Thursday, 25 June 2009

Keep family law private, says solicitor

Family law solicitor William Edwards has criticised government changes which are supposed to open up family courts to the scrutiny of the Press and has vowed to fight to try and stop them.
The new rules state that, unless specifically excluded by a judge, accredited journalists can attend custody, care and divorce proceedings. Until now, these proceedings have generally been held in private.
Mr Edwards, who is based in Midsomer Norton, said: "It is essential that the public has total confidence in the courts that deal with family law.
"However, there is also the necessity to protect the identity of children, which is why, until now, proceedings concerning children have generally been held in private.
"The new rules may well allow a journalist to go into a family court. However, the rules also state that they are not allowed to report on what they actually hear in court.
"A cynic may claim that the new rules supposedly put in place to make family law courts 'less secret' are no more than a sop to pressure groups. In reality, they change nothing."
Mr Edwards, who is head of family law at Thatcher & Hallam, is also a member of both the Law Society's family law panel and the specialist family lawyers' organisation Resolution.
He says he will not be giving up in his quest to obtain real reform of the law.

Social worker case runs up bill for taxpayer

Taxpayers will have to foot a legal bill approaching a million pounds after the court case involving hitman-hiring social worker Lynda Barnes.
The complex family court case exposed Mrs Barnes' criminal past and her lies under oath and the judge hearing it was so concerned that he ordered the council chiefs who hired her to pay half the legal aid costs.
So even though the families involved in the case were receiving legal aid for challenging the council and its social workers, Judge Paul Barclay said Bath and North East Somerset Council was so liable that it should pay half their' legal aid bill.
That is expected to pass Pfund500,000, and B&NES will also have to pay its own legal bill conservatively put by the council yesterday at Pfund250,000. The full figures are yet to be calculated, but it is expected to be somewhere between three-quarters and a full one million pounds.
Yesterday, B&NES reassured its taxpayers that services would not be directly affected by the case council chiefs had seen the possibility of a hefty legal bill coming and budgeted for it from their 'risk reserves' pot.
The case, which cannot be reported in detail, was a complex child protection one involving an extended family battling with B&NES social services in the family court. As well as B&NES' own legal team, four other sets of barristers and solicitors were involved representing interested parties.
But the case became significantly more complicated when a colleague of Mrs Barnes told her bosses the social worker had lied under oath and asked her to lie too.
Judge Barclay was so appalled he investigated Mrs Barnes himself and discovered she had been sacked by B&NES's predecessor council, Avon, after being found guilty of attempting to hire a hitman to have her husband murdered back in 1995.

Social worker case runs up bill for taxpayer

Taxpayers will have to foot a legal bill approaching a million pounds after the court case involving hitman-hiring social worker Lynda Barnes.
The complex family court case exposed Mrs Barnes' criminal past and her lies under oath and the judge hearing it was so concerned that he ordered the council chiefs who hired her to pay half the legal aid costs.
So even though the families involved in the case were receiving legal aid for challenging the council and its social workers, Judge Paul Barclay said Bath and North East Somerset Council was so liable that it should pay half their' legal aid bill.
That is expected to pass Pfund500,000, and B&NES will also have to pay its own legal bill conservatively put by the council yesterday at Pfund250,000. The full figures are yet to be calculated, but it is expected to be somewhere between three-quarters and a full one million pounds.
Yesterday, B&NES reassured its taxpayers that services would not be directly affected by the case council chiefs had seen the possibility of a hefty legal bill coming and budgeted for it from their 'risk reserves' pot.
The case, which cannot be reported in detail, was a complex child protection one involving an extended family battling with B&NES social services in the family court. As well as B&NES' own legal team, four other sets of barristers and solicitors were involved representing interested parties.
But the case became significantly more complicated when a colleague of Mrs Barnes told her bosses the social worker had lied under oath and asked her to lie too.
Judge Barclay was so appalled he investigated Mrs Barnes himself and discovered she had been sacked by B&NES's predecessor council, Avon, after being found guilty of attempting to hire a hitman to have her husband murdered back in 1995.

Suffocated girl had been on protection register

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD girl who is believed to have been suffocated at home, was taken off the child protection register two years ago.
Zoey Anne David was found dead at a house on Bideford Close in the Maesglas area of Newport, on Friday.
A 34-year-old woman, also named locally as Zoey David, was found lying nearby with serious injuries. She remains under arrest on suspicion of murder in hospital where she is being treated for injuries she sustained that day.
It has since emerged that the girl was placed on the child protection register by the Newport Safeguarding Children Board when her family moved to the area in 2007 from London.
By the end of that year the board, which comprises Newport City Council, Gwent Police and the local health board, took the decision to take Zoey Anne off the register.
A spokesman for the board said it was now considering a Serious Case Review.
"Such a review would establish whether there are any lessons to be learnt about the way in which agencies work together to safeguard children," said the spokesman.
"There is specific guidance from the Welsh Assembly Government in relation to Serious Case Reviews that will be followed in this case.
"It is our understanding that this child had previously been on the Child Protection Register in Newport in 2007 and any relevant information relating to the work of agencies with the family will be considered during the Serious Case Review process."

City's child services 'improving'

Efforts to improve the social work service for children in Aberdeen have made encouraging progress, inspectors have said.
It was earlier claimed that children living at risk of abuse or neglect were not being given adequate protection.
The HM Inspector of Education had inspectors in Aberdeen throughout April to follow up an earlier report.
It concluded that the social work service had been successful in laying effective foundations for improvement.
The report has been welcomed by the north east of Scotland child protection committee (NESCPC).
NESCPC chairman, Chief Constable Colin McKerracher, said: "I am pleased this report recognises all the good work and improvements made in Aberdeen.
"Agencies and their staff have worked closely together and this helps us all to strengthen services for children across the city."
New director
Aberdeen City Council's chief executive Sue Bruce added: "It is very encouraging to see the progress made to date."
Aberdeen's new director of social care and wellbeing, Fred McBride, was the head of children's services in Dundee at the time of toddler Brandon Muir's killing.
The case sparked a review of child protection services as it emerged that social workers had been alerted to concerns over Brandon.
Robert Cunningham was jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of 23-month-old Brandon's culpable homicide.

Brandon father’s ‘shock’ at child protection report

BRANDON MUIRS father John was in shock when he learned that a report on Dundees child protection services had highlighted so many major deficiencies, his family said yesterday.
Johns sister Dayna Garty called for the immediate resignation of Alan Baird, the citys director of social work, and recently-appointed chairman of the committee overseeing child protection in the city.
She said they also feel for other children who have been let down by child protection services in Dundee.
Its all very well for them to say theyre sorry and it wont happen again but they always wait until its too late, she added. They are all for giving people chances but that means its the kids who get hurt.
Brandon was just 23 months old when he was killed by Robert Cunningham, his mothers boyfriend.
The case prompted the Scottish Governments children and early years minister Adam Ingram to bring forward the results of an inspection on Dundees child services.
That inspection, headed by Her Majestys Inspectorate of Education (HMIE), found nine of the 19 quality indicators that they considered were either weak or unsatisfactory and it uncovered major problems in the identification of children at risk and the provision of a speedy response to their needs.
Although Brandons family has always been highly critical of the role they feel social services played in the toddlers death, even they were shocked by the damning report, Dayna told The Courier.
I definitely didnt think it was going to come out as bad as it did, she said.
I was absolutely appalled when I read it in the paper. There were so many sectors which were unsatisfactory.

Blackpool nursery sex abuse fears

A NURSERY school worker accused of abusing children has worked at a number of creches in Blackpool, we can reveal.
Jon Lee Fraser, 21, appeared before resort magistrates yesterday charged with sexually assaulting a boy and girl, both aged seven.
The offences are alleged to have taken place on February 19 and March 3 at the nursery in Blackpool where Fraser, of Erdington Road, worked.
The Gazette has chosen not to name the creche the allegations relate to in order to protect the identities of the children involved.
However, police today confirmed they were now speaking to managers at other nurseries in the resort where Fraser is known to have worked.
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: "It is true Mr Fraser has worked for very short periods of time as a nursery worker at a number of other nurseries.
"We are working closely with the managers of those nurseries and the relevant local authorities.
"At this stage there is no information to suggest any further alleged offences, or that at any time he was left by the resident staff on his own with the children in a situation where any other offences could have been committed."
The spokeswoman added: "If any parent is worried about their children then utilise the advice and guidance on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website www. or the advice from the NSPCC."

Brandon report slams city’s child protection

CHILD PROTECTION services in Dundee have been severely criticised in a damning report published today.
The report, prepared in the wake of the Brandon Muir case, was compiled by a team of independent assessors led by Her Majestys Inspectorate of Education and has raised major concerns over the effectiveness of services to protect vulnerable children in the city and meet their needs.
Of the 18 quality indicators the team looked at, nine were either weak or unsatisfactory, six were satisfactory and only three were described as good.
The report showed there were major weaknesses in the identification of children who needed protection, staff across services did not always respond quickly enough to children who were at risk of significant harm and they did not always report concerns until the childs circumstances had reached crisis point.
The report follows the killing last year of 23-month-old Brandon Muir at the hands of Robert Cunningham, the boyfriend of the Dundee toddlers mother.
Cunningham was jailed for 10 years for culpable homicide at the High Court in March, although he is appealing against his conviction.
The month-long inspection, which is part of a rolling programme looking at all 32 Scottish local authorities, was already under way when the trial ended.
Its results had been due to be published in September, but concern over Brandons death prompted the Scottish Government to order the findings to be released in June instead, with children and early years minister Adam Ingram saying a clear picture of how childrens services were operating in the city was needed as quickly as possible.
That picture is a hugely damning one which highlights significant delays in protecting children at risk of neglect or emotional abuse, particularly those affected by parental substance misuse, which the multi-agency Dundee Children and Young Persons Protection Committee has acknowledged and says it has already begun to address.
Some children, the report said, were left for too long in circumstances which placed them at risk of significant harm.

Police to monitor fugitive pervert

A DECISION not to extradite fugitive Sheffield paedophile Peter Wheatherley from Spain was made because he may not receive a custodial sentence even if he was returned to Britain.
The 41-year-old, formerly of Kinnaird Road, Shiregreen, is one of four perverts on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency's national Most Wanted list, published on the internet.
Although he has served his time, he is wanted for failin to notify police of his address so officers can keep tabs on his activities - an offence carrying a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
As British authorities have now found out where he is living, so he could be monitored by Spanish police, officers do not believe the time and trouble of bringing an extradition case would be justified given he can only receive a light sentence.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Since the end of 2007, Peter Wheatherley has been living on the Costa del Sol, where the Spanish authorities are aware of him.
"We are continuing to liaise with them about any potential risk he poses.
"Wheatherley has served his time for his original offence, but is currently wanted for a breach of notification requirements - essentially failing to provide his name and address - under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Trust will 'strengthen' child protection

STRENGTHENING child protection took a step forward after Haringey Council's cabinet approved plans for a children's trust.
The Haringey Children's Trust (HCT) has been set up to improve child protection in the borough following a joint area review in the wake of the Baby P case.
It will play a leading role in shaping all children's services including education, social care, health and the police. Its three key priorities are identifying children at risk of harm to ensure their safety, addressing inequalities in education and tackling child poverty.
Councillor Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children and young people, will also chair the children's trust.

City child protection criticised

Child protection services in Dundee have been severely criticised in a report by inspectors.
The report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) said many youngsters did not get help until the situation was at crisis point.
Publication of the study was brought forward following the death of 23-month-old Brandon Muir.
Brandon was killed by his mother's drug addict boyfriend Robert Cunningham, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Cunningham is appealing his culpable homicide conviction.
Child protection services in Dundee were inspected in February and March of this year. The Brandon Muir trial was taking place at that time, although the case was not considered by inspectors.
Inspectors examined the workings of the city council, police, NHS Tayside, the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and voluntary and independent groups.
Child protection services were rated "unsatisfactory", which meant there were major weaknesses, in one area - that of making sure that children were helped in immediate response to concerns.
In particular, there was concern about the help given to children who were exposed to domestic abuse, their parents' drug and alcohol problems and mental ill health.
The HMIe report found that Dundee was "weak" in eight of the 18 quality indicators examined. Services were rated "satisfactory" in six areas and "good" in three.

The Court of Appeal of Sarah, Ian and Crystal Walton's Judgement of the 20th March 2009

Lord Justice Wilson:1. Married parents, living together, apply for permission to appeal against orders made by Hedley J in the High Court, Family Division, Principal Registry, on 30 January 2009. I am sorry to have been told this afternoon that the father is indisposed today and in effect unable to attend court. The mother has attended court, with the considerable support of Mrs Docherty, her McKenzie friend; and the mother has been endowed with authority by the father to speak on behalf of both of them in support of the application. The mothers submissions were no less helpful for having been short. She made the submissions primarily by reference to notes made, perhaps, with the assistance of others; and I am very grateful to her for taking on the burden of addressing the Court of Appeal this afternoon.
2. The proceedings relate to their child, who has been given the initial A. She is a girl who is now aged four. It is a tragedy, at any rate for the parents, that A has never lived with the father and has scarcely lived with the mother. For the first four months of her life, A lived with the mother in the home of the maternal grandparents; but thereupon she was placed in short-term foster care pursuant to a series of interim care orders. In October 2006, notwithstanding the most active opposition of the parents, orders were made which placed A in the full care of the London Borough of Enfield (the local authority) and authorised As placement for adoption. Those orders, sought by the local authority, have also attracted the support of As Childrens Guardian. It was shortly after the making of those orders that the contact of the parents with A, which had been supervised, ceased. In April 2007 Munby J, sitting as an additional judge of this court, refused the application of the parents for permission to appeal against the care and placement orders. Accordingly, albeit only in March 2008, A was placed for adoption. The proposed adopters have now issued an application for an adoption order to be made in relation to A and their application is fixed to be heard next month, April 2009.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A gay couple adopted our grandchildren.. and kids think we're dead

Despite looking after their five-year-old grandson and four-year-old granddaughter for three years, social workers decided they were "too old" and unsuitable to continue.
And, tragically, the children now think that their grandparents are dead.
"Social workers made up their minds that we were too old," says the grandad, who is 59. His wife is just 46 and both look much younger.
"It just breaks my heart and eats away at me every day. My own grandchildren have been wrenched away and now they think that me and their granny are dead."
The children went to live with their grandparents because their mother, a heroin addict, couldn't look after them. The boy's father is dead and the girl's father has not had any contact with her.
But social workers later insisted the children would be better off with the two gay men. "My wife and I were happy bringing the children up ourselves," says the grandfather.
"We are their family. Now we've been told we'll never see them again. How can that possibly be right? They are our flesh and blood."
The children have now been given new identities and totally removed from their former life, family and friends.
The only contact their grandparents have had with the children in the last eight months is a two-paragraph letter from their new parents giving a few scraps of news about the pair.

Parents deserve better than this

WHAT parent would feel comfortable knowing their child could be taken away from them at any moment and adopted on the basis of an unproven accusation?
Yet this is exactly what happened to a couple who after four years of fighting through the courts have lost their daughter for good.
It would take a cold heart not to sympathise a father unable to clear his name in a criminalcourt because the evidence is so weak it wouldnt even make it to trial. And a mother being told she is not allowed to keep her only child if she stays loyal to her husband.

Couple despair as incomprehensible decision rubber-stamps ‘forced adoption’ of their baby

PIXELATED in this photographare two proud parents doting on their newborn daughter.
But just like their identities in this photo, the familys future has been obliterated by a court system which, they claim, was determined to tear them apart. Just a short time after the snap was taken, the little girl who, along with her parents, cannot be identified due to a draconian injunction served on the Advertiser was forcibly taken from her Enfield home by social workers backed by police officers.
And now, following four years of heartbreaking struggle by the parents to get her back, during which judge after judge has publicly sympathised with their plight and innocence but remained unwilling to disagree with their fellow judges, she has been officially adopted by another couple.
Their only crime was for the father to be accused though never charged or convicted of injuring his son from a previous marriage by shaking him.
Perversely, the courts and his former partner allow him full unsupervised access to the boy and his sister, yet his daughter with his new wife was taken by social
workers on the vague subjective basis that she was at risk of potential future harm.
The father has consistently denied hurting his son and the couple were given a last chance to win their daughter back by challenging the accusation in the High Court in February.

Abuse survivors at higher risk of suicide

Experience of being abused in an institution could lead to anxiety over receiving nursing home care in later life, writes MICHELLE McDONAGH
SURVIVORS OF institutional abuse in Ireland may be at a higher risk of suicidal behaviour if they need to receive nursing home care as many will in later life, according to the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF).
Director of research at the NSRF, Dr Ella Arensman, explained that the experience of being abused in an institution had led to huge anxiety among survivors regarding the possibility of receiving nursing home care in later life.
This fear of what might happen to them as they grow older must be given appropriate consideration as a risk factor for suicidal behaviour among survivors, she said.
Dr Arensman said that people who went through the industrial schools were more likely to have been cut off from their parents and siblings and so are more likely to end up in nursing homes.
She highlighted the need for those working in the primary care and nursing home sectors to be aware of the specific difficulties and needs of this not insignificant group.
Although Dr Arensman has been involved in research into the link between institutional child abuse and suicidal behaviour since 2005, with Dr Martina ORiordan, she said they were overwhelmed at the extent and severity of the abuse revealed by the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
Their research, which was commissioned by the National Office for Suicide Prevention, has found that long-term effects among survivors of institutional child sexual abuse included social isolation, alcohol and/or drug abuse, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behaviour.
In our study, we came across people who 30 or 40 years later can only sleep with the light on.
They fear the dark because a lot of the abuse went on at night-time and they still have nightmares. Many have struggled to build up some level of independence which they did not have for an average of 16 years while they were institutionalised.

Maine Mom Nabbed in International Child Porn Sting

A mother of four young children in Maine was charged Monday with gross sexual assault after British investigators more than 3,000 miles away used the Internet to allegedly catch her in the act of Webcasting a sexual assault of her young child.
Julie M. Carr, 30, of Mars Hill, Maine, was arrested at about 11 p.m. Friday. Her four children believed to range from 18 months to 5 years old were taken into protective custody.
The Child Exploitation Investigation Team of England's West Midlands Police said their unit received information late Thursday that a local man was using the Internet to show inappropriate material of children. An unidentified 18-year-old man was later arrested in Walsall, England.
A day later, on Friday, additional information was obtained by investigators, prompting the West Midland Police to contact officials at the Child Exploitation Online Protection and the U.S. Embassy.
"Our officers worked through the night on Thursday and Friday to ensure the identification and safety of these children across the other side of the world," West Midlands Police Detective Chief Inspector Dave McCrone said in a statement obtained by "Many people use the Internet safely and securely; however, there are a small minority who choose to use it to commit criminality."
"We work to make people safer, sooner. The very same technology used to commit the crime enables us to work quickly to protect those who may be vulnerable."
Carr, who is being held on $50,000 bail on charges of gross sexual assault and felony exploitation of a child, was arraigned by videoconference before a judge on Monday. She did not enter a plea, Maine State Police Det. Sgt. John Cote told
Cote declined to identify the victim seen during the assault but said one recording was taken as recently as Wednesday.
"That's kind of what facilitated us acting quickly on this information as we received it," he told

Make the unfiltered web illegal, says children's coalition

Internet companies should be forced to filter the web in order to reduce the volume of indecent material being shared online, according to children's charities.
In a new "digital manifesto" published today, a leading group of charities including the NSPCC, the Children's Society and the National Children's Bureau argue that the government should legally compel ISPs to screen out images of child abuse and underage sex.
Compulsory filtering is just one of a number of recommendations made by the Children's Charities Coalition on Internet Safety (CCCIS), which believes that action must be taken now to prevent new technologies from being used to proliferate abusive images online.
"The problem of child abuse images is directly linked to the growth of the internet and new technologies," said Zoe Hilton, an NSPCC spokeswoman and co-author of the manifesto.
"A large number of people continue to seek out these images in any way possible. The UK government must be tenacious in its efforts to put in place measures to protect children online."
According to government figures, more than 1,400 people were either prosecuted or cautioned in relation to images of child abuse in 2007, a figure which the NSPCC says could be reduced by blocking such material at source.
The report suggests that ISPs should be forced to subscribe to a blacklist of websites compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent charity that has become Britain's de facto regulator of online content.
The IWF, which was founded in 1996, scans the web and responds to reports from members of the public to block sites containing objectionable content. While the group largely focuses on blocking images of child abuse and indecent pictures of anyone under 18 found anywhere on the internet, its blacklist also includes obscene or racially offensive material hosted in the UK.

Miscarriage of justice victims protest against appeal cutbacks

Gerry Conlon and Patrick Maguire among protesters outside parliament to highlight case of Sam Hallam, jailed for life in 2005
Victims of some of Britain's most notorious miscarriage of justice cases protested outside parliament today against budget cuts at the body which investigates disputed convictions. They claim that cases such as those of the young east Londoner Sam Hallam, who is serving life for murder, cannot be reinvestigated swiftly enough without the restoration of funding.
Paddy Hill and Billy Power of the Birmingham Six, Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and Patrick Maguire of the Maguire Seven, along with Hallam's relatives and friends, handed in a petition on the subject. They claim that government spending cuts at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) mean that innocent people are spending years in jail when their cases should be referred back to the court of appeal.
The campaigners are highlighting the case of 21-year-old Hallam, jailed for life in 2005 for the murder of Essayas Kassahun, a 21-year-old trainee chef, who was killed in 2004 in Finsbury, north-east London. Kassahun had come to the aid of a friend, Louis Colley, who was being attacked by a mob of youths over a trivial perceived insult. Among Hallam's other supporters are the actor Ray Winston, whose nephew and daughter know him.
Hallam was convicted on the basis of the disputed identification evidence of two witnesses who placed him at the scene of the murder. Hallam claimed that he was playing football with a friend at the time. Now his supporters say that there is fresh evidence which should lead to a successful appeal, but that the process is taking too long.
"Sam was a victim of bad luck and a ghastly sequence of events," said veteran campaigner Paul May, a leading light in the Birmingham Six campaign. "If you met him you would know that he is just not the kind of person to be involved in something like this." May said that Hallam, who was planning a career in the army at the time, was aware that there was going to be trouble on the night of the murder as a mob set off to look for Colley.

Two held over 'live child abuse on web'

An American mother-of-four was due to appear in court today charged with child sex abuse after an investigation by police in the UK led to her arrest.
The 30-year-old woman was taken into custody by officers in the state of Maine on Friday evening, following a tip off from the Child Exploitation Investigation Team at West Midlands Police. She was subsequently charged with gross sexual assault.
It is alleged the woman had used a webcam to broadcast live images of child sex abuse on the internet. Her children - aged between 18-months and five years old - have been taken into protective care.
Officers removed computers and associated hardware from the woman's home in the Mars Hill area.
The same investigation led to the arrest of an 18-year-old man in Walsall, shortly after 8pm on Thursday. He appeared before magistrates in the town on Saturday morning charged with possession and distribution of abusive images of children.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave McCrone, from the Public Protection Support Unit at West Midlands Police said: "Our officers worked through the night on Thursday and Friday to ensure the identification and safety of these children across the other side of the world.
"Whilst inquiries are ongoing and the investigation continues, I can only comment on the speed and efficiency with which we were able to respond which led to the protection of four children.

Woman aborts other mother’s last embryo

A MOTHER desperate to have a second child has told how she lost her last IVF embryo when the NHS implanted it into the wrong patient.
When the other woman found out that the embryo was not hers, she aborted it.
Details of the blunder raise fresh questions about the way IVF clinics are regulated.
The Sunday Times has previously revealed that women undergoing fertility treatment have had their eggs fertilised with the wrong sperm.
Deborah, the woman who lost her chance of another baby, is so traumatised by the error that she is reluctant to risk further IVF to have a longed-for sibling for her son, Jamie, 6.
Because Deborah is 40 her prospects of having another child with her boyfriend, Paul, 38, are slim and diminishing.
Deborah, who does not want to disclose her surname, said: I will never forget the moment the hospital broke the news to us. Initially, the hospital told me there had been an accident in the lab and that the embryo had been damaged. I thought that someone had, perhaps, dropped the embryo dish.
I remember thinking: Thats our last hope gone we will never have another child. I left the hospital feeling totally shell-shocked.
When we went back to the hospital two days later and we were told the truth about my embryo being given to someone else I was so angry.
Deborah, a healthcare worker, and Paul, who have been together for 17 years, went on the NHS waiting list for fertility treatment in 1996. After two failed attempts, Jamie was born on the third cycle in 2003.

NSPCC warns paedophiles have moved to file-sharing networks to trade child porn

Perverts are swapping sick child porn through the same file-sharing software teenagers use to download music.
The NSPCC says paedophiles have moved to "peer to peer" networks where they can effectively evade police.
It follows the success of Operation Ore which cracked down on vile websites and snared perverts such as actor and comedian Chris Langham.
But it is much harder to crack peer to peer sites. An officer on the Met's paedophile unit said: "No one knows they exist until you are invited on to them. The size of the community or even how many kids are being traded is unclear because they are very difficult to infiltrate."

More ‘stupid’ mothers prevented from fighting adoptions

A SECOND case has emerged of a woman who has had her children taken away from her and been prevented from objecting because she was judged too stupid by the authorities.
Lawyers acting for the 24-year-old from Nottingham, who has had two daughters adopted, say she has since shown herself far brighter than was believed when the original judgment was made.
But it is now too late for her to go back to court for the return of her children.
Last month, The Sunday Times reported a similar case of a mother deemed too unintelligent to care for her child.
The plight of the women has highlighted the role of the official solicitor, the state lawyer appointed to represent them, but who declined to contest either case.
New figures show that hundreds of parents have had the official solicitor, currently Alastair Pitblado, imposed.
Since January 2006 his department has been brought in to represent 588 parents deemed to lack the mental capacity to instruct lawyers in cases where their children faced the possibility of adoption.
Last month The Sunday Times highlighted the case of Rachel, also a 24-year-old from Nottingham, who is taking her legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights after her three-year-old daughter was ordered to be adopted because she was ruled not to be intelligent enough to care for her.
In the latest case the mothers two daughters were both adopted in 2006 after a health worker noticed that her living conditions were unsatisfactory.
Before the case was finalised in court, however, it was decided that the woman lacked the intelligence to instruct her own lawyer, which led to the official solicitor being brought in. A psychologists report gave her a low IQ but said her learning disability would improve in time.

Malawi welcomes Madonna adoption

The decision to grant pop star Madonna the right to adopt a second Malawian child has been warmly received by many in the southern African state.
The singer's victory at Malawi's Supreme Court of Appeal led the news on local radio stations and prompted a positive response on phone-in shows.
But James Kambewa, who is claiming paternity of the four-year-old girl, remains opposed to the adoption.
"I won't give up the fight," he said, adding that the court disregarded him.
"I wrote to the court challenging the adoption because I am ready and willing to take care of my child," said Mr Kambewa.
"How can they continue referring to her as an orphan when I told them I am there for her?"
However, Mr Kambewa was a lone voice of opposition, with most Malawians welcoming the court's decision to allow Madonna to adopt Chifundo "Mercy" James.
"She is taking Mercy out of a life of destitution; she could have lived in the orphanage until she was old enough to start prostitution," said Michael Jonas, a curio seller in Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city.
"I am happy for her and the world should ignore the so-called father. We have lots of fathers but very few parents."
"I am happy for Mercy," said Martha Banda, a university student in Blantyre.
"Those who are against the adoption are just plain selfish. How can one say she is better off in an orphanage?"
Anxious wait
Chifundo's uncle, Peter Baneti, said her family were "very happy".
"We, as a family, have been anxiously awaiting this ruling. We are very happy for Chifundo," he said.

Madonna 'donated £12 million to Malawi'

Madonna donated Pfund12 million to help children in the poverty-stricken African state of Malawi before being granted permission to adopt a second child from the country, it has been reported.
The country's Supreme Court of Appeal overturned a previous ruling that stopped the pop star from taking four-year-old Mercy James to the United States.
The 50-year-old singer said she was ecstatic with the news and added: "My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her."
Madonna learned of the development in a 3am phone call from her lawyer in Malawi.
Alan Chinula rang her in New York after the supreme court overturned the previous ruling.
Speaking from outside the court, Mr Chinula, said: "I was just through to New York and it is the early hours but Madonna has been awake waiting for news. She was ecstatic.
"I'm now waiting for instructions to start preparing for Mercy's travel arrangements."
The Daily Mirror reported on Saturday that the singer has donated Pfund12 million to fund six orphanages in Malawi as well as paying for shoes, clothes, books and mosquito nets for impoverished children in the country.
Madonna has already adopted her three-year-old son named David Banda from Malawi.

Nursery charges spark child protection review

CHILD protection chiefs have launched their own major investigation into Plymouth's child care provision after a nursery worker in the city appeared in court.
The Plymouth Safeguarding Children's Board met yesterday after the allegations made against Vanessa George, who worked at Little Ted's nursery in the Laira area.
A serious case review normally only carried out after the death of a child will be carried out by the board, which admitted the case was "unprecedented" in its experience.
The review will run alongside the police investigation and is expected to take between four and six months to complete.
Members of the board, which includes Plymouth City Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Cornwall Probation, NHS Plymouth, CAFCASS and the NSPCC, took part in an "extraordinary meeting" to discuss the issues surrounding the investigation of the 39-year-old nursery worker.
George appeared before Plymouth magistrates on Thursday on a number of charges relating to the alleged sexual abuse of children and infants, as well as possessing, distributing and taking indecent images of children.
She was remanded in custody until September 21.
At a press conference after the board's meeting, Bronwen Lacey, director of services for children and young people at Plymouth City Council, said the circumstances board members found themselves in was "unprecedented in our experience".

Legal fees to account for €400m of €1.4bn child abuse bill

THE TOTAL cost of institutional child abuse is likely to reach Euro1.4 billion, of which as much as Euro400 million could consist of legal costs, informed sources have indicated.
It has also emerged that the Euro127 million which 18 religious orders agreed in 2002 to contribute to a State redress scheme has not even covered legal fees at the Residential Institutions Redress Board to date.
It has further emerged that likely legal costs to the State following dealings by the 18 orders with the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse will be between Euro34 million and Euro44 million.
As of May 20th last, the publication date of the Ryan report, the redress board had paid out legal costs of Euro138.5 million to solicitors firms, of which Euro11 million was paid following associated High Court proceedings.
Of the outstanding legal fees yet to be paid by the State following legal representation for the 18 religious orders at the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, it is estimated that Euro20 million is due to firms which represented the Christian Brothers.
The Brothers were the largest provider of residential care for boys in the State over the period investigated by the commission. Artane industrial school in Dublin and Letterfrack industrial school in Galway, both among the largest such institutions in the State, were under their management.
An additional Euro12 million to Euro15 million is believed due to legal firms which represented the Sisters of Mercy at the commission. They ran 26 industrial schools during the period investigated.
Between Euro5 million and Euro8 million is thought due to firms which represented the Sisters of Charity, who ran five industrial schools, including St Josephs and St Patricks in Kilkenny and a group home, Madonna House, in Dublin.

Madonna's million dollar baby: Singer wins court appeal to adopt Mercy after donating £12m to Malawi

So in the end she got her way, as she always does.
But it seems the adoption of Malawian orphan Mercy James did not come cheap.
Madonna is reported to have donated Pfund12million to the African state to fund orphan aid projects.
The Daily Mirror claims the money has been spent to fund six orphanages as well as paying for shoes, clothes, books and mosquito nets.
One international welfare agency worker said: 'It smacks of bribery. How can they refuse her requests when she gives Malawi so much?'
However Madonna's lawyer Allan Chinula said: It is a total fabrication to say that Madonna poured money into Malawi for the purposes of being able to adopt a child.
It has taken nearly three years, but yesterday Madonna was finally free to take Mercy for a new life in America.
The supreme court in Blantyre overturned a previous ruling that had rejected the singer's petition to adopt the four-year-old girl.
'I am ecstatic,' Madonna said on hearing the news at her home in New York. 'My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her.'
She expressed thanks to the supreme court's three judges, headed by Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo.
Earlier he had told the packed courthouse: 'Madonna has shown that she is bold and compassionate enough to come forward to adopt Chifundo Mercy James.'
He said there were two options for Mercy: 'To stay at the orphanage without the love of family and live with the possibility of destitution, or be with Madonna where she is assured of love. Every child has the right to love and be loved.'
He said Madonna was 'an intelligent, articulate and outgoing individual of strong character. She is also a determined, independent and hardworking person of compassion from a God-fearing family.

Children’s services under fire again

Vital assessments of the most vulnerable children in Wokingham are failing to hit targets.
Figures show the number of core assessments of children carried out within 35 days by social workers in the borough is 41 per cent, falling nearly 50 per cent short of the 75 per cent target.
Another whistleblower has come forward to The Wokingham Times to paint a gloomy picture of staff morale in Wokingham Borough Councils childrens services department.
The whistleblower, who would not be named, said: Staff morale is at an all-time low.
There is currently a well-being survey for staff to complete. Staff are not holding back on their comments, but will it make a difference? Not a chance.
The department has been undergoing a major overhaul since an inadequate rating from Ofsted in a Joint Area Review (JAR) earlier this year.

Gran found hanged after grandkids put up for adoption

A DOTING Sheffield grandmother with a history of mental illness hanged herself at home just days after her grandchildren were put up for adoption, an inquest heard.
Angela Rowding suffered from "persecutory delusions" and believed that everyone including her neighbours, GP and the Prime Minister were conspiring together to take the youngsters away from her.
The 39-year-old had suffered an "adjustment disorder" a significant psychiatric reaction to change following the start of family court proceedings and hanged herself in her living room just five days after the final hearing.
She believed her house had been bugged and was convinced people were part of a conspiracy to find children for parents who wanted to adopt.
The Sheffield inquest heard Mrs Rowding, of Foxglove Road, Firth Park, had been seeing her GP for treatment of mental health problems since she was 21.
She had attempted suicide in 1991, 1994 and 2001, but had got control of her depression, and was the happiest her GP Jessica Tweeney "had ever seen her" following the birth of grandchildren.
But Dr Tweeney, from the Bluebell Medical Centre, told the court problems began to emerge in 2006 with Mrs Rowding complaining that she was being "watched".
She said: "It later became clear she held ideas that could not possibly be true."
But May of this year, although she was still "fabulous" with her grandchildren, Dr Tweeney said she had started to display paranoiac behaviour.

Teen mom found dead in apartment was killed by her baby's father; police

A young woman found dead in a vacant Manhattan apartment was killed by her baby's father, police said Thursday.
Police charged 23-year-old Andre Velez with killing Glendalis Pagan, 19, and stashing her remains in an empty Inwood apartment down the hall from his own, police said.
Her family knew the violent on-and-off again boyfriend was to blame.
"She said, 'I'm scared. He keeps telling me he's gonna take me to one of those abandoned apartments, and he's gonna do something to me like choke me or tie me up,'" said Pagan's aunt Helen Ruiz, 34. Pagan had confided her fears to her aunt less than two weeks ago.
Pagan's body was found Monday, wrapped in nylon bags and trash bags, in the closet of a vacant apartment on W. 204th St. in Inwood.
The city medical examiner has not determined a cause of death.
Pagan was last seen June 3 when she left the Dyckman St. apartment she shared with her mother and son, Andy, to get her nails done.
Velez had served time after he attacked a pregnant Pagan three years ago, smashing her in the head with a hammer after climbing into her apartment from the fire escape, according to her family and police reports. He had gotten out on parole in March after doing a year and three months in prison.
Velez was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder.

Troubled child care service facing eighth review after death of baby

AN EIGHTH serious case review has been launched in Doncaster after the death of a baby who was known to the council's beleaguered children's services department.
The 10-week old boy died in "suspicious circumstances" on Monday evening after being admitted to hospital two days previously.
A teenager has been arrested following the death of the child, who was taken to Doncaster Royal Infirmary on Saturday afternoon from an address in Skellow, near Doncaster, after he had stopped breathing.
The baby was later transferred to Sheffield Children's Hospital where he died on Monday.
Paramedics were called to the house at 3.15pm on Saturday and police were then called at 7.45pm that evening.
Officers arrested the 18-year-old man on suspicion of harming a baby and he was later released on bail.
A post-mortem examination was carried out on Tuesday but was inconclusive.
Police officers are now waiting until a cause of death can be established before deciding whether to bring any charges.
Doncaster Council's director of children's services, Gareth Williams, confirmed that an eighth serious case review was under way.
He said: "We did know the family." But he added that he could not comment further as the police are investigating.
Neighbours of the address in Skellow said the baby's grandparents owned the property and lived there with their son, his girlfriend and their child.
They told how paramedics arrived on Saturday and left with the baby soon afterwards.
A woman, thought to he the child's mother, and both sets of grandparents followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Council failed young pupil

A BOY with special needs was let down by the Isle of Wight Council, which failed to provide him with vital education.
The boy and his mother will receive Pfund17,000 in compensation as a result.
In a damning report made public today (Friday), Local Government Ombudsman Jerry White finds maladministration causing injustice. He said: "This was a lost opportunity that held back the boys personal development at a critical time.
"He also did not have any support or help to develop social and living skills. This left him isolated, withdrawn and dependent on his family."
The council has agreed to apologise and said it had taken steps to review working methods and ensure special educational needs work is more effective in future.
The council said the steps, introduced after a review of the ombudsmans ruling, would improve the service and reduce the chances of similar findings of maladministration with injustice by the watchdog body.
In addition to steps agreed with the ombudsman, including compensation, the council will meet the family and offer re-assurances that it is committed to meeting the ongoing needs of the young person involved in the case.

Eighth suspicious death of child in Doncaster

The suspicious death of a 10-week-old baby has forced a council to launch its eighth inquiry into child deaths.
Baby Ashley died two days after being taken to Doncaster Royal Infirmary from the nearby village of Skellow.
South Yorkshire Police later arrested an 18-year-old man on suspicion of harming the infant. He has since been released on bail.
An initial post mortem was inconclusive and detectives are awaiting more medical evidence before deciding whether the man should be charged.
The Yorkshire Ambulance Service said paramedics were called to a house in Skellow at 3.15pm on Saturday.
Social services in Doncaster are performing so badly that Government inspectors have been drafted in to lead local them.
Doncaster Council's director of Children's Services, Gareth Williams, confirmed that a serious case review had been ordered.
He added: "We did know the family, but I am unable to comment further as police proceedings are active."
Ashley's parents do not live together and the level of contact they and their baby had with local social workers is unknown.
The investigation into the infant's death is the eighth to be launched in relation to local children dying from suspected abuse or neglect.
All have died in the last five years, six of them since 2007.

Government failing to provide details on child deaths in care, Dáil group told

THE GOVERNMENT is obsessed by a culture of secrecy and has failed to provide details of numerous reports into children who have died in the care system, an Oireachtas committee heard yesterday.
Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter said this failure to shine a light on the failings of the care system may ultimately result in an inquiry along the lines of the Ryan report in the future. We need to shine a light on where things go wrong. There must be some level of monitoring and accountability if we are ever to learn any lessons, Mr Shatter told the Oireachtas Committee on Health.
The lack of social workers is resulting in thousands of cases of children at risk not being dealt with. We have serious deficits and a broken childcare system.
He said there was also a major scandal of children who have been placed in the out of hours social work service in Dublin who have ended up being pimped into prostitution or dying on our streets.
In particular, the reports into the deaths of two young people in the care system 17-year-old David Foley and 18-year-old Tracey Fay have never been published.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews told the committee that he had received both reports and hoped to publish the recommendations of at least one of them shortly.
On staffing levels, he said that the moratorium on recruitment to the health sector did not affect social workers and hoped that a total of up to 270 workers could be recruited over the next year and a half.
The Minister accepted that a total of 6,500 child protection cases have not been allocated a social worker, as highlighted in The Irish Times last month.

Swine flu and schools

With the outbreak of swine flu, or influenza A(H1N1), you may be worried about the safety of your child. Follow these simple tips to keep your child safe, and find out how you can help your childs school or childcare provider minimise the risks.
What can you do?
Help your childs childminder, nursery, pre-school group, school or out-of-school club by making sure they have up to date contact details for you: your address, telephone numbers (home, work and mobile) and email as appropriate.
They will need to get in touch with you if there is a case of flu among the children, or they suspect the children may be at risk.
Also make sure that your child:
uses soap and water when washing their hands
covers their mouth when coughing or sneezing (with a tissue, not with their hands)
throws dirty tissues away quickly into bins
Following these simple precautions will help slow the spread of the virus.

State still failing to protect children in 'grave danger' of child abuse

THE GOVERNMENT must act urgently to protect vulnerable children today, said Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin Caolain who warned that the nightmare of child abuse is not a thing of the past; it is happening every day.
Most of this abuse takes place in the family home. If the services are not in place, the State today will be just as culpable as it was in the past when it conspired with the church to cover up the abuse of children.
Mr Caolain said during the Dails debate on the Ryan report that the woefully inadequate state of our child protection services has been repeatedly exposed.
The HSE knows of cases where children are in grave danger but the services are not in place to make the interventions required.
Joe Behan (Ind, Wicklow) asked was it the case that religious life, with its power and authority, became a refuge for people with predatory sexual instincts, or was it that a life of compulsory celibacy led to the development of such instincts in some of these people? The answer to this question should inform the church authoritys planning to prevent such atrocities ever occurring again.

Nursery worker’s family ‘shocked’ by sex charges

The husband of a female nursery worker charged with sexually assaulting children last night said he was shocked by the allegations.
Vanessa George (39), who worked at the Little Teds nursery in Plymouth, was remanded in custody yesterday morning amid angry scenes in the citys magistrates court.
George, of Douglass Road, Plymouth, faces two counts of sexually assaulting a girl under 13 by penetration, one count of sexually assaulting a boy under 13 by touching and one count of sexually assaulting a girl under 13.
She also faces three separate counts of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children. Detectives believe some of the images could have been taken in the nursery.
Georges husband, Andrew George, last night said: Myself, my two children and family have been shocked by the information and events of the past three days.
We remain strong as a family and will now await the case to go through the judicial system.
We have two young children and my paramount concern is to lessen the impact these events have on them.
Security was heightened at court yesterday morning ahead of reports of a planned protest outside the building.
Twenty uniformed police officers were dispatched outside the court in St Andrews Street and barriers were placed around the vehicle entrance and exit at the rear of the courthouse.
Inside the court George, wearing a white T-shirt and black trousers, appeared before a packed public gallery as she emerged from the steps below the dock. She remained motionless as she was jeered and hissed at by the 30 to 40 men and women behind her.

Madonna allowed to adopt Mercy by Malawi court

Madonna, the pop star, will be allowed to adopt a second child from Malawi, the country's highest court has ruled.
Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, sitting in Malawi's Supreme Court, said Madonna's commitment to helping other disadvantaged children in the country should have been taken into account.
Mercy has spent most of her life in an orphanage but she still has family members who are alive.
Mercy will be a sister to Madonna's two biological children Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, eight, and David Banda, the Malawian boy she took home in 2006 and whose adoption was also surrounded by controversy, particularly as his father is still alive.
In a statement released by her spokeswoman, Madonna said: "I am ecstatic... My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her."
Rights groups claimed that Malawi's adoption rules, which require prospective parents to be resident for 18 months before the transfer can take place, were waived for the pop star because of her wealth.
Mercy's mother died soon after she was born and the girl was put into the Kondanani orphanage in Thyolo, outside Blantyre. Her father was not identified, but once the multi-millionaire pop star announced her intention to adopt her, James Kambewa, a security guard, came forward to claim that he was her parent and wanted to look after the child.
Speaking after the decision yesterday, he said: "I'm crying. I need my baby. I don't know where I can find any help."

Council review over baby's death

A council is to undertake a serious case review into the death of a 10-week-old baby in Doncaster whose family was known to social services.
An 18-year-old man has been arrested and bailed following the death of Ashley Shaw on Monday.
A post-mortem examination has not established the cause of death. Police said the teenager was arrested on suspicion of harming a baby.
Similar reviews are under way into the deaths of seven other local children.
Police said the baby, from the Highfields area, was initially taken to the town's Royal Infirmary and later transferred to Sheffield Children's Hospital where he died.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Hertsmere boss was suspended from another authority

THE chief executive of Hertsmere Borough Council was suspended three years ago from Enfield Council.
Donald Graham was suspended from the Enfield authority in July 2006, shortly before he was made redundant.
Enfield refused to reveal why the former director of housing was suspended, saying it was bound by confidentiality agreements.
Mr Graham also said he is unable to explain the details because he is still bound by the agreement but called it a non-issue.
Mr Graham, previously a corporate director with Newport City Council, was chosen by the borough council in the autumn last year after a vigorous selection process.
Last week Enfield Council was found by a Government watchdog to have breached four sections of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by not responding to a resident who asked why Mr Graham had been suspended.
Rajesh Katkoria, from Edmonton, complained to the commissioner on October 13, 2006, after failing to get an answer to his request.
Nearly three years later, Gerald Tracey, the assistant commissioner, finally ruled that the council used the law correctly, but he criticised the authority for not responding to Mr Katkorias original request.
Mr Tracey decided no further steps would be taken to safeguard the rights and interests of Mr Graham.

Nursery worker spat at during court hearing on child abuse charges

The female nursery worker charged with sexually assaulting children in her care was today spat at and attacked as she appeared in court for the first time.
In Plymouth magistrates court there was hissing and catcalls from the public gallery, which held several relatives of children who attended the nursery, as Vanessa George, 39, emerged from the steps below the dock.
There were gasps of horror as the charges, dating back to the beginning of 2007, were read out and one man ran from the court in tears. As she was led from the glass-bound dock in court number one, a man in a red T-shirt leapt from the public gallery and spat at her.
One mother shouted: Look us in the face, Vanessa. Mrs George did not respond and kept her head down.
A police van carrying her was later pelted with flour as she left the building.
A crowd of around 30 parents and protesters gathered outside jeered and tried to bang on the windows. One man was arrested by police officers who escorted the van to the main road.
Two men, one wearing a suit and the other wearing a red T-shirt, were taken away by police officers after blocking the path of the police van.
Mrs George, from Plymouth, Devon, who worked at Little Teds nursery in the city, had been brought to the court building in a marked police van with blacked-out windows, tailed by two support vehicles, at 7.10am.

Police investigation after eighth baby dies under nose of troubled council's social workers

The suspicious death of a ten-week-old baby has forced a crisis-torn council to launch its eighth inquiry into the death of a child.
Ashley Shaw was rushed to hospital after he stopped breathing and died 48 hours later. An 18-year-old man was arrested 'on suspicion of harming a baby' and released on bail pending further inquiries.
The family was known to social services in Doncaster and a serious case review will be carried out to look at the involvement of health and care professionals.
The council's children's services department came under the spotlight earlier this year following the deaths of seven children in two years from suspected abuse or neglect.
The government sent a hit squad to take control of the failing department to protect the town's youngsters and the mayor was forced to quit.
Ashley's tragic death raises further questions about the role of child care workers in the authority - now run by the newly-elected English Democrats Mayor Peter Davies.
Ashley's young parents live apart with their respective families. Ashley and his mother were spending time with his father at his family home in the Skellow area of Doncaster when an ambulance was called to the house at 3.15 pm on Saturday.
Ashley was taken to the town's Royal Infirmary and later transferred to Sheffield Children's Hospital where he died on Monday evening.
Police later sealed off the house for forensic examination and arrested a teenager who has not been named.

Deborah Orr; We feel sorry for abused children. But what about damaged adults?

Educational facilities for children like Sonnex have improved so little under Labour
Last November, shortly after the details of the awful life and death of Baby Peter became public, the chief executive of Barnardo's, Martin Narey, gave a speech which provoked anger and disbelief. Narey suggested this: "The probability is that had Baby Peter survived, given his own deprivation, he might have been unruly by the time he had reached the age of 13 or 14. At which point he'd have become feral, a parasite, a yob, helping infest our streets. The response to his criminal behaviour would have been to lock him up."
The general opinion was that Narey had spoken disrespectfully about a toddler who had died in innocence. He had besmirched the child's memory by positing for him such a bleak and distasteful imaginary future.
Yet Narey was right to speak out. It is impossible to argue that humane and sensible state intervention would not have saved Baby Peter's life. Narey went further, and suggested that it might well have improved the quality of his life, his character and his own adult impact on wider society as well.
It is easy to feel pity for abused young children, especially when that abuse causes great suffering and tragedy. It is not so easy to summon sympathy for the abusive adults they so very often become. Few people can feel remotely sorry for Daniel Sonnex, the man who slaughtered the French students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez with such cruelty and viciousness. But the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, has been brave enough to argue that there may, at some distant point in his past life and development, been some grounds for summoning up such feelings.

Little Ted's nursery worker Vanessa George charged with child abuse

Dozens of parents are waiting to discover whether their children were among those allegedly assaulted by a nursery worker charged with sexual abuse of those in her care.
Vanessa George, a mother of two, will appear in court today charged with seven offences, including two of sexual assault by penetration and two of sexual assault by touching. She was also charged with making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.
Mrs George, 39, was arrested on Monday night after indecent images of children taken at Little Teds Day Nursery in Plymouth, were found on a computer disc seized by police from a suspected paedophile in Manchester.
Police said yesterday that the photographs included pictures of childrens torsos taken on a camera phone at the nursery, where Mrs George is believed to have worked for the past two years.
So far, none of the children has been identified, and the officer leading the investigation said that some of them might never be. Parents of the 64 children, aged between 2 and 5, have been asked to complete a questionnaire and list any features that could help to identify individual children from the images.
Computers and other equipment seized during raids on the nursery, in the grounds of Laira Primary School, and on Mrs Georges home are being examined by experts from Devon and Cornwall police.
Chief Superintendent Jim Webster, the police commander for Plymouth, said: It is a disturbing situation. As we go through the painstaking task of identifying who may be concerned, we are focusing on communication with the families we believe are involved.

Government announces new child protection guidelines

The government has announced new guidelines for teachers, social workers, police and health workers who have contact with children.
Aimed at Local Safeguarding Children Board partners the recommendations are an update of earlier guidance devised to protect minors from harm.
Children's minister Delyth Morgan has urged all agencies "to look again at this issue and use this guidance to ensure they are doing everything they can in their local area".
Safeguarding children is not just about taking them away from a harmful situation, "but taking early and effective action to help prevent children from being put in danger in the first place", she noted.

Damning report says children who devote their lives to sick parents have been abandoned

Tens of thousands of children are struggling alone to care for parents who are sick, disabled or addicted, a devastating Ofsted report reveals today.
A 'hidden' army of youngsters have become 'their parents' parent' and single-handedly wash, dress and feed their mothers and fathers.
Two in three young carers interviewed by Ofsted inspectors felt they were not getting enough help from the state to cope with their responsibilities.
Thousands more were not getting any because councils were unaware of them.
Youngsters caring for parents with mental health problems, drug addiction or alcoholism were most likely to fall under authorities' radar, the report said.
Census data indicates at least 175,000 youngsters shoulder the burden of looking after parents or relatives who are ill or otherwise incapacitated, it added.
Home Office figures suggest there are up to 350,000 children of problem drug users in the UK. But many councils have not identified enough of them.
The report, which surveyed eight local authorities and 50 young carers, paints a picture of childhoods disrupted by responsibilities which many take on willingly, if not proudly.
While young carers emphasise the benefits of their experience, they talk of their lives being 'hard' and 'stressful'.
Caring tasks included administering medication and first aid and dealing with family finances, the report said.

Child carers take punishment at school in silence

A "hidden" army of worried children are being punished because they don't tell their schools they are caring for their invalid parents, a report says.
They regularly turn up for school late, take days off or hand in their school work late, says Ofsted, the education standards watchdog. As a result, they take punishments like detention without a murmur, rather than talk about their family circumstances. One in three children caring for parents who are disabled, alcoholic or drug takers have not told their school of the situation they are in, the report states.
It recommends that local authorities throughout the country should conduct investigations to find out how widespread incidents of children caring for their parents are in their locality.
"All the professionals who took part in the survey recognised that there were unidentified young carers in their council areas," says the report.
"Two of the councils were not being proactive in identifying young carers."
The report, Supporting Young Carers, says young carers talk of their lives being "hard" and "stressful". Tasks they have to undertake include the collection and administration of medication, first aid and dealing with family finances.
Even some children who told their school about their home situation find it is forgotten when they are accused of breaking school rules, Ofsted discovered. One told researchers: "Sometimes I am late for school they don't remember I'm a young carer. I just put up with the detention."

Welsh social work task group must consider 2005 review

Tony Garthwaite warns that national pay structure will be difficult to achieve
The task group set up to examine the future of social work in Wales must take account of the findings of a key review into the profession which reported in 2005, according to its author.
Independent consultant and former Bridgend Council director of social services Tony Garthwaite welcomed the creation of the task group, which was announced last week by the Welsh assembly government's deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas.
One of the issues it is expected to consider is the case for the introduction of a national pay structure for social work in Wales, which was proposed by Garthwaite's 2005 report, Social Work: A Profession to Value.
High vacancy and turnover
The report, produced by an Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru-led multi-agency group, found high vacancy, turnover and sickness rates and that competition between councils for staff was leading to pay inconsistencies and harming recruitment and retention.
Its 41 recommendations included national minimum standards for working conditions and raising social worker pay across Wales to the level of the best, with consistency maintained thereafter.

Children left in legal limbo as care applications surge

Court services are struggling to cope with a sharp rise in demand for legal guardians to work with children in care cases, in the aftermath of the Baby P tragedy
Hundreds of vulnerable children are going through care proceedings without a dedicated legal guardian because of a surge in casework, the government has admitted.
Applications to take youngsters away from families for their own protection have soared following the public and media outcry over the Baby P case. Care applications soared in the months following the conviction, last November, of the killers of Baby P, a 17-month-old boy on the child protection register of Haringey council in north London.
In March a record 739 applications were made, up 38% on the previous year.
New figures obtained in a parliamentary written answer show that the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is struggling to find enough professionals to appear in cases.
The Liberal Democrat children's spokesman, David Laws, had inquired about how many, and what proportion of, children in care have not been assigned a legal guardian.
Beverley Hughes, children's minister until she resigned last week, revealed that Cafcass is processing 9,060 care cases, "of which 635 are currently unallocated to Cafcass guardians". The figure represents 7% of the total care workload.

Councils want more from social work training

New social workers joining councils are ill-equipped to tackle difficult work with vulnerable children and families, MPs have been told.
Fresh evidence of a gulf between what employers want and the training given to social work students, emerged during the children, schools and families committees ongoing inquiry into the training of social workers.
Jane Haywood, chief executive of the Childrens Workforce Development Council, called for systematic change in the training and support given to the workforce.
Our employers do need [for] them to understand what its like to operate as a childrens social worker in a childrens services context, she said.
They do need to be able to do the reports, start to do some of the analysis and some of the casework.
But university representatives defended the generic social work degree, saying graduates needed a rounded understanding of family problems.
Prof Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, admitted it was hard to prepare newly qualified social workers for some of the tasks they faced.
But she said this was not helped by the fact senior managers in childrens services without a social work background could have a poor grasp of the sector.

Monday, 1 June 2009

BBC Panorama - David Southall, a Very Dangerous Doctor

Full Documentary:

David Southall is, depending on the point of view, either one of Britain's most hated and dangerous doctors - or one of its most dedicated protectors of vulnerable children.The paediatrician best known for accusing a man of killing his children after seeing him interviewed in a television documentary, David Southall says he has no regrets and that the hate campaign against him is the price he is paying for observing his duty to protect children. In "A Very Dangerous Doctor", Panorama gains exclusive access to Professor Southall at a time when child protection is very much back in the spotlight and his career as a top consultant hanging in the balance. On 22 May, a High Court judge upheld the decision by the General Medical Council to strike Dr Southall off the medical register for serious professional misconduct, a decision the medical journal The Lancet described as "incomprehensible". But the Panorama team challenges some of the long held views about the doctor who has been labelled "a monster". Suspected suffocationIn revisiting the complex chain of events that have sent his case to the country's highest courts, Professor Southall tells Panorama reporter Vivian White that he has done nothing wrong."I was probably the pre-eminent expert on intentional suffocation in the world at that time," Dr Southall said of the role he took upon himself in one of Britain's highest profile child death cases. Going back more than 20 years, Dr Southall, who specialised in infants with breathing difficulties, began to suspect that some of the children he was seeing with unexplained symptoms had been intentionally suffocated. He obtained permission to begin secretly filming, in hospital, parents who were already suspected of abuse with their children. First at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and, later, at the North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke, he uncovered a series of incidences of child abuse and he became an expert in Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, also known as Fabricated or Induced Illness. Adults with the condition may induce or exaggerate illness in children to attract attention to themselves. Secret filmingSome of the secret filming led to child care proceedings and prosecutions. Within the medical profession, it was very controversial.Others who came into contact with Dr Southall - or whose own doctors relied on his published research papers - persistently claimed that they were falsely accused of abuses that they did not commit because of his diagnosis or his expert advice. Their anger, as Vivian White discovers, is palpable. "That's one doctor that shouldn't be practising medicine as far as I'm concerned," parent Sharon Payne, who was not a patient of Dr Southall, tells Vivian. Mrs Payne was separated from her child for 12 weeks because of suspicions raised by another doctor whom she believes had been influenced by Dr Southall's research work. Along with other parents, she became part of a powerful and determined campaign group. The Panorama team looks at the campaign against Dr Southall and examines some of the tactics used, including accusing the doctor of killing babies during a clinical experiment and bombarding his NHS employers with complaints in a bid to drive him out of the job. The campaigners helped to ensure that theirs were among more than 40 complaints that were filed with the GMC. In 2006, it acted on one of those complaints. This time the charge was he had accused a woman, Mandy Morris, whose 10-year-old son had died by hanging, of murdering the boy. He was struck off as a result. Murder accusationPanorama also looks back to April 2000 and Dr Southall's intervention in the case of Sally Clark, the mother convicted in 1999 of killing her two infant sons in 1996 and 1998 - a conviction that was overturned on appeal in 2003.He watched a television documentary on the case featuring Sally Clark's husband, Stephen, describing an incident when he was alone with one of his children. Dr Southall became concerned that Mr Clark was responsible for suffocating his sons. Mr Clark has never been implicated in the deaths and Dr Southall's action prompted him to also complain to the GMC, which held a hearing in 2004 charging him with serious professional misconduct. A doctor called as an expert witness was himself personally involved in the case and had previously criticised Dr Southall's work, prompting at least one former member of the GMC to question the entire case against him. "I don't think he is perfect, who is? But I think that it has been a travesty of justice what has happened to him in these cases that have gone to the GMC," Dr Wendy Savage tells Panorama. Dr Savage complained to the GMC about the hearing, but it responded that it had sought legal advice and was confident that there was no conflict of interest in relying on the opinions of the doctor with a personal history in the Clark case. The GMC has told Panorama that all of its dealings with David Southall have been fair and properly conducted and that its most recent finding had been upheld by a higher court. It also disputes claims that its handling of the Southall cases has in any way deterred doctors from entering the field of child protection or reporting evidence of abuse. Mrs Clark's convictions were overturned on appeal in 2003 and she was released. She died in 2007 at the age of 42, her family said she never recovered from the original miscarriage of justice. "Nowhere on my list of choices was 'do nothing'," Dr Southall tells Panorama of his decision to act on his suspicions around Stephen Clark. "I didn't make it public, I went through a confidential route, namely the Child Protection Division of the police." No regretsDespite the criticism levelled at the doctor who dared to raise a concern that amounted to an accusation of murder initially based on just a television clip, Dr Southall does have his supporters.Colleagues who work in child protection emphasised that he had a professional duty to intervene. The GMC's Deputy Chief Executive, Paul Philip, speaking after the High Court decision, said: "The vast majority of doctors in this country do an excellent job often under difficult circumstances, this includes paediatricians engaged in essential child protection work. "But where our standards have not been met we must and we will act to protect patients and to protect the public interest." Despite all the questions raised about him, Dr Southall, who admits that he is at times awkward and obstinate, remains unapologetic and plans to fight on in his battle to regain his professional status.

Mother ‘too stupid’ to keep child

A MOTHER is taking her fight to the European Court of Human Rights after she was forbidden from seeing her three-year-old daughter because she is not clever enough to look after her.
The woman, who for legal reasons can be identified only by her first name, Rachel, has been told by a family court that her daughter will be placed with adoptive parents within the next three months, and she will then be barred from further contact.
The adoption is going ahead despite the declaration by a psychiatrist that Rachel, 24, has no learning difficulties and good literacy and numeracy and [that] her general intellectual abilities appear to be within the normal range.
Her daughter, K, was born prematurely and officials felt Rachel lacked the intelligence to cope with her complex medical needs Baby K was released from hospital into care and is currently with a foster family. Her health has now improved to the point where she needs little or no day-to-day medical care.
Rachel said last night: I have been totally let down by the system. All I want is to care for my daughter but the council and the court are determined not to let me.
The court here has now ordered that my contact with my daughter must be reduced from every fortnight until in three months time it will all be over and I will never see her again.

Britains Got Talent, Hollie's secret grandpa

LITTLE singing star Hollie Steel has a granddad she never knew existed, the News of the World can reveal.
The 10-year-old and her mum's secret father John Devassey, 57, live just five miles apart-and he has been backing her on Britain's Got Talent. But ironmonger John said he only discovered the rising star was his granddaughter when we approached him last week. He told us he was stunned-and now wants to meet 10-year-old Hollie and her mum Nina. He said: "It's a real bombshell. Fury "I have been watching Hollie on the TV and have been supporting her because she is from Burnley but I didn't know she was my granddaughter. "I can't believe the little girl I have been cheering on is my granddaughter. It is all a shock."Little Hollie started the evening as second favourite to win last night's final despite bursting into tears during Friday's semi-final. Last night she managed to sing a note-perfect rendition of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from Phantom of the Opera. We told John that Hollie was his granddaughter on Thursday, and the next day he watched on tilly as she broke down and sobbed while singing Edelweiss in the semi-final. She was allowed to try again before the judges voted her through to last night's final.

Court takes child of ‘stupid’ mother

WHEN Rachel celebrated her daughters third birthday three weeks ago the little girl was a picture of happiness. Yet for her mother it was a bittersweet occasion.
Rachel had to squeeze in the celebrations with family court hearings in the morning and the afternoon. The judge was to decide whether to reduce Rachels contact with her daughter in the run-up to her adoption in three months time.
The verdict came back days later. The judge said I should have my contact with my daughter reduced from once a fortnight to once a month, with the amount of time going down from an hour-and-a-half to just five minutes, said Rachel.
Then, when she is with the adoptive family, that will be it. I will never see her again.
The 24-year-old single mother has never been accused of physically or emotionally harming her daughter, who for legal reasons can be referred to only as K. Even those set on taking her away concede that she harbours nothing but love for the girl.
She has been denied the right to keep her only child because she has been deemed to be mentally incapable of caring for her. She is simply too stupid, it was decided.
Rachel protested and secured a solicitor to give her a voice in the family court. But by the time of the crucial placement hearing her pleas had been silenced. This was because her stupidity had been used as a means to deny her something else: the right to instruct a lawyer.
Instead, the official solicitor was brought in to speak for Rachel. Alastair Pitblado, the government-funded official, is appointed by the courts to represent the interests of those who cannot make their own case, such as mentally incapacitated people.
In Rachels case it was decided that her interests were best served by agreeing with Nottingham city councils application to have her daughter adopted.
Rachels protests over her treatment were dismissed. The official solicitor had acted entirely properly in capitulating to the council since Rachels case was unarguable, the Court of Appeal ruled.
The decisions of the family court and the appeal court relied upon reports drawn up by a psychologist whose verdict that Rachel had low intelligence and learning disabilities had led to K being put up for adoption and the appointment of the official solicitor.

Britain's Got Talent should have separate show for children, says charity

Young performers on Britain's Got Talent could be left psychologically damaged by the "brutality" of the judging process, according to a leading children's charity.
Kidscape said ITV should consider running a separate show for pre-teens which does not subject them to the harsh comments of Simon Cowell.
This year's series has seen a number of young children reduced to tears by their failure to reach the final. Natalie Okri, a 10-year-old singer who appeared in the first semi-final heat, was distraught after Cowell rejected her in favour of a rival act, dance troupe Diversity. Another 12-year-old, aspiring drummer Kieran Gaffney, appeared crestfallen when he was denied a place in the last rounds.
In tonight's [SAT] final, 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, from Swansea, will compete with favourite Susan Boyle for a Pfund100,000 prize and the chance to sing for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance.
Claude Knights, director of Kidscape, said: "Talent has to be celebrated and developed, but within the context of reality television it is really asking a lot of children. These children are excellent performers and yet they are having to face rejection. It is a big emotional and psychological thing to cope with at that age.
"Certainly it seems that there are many more young contestants than in previous series, probably by chance. Young performers are not new - music halls had children singing - but these children are competing. The programme-makers need to look at the brutality of the format. What is being done to ensure they don't suffer a dip in self-esteem? More safety nets are needed.

Adult abuse; the shocking truth

Helen is in her mid-twenties and has severe learning difficulties. She lives in a residential home. One evening, a temporary member of staff covers the night shift. He rapes Helen, and she doesn't know how to explain to anyone what happened. Five months later, her care team realise that Helen is going to have a baby. "They discovered the relief care agency hadn't done the proper checks," recalls a care professional, speaking anonymously. A forensic investigation tracked down the temporary worker, an illegal immigrant who had written his own references. "He got sent to prison and the case was lauded a success. But I don't call it a success when a woman with severe learning difficulties who can't speak for herself is raped and has a baby."
Success is a relative term where the abuse of vulnerable adults some elderly, people with dementia, and those with mental or physical disabilities is concerned. In the wake of the Baby P revelations, the Department of Health is doing all it can to reassure us that it is safeguarding Britain's children. But while child-abuse cases frequently hit the headlines, many of those involving adults never even make it to court. This is because vulnerable adults often don't fit the criteria of "reliable witnesses". Our courts define reliable witnesses as people who can remember names and dates and hold up under cross-examination. If you find it hard to remember your own address and date of birth, it's going to be difficult to stand up in front of a jury under cross-examination and provide enough circumstantial evidence to identify a rapist.
The criminal-justice system is becoming more flexible, allowing adults in these circumstances to go to court with "special measures": they can give evidence via video link, say, or interviews taken before trial can be used. And the Independent Safeguarding Authority which evolved after it emerged that the Soham murderer Ian Huntley had previously escaped detection by moving counties and changing his name is tightening up practices for people who work with adults or children. But this legal awareness is in a fledgling state, and meanwhile scores of adults who effectively remain outside the protection of the law are still in danger.
Corin Yates, a social-care professional in the south of England, deals with high numbers of such cases every year. One that he can't shake from his mind involved sexual abuse in a care home. "There were a number of disclosures against a member of staff, but he was a plausible character and it was difficult to believe he was guilty," he says. "No allegations against him were taken seriously. When about 10 people had made similar accusations, the police felt there was evidence, but no credible witnesses." The case didn't get anywhere. "The abuser knew the victims would never get to court. For those victims, there's no justice. For the abuser, no punishment."
Imogen Patterson works as a multi-agency liaison officer in Southampton, dealing with vulnerable adults at risk. "There are some fairly horrid cases of sexual abuse across a range of individuals with learning disabilities, as well as older people," she agrees. "That's something people find difficult to accept." As a consequence there is, says Patterson, a dearth of legislation to deal with adult abuse. "There is a lack of parity with children's services," she says. "As tragic as the Baby P and Victoria Climbie cases were, we've had similar scandals." In 2001, a year after Victoria Climbie's death was brought to light, Margaret Panting was found. Panting was 78 years old, and died five weeks after moving in with relatives. Police discovered 49 injuries including cigarette burns and cuts from razor blades and an official report concluded she had died after suffering "unbelievable cruelty". Yet as a cause of death could not be established, an inquest the following year recorded an open verdict. Nobody was charged.

'Slavery' mother-in-law is jailed

A 63-year-old woman who imprisoned her three daughters-in-law, treating them as "slaves and dogs", has been jailed for seven years.
Naseebah Bibi would not let the women - also her nieces - leave the family home in Blackburn, Lancashire, without permission, Preston Crown Court heard.
One victim told police she had been forced to work on an industrial sewing machine day and night for 13 years.
The women had arranged marriages to Bibi's three sons, their first cousins.
Bibi, of Pringle Street, had denied falsely imprisoning Nagina Akhtar between 1993 and 2006, Tazeem Akhtar from 2001 to 2003 and Nisbah Akhtar between 2005 and 2007.
But she was convicted at the court on 14 April.
All three women were brought to the UK following arranged marriages to Bibi's three sons but were subjected to beatings and abuse from her after they arrived.
Judge Robert Brown, sentencing, said it was evident her victims had suffered physical and psychological trauma and had spent long periods "living in fear".
He ordered that Bibi serve three-and-a-half years in prison before being allowed out on licence, but would then face further monitoring.
He said: "It seems to be necessary in the public interest that you should be subject to a long period of supervision after you are released from prison so that your situation and that in your household can be monitored.
"At the same time, because of your poor health and in particular your mental health, I shall keep the custodial element of sentence as short as I can, consistent with my duty to punish you, to deter you from further offences and to protect the public."