John Hemming’s family Justice Bill

John Hemming’s Family Justice BillA Kendall
survivor asks:
… Are they
listening yet?
‘I did talks in a University; one was to six trained
social workers two of whom came from where I was
in care. These two refused to take part AND got
three of the other four social workers to not join in.
They then went to the trainee social workers and
informed them that I was lying about the abuse I
suffered and TOLD them not to listen to me.’
Teresa Cooper Author of Trust No One/Pin Down
* Kendall House was a children’s home where girls were
drugged and raped.
MPs can show they will ‘listen’ on 26 October by being
in Parliament to support the second reading of John
Hemmings MP’s Family Justice Bill.
But let us be clear. As the Minister says (below)there are many
social workers and judges and lawyers doing a difficult job in
often horrendous situations. We pay tribute to them.
But they can get it wrong. Usually just because they are
human: sometimes because of poor practice.
The Family Justice Bill will help reduce those mistakes,
help alleviate their effect, and help children and families.
‘There are (a tiny minority of) cases in which the procedures
and decisions are questionable… this is particularly
important when it comes to adoption proceedings and
other forms of permanence where the consequences are farreaching.
I am conscious … as to what further safeguards
we might institute … a sort of appeals mechanism’
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP
evidence to the Education Select Committee 12th June 2012 Q 793
‘The work of many thousands of professionals has been
incredibly dedicated but the child protection system has
continued to fail for too many children’
Minister for Education, Sarah Teather MP
Hansard 13 June 2012, Col. 432
so said mr Justice Peter Jackson in a recent case involving
children whose lives had been damaged by the care system. his
Lordship also said this is not an isolated case.
Family Justice BILL
John Hemming MP’s Ballot Bill
“When the child was recently asked what improvements he
thinks could be made to the care system in which he spent his
childhood, he replied:
Family torn apart in
15-minute court case:
Court of Appeal
‘aghast at handling of this
case’ – parents denied a
We ask all MPs to be in Parliament on
Friday 26 October to ensure the fa mily
justice bill gets a Second Reading. Thank you.
For how you can help please see pa ge 4.
A and S (Children) v Lancashire
County Council (LCC )
Mr Justice Jackson’s judgement of 21 June
stated that two teenage brothers were taken into
care as infants. ‘Havoc’ was created with their
lives and they ‘suffered real lifelong damage’ and
‘irreparable harm’.
But ‘the local authority’s actions did not
come under independent scrutiny’ because
‘LCC ’s reviewing system did nothing to
correct this.’
Judge James Orrell
ordered that three
children should be
taken from their parents
without listening to
Poor Practice
Good Practice
The Committee (at p 93) supported
this, (noting that it could save public
money by avoiding children going
into care), as did the 2010 research
quoted above.
Clause 1 will achieve this by
involving parents to keep families
So said Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP in evidence to into Safeguarding Children. While acknowledging all the ‘good ‘I think we can do a Evidence to the Education Committee Clauses 1 and 2 will rectify this by requiring that an explanation of
procedure is given to people, and by allowing parties to the case to have
observers present.
Exactly, that is why Clause 2 of the Bill will permit academic research
into the Family Courts – with guarantees that any publication will
protect anonymity.
‘WE MUST WEED OUT Lack of information and ‘intimidation’
Case conferences
‘We surveyed about 450 single parents … over half told us they find the system dreadful
and poor. About 73% find it very difficult to navigate.’
Evidence given to House of Commons Justice Committee by Gingerbread 25th January 2011 Q 78
‘Non lawyers accessing family courts can find it confusing and frustrating’
House of Common Justice Committee July 2011 para 34
‘the common complaint (was) that the courts are daunting and intimidating places for families’
Family Justice Review 2012 p 40.
‘professionals need to understand how intimidating it is (for parents) to be so “outnumbered”
Research into Case Conferences December 2010 for
London Safeguarding Children Group
‘They had case conferences
but didn’t tell us. I found out after a
Data Protection Act request, and asked
what was going on. So they allowed
me to attend (but not my husband) but
I was not allowed to say anything or
comment on the reports.’
We have many such statements.
‘Only one in four mothers felt the case
conference was a positive experience…
parents felt they lacked information’
Research into Case Conferences 2010 for
London Safeguarding Children Group
Barnado’s told the House of
Commons Justice Committee (Q 85):
‘A better option (is) a requirement to
have family group conferencing … our
experience of one (such) service … was
that (for) 27 families for whom care
proceedings were considered none of
those children went into care’.
Transparency without ending anonymity
The Family Justice Bill is about ending poor practice and doing a whole lot better. ‘Family Courts sit in private to protect the anonymity of children. But ‘there is a danger
that justice in secret could allow injustice to children…’
House of Commons Justice Committee July 2011 p 99, as the case below shows.
Yes indeed!…
‘The Principal Registry ordered a toddler be returned to his parents after he was removed
from them when he was discovered to have 17 fractures … (but) … It was established that
the baby was vitamin D and calcium deficient and had undiagnosed rickets’
Goodman Ray Solicitors press release 9th May
‘The risk of injustice is further shown by a study of expert evidence (used in the Family
Court): ‘one fifth of (expert) psychologists were not deemed qualified… Two thirds of the
reports reviewed were “poor” or “very poor”.’
Evaluating Expert Evidence: Prof Jane Ireland February 2012.
Families broken up becuse of incorrect evidence! To avoid this……
‘We need greater transparency in the courts… I am an inveterate believer in (this)’
Childrens’ Minister Tim Loughton MP evidence to the House of Commons
Justice Committee 26th April 2012 Q 332 and Q 334
‘We support efforts to make the Family Courts more transparent … (but without)
increasing the likelihood of identifying children’
Evidence given to the Justice Committee by the NSPCC September 2010 Ev 129.
And, as the Government’s Childrens Czar says: “We need to understand
more” about the mistakes – see box below.
“I accept that the system
and the courts sometimes
get this wrong and we
need to understand more
about why that happens
and how often.”
Martin Narey, Government Childrens Czar
Twitter conversation with
Mr Ian Watson, 2 August 2012
to the House of Commons Education Committee’s inquiry
good practice’ (which we do too) he concluded:
a whole lot better’
Committee 12th June 2012 Q 867 and 868
better. As we explain below. For the exact drafting go to
Poor Practice
Children in care can complain – to a body appointed by the body they are complaining about!
Good Advice
In evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee Barnado’s called for reviewing
officers to have ‘independence from the local authority’. (11th June 2011 Q 108).
‘Complaints procedures should be independent’ NSPCC website briefing.
Clause 3 would protect children by requiring that the body receiving the
complaints is independent of the authority being complained about.
The promises
‘A child’s ongoing relationships with
grandparents and wider family should
be considered (in) arrangements for
a child’s future … (we) support the
recommendation that the importance of
relationships children have with other
family members should be emphasised.’
Government Response to the
Family Law Review 2012
‘Reform family law to provide greater
access rights to grandparents when
families break up. Promote custody
rights for grandparents where children
are taken into care. Grandparents
should be one of the first ports of call
when a child needs to be taken into care,
but at the moment they are not… We
will change that…’
Conservative Older Person’s
General Election Manifesto 2010.
The reality
‘Only half of local authorities have
a policy that families should be
considered as first option before a child
is fostered or taken into care’.
Government Minister, David Willetts MP,
Conservative Home website.
‘I am treated like
a criminal not a
‘I spent over seven
years with my
grandchildren 2/3
times a week. After they were taken
into care over three years ago* the court
ruled that I can see them twice a year,
for two hours, and supervised. I cannot
write, phone or text. I can only send
them birthday and Christmas cards.’
* we emphasize that this was in proceedings totally
unrelated to the grandparents.
Is this ‘greater access’ and ‘the
importance of relationships’,
Prime Minister?
The Bill will put Government
promises into law. Clause 2 will
allow grandparents and wider
family to participate in court
hearings regarding the future
of children and have reasonable
contact with them. Clause 4 will
require courts to consider placing
children with grandparents before
making an adoption order.
Complaints by children in care
Clause 3 will ban discrimination against
people in care and care-leavers.
Poor Practice
How a council decided to remove a child:
‘A room filled with strangers talking about
us. We weren’t told what it was going to
discuss; we weren’t allowed to speak or
comment or even see the reports they had;
then at the end they decided to go to court
to take our children.’
We have many such stories.
Good Intent
As Children’s Minister Tim Loughton
agrees (see page 1) sometimes
procedures and decisions are
‘questionable’ and:
‘this is particularly important when
it comes to adoption proceedings and
other forms of permanence where the
consequences are far-reaching. I am
conscious about further safeguards…
a sort of appeals procedure’
Clause 1 will enable appeals to the
council’s scrutiny committee so that
possibly hasty decisions and poor
procedure can be reconsidered.
Discrimination against
children in care
‘I have on two occasions lost my job when my
employers have come across my background/
upbringing despite having more professional
experience & qualifications than my managers.
We are viewed as mad, bad or sad. Even with
a masters degree in Psychotherapy & 20 years
experience, a PhD in Psychology, we are never
qualified enough to be treated equally.’
Care Leaver, July 2012
‘In 2009 I was the Chief Executive of the Children’s
Rights Alliance and submitted to the Equality
Bill Committee that “it shall be an offence to
discriminate against another on the grounds of
their care status.” It did not succeed. It must now!’
Mike Lindsay Advisor to the
Children’s Rights Director for England
‘I lost my job and at the Employment
Tribunal the barrister told them that “as
a result of being ex-care I would have a
residual propensity to fabricate”.’
Care Leaver, July 2012
‘The two children in care ‘suffered real lifelong damage’. But the local authority’s actions did
not come under independent scrutiny’ – Mr Justice Jackson in the Lancashire case June
2012 (see p.1)
The Leicestershire Inquiry in 1993 found that ‘Early warnings of problems were ignored
even from reliable sources.’
Evening Standard 27th July 2010 reporting about Kendall House where girls were drugged
and raped: ‘She did report her injuries at the time, and a letter from the doctor who examined
her says: “I enclose a copy of a swab taken from (name). It is likely she has been sexually abused.”
Nothing was done.’
Appealing local
authority decisions
Forced adoption is when children are
adopted without the consent of the
birth parents. In emotive terms it is
the state forcibly taking children from
their parents.
This power has resulted in headlines in the national press about
‘child-snatchers’ and the one on page 1.
There are those who say that forced adoption should be scrapped.
But we are not going that far: we are simply saying that the current
safeguards provided by law and public policy should be adhered to.
The Legal Saf eguards
Under the Children and Adoption Act 2002 the courts can ‘dispense
with parental consent’ to adoption to protect children where there
is evidence that they may have been harmed or at risk.
But Parliament has laid down legal safeguards (in Section 1(4) of
the 2002 Act) that ‘must’ (that is the word in the Act) be adhered to
before parental consent can be dispensed with. They include
• the child’s wishes (where old enough) and needs, and the
lifelong effect on the child of losing contact with his birth
• the harm that the child has suffered or might suffer,
• the relationship the child has with his relatives and the value to
the child of it continuing,
• the ability of the relatives to provide a secure home for the child
and the wishes of the relatives.
What happens in practice? The secret way in which the will
of Parliament is being ignored
These provisions laid down by Parliament are being ignored. Our
difficulty in showing this, however, is the hearings are secret – and
so are the judgements. We are looking at one now. It says that this
judgment must not be shown to anyone. So the family that lost their
children may be in contempt of court for even showingit to us.
Other people have received injunctions stopping them from
disclosing information about their cases. Their children were taken
‘without parental consent’ in secret – and this must remain secret.
People could go to jail just for giving us information about the
forced adoption of their children!
So to prevent this we must be very careful. We have a judgement
dated 4 October 2011 and another dated 12th July 2012: both
are silent as to how the requirements of section 1(4) have been
complied with. So is another from the North of England, and
another from the West Country, and another from ……
All contain little or no mention of the matters required by
Parliament in section 1(4) of the 2002 Act.
And this seems to be the norm, as noted by Julie Haines a
‘McKenzie Friend’1 from Justice For Families
‘I have assisted hundreds of cases. The judges usually just say “…..
and I dispense with the parental consent to adoption because the
child’s welfare needs it”. They do not explain how or even whether
they have considered the points required by Section 1 of the Act.’
1 A ‘Mackenzie Friend’ is a non-lawyer who assists people in court who do not
have a lawyer
The Bill would rectify this by requiring judges to explain how
they have considered the matters that Section 1(4) says they
should consider.
The Public Policy Saf eguards
Public Policy is government policy with an added factor that it is an
accepted way of doing things.
Coalition Government policy is stated in its response to the Review
of Family Law published in February:
‘a child’s ongoing relationships with their grandparents and wider
family members should be considered when making arrangements
for a child’s future … (we) support the recommendation that the
importance of relationships children have with other family members
should be emphasised.’
So there is a generally accepted public policy that grandparents
and wider family members should be considered before forced
But this is not happening.
Our amendment to the 2002 Act will give effect to public
policy and promises by requiring that before adoption and
other ‘care orders’ are considered wider families are viewed
as the ‘first port of call’ and only rejected if there are validated
We appeal to Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Milliband keep to
their promises and support it.
Forced Adoption:
‘Without parental consent’
‘Grandparents should be one of the
first ports of call when a child needs to
be taken into care’
Conservative Older People
General Election Manifesto 2010
‘We will ensure that grandparents
and other family members are always
given first consideration for adoption
or fostering’
Labour Party Election Manifesto p 6.4
To get this Bill into law we need YOUR help. Can you
please do as many of the following as possible?
• Write to your MP (House of Commons, London SW1A
0AA) asking him/her to support this Bill by being in
the House of Commons on Friday 26th October to
vote for it.
• Email your MP with a similar request. Go to
• Ask your friends and other contacts to do the same.
• Distribute copies of a small A4 flyer as widely as
possible. Please let us know how many you would like.
Contact us on
Thank you
An appeal for your help

This entry was posted in Media stuff of interest, My Story about social services ignoring child abuse and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to John Hemming’s family Justice Bill

  1. Pingback: Grandparents Legal Rights To Grandchildren Real Grandparents Legal Rights To Grandchildren

  2. Pingback: John Hemming’s family Justice Bill | pricekatie

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