baker’s ruling also means that only the one doctor actually named in his final judgment, when he cleared the parents, can be identified publicly.

As a frightening result, the identities of the social workers, the police officers and nearly all the hospital medics who provoked this family’s nightmare are now hidden behind a cloak of secrecy.

Is that justice? When the judge was shown happy, smiling photographs of the family together he said they illustrated the ‘manifest devotion’ of both Elizabeth and William to their two boys and girl.

He added: ‘They are significant evidence of how much these parents love their children.’ 

So why, one might ask, is this couple not allowed to say who they are — and shout publicly from the rooftops that they are innocent?

Judge rejects ban on naming and shaming social workers

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10289806/Judge…

Another couple flee to France only to have their baby taken away

Parents being pursued by social workers appear to be having their emails hacked

A High Court judge has ruled that babies born in France are under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, and so the British authorities had no jurisdiction over them

A High Court judge has ruled that babies born in France are under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, and so the British authorities had no jurisdiction over them Photo: ALAMY

Last year I reported the shocking story of Marie Black and Joe Ollis who escaped to France for the birth of their first child, after learning that Norfolk social workers intended to seize it at birth on the grounds that Marie had previously been in a violent relationship with another man, who was by then out of her life. The social workers tracked down the couple and, after baby Luna was born, returned, with the approval of a British judge, to deport the child to England.

Fortunately, the couple had been put in touch with a robust British solicitor, Brendan Fleming, who took their case to the High Court. Here, a more senior judge ruled that, since Luna was born in France and was therefore, under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, the British authorities had no jurisdiction over her. He ordered the social workers to return the baby to her parents in France.

Far from our social workers having learnt any lesson from this case, I have lately been following one which is almost a carbon copy. Another couple fearful that Bedfordshire social workers might seize their first child at birth, again on the grounds that the mother had previously been in an abusive relationship, set off to start a new life in France. A few days ago their baby was born in a French hospital, by caesarean section, and given a French birth certificate. The next day, the mother returned from a shower, covered only in a bath towel, to find her room filled with 10 French policemen and her baby gone.

The policemen were holding a piece of paper indicating that they had been sent by Interpol, at the instigation of the British authorities, to remove the child on the grounds that the mother was a dangerous woman who might harm her baby. The couple were shocked to see that much of the description of her was factually wrong. It was also clear that they could only have been traced by someone hacking into emails they had sent since their arrival in France. The French social workers had removed the baby on “orders from Britain”, but could not otherwise have been more friendly, allowing the couple to see their baby, who had been taken to an orphanage an hour’s drive away. They were horrified to see their child lying in a room full of cots containing other babies.

The mother had already been in touch with Marie Black and Brendan Fleming (although there is still no order from a British court to authorise all that has happened). When the couple appeared in a French court to contest the demand that their baby be deported, the judge was shown a statement citing the Marie Black judgment, making clear that, since Britain had no jurisdiction over the child, deporting her would be illegal. The judge, seemingly out of her depth, adjourned the case, suggesting that it should be heard by a more senior judge in three weeks’ time. We may hope that the new judge can recognise that the law is clear, and that the British authorities had no legal right to arrange what amounted to an act of kidnapping. Meanwhile, a note from Marie Black glowingly reports that 21-month-old Luna has just started attending a toddler group and that all is well. In due course,

I hope to be able to report that this new case has come to a similarly happy ending.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/10436941/Another-couple-flee-to-France-only-to-have-their-baby-taken-away.html

A mother, who is considerably saner than the system that has imprisoned her, fights to be reunited with her sons

The child protection system has torn another family apart

The child protection system has torn another family apart Photo: ALAMY

Last week, I investigated a story as shocking in its own way as that which I broke last month about the Italian woman detained in a psychiatric hospital who, on the orders of a secret court, was then forced to undergo a caesarean section so that her baby could be sent by social workers for adoption.

One of the most terrifying weapons our “child protection” system uses against parents wishing to hold on to children who have been forcibly removed is to have them helplessly imprisoned in an asylum, certified under the Mental Health Act, where they can no longer give social workers and other “professionals” any more trouble.

When I spoke at length with one such mother, “Wendy”, who has a law degree and who has held down responsible jobs, I found her perfectly sane and rational, as had previously been confirmed by several medical professionals. After her two sons were taken from her four years ago for what seem to have been highly contentious reasons, she continued to fight for them to be returned (her slightly autistic 15-year-old pleads to come back to her, and for two years she successfully nursed her younger boy through a rare form of bone cancer).

But when, last year, to aid her fight, she repeatedly applied under the Freedom of Information Act to see her medical records and the notes of the social workers, she mysteriously ran into opposition. On December 2, while out shopping, she stopped her car for a cigarette. An ambulance drew up, she was bundled into it and taken to the psychiatric wing of Calderdale Royal Hospital, in Halifax, where psychiatrists and doctors assessed her as insane under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

A week later, the psychiatrist in charge of her case told her that her home had been burgled. She was allowed home, under escort, to discover that her house had been ransacked. Nothing was missing apart from papers relating to her case, photographs of her children, reading glasses and £300 in cash. But the same psychiatrist then accused her of having done this herself, even though she was all the time detained in hospital.

He told her that she was “psychotic” and had an “addiction to cannabis”, which she had indeed occasionally taken for medical reasons, with the knowledge of her GP, to ease her painful arthritis. On the orders of the same psychiatrist, she was then pinned down by five nurses who, over her protests, forcibly injected her with a drug they refused to identify. She later learnt that it was Flupentixol, used to treat psychosis and to ease depression (the staff refuse to give her any medication for her genuine ailments, including arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome).

These forced injections have been repeated, leaving her knocked out and disorientated for days. Although she had no further “assessments”, she was told after Christmas that she had now been certified under Section 3 of the Act, allowing them to hold her indefinitely. She was also, however, given a form to appeal before a tribunal, and told she could name a solicitor to represent her.

“Wendy’s” case has now been taken up by the campaigning group Parents Against Injustice (Pain), which says it has come across many cases in which the Mental Health Act is similarly used against parents fighting to regain their children. Often, such mothers are branded as “psychotic” victims of “Munchausen syndrome by proxy”, with allegations that they have fabricated their children’s illnesses. Although this theory, associated with Roy Meadow, was comprehensively discredited years ago, it has since been smuggled back in under different names, such as Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII). Social workers have accused “Wendy” of imagining her son’s autism, although it was officially diagnosed by NHS doctors in 2003.

So this intelligent mother, who has never harmed anyone and is cruelly mocked by the nurses, who again forcibly injected her on Friday, is being held indefinitely, at the mercy of a psychiatrist who has not examined her again since she was admitted. She has no one outside the system to appeal to until she appears before that tribunal, where she may not even be allowed to speak on her own behalf, to show that she is considerably saner than the system that has imprisoned her. We are familiar with that playful phrase about “the lunatics taking over the asylum”. But in the Britain of 2014, it seems, that is no longer a joke.

Not just the ice that’s sadly thick

Our baby fell out of bed and hit his head…so they took him away for nine months: Judge reunites young family separated by overzealous social workers

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