The Buzz

These are the news items we feel should be front and center:

Too many new child abuse laws, too little cohesion – how poorly delivered governance leads to social services grinding to a halt

Child Abuse Linked to Depression and Anxiety in Later Life - New ground breaking study

Holyrood child abuse inquiry to look at Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes in Scotland

Buzz

Research Study: Cross-Examination of Vulnerable Witnesses By Litigants In Person

The President of the Family Division, James Munby has announced today that the Ministry of Justice will be collecting information on issues surrounding the direct cross examination of vulnerable witnesses by LIPs with a view to carrying out a research study.

This research will focus on Private Law hearings in the Family Court or Family Division where an issue arises in relation to the actual or potential cross-examination of a vulnerable or intimidated witness, by a litigant in person accused of domestic abuse.

Family law judges at every level will be the first to be approached in relation to this matter. Those judges participating will be asked to fill out forms relating to cases where this kind of cross examination occurs or may have occurred. Data will be collected from 2nd March until 29th May of this year. Once the data has been gathered, the research for this project will take place, with a view to seeking out what powers are available to deal with this area and to find ways to support vulnerable witnesses being directly questioned by self represented applicants.

You can access his statement from the link above, but we have produced it below for you also:

“I am pleased to report that the Ministry of Justice is intending to gather information, and subsequently undertake a research study, on private law cases where direct cross examination of a vulnerable witness by a litigant in person is, or threatens to be, an issue.

They will start by asking family judges at all levels who have such cases in front of them at any stage of proceedings to complete the attached form. I am therefore asking you to assist in the project by ensuring that if such a case comes before you, you complete and return the form to the named HMCTS contact.

The data collection stage of the process will begin next Monday 2nd March and run until the 29th May. The research study will then explore the powers available to manage these cases and seek to establish what else could be considered to support both the management of the cases and protection of vulnerable witnesses.

I very much hope that you will assist in the project by completing the forms in every relevant case and by agreeing to take part in the subsequent research, to which I expect to give my formal approval later this year.

The Court staff will ensure that you have access to the forms and details of the contact and if you have any questions they should be directed to that contact or to my office via Jo Wilkinson (Joanna.wilkinson@judiciary.gsi.gov.uk)

Thank you very much for your assistance in this important project.
James Munby”

The form for this study can be downloaded by clicking on the link above and scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

MOJ

When Is It Ok To Remove A Child From Her Or His Birth Family?

We’ve just come across a recent report by Olga Borzova which looks at developing policy guidelines for member States in the EU, on how to avoid practices deemed abusive in the context of adoption. This includes severing family ties completely, removing children from parental care at birth, basing placement decisions on the passage of time, and having recourse to adoptions without parental consent, or forced adoption as it is sometimes controversially termed.

We have not yet had a chance to read the 16 page report, but we wanted to share it with you straight away. We have though, had a glance at some of the recommendations and we think they are superb.

A piece on the Parliamentary Assembly’s website gives a good summary of what Ms Borzova’s report focuses on and the balancing of issues she recommends when making decisions relating to adoption. We’ve reproduced the piece for you below, but you can also access it on the Assembly’s site here:

“Children have the right to be protected from all types of violence, abuse and neglect. But children also have the right not to be separated from their parents against their will, except when the competent authorities determine that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child,” Olga Borzova (Russia, NR) says in her report, adopted yesterday by PACE’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

The report looks at the thorny issue of taking the right decision about when to remove a child from his or her family. “Sometimes, children are removed from their families for the wrong reasons, for example because their parents are too poor to feed or house properly,” Ms Borzova said. “Sometimes, however, children are not removed from their families in time, or are returned too early, with tragic consequences.”

According to the committee, the solution lies in putting the best interest of the child first when the initial decision is taken – usually by social services – to remove a child from his or her birth family. The report recommends the development of policy guidelines for member States on how to avoid practices deemed abusive in this context, such as severing family ties completely, removing children from parental care at birth, basing placement decisions on the passage of time, and having recourse to adoptions without parental consent.

“If we manage to ensure that these recommendations are put into practice, we will have made a big step towards putting into place social services, laws, regulations and practices which truly put the best interest of the child first in removal, placement and reunification decisions – to the benefit of all children,” Ms Borzova concluded.

The report will be debated at the PACE Spring plenary session in April 2015.

You can access the report here. 

A big thank you to Rough Rabbit for alerting us to this report.

Olga

Olga Borzova

The Buzz

These are the news items we feel should be right on the radar:

Buzz

Event: Personality And Politics -The Psychology Of Abuse And Cover Up

The Psychometrics Forum is holding an event on 11th March this year to talk about politics and the personality of the politician, just in time for the elections. Speakers for the event include Dr Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College London and Dr Rainer Kurz, who will be talking about politics and the psychology of abuse and cover up.

Dr Kurz has very kindly informed us that he will be exploring the following themes, which we feel may be of interest to our readers:

  • Politics, personality and performance including a model of manipulative behaviours
  • Psychometric measurement problems in clinical personality tests that shield abusers and re-victimise
  • Sir Cyril Smith, Sir Jimmy Savile, Marc Dutroux case and successful UK prosecutions of Satanists
  • Extreme abuse, trauma, dissociation
  • How ‘gaming’ of Family Court proceedings and mental health assessment works

If you’d like to attend this event, please see the flyer below for further details. Tickets cost £65 for full TPF members and £95 for non-members (including LinkedIn affiliates). Please contact Caro Leitzell with any queries or questions – admin@psychometricsforum.org

Many thanks to Dr Kurz for sharing this event with us.

11th March 2015 Flyer TPF-page-0

Casting Call: New BBC Current Affairs Programme Wants To Hear Your Views

The BBC are working on a new TV programme focusing on politics, and which will feature award-winning journalist Victoria Derbyshire, and a discussion panel made up of members of the public who are interested in current affairs.

If you’d like to take part in the programme, which will run from April, check out the details below:

“Do you have opinions on the day’s news, current affairs and issues of the day? We want your voice to be heard and would love to invite you to be part of an audience panel on a new programme on BBC 2 and BBC News Channel – presented by Victoria Derbyshire.

Throughout April we will be inviting up to 20 people a day to our studio in London’s New Broadcasting House to be on air and chat to Victoria and other audience members about the day’s news. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an expert. We just want your take on issues that affect you.

It would be best if you lived near enough to London that you could get here relatively easily as we will probably only be able to give you a few day’s notice before the programme. You would then be required from 7am until 11am on the day of broadcast. Please contact Elaine if you want to know more. elaine.doran@bbc.co.uk” 

Victoria Derbyshire

Lord James of Blackheath: I Helped Smuggle Children Used For Slavery And Sex

In a debate which took place in the House of Lords yesterday on the Modern Slavery Bill, Lord Blackheath makes a startling revelation. He tells his fellow peers that whilst working for the Australian Civil Service in London, he was tasked with herding, as he puts it, small children on to boats at Tilbury, for transportation to Australia. Blackheath says:

“They did not have names; they did not know who their parents were, or where they came from, and they were completely terrified.” 

He recounts that at the time, he was “deeply suspicious” of this practice, and had a strong feeling that the children did not have the proper permissions to travel. Since then, he has been likened to Jimmy Savile, although to his credit, he does say his rap sheet is worse. Savile was responsible for abusing 300 children – Blackheath facilitated the abuse of 2,500 vulnerable minors, none of whom knew who their parents were or what was happening to them. They were completely alone in the world. And yet Blackheath, with his strong suspicions, which included the belief that what he was being asked to do to those children was in fact illegal, chose to keep schtum.

You would think that after such an admission, Blackheath would be a little more introspective. Not a bit of it. No longer speaking in the first person he tells us:

“It involved many tens of thousands of children over 15 years; we should be deeply ashamed of it.”

The rest of Blackheath’s statement is equally interesting. He details how these children were shipped off to Australia (careful to mention this happens during a Labour government – Blackheath is a Tory boy); how the courts there refused to sanction any adoptions involving these children; and how subsequently, they all ended up on the streets. 2,500 children. On the streets. All on their own.

And then, he goes on to share his knowledge, common knowledge as it turns out, that many of these children over time were picked up by so called religious organisations who were in fact abusing children emotionally and physically. Two of these organisations appear to be infamous – The Sisters of Mercy, who were Catholic nuns, and the Christian Brothers, who were already known in government service as the “Christian buggers”. “Already known in government service”. How about that.

Blackheath also tells us:

“The rules of a Christian Brothers home were that if you were abused by one of the holy fathers, that was an act of god, and if you complained about the holy father, that was a sin against god and you would be flogged for it. By the way, the flogging was with a metal hacksaw replacement blade. It did not leave much of a kid… Any ship that was allowed to sail from that date on was allowed to sail in the knowledge that the inmates were going to be raped and abused.”

And yet Mr Blackheath did nothing. He did not utter a word.

A group of social workers at the time, though, did. And of course, they were ignored.

Blackheath goes on to detail separate accounts from this period of time, but his statement, which clearly goes off at a long and winding tangent – the Lords are supposed to be discussing amendments to the Bill – is cut short by time watching peers.

So why does Blackheath make this startling admission and swerve the debate completely off course? The amendment he was discussing was Amendment 6. This is what it says:

6

Insert the following new Clause—

“Forced child migration

(1)     A person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel
of a child (“C”) with a view to transferring C’s permanent residence unless
the person reasonably believes that—

(a)   C’s parent or guardian consents,

(b)   it is necessary for securing compliance with an order under section
8 of the Children Act 1989, or

(c)   it is necessary for securing compliance with an order of a court in a
foreign jurisdiction.

(2)     For the purposes of subsection (1) “permanent residence” shall not include
any detention under a sentence that is imposed by a court after a conviction
for a criminal offence.

(3)     A person may in particular arrange or facilitate C’s travel by transporting
or transferring C, harbouring or receiving C, or transferring or exchanging
control over C.

(4)     A person arranges or facilitates C’s travel with a view to transferring C’s
permanent residence only if the person knows or ought to know that C is
travelling in order to live for a substantial or indeterminate period of time
in a different location to the one in which C lived before the travel.

(5)     “Travel” has the same meaning as in section 2.

(6)     A person who is a UK national commits an offence under this section
regardless of—

(a)   where the arranging or facilitating takes place, or

(b)   where the travel takes place.

(7)     A person who is not a UK national commits an offence under this section
if—

(a)   any part of the arranging or facilitating takes place in the United
Kingdom, or

(b)   the travel consists of arrival in or entry into, departure from, or
travel within, the United Kingdom.

(8)     For the purposes of this section, a “person” shall include a public body.”

Was it a guilty conscience, perhaps? A fear that he might in some way find himself under scrutiny? After all the amendment if enacted might in some way be retroactive. And with the nation’s Inquiry into child abuse he may be feeling a little nervous about being thrust into the spotlight. Nevertheless, he’s done that for himself, by telling the world what he did in a public debate in the House of Lords. Whilst we appreciate that there may be a trace of contrition in that act, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by those who choose not to do the right thing when it comes to protecting children from being exploited.

You can track the Modern Slavery Bill’s progress here.

A very big thank you to Maggie Tuttle for sharing this item with us.

James Blackheath

Forget The Oscars – Our Child Abuse Inquiry Is A Monster’s Ball

What do British actress Emma Watson, statutes of limitation and insurance companies have in common? We’re about to find out.

Whilst the nation watches on as the Child Abuse Inquiry gets underway, inquiries further afield are already giving us a feel for what’s to come. The eery familiarity of our own, limited, progress in relation to our abuse inquiry in Britain owes as much to its many false starts as it does to the predictability of a process which bears many of the same hallmarks as investigations currently taking place in Australia and Ireland.

The big news from Australia this morning is the lifting of time limits for survivors seeking to make compensation claims against a person or organisation for child abuse. As a result, the government is bracing itself for a flood of class actions and other types of law suits which could impact state-run schools, orphanages and detention centres there.

It is not inconceivable that this might happen here. With the current inquiry’s remit set to go back as far as Word War II, and perhaps farther still, the scope for thousands of victims to come forward will be set, whom quite rightly, will be angry and suppressed, and looking for justice. For many, that justice can now only come in the form of compensation, with historic abuse often leaving its long passed abusers languishing in graves or knocking on hell’s door. And we are already starting to see the effects. Child sexual exploitation figures have exploded in the last few months, with police appearing to uncover new spates of abuse cases. Perhaps not a coincidence that their past reticence to investigate these crimes has now turned into fevered action post the Inquiry’s inception.

Feeding into the concern that the government is about to get it from every quarter is the latest revelation that insurance companies and local authorities have been complicit in hiding the scale and extent of child abuse for their own ends. Confirming what Researching Reform, and many others including the often maligned John Hemming MP (often portrayed as a Hollywood villain, part Dr Evil, part Lothario) have been saying for years, the BBC reports this morning that insurance companies and local authorities have tried to suppress allegations of abuse to avoid pay outs and excessive premiums, with some insurers threatening to remove cover completely, such is the scale of the problem.

As you might imagine, this stance has led to councils trying to sweep abuse allegations under the carpet to avoid losing their insurance cover. We don’t need to tell you the impact that would have had on vulnerable children not getting the help they so desperately needed.

Nevertheless, Emma Watson, who is a UN ambassador for women, made a powerful point on this issue, albeit indirectly, in a speech she made in New York last year. She highlighted the fact that in the UK alone,  suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49. We also know that a significant portion of those who commit suicide, both men and women, are victims of abuse as children. Many also go on to die prematurely as a result of poor health which stems directly from their abuse. International statistics tell us that:

  • 40 million children are subjected to abuse each year, and that;
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents globally.

In the UK alone, of the child deaths on record in 2013, a staggering 65% died as a result of deliberately inflicted injury, neglect or abuse, although the research wonks are quick to advise caution when interpreting this data. 

So what does this all mean for the nations’  statutory inquiry into child abuse? Put bluntly, it means those involved are going to have to make a lot of enemies if they want to do the job properly. The Insurance sector will need to be thoroughly investigated. Local Authorities’ policies and practice protocols will need to be stripped down and analysed. The source of every action condoning both implicitly and explicitly the kind of behaviour which has failed to protect our children from abuse also needs to be found and scrutinised. Motivations for these cover ups and breaches of process need to be fully investigated and proposals for putting together child-friendly policies need to be made, much like the now infamous Family Test Prime Minister David Cameron proposed last year but which has yet to be implemented.

This inquiry is going to get ugly. It will be a Monster’s Ball. But we will all be watching, because unlike The Oscars, every one has a stake in the outcome.

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Question It!

Hello, and welcome to another Pre-Spring Monday morning, and our question for this week, which focuses on the relatively new concept in family law, of the voice of the child.

The voice of the child in the family justice system typically refers to the process whereby children in family proceedings can voice their opinion on matters impacting them. This is especially important in adoption cases and divorce or separation cases, where children’s lives are often deeply impacted by decisions made on their behalf by the courts.

Simon Hughes, our justice minister, has spoken several times in the last year on amplifying that voice and making it heard, in a system which often fails to listen carefully to what children are saying and which in turn can lead to poor outcomes for children. His recent initiative, in which he hopes to help children express their wishes and feelings, and give them due weight, is long overdue, but….

Do you think this will make a difference or will nothing change on the ground?

face_question_mark

The Buzz

These are the news items we think should be right on the radar:

How to Assess and manage the risks posed by sexual and violent offenders: guidance for the police, prison service and probation trusts.

Human Rights Committee Not Impressed With How The Government is Tackling Violence Against Women and Children

Wednesday 25 February, after 3pm: Earl of Listowel raises issues around mental health services. This will be a Debate, in the chamber.

Buzz

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