Legalistic inhumanity to children

The good news this week is that the Government is drawing up new guidelines for adoption, stating that “race or cultural background should not be a barrier to adoption” and that local authorities’ adoption rates will be scrutinised.   We hope that this will put an end to the activities of those social workers with racist, anti-Christian or ‘class warrior’ tendencies who prefer to leave children in care homes indefinitely rather than giving them the chance of a loving and stable home because prospective parents do not fit a profile predetermined by political correctness.

It would be desirable for such individuals to be weeded out in the course of the current spending cuts, thereby creating some much-needed vacancies for recent graduates whose minds are hopefully still relatively untainted by PC indoctrination. We also hope that particular attention should be focussed on the Council officials involved in past controversial cases; the action of a Northern Council which returned a Muslim teenager to her Muslim relatives against her will because she decided to convert to Christianity whilst in foster care is a particularly scandalous example (Mail on Sunday, page 5, 8 February 2009). Equally scandalous was the decision of the Council to strike the foster parent from their list of foster-carers, despite her history of 80 previous placements, without any independent scrutiny of their action.

The bad news is that much more needs to be done in this area, as a more recent case illustrates. In the course of a family dispute, a mother was accused of emotionally abusing her seven year old son (whatever that may mean). She fled with him from the Isle of Man to Canada last year because she believed that he would be placed in the care of his father who, she claimed, had sexually abused him.  Social workers did not believe the boy’s own testimony to that effect and the mother feared that he would be taken from her. No compassion was shown to mother or son following their capture and sending back by Toronto police.   When she was allowed a one hour visit, she was told “If you get upset, we will stop contact”. The boy “was shaking, he hadn’t eaten, he had tried to run away twice, he had packed his little rucksack to try and get back to mummy.” When the case came to court, she was found guilty of abduction and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment; whilst the boy was ordered to be taken into care. (Times, 5 Nov. 2010).

Many articles on this subject have previously appeared in The Times written by that excellent journalist Camilla Cavendish.   Despite a greater degree of transparency in the family courts introduced by the previous Justice Minister, Jack Straw, social workers remain unaccountable for their actions in cases such as this. Too often they are reported as displaying rigidly bureaucratic inhumanity towards vulnerable people whilst sheltering behind “the interests of the child” to escape scrutiny.

Much of the problem lies in the absence of any objective criteria for taking children into care when there is no evidence of actual physical abuse. “Emotional” abuse is much too vague and dependent on social workers’ subjective opinions.

The mindset of the Judge, Peter Birkett QC, also requires further comment. He appears to be unaware, for example, of the proven fact that placing children in care is often the trigger for a career of criminality in future years. He apparently disregards the need to avoid short prison sentences wherever possible given that prison overcrowding is causing the premature release of increasing numbers of violent criminals into the community.  Finally he seemed devoid of any human feeling in sentencing the mother when he remarked: “you are either unable or unwilling to see the boy’s welfare through any eyes but your own . . .”   But is that not the natural and proper attitude of over 99% of mothers on this planet towards their children’s welfare?  Had she been in a position to do so, she might well have responded that Judge Birkett was unable or unwilling to see the boy’s welfare through any other prism than that of his own affronted self-importance, as judge of a court whose jurisdiction she had tried to evade – and with very good reason, given the outcome!

This case, and the recent judgement of the Special Immigration Appeals Committee in the case of the Moslem cleric Abu Hamza serving seven years for incitement to violence (see footnote to post of November 7th), bring into sharp relief the fact that apart from the social worker establishment, the judiciary is arguably the most important area of national life where performance is not even indirectly accountable to the public, on whose behalf they administer the Law.  Sentencing policy is regularly reviewed by a standing committee, but clearly firmer guidance to judges is needed to impress on them the need to take account of public policy in such cases. Judge Birkett, who seemed unable to temper justice with humanity in the above case could well trigger calls for his own removal from the Bench.

That the onus of responsibility for taking such a grave step is not clear to the public, is a reason in itself for establishing a transparent system of judicial accountability as a recognised part of the whole justice system. It may be noted that the judiciary is in the process of establishing a system where advocates – barristers and solicitors – are to be marked on their performance in court – by judges!

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One Response to “Legalistic inhumanity to children”

  1. Concerned Scientist says:

    This case with its dubious “expert” evidence on “emotional abuse” recalls the scandalous miscarriage of justice in the Sally Clarke case, when the poor lady was convicted of murdering her children only on the basis of a mistake in elementary probability theory, tendered by a medical “expert” in “child abuse” and accepted by the judge for consideration by the jury. There was no direct evidence at all in the Clarke case.

    “Emotional abuse” should be excluded altogether from any court which is considering taking a child into care. More generally in civil cases, the phrase “expert evidence” should be narrowed to embrace only the physical, materials, and biological sciences, civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, polymer, and electronic engineering, the established areas of medicine ,actual professions with licences to practice awarded after tests such as pilots,and HGVs.

    “Subjective” areas of psychology and psychiatry should be excluded as not having an objective scientific baseis. Social workers should be excluded from the “expert” category of witness in child-care and adoption cases.

    Both sides to an argument should be able to call on one expert witness each. This especially applies to child-care and contested adoption cases, where at the moment an expert witness for the parents of the child is actually excluded from the court.

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