Barnsley council has said that it will make a complaint to the Sheffield Crown Court, after one of its judges likened social workers at the local authority to Hitler’s paramilitary organization, the SS. Judge Robert Moore also called the council’s social workers ‘draconian’, after reviewing its handling of a child protection case.
The Crown Court judge was sentencing a father for harassing a school teacher, as part of a case which saw the council wrongly accuse the father of sexually abusing his daughter, and subjecting her to invasive and unnecessary medical examinations.
Formal grounds for the council’s complaint are not clear, though it’s unlikely that any action will stem from the grievance. Community Care followed up on the story this week, after this site published details about the case last Friday. The online magazine also linked to our piece on the case, and quoted a selection from a judgment we shared, in which Munby criticises parents for likening social workers to the SS. The magazine did not offer information on why parents use the term, which has come about as a result of the often inhumane treatment families face when engaging with social services. How the council found out about the judge’s comments also remains unclear.
In June 2013, Munby, who was President of the Family Division at that time, reprimanded the parents in the case harshly for calling social workers Nazis, but he was also on the cusp of changing his mind about the child protection sector, forever. Just four months later, in October of that same year, he released another public judgment, in which he attacked social workers who had failed to tell parents that their children were being adopted. He went on to say that the social workers’ conduct, which included breaching a court order and blocking the family from mounting challenges to the adoptions, was ‘deplorable’ and ‘symptomatic of a deeply rooted culture in family courts’. Their conduct was also illegal. Munby’s frustration with the family justice system only deepened throughout his presidency. That concerns over the child protection sector would spill out into the criminal justice system, is not altogether unexpected.
Barnsley council’s executive director for people, Rachel Dickinson, told Community Care that Judge Moore’s comments were directed at children’s social workers generally rather than at her staff, and she told the magazine that the comments were “distasteful, derogatory and undermining the essential work social workers do”.