There are worse things than fiddling expenses…


5:30 pm - June 3rd 2009

by Unity    


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Thinking back over the last 18 months, few, if any, of the stories and issues I’ve written about either here or over at the Ministry have been prompted by a genuine and deep-seated sense of anger.

There was one story that I did cover, over at the Ministry, that did put me in just that kind of mood, a story that’s resurfaced over the last few days in several newspapers as what Charlotte Gore has dubbed “Too Stupid to Look After Baby” case – a headline that directly echoes The Sunday Times’  “Mother ‘too stupid’ to keep child” headline, which appears to have got the media’s ball rolling again.

I do suggest, at this point, that you check out Charlotte’s post and, in particular, the discussion in comments that follows it as that thread, plus the coverage given to the story in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the Nottingham Evening Post will help to frame my own commentary and highlight some of the perils of engaging in hypothetical discussions based solely on press reportage of a complex issue.

So… this is a case, and a story, that provokes me to genuine anger and it does so, on this particular occasion, because the coverage given to the story in The Sunday Times, in particular, stands as one of the worst and most unforgivable pieces of uncritical and unthinking churnalism I’ve seen in a very long time.

What the Sunday Times didn’t tell you about this case…

The mother, ‘RP’, was born in 1985. In May 2006 she gave birth to a child ‘KP’ that was born, prematurely, at 27 weeks gestation and was, unfortunately but not unsurprisingly, found to have ‘many serious medical conditions to contend with’ to the extent that it was not actually discharged from hospital under November 2006.

In September 2006, Nottingham City Council instituted care proceedings which resulted in the child being taken immediately into foster care on discharge. The local authority, in addition, made a separate application for a placement order, with a view to putting the child up for adoption. This was then consolidated into the main care proceedings, with the judge ruling on both matters at the same hearing in August 2007.

The issue at stake here is not, as The Times suggests, whether the mother is merely intelligent enough to care for the child but whether the mother possesses the mental capacity without placing it at undue and unnecessary risk of harm, and the distinction between the two is perhaps best illustrated by this passage from the case synopsis prepared by Nottingham City Council for the initial hearing that took place in September 2006.

Concerns related to RP’s initial minimal visiting of KP (1-2 hours daily). She has, since a meeting on 16 August 2006 visited for longer periods, but the overall result is that she lacks practice and expertise in completing basic care tasks and the more complicated skills required to deal with KP’s oxygen dependence. The hospital and social services have devised a list of requirements that RP needs to be able to demonstrate satisfactorily before KP can be discharged to her care. Whilst this has been discussed with her on three occasions, she had difficulty in understanding the seriousness of the situation.

RP is confident that she is able to care for KP upon discharge from hospital. She is unable to articulate what KP’s medical needs are or what has caused them. She has expressed the view that KP will only require oxygen for four weeks post discharge because when she “breathes fresh air” she will be OK. She does not comprehend KP’s vulnerability and the fact that she may die if care is inadequate.

That assessment is, sadly, typical of the numerous evaluations of her mental capacity and capabilities set out in the Court of Appeal’s ruling and is, perhaps, best summed up the opinion of the clinical psychologist who evaluated RP’s capacity to instruct a solicitor during the care proceedings.

(RP) told me that she attended a mainstream school, but often truanted from school because of being bullied. She said that she had left school without taking any exams and has no qualifications. She does not think of herself as someone with learning difficulties.

In order to assess her intellectual ability, I completed a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Third Edition (WAIS-3) with her. This is a standardised measure which indicates overall level of functioning as well as any specific strengths and deficits the individual may have. RP’s scores on the WAIS-3 showed that she has a significant learning disability. This is a global disability, affecting all aspects of her functioning. I examined her scores for evidence that her functioning might have been limited by poor school attendance. However, the distribution of scores across the subtests suggests that this would not account for her learning disability.

(RP’s) verbal abilities, as measured by the WAIS-3 were at the 2nd percentile (2% of the population would be expected to score at this level or below). This includes the ability to understand and recall information presented verbally, and think conceptually to resolve problems. Her performance abilities were at the 1st percentile (1% of the population would be expected to score at this level or below). This includes the ability to solve practical problems using information presented visually or in concrete form.

This profile indicates that (RP) does not have the overall understanding and ability which her initial verbal presentation might lead one to expect. Information will need to be presented to her in simple terms, using concrete rather than abstract language wherever possible. She has an ability to repeat verbal material which is in advance of her ability to comprehend or make use of this information. This can give a misleading impression, especially as she is unlikely to say when she has not understood something.

Even if we disregard the child’s medical problems, which were caused by its having been seriously premature at birth, the various assessments of her mental capacity set out in the ruling can lead to only one reasonable conclusion; that RP is incapable of safely raising her child without a near constant level of support and supervision from a competent adult. Sadly, as is also evident in the ruling, that degree of support is simply not available to her.

150. …it is clear to me that the local authority’s care plan remained reunification of mother and child, provided RP could learn how to care properly for KP. This is confirmed by SC’s initial brief to counsel which states: “It is our understanding that the local authority do want to continue to work with RP in the hope that one day KP may be returned her care.”

151. At the same time, SC recorded that the reason for the care proceedings was RP’s refusal to agree to KP being accommodated, and it is significant that RP’s belief that KP would be all right once she had breathed fresh air was also a comment recorded by SC, who also warned counsel that RP was “intending to bring her close family to court tomorrow. Her father has indicated that he will “punch” the social worker should (KP) be placed in care”…

And…

153. On 29 November 2006, shortly after KP had been discharged from hospital to foster care, a local children’s resource centre began an assessment of RP’s capacity “to learn and consistently sustain the necessary child care skills to care for KP”. RP remained of the view throughout that she did not need any help learning how to care for KP. One of the social workers dealing with the case recorded in her statement that RP had made numerous telephone calls to the office, complaining that her baby had been kidnapped. The same worker records: “Continuous accounts of her argumentative, verbally aggressive sometimes racist and threatening telephone calls and comments made during her assessment / observation sessions with KP are recorded within the assessment / observation records”.

This is, by any reasonable estimation, an extremely sad and unfortunate case. Legal arguments notwithstanding – and I’ll get to these in a moment – it seems evident not only the RP lacks the mental capacity to raise her own child but also the ability to understand and appreciate the significance of her own limitations.

It is also perfectly evident that the only substantive basis on which one could reasonably justify overtuning the ruling handed by the Court of Appeal would be on presentation of evidence sufficient to demonstrate, conclusively, that the various assessments of RP’s mental capacity referenced both in this judgement and in the statement of facts filed with the European Court of Human Rights* are in serious error.

* The statement of facts indicates that, on unsuccessfully seeking leave to appeal to the House of Lords, RP submitted a psychiatric report, which had been prepared in June 2008 to assess her employment prospects. This report indicated that has an IQ
of 71 and was in the lower ability range.

It should be self-evident, just from the information already provided, that this not a matter of a mother not being ‘clever enough’ to look after a child but one in which the mother’s severe intellectual limitations, and her unwillingness to accept their very existence, would place the child at a significant risk of harm were it returned to her.

Indeed, within the Court of Appeal ruling its indicated that even though Nottingham City Council wished to place the child up for adoption, when seeking the placement order in 2007 they considered that it would be difficult to find adoptive parents for the child due to its disabilities, all of which suggests that it may well have extensive needs beyond those of direct medical care that the mother is unlikely to be capable of coping with adequately.

Not only unacceptable but shocking…

Consider paragraph 168 of the Court of Appeal’s ruling…

168. As to Mr. Hemming, my judgment is that his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system is gravely damaged, and speaking for myself I will not be persuaded to take seriously any criticism made by him in the future unless it is corroborated by reliable, independent evidence.

Mr Hemming is, of course, John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP for Yardley and a man who, in my estimation, runs Nadine Dorries a very, very, close second in the race for the title of Parliament’s most egregious fabulist, and it his presence on the latest raft of media coverage as an apparent rent-a-quote that most strongly suggests not only that these articles have been churned out from a press release but that Hemming and his ‘Justice for Families‘ campaign group is very likely to be actual source of the  current rash of publicity this case is receiving.

I covered Hemming’s dubious contribution to this case at the appeal stage, where he acted as a McKenzie friend for RP, over at the Ministry, last year, under the title ‘A Case Too Serious To Joke About‘, a title that still very much sums up my feelings about both this case and Hemming’s involvement in it.

To summarise Hemming’s involvement, the case he put to the Appeal Court on behalf of RP sought to suggest, without any shred of credible supporting evidence, that RP’s situation was not that of a mother who, through no real fault of her own, lacks the capacity to adequately care for a child, but was rather the victim of what would amount to deliberate, if not organised, baby theft by a social services department.

Seriously, that was Hemming’s entire case.

In his role as a McKenzie friend in this case, Hemming could – and should – have sought to put forward a psychiatric opinion that challenged the evidence presented to the court which attested to RP’s lack of capacity, and as he now claims to have obtained such an opinion in advance of appealing to the European Court one has to wonder why he chose not to produce such evidence in the Court of Appeal or even when RP applied for leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

Lord Justice Wall said in response:

88. I find it not only unacceptable but shocking, that a man in Mr Hemming’s position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment, it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position. Unfortunately, as other aspects of this judgment will make clear, it is not the only part of the case in which Mr Hemming has been willing to scatter unfounded allegations of professional impropriety and malpractice without any evidence to support them.

In my own personal opinion, Hemming’s conduct thoughtout this case demonstrates not only a lack of concern for the welfare of the child but a cruel and callous disregard for the welfare and best interests of the mother who, given the slow pace at which the European Court of Human Rights typically dispenses justice, has many years of unnecessary heartache to come as, with the full support and facilitation of a conspiracist MP exercising a personal vendetta against the Family Court System, she will inevitably continue to cling to the delusory belief that she is capable of caring for her child and that, one day, that child may be returned to her.

There are worse thing than fiddling a few quid on expenses.

Res Ispa Loquitur.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


I’ve read this and I’ve read what Charlotte Gore wrote. Now I’m going to have some trouble being polite, here but..

For a start the reasoning in both pieces only works at all if your religion consists of believing, absolutely firmly and with no doubts whatsoever, that all local authority employees (and other officials) are always right, all of the time and that to contradict any idea put forward by a local council employee makes you evil.

It also only works if your attitude to the concept of family life is a combination of utter incomprehension and contempt.

There is nothing here which gets within a million miles of justifying the forcible separation of a child and the child’s mother. All power to John Hemming for fighting it.

Unity, thanks for all the further information – it’s certainly more to think about than the Sunday Times article says.

However…

None of what you have written changes the simple fact that this woman was never given the chance to show herself capable or otherwise of looking after her own child. the baby was taken straight into care. Without being given the chance to prove herself she is guilty of nothing more than aloofness – which may have passed when she had her baby at home and realised the gravity of the situation.

I don’t see how we can make a judgement of how this woman would have been as a mother by assessing her when she’s not only going through the trauma of having a premature birth, but also the heartbreak of a seriously sick baby and the threat of having her baby taken away from her.

The fact that she was angry with the council, and agitated, and even abusive could just as easily be put to to her horrible frustration at what was happening to her – but you use it as further evidence that she’s incapable of looking after a child. If my child was being taken away from me I don’t know how I’d act; I imagine, though, that angry and possibly abusive would just about cover it.

If you’ve never seen the movie Changeling, go and watch it – it’s a brilliant, true story, example of exactly how the actions of a Mother under pressure could be misconstrued.

Anyway, I wrote my piece about this case as well. Like I say, you’ve provided more interesting background and certainly gone further towards explaining how this came to be, but you’ve not changed the fundamental point that nobody ever even gave RP a chance.

For a start the reasoning in both pieces only works at all if your religion consists of believing, absolutely firmly and with no doubts whatsoever, that all local authority employees (and other officials) are always right, all of the time and that to contradict any idea put forward by a local council employee makes you evil

Do you know what a clinical psychologist is (or who employs them) ? Do you know how to interpret their results? Are you trapped in your own ideological dogma of NEVER believing an “official”?

and then this brilliant argument….

never given the chance

I’ll give you one guess as to how that “chance” plays out…

Unity, thank you for a lucid and illuminating summary of this case.

5. Rob Knight

It really does hinge on whether or not the original decision was correct. If it was incorrect, then a huge injustice has been done and everyone who campaigns against it is surely in the right. If it was the correct decision, then the reverse is true.

However, the original decision may well have been a marginal one. A whole set of unusual circumstances may have contributed here (the combination of premature birth, apparent learning disability, doubts over the role of the father, etc.) in a way that makes it very hard for us as outsiders to judge. I’m prepared to accept the medical and professional judgement, on balance, because it looks like an honest professional judgement has been made, after careful consideration.

That said, I think that accusing the mother over her behaviour after the decision was made is grossly unfair. To put someone through the trauma of having their child taken into care through no fault of their own (and nobody is accusing the mother of being at fault until after this point) and to then claim that she is behaving unreasonably in becoming upset by this is disturbing behaviour. Of course she’s upset, and she has every right to be upset, even if the decision was the right one. As said, it wasn’t her fault and I think that she can be excused some anger at the situation. There’s precious little compassion in traumatising someone and then taking their traumatised behaviour as evidence that it was right to do so.

On that basis, I do think that there are grounds to challenge the way this case was handled. Not grounds to overturn it immediately or to vilify those who made the decision, but grounds to ask some serious questions about whether the right decisions were taken. Yet what I’m seeing here is an attack on the character and motives of anyone who tries to do that. As I said, this was probably a marginal case that, in other circumstances, might have gone the other way. We have to be tolerate the right of people to challenge these decisions when they feel that they might have gone awry. Plenty of travesties have been uncovered that way, even if this isn’t one of them.

6. Planeshift

I think what is going on here is the media want the council to back down….then some time later when the child dies they can run a series of ‘council failed to protect child’ stories.

Yes the mainstream media really are that dishonest and vile.

I don’t get it Unity.

Ok, so RP isn’t deemed to be capable of looking after the child, so I can see why foster care has been put in place, but that doesn’t explain why she’s now to be denied all contact.

I know of a parent in a similar situation where the local authority provided 24 hour support for both mother and child, so that the child was able to live with mum, and others were on hand to provide the specialist care that the child needed. Why wasn’t this option offered here?

There are a number of options available in circumstances such as this, the problem of course is that they’re exceptionally expensive. And that’s the only explanation I can think of for this decision, unless there’s something missing from this account, such as evidence of abuse?

Adoption should always be a last resort surely, once all other options have been exhausted? As they don’t appear to have been, I’m inclined to agree that a wrong decision has been made here, and that the mother should at the very least be allowed continued contact with her child.

8. the a&e charge nurse

Honestly, Unity, I’m sure you must have been a Russian novelist in another life, but anyway, this is another absolutely enthralling analysis.

In the first instance this is a case that divides commentators into two camps: those who agree with the decision to remove the child, and those that don’t.

Social workers must make these near impossible decisions every day and I don’t think we need to dwell on recent cases where attempts to instigate care proceedings have been thwarted by ill-considered legal advice.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/may/21/baby-p-mother-sentenced

Today we can see a thriving child who will continue to be nurtured in a protective environment, in other words we have the benefit of hindsight – perhaps such an outcome vindicates the decision taken by the professionals, if we consider the situation purely from the healthy child’s perspective?

Others (above) argue that the mother should have been given the chance to prove herself, an entirely understandable sentiment – but on balance the risk to the child was judged to have outweighed the needs of the mother.

Perhaps the case might have taken a different turn if the father had expressed an interest, but he didn’t, or if there was a stable family network, but this does not appear to be the case.
So the scenario faced by the social workers was that of a single mother who simply lacked the capacity to grasp the significance of the complex health needs of an already premature baby.
In these circumstances the level of material and financial support required by the mother would make the child a near de facto ward of the state anyway?

If it all went horribly wrong the headlines would write themselves, so surely we can understand why social workers must not only try to protect the best interest of the child, but in the current climate their OWN job and family as well (since scapegoating is one of our national sports).

So, according to Daniel, RP is not only guilty until proven innocent, she also is never allowed the chance to prove her own innocence. Nice. And I thought liberals were supposed to be the ones who weren’t quick to judge and who gave opportunities to the helpless.

What if it had been the police who had taken this child without any evidence that her Mother intends harm to her, rather than social services? Would you say the same thing?

The fact is it could have gone either way. The social workers made a decision, and maybe it was the right one, maybe it was the wrong one. There’s no fundamental basis on which to say it was either. My own experience of social workers has shown me that while most are wonderful people, there are some who are overly suspicious where there is no call to be, or indeed who utterly misunderstand things which have been said, and act swiftly upon throwaway statements either made in jest or which could have been interpreted in multiple ways. The section Unity puts in bold – “She has expressed the view that KP will only require oxygen for four weeks post discharge because when she “breathes fresh air” she will be OK.” – could just as easily be an interpretation of the words of a distressed Mother in a temporary state of denial (first stage of grief, you know), hoping that the social worker will hand her an olive branch. She could even have been attempting to display her own strength by downplaying her grief and the workload that would be involved in looking after her daughter. Out of context, these ‘summary reports’ can at best only provide half the picture, and at worst give an utterly misleading picture. We’ll simply never know what really happened nor what would have happened had things played out differently.

And, as I said above, the reason we’ll never know is because she was never given the opportunity, even under tight surveillance, to even attempt to look after her daughter on her own.

I tend to defer judgement to Unity when he delivers a duel-barrel blog like this one, but I do remain suspicious. For those that feel that judgement should be deferred to officials by default, just remember what those officials were up to as recently as the 50’s and 60’s: electrocuting homosexuals and forcing unmarried mothers to have their children in secret before sweeping them away into new homes. They represent, with some modifications, communal prejudice.

11. the a&e charge nurse

If not ‘officials’ then who should make such judgements, Nick – unless you believe there is no role for intervention in the first place?

Stu – it’s not so much case of the mother being ‘guilty’, rather the perceived risk was deemed to be so serious that it was in the child’s best interest to be placed elsewhere.

We’ve already witnessed the lynch mob mentality when social workers get it wrong.

@9:
And, as I said above, the reason we’ll never know is because she was never given the opportunity, even under tight surveillance, to even attempt to look after her daughter on her own.

If the statements Unity has quoted are true (and I see believe a priori that they aren’t), she did have ample opportunity to prove her ability to look after her child – in the months it was in hospital, in the interviews with social workers. Despite having had them repeatedly explained to her, she was unable to articulate what KP’s medical needs are or what has caused them. She did not spend enough time visiting the child to learn how to provide the necessary care. Going by these statements, she didn’t really seem to give a shit. Furthermore, she would have had the chance to prove her ability to look after the child, in a supervised environment, if she had agreed to it being accomodated. She refused to, leaving the council the options of either taking it into care or abrogating their responsibilities.

The assessment of her intellectual ability concluded not that she was intentionally resisting the attempts to discuss her child’s care needs or show that she understood (whether because she was grieving, or bloody-minded, or whatever), but that she was mentally incapable of understanding the situation. Now, maybe that assessment was wrong. Maybe she simply was completely uncooperative for her own personal reasons. In which case, she has paid a heavy price for taking the piss. And I know it sounds harsh, but to be honest, I struggle to sympathise with her plight – like I struggle to sympathise with the guy who jokes with airport security that he’s got a bomb in his bag, then doesn’t get to fly. Either way, whether she was incapable of understanding what she needed to do, or whether she was just acting that way for whatever reason, the social workers had no way of telling and would have been negligent not to take the child into care.

@12:
I see no reason to believe a priori that they aren’t

14. Shatterface

Agree with Cath – why no contact allowed? This sounds vindictive – and if you don’t think public servants can be vindictive you’ve never been one. I’ve certainly witnessed powers gleefully abused when members of the public get lippy.

I’d hate to think we’re only in favour of supporting womens’ reproductive rights when they decide NOT to have children just out of perversity.

“There is nothing here which gets within a million miles of justifying the forcible separation of a child and the child’s mother.”

Some of us don’t believe that “bond” is worth as much as you do. You may find us immoral for it, but believe me it is only as much as we find you overly, and blindly, sentimental. Some of us believe the child has some rights and liberties that can’t be washed away with the “blood is thicker than water” argument.

There are greater issues with the case, regarding visitation, the potential conduct of those around the legal battle, but the fundemental argument which most have captured by the first comment here is as divisive and unreconcilable as any debate on the A-word.

Chris: If the officials and professionals in a social services department, as a group, come to the conclusion that the parents of a child are very likely to kill or seriously harm that child – even if the parents have no aim of doing so – it is their duty to attempt to prevent that from happening however they can. That’s almost the entire point of having a child protection service.

If you think social services should not be allowed to intrude on the “concept of family life” on the basis of the opinion of mere “local authority employees and other officials” – i.e. anyone they could either employ or consult – it beats me how you could possibly complain about government “allowing” the death of Baby P or indeed any other child at the hands of their parents.

Stu: “she is guilty of nothing more than aloofness – which may have passed when she had her baby at home and realised the gravity of the situation.”

On the other hand, the many people the department apparently consulted might be correct in their professional assessment, and the baby might have died by the time she “realised the gravity of the situation” – through no fault of her own. Plus, initial supervision at home is obviously not an option when the mother and family are on the record as being violently hostile to anyone from the social services department.

17. Shatterface

Gregg (12): if the assessment was incapable of telling whether she’s genuinely incapable of looking after the child or just ‘taking the piss’ it’s a fucking useless test.

@17:
How do you tell the difference between someone with learning difficulties and someone pretending to have learning difficulties? And if someone is intentionally making out, to a social worker whose report will determine whether their child is taken into care, that they’re incapable of looking after a child, isn’t that in itself a good indication that they probably shouldn’t be looking after a child.

19. Shatterface

If you can fake learning difficulties you’d need above average intelligence, especially if you can fool ‘experts’.

And this ‘egregious fabulist’, John Hemming – is he related to the guy who defended all those families accused of satanic ritual abuse?

How did those cases turn out – many convictions or just a lot of gullible social workers reading too much Dennis Wheatley?

So, according to Daniel, RP is not only guilty until proven innocent, she also is never allowed the chance to prove her own innocence. Nice. And I thought liberals were supposed to be the ones who weren’t quick to judge and who gave opportunities to the helpless.

Guilty? No. Incapable of providing good-enough mothering of this child, yes.

PS Who says I’m a liberal!

21. Shatterface

Well, I certainly don’t consider you a ‘liberal’.

I’d be interested to see how much hatred this mother would inspire here if she was barred from seeing her children by their father, not the State.

The bit of this story that really concerned me – and I’d be interested to hear Unity’s opinion of it – was that when the mother instructed solicitors to contest the forcible adoption process, the court ruled that she was intellectually incapable of so doing, and appointed the court solicitor for her, who then declined to oppose the adoption proceedings, in spite of the clear instructions of his client.

I those are indeed the facts, and I’m working solely from newspaper reports, then there is surely a case under the HRA that she has been denied a fair hearing. It certainly looks like an abuse of court powers.

And I think, incidentally, that this case is virtually the antithesis to Res Ipsa Loquitor. The facts are not straightforward, and are open to a series of interpretations. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on it.

23. the a&e charge nurse

if the assessment was incapable of telling whether she’s genuinely incapable of looking after the child or just ‘taking the piss’ it’s a fucking useless test – an understandable conclusion Shatterface [17] but ……….

Everybody likes certainty, for example in my line of work a patient might say after a foot x/ray, “so it’s DEFINITELY not broken then” – the answer is very unlikely with the proviso that a test (in this case x/ray) may only have a 95% sensitivity – in other words its possible to have a false negative because of the limitations of a particular testing modality.

Now, in comparison, how effective can any test (or formulation) prove based on complex phenomena like human behaviour or forecasts about what might or might not happen at some future point?
Needless to say, no such unequivocal test exists, most of these decisions turn on the experience and judgement of the professionals based, in part, on their exposure to the very worst that families can do to each other.

The way THIS case has been presented by Unity the IQ issue is probably a slight red herring anyway – what really worried the social workers was the mother’s apparent lack of capacity, or insight (admittedly both may have some relationship with intelligence).
Here is the Code of Practice for the Mental Capacity Act [2005].
http://www.dca.gov.uk/legal-policy/mental-capacity/mca-cp.pdf

The difficult to decision to separate a child from it’s mother is never taken lightly and is inevitably multi-factorial.
Looking at this case from the social workers perspective I am struggling to see how they could have felt confident that a physically vulnerable baby would have thrived in such an unpromising environment.

Things MIGHT have worked out, of course, but had the baby died after being placed with it’s biological mother (due to lack of consistent medical attention) I am sure most of the blame would have been focussed on the professionals rather than the dysfunctional family?

the a&e charge nurse

Looking at this case from the social workers perspective I am struggling to see how they could have felt confident that a physically vulnerable baby would have thrived in such an unpromising environment.

Things MIGHT have worked out, of course, but had the baby died after being placed with it’s biological mother (due to lack of consistent medical attention) I am sure most of the blame would have been focussed on the professionals rather than the dysfunctional family?

Agreed, but that still doesn’t explain the withdrawal of all contact.

The options are rarely as unwavering as complete care given to parent versus no contact whatsoever. That’s the bit I’m struggling with. I don’t get why long-term foster care with regular visitation rights was ruled out, or even an open adoption with an agreement that some contact between mother and child could be maintained…….

25. Shatterface

My concern is the way any response the mother might make is ‘evidence’ of her incompetance/insanity. If she was bullied at school the state has already fucked her over once, why should she trust them now?

Also, Unity’s ad hom attack on Hemming seams misplaced as he seams to have a good record where social service hysteria is concerned. We are talking about a service which has been astonishingly receptive to both Christian fundamentalist campaigns and quack psychology.

It’s all interesting and it’s good to see more information, it’s a truly regrettable situation for the mother.

However, I’m more inclined to lean with the Social Workers and Clinical Psychologists as they put forward the more compelling argument. Also on a purely subjective level if they are right I would prefer that the proof was not in the death of the child.

Oh and Unity….I think you have a typo in the Latin at the end there, admittedly it’s been a long time since I did Latin at school but shouldn’t it be ‘Res Ipsa Loquitor’?

27. the a&e charge nurse

[24] I don’t get why long-term foster care with regular visitation rights was ruled out – a very important question, Cath, and one that is perhaps best addressed by the x2 passages highlighted in Unity’s main post, i.e:

150. …it is clear to me that the local authority’s care plan remained REUNIFICATION of mother and child, provided RP could learn how to care properly for KP. This is confirmed by SC’s initial brief to counsel which states: “It is our understanding that the local authority DO want to continue to work with RP in the hope that one day KP may be returned her care.”

151. At the same time, SC recorded that the reason for the care proceedings was RP’s REFUSAL to agree to KP being accommodated, and it is significant that RP’s belief that KP would be all right once she had breathed fresh air was also a comment recorded by SC, who also warned counsel that RP was “intending to bring her close family to court tomorrow. Her father has indicated that he will “punch” the social worker should (KP) be placed in care”…

And ……….
One of the social workers dealing with the case recorded in her statement that RP had made numerous telephone calls to the office, complaining that her baby had been kidnapped. The same worker records: “Continuous accounts of her argumentative, verbally aggressive sometimes racist and threatening telephone calls and comments made during her assessment / observation sessions with KP are recorded within the assessment / observation records”.

Now if we take these statements at face value we have a mother who APPEARS to be in denial, or simply fails to grasp the gravity of her child’s medical welfare, and either cannot or will not engage with professionals even though it seems they were hoping to engineer placement of the baby with the biological mother, at least to begin with.

Given the delicate situation the foster parents faced trying to nurture a child with complex medical needs surely it would have been remiss of the social workers not to consider the impact of a potentially violent and in the sense of the Capacity Act, ‘non-competent’ mother who MIGHT have sabotaged the crucial bonding process that takes place in the first weeks and months of life – not because she was a sadistic or even malicious person but because she simply lacked the maturity and life skills to approach the situation with the best interest of her baby in mind.

It IS possible that the social workers got the decision about visitation wrong, and some may even think the primary decision to separate the child from it’s mother was wrong as well but unfortunately King Solomon was not able to visit Nottingham while this tragic case was playing out.

“If not ‘officials’ then who should make such judgements, Nick – unless you believe there is no role for intervention in the first place?”

Well, traditionally we have a jury and a judge, and a fair trial with representation from both sides. Far from perfect, of course, but it does put official views under some scrutiny. But in general, I believe there is less role for state intervention than we have now. This case is certainly complicated by the fact that the newborn had to be kept in hospital anyway but the way it has gone remains disturbing.

29. the a&e charge nurse

[28] A judge and jury only have a role to play AFTER the event so I don’t see how this assists the pre-emptive nature of child protection work.

Even so, there are legal safeguards during care proceedings and this is to protect, as far as possible, the best interests of all parties.

Now within any system there are bound to be human failings such as the legal advice given to front line social workers in the Baby P case but I expect things to get worse if financial cutbacks in social services gather pace.

First off, I need to correct an important omission.

I had thought that I’d linked to the full ruling but it appears to have got lost in editing so…

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/462.html

To pick up on a couple of points…

As far as Cath’s comments about the withdrawal of visitation rights are concerned, this is pretty much standard practice in cases where the child is placed for adoption.

Let’s not forget that adoption entails the complete severance of all parental rights in law on the part of the birth parents. Consequently, in law, it would make no more sense to grant the birth parent visitation rights either after, or even in the period leading into the adoption, than it would to grant those same rights to a total stranger.

Moving on to Tim J’s question about the role of the Official Solicitor in this case, Annex B of the full ruling shows the advice that the Official Solicitor received from legal counsel in regards to their duties in representing RP during the care proceedings.

This get a little complicated because it take us into the realms of legal ethics but the salient points are:

1. The mother was deemed to lack both the capacity of litigate and the capacity to give/withhold consent to the adoption.

2. The advice that the Official Solicitor received from legal counsel (i.e. a barrister) was that the mother did not have an arguable case.

In the circumstances, legal ethics dictates that the Official Solicitor cannot go against the advice obtained from legal counsel irrespective of the wishes of the mother.

Had she actually been competent to litigate then her solicitor, on being instructed to oppose the adoption against the advice of legal counsel would have been duty bound to withdraw from the proceedings, leaving the mother to act as an individual litigant and represent herself in court.

Such an option was not open to the Official Solicitor, who could not withdraw due the mother’s incapacity, and as such the only option open to them was that of declining to oppose the application.

31. douglas clark

I think we’d all be well served to be a bit sceptical about experts. As Shatterface said lives were ruined over the nonsense that was the ‘Satanic Ritual Abuse’ scandal. Where the so-called experts were near unanimous in their conclusions. A Salem Witch trial for the modern era.

I doubt, from the facts in front of me, that any reasonable person would have allowed the mother to have had normal parental authority over the child, though Cath Elliots’ point @ 24 should have been given far more consideration than it appears to have received at the time. As a, by the way, since when was intelligence a criteria for child rearing? When did that happen?

Can I just make one general point about some of the nomenclature here…

Can we knock off all this crap about ‘officials’.

Front-line social workers, child protection workers and, certainly, clinical psychologists and NOT ‘officials’.

They’re trained and highly qualified professionals and the do not automatically become a bunch of faceless bureaucrats merely because they’re employed by a local authority.

We don’t refer to doctors as ‘officials’ merely because they work for the state (NHS) and there’s no valid reason to treat front-line child protection workers any differently.

Douglas:

We are discussing a specific, and very well documented case here, and are therefore in a position to evaluate the case on the basis of the evidence presented to the Court of Appeal.

As such, parallels to ‘Satanic Abuse’ panic or to cases which occurred in the US more than half a century ago are not particularly germane on this occasion.

Likewise, this is not simply about intelligence, its about mental capacity which is much more specific set of issues, and mental capacity has long been a criteria for child-rearing and much more besides.

since when was intelligence a criteria for child rearing?

Since never. ‘Having the mental capacity to make the child not die when placed in your care’ is the point.

35. Shatterface

Satanic Ritual Abuse hoaxes aren’t something that happened ‘half a century ago’ in the USA, they happened in Rochdale, Lewis, etc far more recently; and many social workers still believe in ‘recovered memory’, dissociated personality disorders and Munchausens by Proxy, none of which have wide acceptance among the psychologists.

Shatterface…

Note the magic word… ‘OR’, which indicated that I was referring to the reference to the events covered by the film ‘Changling’.

37. Lilliput

“dissociated personality disorders and Munchausens by Proxy, none of which have wide acceptance among the psychologists.”

Shatterface, do you have any evidenceto back this up?

Two issues.

1) What is best for the child now. Undoubtedly, in the circumstances, she should be adopted with all that means in terms of cutting off contact with the natural mother.

2) Does the state and its apparatus have the right to intervene in a family by removing a child from its natural family. Unless a crime has been commited, the answer is No. Never. Not in any circumstances.

Consider how this situation would have been handled in the 1920s before the armies of social workers, clinical psychologists and child welfare officials existed. The baby would have been cared for as best she could by the mother who would probably have received help and support from extended family and others in her local community. Of course nobody could have been certain of the outcome and a tragedy would certainly have been a possibility. But tragedy is always a possibility. In spite of all the safeguards and vetting, the child may, even now, be adopted by the head of the local paedophile ring.

Children will be hurt, abused and killed no matter the level of suerveillance and intervention by Government agencies. They always have been and always will be.

Just ask Peter.

39. the a&e charge nurse

Pagar [38] let’s suppose a man with previous form for paedophilia settles on a new partner with young children – are you saying we should wait until he starts abusing them before action is taken?

@38:
Consider how this situation would have been handled in the 1920s before the armies of social workers, clinical psychologists and child welfare officials existed.

1) The situation wouldn’t have arisen in the 1920s – the baby would not have survived birth.
2) Had a similar situation somehow arisen, the baby would almost certainly have been born at home. It seems likely to me that nobody outside the home would have ever learned of its existence.
3) Since she is an unmarried mother, had the authorities learned about it, or had it been born in a charitable hospital, she would have been under intense pressure from officials even before the birth, to put the child into an orphanage.
4) If this woman does suffer from learning disabilities, I think the chances are that, even as late as WWII, the local authorities would have classed her as mentally disabled and put her in an asylum. Indeed, if she is poor enough to be in reciept of welfare, then in the 1920s the very fact that she is an unmarried mother would in and of itself have been grounds for the local authority to class her as mentally deficient, place her in an institution and remove the child to an orphanage.

If you believe that the state was somehow less interventionist in the 1920s, or the C19th perhaps, you are sorely mistaken – it intervened to at least the same degree it does now, but with much less oversight, with much less compassion, with much less decency.

“[28] A judge and jury only have a role to play AFTER the event so I don’t see how this assists the pre-emptive nature of child protection work.”

Not necessarily. Juries have been used to review the intended actions of officials elsewhere. There is nothing conceptually problematic with pre-emptive democratic oversight. But as you are aware, I am not a big fan of pre-emptive action in general. In this case, it was obviously necessary for medical reasons to begin with which, as I say, makes it a complicated matter.

42. Elizabeth

I think it is clear this woman was given no chance to be a mother and indeed the Government are creating far too much in the way of “services” to intervene in family life.

http://sometimesitspeaceful.blogspot.com/2009/02/ecm-brave-new-world.html

WRT what might have happened in the 20s we need to look at what we feel is appropriate today.

Oh crikey, only just discovered this post.

With hindsight I wish I’d picked a slightly less controversial title. I don’t actually have an opinion on whether or not the woman was ‘too stupid’ to look after the baby when the baby was ill – I’m sure she’s perfectly capable now. FTR.

44. the a&e charge nurse

[43] I don’t actually have an opinion on whether or not the woman was ‘too stupid’ to look after the baby when the baby was ill.

But isn’t this the very basis of this case if we take the mothers intellectual impairment as a precursor to lack of capacity and hence a potential threat to a child with complex medical needs?

For example Lord Justice Wall notes:
7. KP was born prematurely at approximately 27 weeks. The undisputed evidence is that RP was NOT AWARE that she was pregnant until she visited her general practitioner very shortly before the birth.

44. RP then indicating that she was agreeable to an interim care order being made by the court. This leaving counsel in a very difficult position as counsel was uncomfortable putting forward RP’s position due to the fact that it was not apparent that RP truly understood the implications of her instructions or indeed the proceedings. RP also changed her mind on a number of occasions throughout the morning and therefore counsel being quite concerned about putting forward RP’s instructions in the court room as counsel was not entirely clear as to what RP’s instructions were.

45. RP leaving the court during the making of an interim care order as the court indicated that they would adopt the facts and reasons. RP believing that this meant that the court were willing to adopt KP and therefore RP being very upset and angry at the mention of the word adopt. It being explained to RP outside of the court room that adopt has been taken out of context. It is not the local authority’s plan to adopt KP at this stage and it being explained fully to RP the context in which the word adopt was used. RP finding it very difficult to comprehend and throughout the morning RP being very fidgety, she lacked concentration and seen to fail to comprehend a number of issues discussed with her throughout the morning.

Needless to say the court had already considered the possibility of utilising the family network but found:
10. assessments had been undertaken by the local authority both in relation to RP herself, and in relation to various members of her family, including her parents and her brother, AP. None was, however, deemed to be capable of caring for KP.
And ………..
8. KP’s father does not play any part in the proceedings, or in the life of KP. He is, the evidence reveals, now aged 65 or 66, and is Afro-Caribbean in origin. He and RP do not appear to have any form of ongoing sexual relationship, and they do not appear to have cohabited at any stage. RP, it should be said, is white, and KP is thus of mixed heritage.

Elizabeth [42] contends, “I think it is clear this woman was given no chance to be a mother” – she may be right about this, but there are a number of very important reasons why those involved reached the decisions they did.

A&e

let’s suppose a man with previous form for paedophilia settles on a new partner with young children – are you saying we should wait until he starts abusing them before action is taken?

Yes. Are you saying that the state should intervene in who can develop personal relationships?

Gregg

If you believe that the state was somehow less interventionist in the 1920s, or the C19th perhaps, you are sorely mistaken

I accept the points you have made. My point is that none of the interventions, then or now, are justified or helpful.

>>I’m sure she’s perfectly capable now.

Based on the psychiatric reports in the Court of Appeal ruling, I doubt that very much.

Remember, the child is referred to on a number of occasions as having a disability, although the full extent of that disability is not disclosed.

While its immediate need for day-to-day medical interventions may have lessened, that does not mean that the child does not still have complex care needs of a kind that are beyond the mother’s capabilities – a child born at 27 week gestation will, for example, be at a significant risk of hypoxic brain injury which could result in anything from developmental delay to a more significant cognitive impairment right through to full blown cerebral palsy.

Reading some of the comments, what some people aren’t quite getting a handle on, in all the talk of IQ scores, etc, is the extent of the mother’s limitations in terms of her mental capacity, particular when it come to her capacity for practical reasoning, i.e. taking in information and making practical use of it to carry out particular tasks.

What the psychologists evaluation shows is that this is somewhat lower than her capacity for verbal reasoning and, broadly speaking, at a level that would be fairly typical of an adult with Downs Syndrome.

47. the a&e charge nurse

[46] Based on the psychiatric reports in the Court of Appeal ruling, I doubt that very much.

Yes, I wondered about that – based on all of the evidence I cannot see any basis for significant change unless we take it to mean that the child is now slightly more robust than it was in the first year of life (thanks to the care of the foster/adoptive parents)?.

Looking at these cases requires a bit of analysis. The first point is that Rachel Pullen did not have a trial of the evidence. She is allowed to be identified with the court judgment.

That is a simple straightforward point. She now is accepted by the court as having the capacity to instruct a solicitor although she is acting as a litigant in person.

However, she was not allowed a second opinion as to the question as to whether or not she had the capacity to instruct a solicitor.

This is a very very basic and clear miscarriage of justice and sadly not unique.

Secondly she has not had a second opinion as to her capacity to look after her daughter. Again a simple procedural point.

It doesn’t take thousands of words to explain. Sadly it is not unique. I know of other mothers wrongly prevented from instructing their own solicitor.

49. the a&e charge nurse

[48] As a matter of interest is there anything on record to say if medical staff (such as the paediatric intensivists who must have been involved in the child’s care) expressed a view as to the mother’s capacity – in other words were hospital staff of the opinion that the mother could manage to care for her child?

The facts as they have been presented imply that none of the other professionals (social workers, psychologist and solicitor) believed the mother did have capacity, but it is theoretically possible that THEY were all wrong and a separate group of professionals might have arrived at a different conclusion.

Unfortunately this hypothesis does not seem to have been tested and for such an important matter it should have been.

John:

We’ve been here before and your responses no are no more convincing than they were a year ago.

Given that the ruling on RP’s capacity to litigate is central to the argument relating to the role of the Official Solicitor in the this case, you would have been at liberty to present evidence to the Court of Appeal challenging the incapacity ruling on the ground that the psychiatric evaluations presented to the court during the care proceeding were in error.

Instead you chose to try to argue a wild conspiracy theory and presented no evidence whatsoever to challenge the evidence on RP’s capacity.

As for naming RP, I note that the published ruling indicates only that the Court of Appeal would be willing to entertain a motion to remove anonymity. Are you now saying that such a motion has been submitted to the court and approved or are you simply relying on the fact that you used parliamentary privilege to place her name on the public record.

You claim that #the court’ has now accepted that she has the capacity to instruct a solicitor – which court would this be. As far I can see, having been refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords, the only current legal proceeding are her application to the European Court of Human Rights were, thus far, only a statement of facts has been entered.

As far I’m aware, the question of RPs capacity to litigate has not been ruled upon by ECoHR as yet and the mere fact that it has accepted a statement of facts in RPs name – along with three other members of her family – in no sense amounts to a ruling which accepts that she, personally, has the capacity to litigate in her own right.

If such a ruling exists it will be a matter of public record and you should, therefore, have no difficulty in providing a case reference to validate you claim.

[49] A&E

I think the answer you’re looking for resides in this paragraph of the ruling…

“Concerns related to RP’s initial minimal visiting of KP (1-2 hours daily). She has, since a meeting on 16 August 2006 visited for longer periods, but the overall result is that she lacks practice and expertise in completing basic care tasks and the more complicated skills required to deal with KP’s oxygen dependence. The hospital and social services have devised a list of requirements that RP needs to be able to demonstrate satisfactorily before KP can be discharged to her care. Whilst this has been discussed with her on three occasions, she had difficulty in understanding the seriousness of the situation.”

Given the reference to oxygen dependence I think its almost conceivable that the reference to her lack of practice and expertise could have originated anywhere other than from the clinicians who would have worked with her in hospital in an effort to impart those skills.

In my experience, very few social worker possess the skills necessary to personally handle the care needs of an oxygen dependent child, let alone teach those skills to others.

About Anonymity quoting from the judgment which is indeed published:
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/462.html
(para 186) We would not wish to inhibit such discussion, but remain concerned for the anonymity of KP. We do not, therefore, propose to alter the manner in which this judgment has been written. However, we wish to make it clear that both RP and AP are at liberty to identify themselves publicly as the mother and uncle of KP, and any other members of their family can, if they wish, identify themselves publicly by reference to their relationship with RP, KP and AP.

The authorities are currently trying to tighten reporting restrictions.

It is not reasonable to comment as to what you think happened in the court of appeal without access to the transcript (which the ECtHR have).

In the CoA Rachel presented her own case. This made it clear that the expert’s report that she did not understand the case was not true. There are a lot of continuing proceedings and it is during those that it was determined that she has litigation capacity.

No reports have come from any medical professionals other than Rachel’s GP who said he had capacity, but his report was not accepted as evidence.

You clearly don’t know that it is contempt of court to get a second opinion in the family courts without the permission of the court.

53. Sabina Heywood

All the writings by the Social Services would be well and good if they were wrting the truth. Their writings range from misinterpreting the truth to blatant lies about parents and I have experienced that myself first hand. They make a decision to take a child away and then gear everything toward that including all manner of lies about the parents. I am fully aware that the Social Services have harmed children in their care that they have taken away from innocent parents: including my own son. I have evidence that they have lied and covered up truths and one day soon it will all come out!

54. douglas clark

Unity,

Now here’s a thing. I assume a psychologist like you could work on it.

It is an interesting fact, and relevant to this case that psychologists, psychiatric specialists and others have misdirected themselves. Much as you, rather conviently misdirected us over ‘Satanic Child Abuse’

Your rather cheap comment:

As such, parallels to ‘Satanic Abuse’ panic or to cases which occurred in the US more than half a century ago are not particularly germane on this occasion

is in denial of the cases in the Orkneys and the Midlands where lives were – and I hesitate to say this – fucked up by people like you.

Get a fucking grip.

55. douglas clark

Just some back up:

Wholesale condemnation of the way nine Orkney children were removed from their homes two years ago after allegations of ritual sexual abuse was made yesterday in Lord Clyde’s report on the affair. No charges were ever brought.

Although the judge said that his report was ‘not an onslaught on all the agencies involved’ his many criticisms implicate nearly everyone as having made ‘honest mistakes’.

He said its intentions were not recriminations but reform.

The report’s 194 recommendations will now shape a White Paper on child care in Scotland next year. Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said some of the recommendations could be implemented without undue delay while others needed primary legislation or further consideration.

The report said social workers failed to keep an open mind about the allegations of organised abuse, failed to consider alternatives to the children’s removal, failed to assess adequately the risk to the nine and failed to treat them as individuals. Results of medical examinations, which showed no signs of abuse, did not prompt reassessment of the allegations. The skills of those interviewing the children – the police and social workers from the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – were described as ‘inadequate’ and ‘deficient’; interviewers made ‘inappropriate use of leading questions’.

The report’s overall findings were welcomed by the parents from the four South Ronaldsay families, who say they will sue for compensation for the trauma they claim their families suffered. However, the question of the parents’ guilt or innocence did not form part of Lord Clyde’s remit. But the judge said: ‘There is a principle in Scotland known as the presumption of innocence.’ He would be sorry if that presumption was not ‘so effective as to settle the position so far as anyone is concerned’.

One of the fathers said yesterday: ‘I think it is as clear as it could be that we have been fully vindicated.

‘To discover it is not a whitewash is absolutely brilliant. We expected nothing.’

Unity, there is a lot more about that.

56. douglas clark

Well, Unity?

This will fall off the front page very shortly and your, hmm.., bending of the truth will be forgotten.

It would have been interesting to see you explain your ignorance about Satanic Child Abuse claims in the UK , but there you go.

You are very naivé, or summat…

A hero of this site.

Douglas:

I’m perfectly aware of the events that took place in Orkney, and in Rochdale and Cleveland, none of which are relevant to this particular case, which is well documented and very well evidenced.

It also worth pointing out that it was only in the case of Marietta Higgs, in Cleveland, that professional medical staff were involved in making grievous errors of judgement

IIRC, both the Orkney and Rochdale cases arose in situations in which social workers over reached themselves and their professional abilities without recourse to consultation with appropriately qualified medical and psychiatric professionals.

I’d also like to point out that errors made elsewhere and under very different circumstances are in no sense evidence of, or even suggestive of, mistakes in this particular case.

58. douglas clark

Unity,

Contrarywise.

I’d also like to point out that errors made elsewhere and under very different circumstances are in no sense evidence of, or even suggestive of, mistakes in this particular case.

What?

IIRC, and I think I do, your lot were wrong about Rochdale child abuse, Orkney child abuse and for all I know, anything else you thought was evil.

In fact, you are:

Cue trumpets:

Not very good

59. Shatterface

I don’t think you’ve yet attempted to justify your characterization of John Hemming as an ‘egregious fabulist’ second only to Nadine Dorries: on the subject of social service hysteria he seams to have been largely correct, whereas social services themselves seem to have swallowed fairy tales about everything from cannibalism to snuff movies.

Unless he believes 9/11 was faked using holographic projectors retroengineered from alien technology scavenged from Rosewell he comes accross as relatively sane.

60. the a&e charge nurse

Douglas [58], I do not know if you are directly involved in child protection work but I suspect from the nature of your comments you are not?

I do not think Unity, or anybody else here disputes just how high the stakes are (whenever child protection proceedings are instigated), or that professionals are infallible, clearly they are not – perhaps we can ALL agree on these two basic premises as our starting point?

One of the cases mentioned by Unity [57], the Cleveland case, is instructive.
I would certainly recommend Beatrix Campbell’s analysis of the difficulties faced by both families and professionals alike.
http://www.beatrixcampbell.co.uk/books/cleveland

For example, one of the defining features of Cleveland was the iconic ‘anal dilatation’ sign – in other words could anal dilatation be demonstrated clinically (especially on preverbal children) after they had been buggered – remember, the anus tends to be the preferred orifice when children are very young (some as young as two, I believe) because in females the vagina is less accommodating.

As mentioned above Marietta Higgs [57], a paediatric consultant staked her reputation on the veracity of the sign, a decision which was to result in her being banned from sexual abuse work – needless to say consequences exist for BOTH camps (families and professionals), ask the social workers sacked after Baby P debacle.

Turning to the case in hand I do not discount the possibility that RP might have managed to care for her child but each family’s needs must be balanced against the many others who also require either statutory or requested social services?
At the very least we must recognise the possibility that if a great deal of money is necessary to sustain care arrangements (for a single family) then there is ALWAYS a risk that someone, somewhere will be disadvantaged because there is less cash (within a finite budget) for their needs – to my mind this a vital and often neglected point.

Of course, as John Hemming has already pointed out this entire case might have been settled (without the present media furore) had a separate and independent professional arrived at the same conclusion regarding the mother’s ‘capacity’.

As I mention at the outset [8] there is an understandable instinct to keep mother and child together whenever this is possible but even relatively junior social workers soon come across cases that turn the stomach – and even if outright abuse is not occurring social workers still a sense of guilt about the many children trapped in families that are offer very little in the way of nurturing, support or life opportunities.

61. douglas clark

the a&e charge nurse @ 60,

Agreed. I have never said it was easy . But…

My problem with this analysis of a particular case is that Unity allows no room in his world for any doubt whatsoever about the ‘professionals’. In his world, ‘professionals’ are right. On the basis of the case Unity has made here I have already conceded [31] that, given where we are now, it would be next to impossible to reverse the decision. How we got into this fix in the first place is however moot. You might like to consider Cath Elliots’ points…

Ahem.

For instance, he deliberately attempted to divert your attention away from the scandals that were Orkney and Rochdale, both of which are extremely well documented, by claiming that it was an American problem [33]. It wasn’t and it isn’t. Both cast doubts on the assumptions that ‘experts’ made. When your ‘experts’ are given to woo, what hope is there?

It is stating the obvious, but if your case is strong enough, you don’t need to use diversionary tactics, which is what Unity did. He now returns as the worlds leading expert on Orkney, Cleveland and Rochdale and dismisses them as irrelevant [57].

Well, no, they aren’t. They are part and parcel of a mind set that is irrational. For instance, in it’s meek acceptance of the anal dilation evidence, as you pointed out..

Or, more to the point in this case, a complete failure to look at alternatives to adoption.

There are enough problems with adult – child relationships without clinicians inventing stuff. Münchausen syndrome by proxy, originally identified by a certain Roy Meadow is not now acceptable as evidence in a UK court. I wonder why that is? Could it be that it was based on two case studies?

I suppose someone could write a thousand words that said otherwise.

My point, such as it was and is, is that the general public ought to be firstly informed about what is being done in their name and secondly highly sceptical of neat solutions that just happen to coincide with whatever the ‘professionals’ and the judiciary have decided.

Douglas:

I don’t profess to be the ‘world’s leading expert’ on Orkney, Cleveland and Rochdale, however I have read the official reports on all three incidents and a far amount of the published post-hoc analysis that followed – all have proved to be of considerable interest to research psychologists working on, for example, the study of cognitive biases and group think.

I should also point out, as a matter of factual accuracy, that it is David Southall who is most closely associated with Munchausen’s by Proxy. Roy Meadow’s field was SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Of course, neither is at all relevant to this particular case, which hinges on questions of competence.

If you want to debate the validity of the WAIS test or of psychometric testing, generally, then I’m game – at least we’ll be in the right disciplinary field.

As for there being room for doubt, I’ve already specified the criteria for falsifying the assessment of RP’s competence – a contrary second opinion provided by an appropriately qualified psychiatric professional.

Whatever you do, don’t be blinded by John’s tendentious version of events.

RP has not been ruled competent to litigate. The question of her competence has simply been circumvented by her appearing as a litigant in person, with the support of two McKenzie friend, including John Hemming.

What John hasn’t bothered to explain is that, ordinarily, a McKenzie friend is not permitted to address the court directly – they can speak only to the plaintiff.

However, in this case its evident that John was not only permitted to address the court directly but present a significant portion of RPs case. This is not standard practice but it is something the court will permit if its apparent that the plaintiff is not competent to present their case without that level of assistance.

“on the subject of social service hysteria he seams to have been largely correct, whereas social services themselves seem to have swallowed fairy tales about everything from cannibalism to snuff movies…”

Oh that rings a bit of a bell with me. Representatives from social services have sometimes been drawn into the debate over possession pornography, and some of them are pretty big believers in snuff films on the internet, systematic sex trafficking and mass organised murder of prostituted women within Europe etc..

(which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of very real problems out there, only that some experts and professionals have succumbed to woo).

64. douglas clark

Unity,

Look, I admire a lot of what you say and the prodigious effort you put into it. My comment about Muchausens’ was based on this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munchausen_syndrome_by_proxy

which states fairly clearly that Roy Meadows came up with the idea. Whether or not it was further developed by others. If that is wrong, then, I too am wrong.

You say you have an interest in analysing the ‘group think’ that surrounded the UK Satanic Abuse cases. So, why did you attempt to divert it to a US only perspective at [33]? That, sir, was an attempt to rubbish an opposing viewpoint, and clearly, if you did know about these cases, as you now claim to do, then it makes you an advocate rather than the seeker after truth I have largely come to respect.

Anyway, it is precisely that ‘group think’ which is at issue here. Whatever you care to say to the contrary, bureaucracies have their own internal dynamic, and it is not always obvious to an outsider that this is in the public interest, rather than in it’s own interests. Off topic a tad, but the Catholic Church was also guilty of a cover up, was it not?

It is difficult for the powerless, such as myself, to do much other than point out the abuses that are made of power by others.

Looking back over your post it is pretty plain that you and John Hemming don’t see eye to eye on this case. My tuppenceworth was to quote the Lou Reed line:

“don’t believe anything you read,
And only half of what you hear.”

Or vice versa, I forget which.

65. douglas clark

Munchausens – when are we getting that preview function?

Douglas:

I didn’t try to divert to a US only perspective – if you read back to early comments, there’s a reference to the recent film ‘The Changeling’, which is what I was actually referring to, in addition to the Orkney and Rochdale cases.

What I have done is pointed out, quite correctly, that there are few, if any, similarities between this particular case and any of the others that have been cited by people in comments.

Ultimately, what this all comes down to is evidence and I’m afraid that if you read the Court of Appeal’s ruling in full its perfectly apparent that neither RP nor John Hemming could produce any corroborating evidence to support any of the allegations made during the appeal nor have they been able to provide a second opinion to rebut the rulings on competence.

67. Shatterface

My references to previous witch hunts (and I use that term literally, for once) perpetrated by social services wasn’t to draw direct parallels with PR’s case, it was to question your ad hominem characterization of John Hemming as an ‘egregious fabulist second only to Nadine Dorries’ which seems misplaced in light of his history in opposing egregious fabulations that social services were all-too willing to accept.

>Ultimately, what this all comes down to is evidence and I’m afraid that if you read the
>Court of Appeal’s ruling in full its perfectly apparent that neither RP nor John Hemming
>could produce any corroborating evidence to support any of the allegations made
>during the appeal nor have they been able to provide a second opinion to rebut the
>rulings on competence.
You do not have a copy of the transcript hence you cannot know that your first statement is false. It is, however, false.

As far as the second statement is concerned. Although it was not lawful to obtain a second opinion in the first set of proceedings a report from a Dr Ramakrishna Madina dated 6th December 2008 clearly and incontravertibly rebuts the rulings on competence. The European Court have been sent a copy of that report.

69. the a&e charge nurse

[68] I have very little knowledge of the finer legal points associated with complex care proceedings of this type so a question to both Unity and John Hemming.

First of all which individual within the professional network deemed the mother to be sufficiently lacking in capacity to care for a premature baby with complex care needs;
Was it a psychiatrist?
Psychologist?
Social worker?
Paediatrician (bearing in mind a great deal of concern hinged on the medical needs of the child),

Secondly, once Social Services acted on this opinion i.e. that the mother lacked capacity and was hence a danger to her child, was there not scope for advocates to request a second, independent opinion (on the question of capacity) before the case came to court?

a) Psychologist

b) It was part of the proceedings hence the court rules apply.

In that comment I am talking about the capacity to instruct a solicitor.

The issue about capacity for dealing with the child is more complex and again involves a continuing process.

72. the a&e charge nurse

Thank you, John – but now I am really lost.

The administration of a psychometric test and the issue of capacity are two separate issues, surely (although an adult may be incapacitated due to lack of intelligence).

The central issue seems to concern the mothers ability to safely care for a premature, and disabled child with complex health problems?

The Mental Capacity Act [2005] provides the following guidance.

To determine incapacity you will need to consider whether the person you’re looking after is able to understand the particular issue that they’re making a decision about. You need to consider if they have:
an impairment or disturbance in the functioning of the mind or brain, and an inability to make decisions.

A person is unable to make a decision if :
[1] they cannot understand the information relevant to the decision,
[2] retain that information,
[3] use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision, or communicate the decision.

If I have understood you correctly the psychologist advised that the mother lacked capacity to instruct her own solicitor?

But who (if anybody)in the care team or social services determined she lacked competence to mother the child, and on what criteria did she fail (see 3 criteria above)?

This is the published judgment of the court of first instance (from the court of appeal judgment)
(RP) is now 22, is the mother of (KP), (KP) who was born prematurely on the 7th May of 2006 and really has very many serious medical conditions with which to contend. She is now one year and four months.

It is quite clear from all of the papers and all of the experts and, indeed, from mother herself, that she dearly loves (KP) and would wish to be able to look after her indeed as would any mother but, sadly, a number of professional psychologists and other people have felt that she is unable to do so and would put (KP) at risk and that is through no fault of her own. The Official Solicitor has accepted this conclusion on the mother’s behalf.

Assessments have been done of her family, of her parents, of her brother, (RP), and it is felt that it would not be in the best interests of (KP) to live with them.

The threshold criteria are made out and I take the view that it would be in the best interests of (KP) to be made the subject of a care order and I make that care order.

The care plan is one for adoption. The Local Authority have covered within the care plan, some letterbox contact with (KP) by the mother and help will be given to mother in that regard – but the Official Solicitor, who acts on behalf of mother, has accepted that the placement order will be made because mother is not capable of giving consent to the making of a placement order. As I understand it, prospective adopters have not been identified yet and the Local Authority have, in a sense, asked for a year to see whether they can place (KP) in a suitable placement and if not then, of course, the subject of contact will be under review but I feel, again, it would be in the best interests of (KP) if a placement order is made with a view to adoption and therefore I do dispense with mother’s consent because she is incapable of giving it.

Yes, well, thank you all very much in this, obviously, very difficult case.

Perhaps now you accept that I have two cases:

a) That from time to time through the use of experts financially beholden to the local authority mothers have the Official Solicitor wrongly appointed to prevent them from fighting cases to have their children adopted. That is to be specific that the mothers are not in truth incapable of instructing a solicitor, but the court decides that they are.

b) That when the OS is appointed they from time to time merely concede the case of the local authority without challening it in any way.

77. SW Birmingham

As a child protection social worker I spend a lot of my time in court presenting the ‘Local Authority’s’ perspective in relation to the ‘facts’ of a case. As a representative of the Local Authority, the ‘facts’, by the time they work their way into my court statements are, admittedly, mostly my own views and perspectives.

When I am allocated a case I try to be objective and I do undertake my own primary enquiries during assessments. However, by the time I get the case it has already been ‘worked’ in the duty team and so the majority of what I read in the case files is subject to the opinions of the workers who held the case before me (influenced by their prejudices, experience, competence and time limitations). I recognise that this is bound to sway my opinion; I’m human – as are those who were involved in the cases before me.

That said, in preparing my evidence for court my perspective has often been changed by challenges from the people who are directly involved in the case, i.e. parents and family. My opinion has also been changed by challenges from colleagues, through supervision and from the different perspectives of independent (although sometimes not always entirely objective) people brought into the proceedings. Child abuse is not limited to the lower socio-economic strata of society; it’s just that they’re less good at hiding it and defending themselves. That’s why, Rob Knight, I think you’re absolutely right. We should challenge and debate these issues.

I do have some misgivings about the media being allowed into public law proceedings – mostly in relation to the confidentiality of the children involved – but also in relation to staff safety. As CP front-line social workers we have to endure the kind of abuse that no other professional would put up with. If people assault service personnel they simply withdraw services; if people assault health professionals they can refuse to treat; if people assault the police they can arrest; if people assault me I, or one of my colleagues, have to continue to work with the abuser because it is nearly always in the best interests of the child (and media vilification and the threat of litigation? Let’s not even go there! ). I certainly would not want people who have personal or perceived ‘axes to grind’ knowing my name and being able to find out where I live.

However, I think that it has to be a good thing that any professional is challenged (reasonably, through critical debate – not by smashing their cars up, assaulting them or attacking their children!) when they are making proclamations about other people’s lives. I think that if society in general had access to the full facts and perspectives of cases that are heard in the public law arena they would be more likely to give reasonable independent evaluations. And they would be less likely to attack the people who, in the majority, are committed to doing a good job for the most vulnerable people in our society.

This is why, on balance, I think that public law proceedings should be much more open to public scrutiny via the media. Maybe even before cases get to court. Remember ‘Baby P’, anyone? Sorry I forgot, he’s known as ‘Peter’ now. Now that it’s too late.

78. Sabina Heywood

Re the comment above from SW Birmingham: thank you for being honest and revealing that the removal of a child from its loving and caring parents can often be based on various peoples ‘opinions’ rather than ‘facts’ I’m sorry to hear that as ‘C.P Frontline Social Workers’ you have to endure what you perceive to be ‘abuse’ . However I have to inform you that there is nothng in the world more abusive than an innocent parent having their child stolen away and then pages of lies written about them as they are dragged through the court fighting for the right to be with their child who has also been significntly harmed by Social Workers and other Professionals having been ripped away from a loving and innocent parent.

Due to the actions of Social Workers these children and their parents will suffer a lifetime of abuse

That is REAL abuse.


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  1. socialworkuk

    http://bit.ly/Xbyso Liberal Conspiracy blog post about John Hemming MP and the coverage of a contested adoption case #socialwork





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