That is the suggestion that has been made by South Australian Coroner Mark Johns, who has this week been presiding over a tragic inquest involving the death of Chloe Valentine, a four-year old girl, at the hands of her parents.
The remark was made after Johns felt that not enough was being done to protect children from harm, and his growing concern that children’s rights may be being gazumped by the rights of dysfunctional parents. He has called for the Families Government Department in South Australia to be overhauled, which many feel is at breaking point, to ensure that children can be properly protected from unfit parents.
Johns’ most controversial recommendation, and the one which has divided professionals, refers to changing the state’s law to ensure that babies born to parents previously convicted of killing their children (by criminal neglect, murder or manslaughter) are automatically placed in government care.
It will then be up to the parents to prove they are fit to care for their children.
If enacted as law, this move could have the potential to set precedent in Australia, and perhaps even others parts of the world like the UK, which tends to follow Australia’s lead on child welfare matters. In light of horrific British cases like the Natalie Allman case, which saw a mother who was almost killed by her partner in front of their twins being forced to write to him about their children’s progress whilst serving his prison sentence, and effectively having to engage their children in this exercise, it’s easy to see how such a measure might be welcomed here. The case resonated around the world, and although different to the Chloe Valentine case (the father attacked Ms Allman, rather than the children, directly), many questioned whether this father’s right to contact with his children had usurped their right to be protected from harm. And, ultimately, whether he was fit to be a parent.
However some took the view that upon serving his jail time, the father in this case may be able to reform and could, with support, parent his children competently. And that is the argument child welfare professionals in Australia, like National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell is making. Mitchell takes the view that a blanket recommendation to remove children automatically in this way, does not take into account the details of each case and could also negatively impact the children involved, if they were to be deprived of a parent who had the capacity to reform.
Mitchell recommends instead, a system of increased early surveillance in instances where a parent has been deemed unfit.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston though, disagrees, and would like to see Johns’ recommendation taken one step further – her concern relates to paedophiles, and registered sex offenders. Hetty would like anyone who has demonstrated a capacity to harm children in any way to be put on a watch list.
One thing all the professionals who have so far commented on this recommendation agree upon, is that there needs to be a re-focusing of rights generally, so that children’s rights come before anyone else’s, including the rights of the parents involved.
So what do you think? Should parents who have been convicted of killing their children have any further children born to them automatically removed from their care?
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
Law is not another word for common sense! In the case where the mother was forced to write to her ex husband, who almost murdered her, the Judge should have exercised a shred of common sense but failed to! The least he could have done is exercise his discretion that morally it was wrong!
As regards removal of newborns from convicted killers there should not be a blanket approach. All cases should be judged individually. I’m with Megan Mitchell.
Where do you stop? On the back of this law many others would piggyback! It was not so long ago that UK Judge Goldsack stated he wanted to remove newborns from generational offenders. This was in the main petty theft offenders. In Italy the children of the Mafia have already been removed in a interventionist programming to stop violence.
Interventionist programming focus on the parents but it may be better to look at the bigger picture. Poverty is a factor in crime so the focus should be on tackling that first!
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Richard Grenville said:
It has always been my understanding that it is a principle of natural justice and English law, that every case must be judged on its individual and unique merits (and demerits). It appears to be reasonable that such principle should apply in this instance. Whenever a universal punishment is applied to similar but different instances, then it smacks of Lynch Mob mentality.
Hetty Johnston is well-known for her sound-bites of self-righteous indignation and knee-jerk reactions in such cases, for which the media stand awaiting with lip-licking anticipation, but her comments should not be taken as seriously and carefully considered intelligent reasoning in such matters