Baby P – The Untold Story

Award winning director Harry Singer has made a documentary for the BBC on the Baby P case. He felt that whilst a lot of attention was focused on the social workers involved in the tragedy, very little focus was placed upon other organisations involved who were also exposed to the signs and symptoms of Peter’s awful abuse, and who were also in a position to protect him from it.

The film offers a timeline of events and interviews with people including Sharon Shoesmith, Ed Balls, the social workers involved and the medical staff who saw Peter, too.

Singer told the BBC: “When I realised that Peter Connelly’s tragic death wasn’t uncommon – a child dies once every ten days at the hand of a parent in this country – I realised that the extraordinary reaction to his death might tell us something really fundamental about our society, the media, politics and about us. When I discovered that there were other professionals besides the social workers and the doctor who may also have been in a position to save him, I found myself wondering – did we really get the full story about this little boy’s death and if not, why not?”

This 90 minute film will be aired on 27th October, at 8.30pm on BBC1.

Sharon Shoesmith and Camila Batmanghelidjh Amongst Speakers At Children & Families Conference

A debate taking place on the 20th November will see Sharon Shoesmith, former director of Haringey’s children services (and the lady in charge during the Baby P tragedy) and Camila Batmanghelidjh of the excellent Kids Company, talking about best practice.

But you won’t be able to attend unless you’re a social worker or other permitted title holder (entry is free for these folks) or you’re prepared to pay around £200 for the privilege. We imagine this might dissuade any disgruntled members of the public from asking Shoesmith what she actually knows about best practice, however it should be an interesting event.

Professor Ray Jones CBE, will also be speaking at the event.

Ray Jones PictureSharon Shoesmith PictureCamila Batmanghelidjh


Best Of The Rest

Here are some news items that we think are of interest:

Many thanks to the lovely Debby for sharing the first news item with us.


NEW: LIP Service – A Practical Guide for Parents & Children Going Through the Family Courts


What’s the deal?

We’ve been thinking about providing a service which allows parents and children to get all the help they need, for a long time. We started with our divorce manual, which was a basic look at the system and then moved on to our Encyclopaedia on Family Law which whilst still active, we realised, was not enough.

So, what did you do?

We came up with LIP (Litigants In Person) Service: a Youtube channel filled with short videos on how to find information, build your case and navigate the court process. It won’t matter if you’re very new to the world of the family courts, because everything is explained in simple English and without the legal mumbo jumbo (and if we have to add it, we’ll break it down into every day speak for you).

Who are the video “How To’s” for?

LIP Service is for everyone. It’s for parents going through divorce, for families experiencing local authority intervention and it is especially for children. We know the legal aid cuts and the cost of representation are making it almost impossible to get the help you need and so we thought we would offer you a way of empowering your family, by giving you the best tools to make your way through the system, so you’re as prepared as you can be. And many of the tools we’ll share with you, are free.

Won’t this upset the legal profession?

Not the intelligent folks. Smart lawyers know that sharing knowledge and acquiring a skill are two very different things. Learning to become a lawyer takes years, and is not something most parents are interested in doing. Knowledge, though, is for everyone. We don’t tolerate neurotic information retention, and neither should you.

What’s a Data Pack?

Data Packs are added to every post we write for each video. They will include links to helpful websites and support groups, as well as organisations who we think are excellent and provide a good service, whether it’s signposting, support or something else super groovy.

Can we see the videos?

Our very first one is at the bottom of this post. It introduces the LIP service project and gives you a taste of what we’re going to be covering. We’re always very happy to receive feedback and suggestions for videos, so don’t be shy, we’re listening.

We really hope LIP service is helpful in some way; good luck…..


Children In The Vine Audio Series: Episode Seven

Children In The Vine

Based on actual events, 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 seventh episode, here.


Save the Date: Presumption of Parental Involvement Comes Into Force on 22 October

Jordans tells us that James Munby, The President of the Family Division has today announced that the presumption of parental involvement will come into force on 22nd October, this year. 

It will be inserted into the Children and Families Act 2014, at S.11.

The presumption in this context will not amount to an automatic right to 50/50 shared parenting, but an acknowledgement that the starting point focuses on the idea that all parents should be involved in their child’s life where possible.

This is unlikely to please father’s rights groups, but there it is. Do we think parental involvement as a notion is good? Yes. Do we think this subsection is a pointless addition to keep drafters busy and parents’ rights movements happy? Yes. But do we think a presumption in law is a good idea? Given the way the system cronks along, that would be a big no.

Odds on S.11 becomes the next contender after legal aid cuts to slow the process down even further.

You read it here first.




Rewind: Researching Reform for Defrosting Cold Cases

The very lovely and super clever Alice de Sturler over at the excellent Defrosting Cold Cases (one to follow if you’re fascinated by complex or unsolved criminal cases), has just reminded us of an article we wrote for the site in 2012.

The article is entitled, “The Voice of The Child” and looks at how that voice began to emerge inside the family justice system at that time and the potential dangers which might stifle it.

It gave us a much-needed recap on the basics of the voice of the child, and reminded us that children are capable of the incredible, with the right support.

Some Positive News….

It’s just a small departure from our normal stream of disappointments, tragedies and scandals, but we thought you might like a sun shine break.


Meet Norway’s First Child Bride…

Are you shocked? Disgusted? Upset?

That’s the idea.

Plan International is a children’s development charity which is trying to highlight the 39,000 children every day who are forced into marriage. Their new campaign, using the fictional story of a child bride in Norway called Thea is designed to bring this harsh reality home.

The charity is hoping to expose the practice of child marriage through this campaign, and to get us to really think about what child marriage looks like. So, what are they really saying? Put bluntly –  what if it was your daughter?

Provocative, rousing and absolutely necessary.


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