TecSOS – Groundbreaking Technology To Help Domestic Violence Victims

Developed by the Vodafone Spain Foundation in collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross and the TecSOS Foundation, TecSOS is a handheld device which looks just like a mobile phone. We say looks just like a mobile phone, because it functions a little differently to your usual 21st century mobile.

Whilst the screen is fake, and the keypad is frozen, there is an activation button which once pressed, alerts the police. The police can then locate the device and an enhanced microphone records what happens next. These recordings, unlike most types of recording, are admissible in court.

The device is currently being used in  Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Ireland and the UK. The Vodafone website tells us:

“The handsets have been used by over 36,000 women across 6 European countries. In the UK, it is being used by over 50% of UK police forces with more than 7,000 victims benefiting from the increased security and protection provided by the service.”

For obvious reasons, not much is known about the scheme, but it seems the UK roll out comes with some special features. Each call made from one of these phones is escalated to an ‘immediate’ response time, so the police can get to the scene and prevent any further violence. The recording is also a powerful solution in itself for DV victims – any incriminating content can be used in court without the victim having to testify at the hearing.

You can catch testimonials of DV victims who have used the device to protect themselves, here. 

Whilst we think this is a step forward, no doubt some of you will have concerns over possible fabrication of evidence, which may well be a possible deviation in what we feel is, overall, a force for good.

BBC: Have You Ever Used A McKenzie Friend?

Although we’ve written extensively on the evolution of McKenzie Friends inside the justice system (you can catch our posts on the matter here), it seems there is yet more debate to be had.

McKenzie Friends assist people who cannot afford conventional legal representation whilst they are dealing with legal matters. They are usually lay men and women who have been through the courts themselves, often representing themselves in their own cases, and feel strongly that others should not have to do the same. Many McKenzies don’t charge for their assistance. Some however, do. Knowing which McKenzie Friends are up to the job and which won’t take advantage of you can be difficult.

Off the back of the Legal Services Consumer Panel Report which suggests that McKenzies should be regulated, it seems the BBC have stepped in to offer the Panel some help by way of market research.

The BBC would like to know if you’ve ever used a McKenzie Friend, or you are a member of a McKenzie organisation. 

If you’ve ever used a McKenzie do think about getting in touch.

The BBC’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Clive Coleman would like to hear your views.

Ashya King, The BBC & Researching Reform – The Interviews

Researching Reform was interviewed by the BBC this morning on the Ashya King case and the now infamous European Arrest Warrant that played its part in separating a very sick child from his parents.

If you’d like to listen to the interviews, please click on the links below and they will take you to the programmes we took part in.

We’d like to thank the BBC for having us. It was a really interesting morning and we felt very privileged to be able to discuss this case and highlight the issues with several very eloquent presenters. The folks over at the BBC also allowed us to take some photos of our morning, and so we’ve added them below too.

Despite other news which seemed to dominate the airwaves today, we very much hope that Ashya and the terrible ordeal he and his parents experienced are not forgotten. The family is still trying to raise money for Ashya’s treatment. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so here.

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BBC Invite Researching Reform to Discuss Ashya King Case

The BBC have very kindly invited Researching Reform to talk about Ashya King and the use of a European Arrest Warrant in this case. We will be on BBC Radio from 7am tomorrow morning. If you’d like to listen in, you can access the stations on iPlayer; we’ve added our interview schedule below for you:

  • 0700 SOLENT  
  • 0708 DEVON   
  • 0715 FOYLE  
  • 0722 BRISTOL 
  • 0730 WILTSHIRE 
  • 0738 KENT  
  • 0745 STOKE 
  • 0752 ESSEX

And if the folks over at the BBC allow us to, we’ll tweet and share photos of the morning at Broadcasting House too :)

Ashya King – Update

It’s almost over. Ashya will be reunited with his parents shortly and the CPS has now rescinded the arrest warrant.

Having been held in custody in what is one of the most notorious prisons in Spain, where terrorists are detained, and having not been given any updates about their sick child for three days (Mrs King cried for the majority of her time in prison), the Kings are now free.

Whilst the police and the hospital remain adamant they did the right thing, The Kings will now be suing them both for criminal slander and false imprisonment. And Researching Reform is right behind them.

Authorities have conceded that the Kings had taken steps to safeguard Ashya’s health such as providing him with specialist food and charging his feeding pump using the car battery. Officials have now admitted that Ashya’s life was not in immediate danger, a glaring turnaround post the hospital’s insistence that it was.

For its part, the hospital now seems to have backed down, too. They say that Ashya could now have the proton treatment.

As far as we’re concerned, without full apologies these confessions are of no use to anyone. More than this, these small offerings are far too little, too late.

Sue the bastards. We wish you every success.

Researching Reform for Jordans: Ashya King and European Arrest Warrants

This month for our column over at Jordans Family Law we have chosen to write about the Ashya King case and the use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to instigate extradition proceedings against this child’s parents.

In the article we talk about the history of EAWs, it’s chequered past and why there’s ample room to consider this case as a human rights one, rather than a criminal or civil case.

You can check out our article here.


Petition: Reunite Ashya With His Parents

A petition started by Ethan Dallas, a friend of the Kings to reunite Ashya with his mother and father has so far garnered over 69,000 signatures (including our own), such is the palpable feeling of an entire nation (and beyond) on the issue.

It is an elegant and eloquent petition. Ethan does not blame the police or the hospital for their actions. He does not address the technicalities behind the arrest warrant (these things after all, cannot just be waved aside – there is a complex and fiddly procedure to them). He is simply petitioning to ensure that Ashya is reunited with his parents during what must be a frightening and lonely experience for a five-year old boy – being in a foreign land, in hospital, without his mummy and daddy.

That has of course been our central concern here at Researching Reform, but unlike the poised and graceful wording of the petition which asks our Prime Minister to help this family, we have our own, much more pointed message for Mr Cameron:

What if this was one of your children?

We very much hope the PM will do the right thing.

Please do sign this petition if you can. They only need a little over 5,000 signatures. Come on guys, let’s help this little boy.

Ashya with his brother.

Children In The Vine Audio Series: Episode One

Children In The Vine

This is a serial about the love, hate, anger, panic, occasional joy, dark humour, professional dedication and professional controversy at the heart of the family justice system. The stories feature an organisation of McKenzie Friends – lay advocates who help clients who are representing themselves in legal cases.

The dramas feature cases about public family law (where a public body like a local authority is involved in arranging the care of children), and private family law (disputes between parents, especially over children) .

The cases are controversial and life changing for the families.

McKenzie Friends are a relatively new phenomenon inside the legal system but over the last few years their presence has increased significantly. Today they sit uncomfortably in the court system with fee charging lawyers who sometimes view them as potential competition. But as the legal aid cuts impact on the family justice system and the economy worsens, the small office becomes inundated with requests for assistance. The team of four have to learn to cope with the increase in work and an unforgiving system which makes it almost impossible to resolve issues conventionally.

The team begin to resort to unconventional methods to get to the bottom of the cases they’re given.

Each McKenzie Friend has their own style of working through cases and their own personal motivations for getting involved, stemming from personal experience with the system. They work with limited resources which they share with each other. They learn on the job.

But the team find help and support in the most unusual places. Rogue journalists, renegade MPs and family lawyers come in and out of the agency’s life to help them solve their cases and help the families and children they work with.

This is a story about the next generation of lawyers, who work with the spirit of law as it was intended. Often discriminated against in the court system for not having legal qualifications they slowly infiltrate the system and expose corruption and malpractice as they try to help the families who come to them because they have nowhere left to go.

We hope you enjoy this series

You can catch the first episode, here.


Question It!

Welcome to a more Autumnal week, as the slow grind of the vast machine that is the work mill winds back into action.

Following the wake of the Rotherham scandal, where thousands of children were abused and ignored by police and social work professionals for decades despite clear signs of child abuse, Hilary Willmer, a campaigner and chair of trustees at the charity Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace) says that this kind of abuse is far more widespread than is being acknowledged by government. 

Having worked in Rotherham in the 90’s, Willmer explains that referrals were coming in from all over the country, but that the girls were laughed at, reports of the extent of the problem suppressed, with authorities even going so far as to say that these girls had “chosen this lifestyle to feed their drug habit”.

Our question this week then, is this: do you think Willmer is right and do we need to change the culture in the UK when it comes to understanding children?



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