Badger Cull: Clarification Statement - I am opposed to the cull (including the Pilot one)
I have been getting emails from constituents claiming that I am known to support the Pilot Cull. This confused me because I thought I had voted against. It is, of course possible, that I had made a mistake so I checked.
It is quite clear from Public Whip here
that I did rebel on the issue on an opposition day motion. And I voted in support of the words: "That this House believes the badger cull should not go ahead."
I am trying to find out which organisation is saying otherwise, but it does not help when campaigners get their facts wrong on basic things like this.
I know that opposition day first votes are a bit confusing in that the procedural resolution is in support of the original words remaining part of the motion hence to vote against any amendment you actually vote "aye".
That, however, is the way it is.
Italian Mother: further comments on the forced caesarean
I was intending to write more on this and issues relating to VBAC. Instead I will refer to two posts written on Birthrights
and Mental Health and Capacity Law
which explain the situation well. I will also refer to the following comments by AIMS.
The decision to have a Vaginal Birth after Caesarean
(VBAC) had been a huge issue in our postbag and maternity care for a long time,
and is very much associated with women's desire for control, and also their
mental health. Originally the obstetricians policy was "once a caesarean, always
a caesarean" and it was women themselves - particularly here, but also in the US
- who wanted a chance to have a normal birth and many opted out of hospital care
in this country to have home births, with private midwives or even no care,
because they were pushed into having CS in hospital. (of course this is not all
women's choice - but we support their right to choose whatever it may be)
Finally both the ACOG in the States and the RCOG and department of Health here
has come out supporting VBACs. One of the reasons for the professional's volte
face was the number of women with previous sections who had an embedded placenta
as a result of the previous operation, and removal of this (depending on degree
of penetration of the uterine wall) can lead to massive, and sometimes fatal,
haemorrhage. Having to deal with a few of these in theatre (plus maternal
deaths) encouraged them to listen to what women wanted, which proved actually to
be safer. Here are RCOG current guidelines http://www.rcog.org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/birth-after-previous-caesarean-birth-green-top-45
I think it is crucial for her lawyer to get the
medical advice that Mostyn had, so that it is possible to see if it was
balanced. We do not know if a balanced picture of risks was provided. The risk
of what is called "rupture" but in fact is much more likely to be "dehiscence"
(gradual and partial separation of the scar, which can be monitored for and a
quick CS can then be done) is in fact a very small one, and in most cases of
course, risks are explained to women and she chooses between options
Here is the NICE guideline on Caesarean which would
have been in place at the time. Please note section on Woman Centred
Italian Mother: Mostyn Judgment Published (with transcript of hearing)
The judiciary have now published the judgment in respect of the Caesarean. It is here
I remain concerned that it does not appear that she was told that this was being proposed. If it is true that she had previously elected to have a Caesarean then it sounds odd that she was not asked on this occasion, but instead driven through a legal and medical procedure in which she had no input. I remain worried about how mental capacity is removed and it does not appear that the representative of the official solicitor who was "representing her interests" actually spoke to her. One would think that if she had been asked she would have agreed given that she agreed previously. Reading between the lines of the judgment the main issue appears to have been that she did not want to give birth in England. (understandably in retrospect)
There are a number of questions about the details of the judgment. (such as what her condition actually was, whether she was being treated for the wrong disorder and the true risks of the situation) All of these issues will take some time to sort out. The wrong disorder is the most concerning as this would be the reason why she would not have been recovering (and did recover in Italy) because the treatment would have made her worse.
However, the question as to how people who are deemed "too stupid" to make decisions for themselves are treated in the process of deciding whether or not they are indeed "too stupid" (ie lack capacity) or indeed what the decision should be remains open.
Italian Mother: Sarah Matthews' petition highlights problem with Caesarean Decision
Sarah Matthews, a mother living in England, has petitioned parliament to raise concerns about the way in which courts decide that people have no right to make their own decisions.
This is how it was decided that the Italian Mother was not allowed to decide not to have a caesarean section.
The petition is in Hansard here
Sarah Matthews has been gagged by Mr Justice Mostyn to stop her talking to the media about her case.
John Hemming said about the petition:"The petition shows how the deck is stacked against people who wish to keep their rights to make decisions. I am only aware of two cases where such decisions have been resisted. One is continuing at the moment and the other is the subject of the petition."
"The Italian authorities have argued that the mother in Italy should have been allowed to make her own decision and not have a caesarean. However, it appears that she was not even allowed to know that this was proposed and express a view. The system of removing capacity is procedurally stacked against the people who face the challenge."
"Querulous Paranoia", which appears in the petition, "is basically not trusting the system. Well frankly after the things that go on I don't trust the system."
St George's Healthcare NHS Trust v S; R v Collins and others, ex parte S  3 All ER 673,  Fam Law 526, CA
The above was a case which looked at the issue of forced caesarians. This
is an article that looks at the above case. In terms of the Italian case we cannot know on the information currently available the reasoning of the judge. It seems very clear, however, that there was an Article 6 contravention because the mother concerned was not made aware of the suggestion that she might have a caesarean and hence was unable to oppose it.
Italian Mother: Letter from Italian Human Rights Court Group to John Hemming MP
are similar to Liberty.
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming (includes comments from mother and italian judgment)
Report of Conversation with mother:
John Hemming said "I have spoken to the mother concerned who has been
very badly treated by the authorities in England. She has said to me that she
would like to thank all the British people who have sent messages of
"Now that we know that the case is still live and to be heard by Munby P it is clear that the case is sub judice. That limits the range of parliamentary proceedings that can be used. I have, therefore, tabled a Motion in parliament relating to the failures of Essex County Council in terms of Communication with Foreign Institutions. This should appear tomorrow.
Essex County Council's failure to follow international law
Under the Vienna convention article 36 and also under Brussels II Bis revised (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003) articles 15, 55 and 56 the Italian authorities should have been contacted about both the mother’s imprisonment and the care of the baby. However, they were not.
In 2011 Essex (in response to an FOI request) said they had no contact with High Commissions and Embassies. In 2010-11 they had 21 children who were foreign nationals who had become "looked after". This was as part of 138 who had become "looked after" in the previous 5 years. It is clear, therefore, that they were not following international law then and have not followed international law in this case."
The government are also at fault because they have refused to even try to keep track of which children in the care system are foreign nationals. This could be done easily in the SSDA903 return.
Comments on judgment:
I welcome the publication of the judgment on bailii. It is available here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html
We still need answers.
We need answers from the Mental Health trust who need to explain why the mother was kept in England for 6 weeks prior to being given the C Section.
We need the publication of the judgment about the caesarean section from the court of protection.
We need an explanation of why no attempt was made to allow the father to participate in the court case. He may not be allowed to enter the UK for immigration reasons, but should have been allowed proper participation on the phone or via video link at least.
We also need an explanation from the local authority as to why when the grandmother is deemed capable of looking after two children she could not look after the third.
On the Italian proceedings
"More details are coming out about the proceedings in the Italian courts. It is clear that Essex has misrepresented the court hearings in Italy. The court of first instance ruled itself not competent to rule in the matter and referred it to the tribunal in Rome who in October 2013 declared that it “cannot recognise the ruling of the English court because it is contrary to
Italian and international norms of public order”.
Italian: "non poter riconoscere il provvedimento della Corte inglese perchè contrario alle norme italiane e internazionali di ordine pubblico".
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Response to statement from Judiciary:
"I welcome the transfer of the case from Chelmsford County Court to the High Court in front of the president of the family division. The appointment of the president of the family division was a very positive step and I am certain that any applications to him will be heard justly."
"I remain concerned that many decisions taken by the family courts are taken by the magistrates court (the family proceedings court) and are then appealed to the county court. This means that domestic proceedings can be exhausted without a case getting out of the area in which it is considered. This means that there is never any public judgment and the case in the UK has come to an end. All that people can then do is to take their case to Strasbourg."
Comment about failure of Essex to follow proper proceedings:
"The rules are straightforward when it comes to foreign nationals and care proceedings. The foreign country concerned should be contacted through their central authority (in Italy's case part of the Justice Ministry). This clearly did not happen and for this Essex County Council are clearly in the wrong."
Comment following Essex County Council's press release:
"Essex have not managed to explain why no-one in the wider extended family was competent to look after the baby when they were already looking after two of her siblings. Additionally Essex have not explained why this baby was in their control to get adopted when the mother always intended to return to Italy."
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Unsurprisingly there is a lot of media interest in this case. We do, however, need to remember that at the centre of this case is a mother and a baby (and the wider family including two siblings of the baby).
I will be driven as to what I say to the media about the case by the wishes of the mother concerned. I have been discussing that with her today. I have already had a short conversation with her on the telephone and we have agreed to speak further later today. However, I do not expect to be able to make any statement beyond this statement until after 5pm today or even later. I am on the train at the moment which makes it really difficult to have long phone calls.
In the mean time my team have been contacting the Italian Embassy to find out what their position is on this issue. In previous cases the Polish, Czech and Slovak embassies have all been very supportive of their citizens facing unjust proceedings in the family division in England and Wales. However, I do not know what the view of the Italian Embassy or the Italian authorities more generally will be.
When it comes to international public family law each country has a central authority. In the UK the central authority is the Official Solicitor. Italy also has a central authority. In the case of the Slovak grandmother last year the Slovak Central authority applied to intervene in the appeal on behalf of the Slovak Republic. It is, of course, open to the Italian Central Authority to do the same.
The case does highlight the rather selective approach that the Court of Protection has been taking to issuing public judgments. There are many judgments that can be found on the bailii website, but this case does not appear. There has to be an improvement so that proper accountability can occur of judicial processes.
In the mean time I have been referring to the case of the Cootes family. This family who had to leave the UK and go to Spain to keep their daughter are now back in the UK. I know they are willing to be interviewed about what happened with them. My office will give out the grandfather's phone number to any journalists who ask for it. One similarity between this case and that of the Italian mother is the local authority's resistance to the proposal that a baby should be cared within the wider family rather than placed for adoption.
In terms of the question as to how I will raise this in parliament. There are lots and lots and lots of ways of raising something in parliament. I will not decide precisely how to do this until after speak to the mother concerned.
Italian Mother Case: Bipolar UK issue statement in support of mother
The following is a statement by Bipolar UK:
Bipolar UK response to media reporting on forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child
The forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and
child is, we believe, unprecedented.
sometimes the case that if someone is very ill they are unable to consent to a
medical procedure which those caring for them consider is urgently needed. But officials should make every effort to
consult with the family before decisions are taken, a procedure made more
difficult in this case because the woman was only on a short stay from
Italy. Moreover, if there were
continuing concerns about the care of the child, one would have thought Italian
social services would have been involved in determining what was best for the
Women with bipolar
may become unwell during pregnancy and are at high risk of becoming ill
following childbirth. The majority of
women recover fully, they manage the impact of the illness through strategies
involving medication, health care, therapy and self management and they are
Between 600,000 and 1.2 million individuals in the UK (1% to 2% of the population)
have bipolar. The impact and devastation
of bipolar are not about the sufferer alone.
Including parents and partners for example, bipolar affects over three
million people in the UK today.
Compared with other mental health illnesses that have a similar or lower
impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe
It takes an average of 10.5 years to receive a correct
diagnosis for bipolar in the UK. The
2012 survey by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Bipolar UK and Bipolar Scotland
for the first Bipolar Awareness Day in 2012 suggested this could be as long as
Bipolar UK can provide case studies, interviews and comments from the
charity and individuals affected by bipolar.
Careful visiting the UK whilst pregnant. They just might take your baby for adoption.
story in The Telegraph is a step beyond the normal abuses in the family courts (and court of protection). This was a pregnant mother visiting the UK for a training course lasting only two weeks. It ends up with her baby being taken through a forcible caesarean and then placed for adoption for the usual spurious reasons that are used.
Oddly enough last night I had another case of someone who was a foreign mother having her children taken for the system whilst she is deported. This is much like the case from which I highlighted a JR decision earlier this year. Mum was deported and the child kept.
The Italian case is one about which more will be heard. Also the one raised with me last night. The USA case is one which has had some attention.
In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court. The "best interests of the child" are "paramount" which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
I did speak to Michael Gove about this on Wednesday. I do not think that he has this as an objective. It is clearly an unintentional consequence of the government policy of the last 12 years or so. It is, however, a real consequence and has to be brought to an end.
Additionally this video raises questions as to whether powers are being used to undermine demonstrations or appropriately. I am not opposed to fracking (we have use fracking for a long long time) However, I don't think child protection procedures should be used to stop people demonstrating. It is entirely possible that there is an appropriate use of powers, but it is also unlikely.
A child's view of the Family Court System
Megan Coote and Dale Coote discussion with John Hemming of their case
Mark and Kerry McDougall
The case of Mark and Kerry McDougall who went to Ireland because she was considered not to have the capacity to marry or look after children is an important case. They have lived with two children in Ireland, but have now returned to Fife. The authorities have suddenly decided to take an interest without any good reason.
This raises serious concerns about the way in which assessments are done in the UK.
Birmingham's problems in childrens services are caused by government policy amongst other things.
Lets look at the story today:
The children's services department at Birmingham City Council could be taken over by the Department for Education (DfE), the BBC has learned.
and that of October
More than a fifth of frontline social worker posts are unfilled in Birmingham, it has been revealed.
A manager in Birmingham told me that he knew of experienced people who could be employed as social workers in Birmingham, but the government would not allow them because they did not have the right piece of paperwork. We should not be surprised of the existence of problems if only 80% of the staff are in place. Temporary agency staff are not the solution.
Re: B - Why do the English Courts think there is a problem when the Swedish courts do not
case is an interesting one just reported by the Court of Appeal. The first question that should be asked is why it took the English judicial system over a year to decide it did not have jurisdiction.
The second question is why the English Courts have decided there is an issue when the Swedish Courts have not. They cannot both be right. It is my view that the evidence in the family courts in England is frequently intellectually unreliable and as a consequence the decisions are not well grounded in reality.
This case seems to substantiate my view and give good reasons why the system in England takes the wrong children into care.
Birmingham Public Transport
I noted that the current council proposals are now much like my proposals of 2003.
I voted against Metro in 1992. I thought that we should stick to heavy rail and bus/trolley bus. The image is my proposal from 2003 for Birmingham which is pretty well the current council proposal. I have a personal minority view historically otherwise I would have prioritised buses in the city centre rather than metro. However, c'est la vie.
Stuart Syvret's video relating to his imprisonment
In the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court
To me the thing that is clear is that the council does not seem to care about the impact on Omar of their legal threats. I am trying to get the council to respond sensibly, but they don't seem able to.
London Midland agree that Stechford Railway Station is a priority
This is not, however, the end of the process to get Stechford Railway Station's access issues resolved. It is, however, an important first step.
London Midland agree that Stechford Railway Station is a priority
This is not, however, the end of the process to get Stechford Railway Station's access issues resolved. It is, however, an important first step.
Re: Davies (Patricia Anne Davies and Brian Davies)  EWHC 3294 (Fam)
Appealing this case
would be now moot. However, there are some points to be made.
Firstly, it is in my view a responsibility of parents who separate to make reasonable efforts to ensure that a good relationship is maintained between both parents and children. There are circumstances under which this is obviously not reasonable (when one of the parents is a real threat to the children). However, this is clearly a responsibility.
However, the objective of maintaining contact between parent and child does not permit the court to behave unlawfully. There are a number of problems with this case. The first is that the court should not ordinarily hear a contempt hearing of its own motion. The second hearing (and the third) should have been held by a different judge to the one who heard it. The second is that legal assistance should have been made available before the grandparents and aunt were locked up on bail.
It raises a question really as to whether effectively a form of collective punishment was being used to encourage the mother to make contact with the court.
I don't take the view that the ends (which I agree with about ensuring contact) justify the means.
Judge as as prosecutor and judge
For me the particularly interesting aspect of the secret imprisonment of 11th October is that it appears that the judge imprisoned the mother because the judge did not believe what she said. Now that means that the judge is actually prosecuting the mother for perjury as well as sitting in judgment. The mother said her children were somewhere, but they were not.
The point about this is that there are lots of legal precedents that the judge should not sit in judgment on this case and hence it could be challenged on appeal. How does one do that when one knows neither the name of the mother of her solicitors.
The wrong children taken into care
story in the Sunday Times looks at the evidence that the numbers of deaths from child abuse and neglect are not going down and possibly going up. That is at a time when more children are taken into care.
It is important to remember that taking a child into care is supposed to be a measure to prevent significant harm. Hence if the numbers taken into care are going up, but it is having no effect on the most significant harm of death then a question should be asked as to whether the right things are being done.
There always will be a financial need to limit the number of children taken into care. When Haringey were considering whether or not to take Peter Connolly into care they were under severe pressures. The fact is that there were children in care at the time in Haringey who were taken into care because their mother might say things to them that might undermine their self esteem. If those children were not in care there would have been space for Peter Connolly.
It isn't difficult to understand, but it appears to be beyond the government. If you take the wrong children into care there is not only the injustice for those children and their families, but also more children die.
The absence of an intellectually rigorous system for quality control on care decisions lies behind this.
Jailing of Welsh Pensioners Revealed (Brian and Patricia Davies)
is a story that resulted from a hearing in Court 45 at the RCJ (Royal Courts of Justice) yesterday. These are the sorts of imprisonments that have tended not to be revealed by the system, but are now more likely to be revealed. There was, in fact, one similar to this which was revealed earlier this year. However, it does appear that the judges are now starting to follow the rules which has to be positive.
As to the underlying case it depends in part on how frail the pensioners are as to whether this is or is not an appropriate action to take. I was contacted recently by someone representing a group of people who have left the country to get away from the biased procedures (Lashin v Russia) that operate in England and Wales. I hope to see this reported in some way (even if it is only on my web log) in the future.
I am not sure myself whether this will produce the result that the system is trying to get. However, it is only when there is a pattern of such cases that it becomes possible to judge independently what works and what doesn't. (Notwithstanding the issue as to whether this is proportionate).
Secret Imprisonments and the RCJ press office
What we know (and was reported by PA) is that at a hearing which started at 9.30am in Court 35 in the RCJ Theis J committed a woman to jail.
On 2nd August Sir James Munby the President of the Family Division sent out a circular which clarified the practice directions of May and June. The circular is Here
in a PDF form, but this is what it said.
From: President of FD
Sent: 02 August 2013 11:02
To: ZZ RCJ Family High Court Judges; ZZ DFJs; ZZHMCTS Justices Clerks; Arbuthnot,
Subject: PRESIDENT'S CIRCULAR - COMMITTALS
You will recall the Guidance on Committals issued by the LCJ and me on 3 May 2013 and the
supplemental Guidance I issued on 4 June 2013. In relation to the latter may I remind you of
A question has arisen as to whether paragraph 6 of the original Guidance applies in all
committal cases or only in cases to which paragraphs 4 and 5 apply.
Paragraph 6 applies in EVERY case in which a committal order or a suspended committal
order is made, WITHOUT EXCEPTION.
Paragraph 6 thus applies whether the committal application has been heard in public or in
private and whether or not the contemnor has admitted the contempt(s).
Paragraph 6(a) makes clear that the judgments to which paragraph 6 apply "include" any
judgment given in accordance with paragraph 5 and any statement given in accordance with
paragraphs 4 and 5. But it is not limited to such judgments or statements. The word "includes"
has its ordinary meaning of "includes, but is not limited to".
The principle is very clear and MUST be rigorously followed. NO-ONE is EVER to be
committed for contempt of court by a family court or the Court of Protection (whether the
sentence is suspended or takes immediate effect) without (a) the name of the contemnor (b)
proper details of the contempt(s) and (c) the reasons for the committal being made publicly
available in a judgment published on the BAILII website.
In a case where the contemnor has admitted the contempt(s), the judgment required by
paragraph 6 may take the same kind of form as sentencing remarks in the Crown Court, so
long as (and this is VITAL) what is said in court and then put up on BAILII sets out the name
of the contemnor, proper details of the contempt(s) and the reasons for the committal.
We shall be subject to strong and entirely justifiable criticism if it emerges that anyone has
been committed since 3 May 2013 without the name of the contemnor, proper details of the
contempt(s) and the reasons for the committal appearing on BAILII. I very much hope that
there are no such cases. If there are, it is ESSENTIAL that steps are IMMEDIATELY taken to
ensure that the judgment is put up on BAILII.
In the unlikely event of there being any difficulties with BAILII the matter is to be reported to
James Munby P
The circular was issued following a comment from me to his office where a judgment had not been issued. I think the circular is very clear. However, the press office of the RCJ don't think it is clear and are saying that it is OK that someone has been imprisoned and we don't know who.
The government have a responsibility to count imprisonments so we can check they are not happening in secret. They have, however, refused.
Court refuses to send children to slovakia
is a judgment about a case that I know nothing more than what is in the published judgment. It is interesting in that the Slovaks have asked for some Slovak Children who are citizens of Slovakia to be sent to Slovakia, but the court has refused.
Today's protest about the conditions of student finance
There was a protest today where students came as part of a "day of action" about student finance. The first point I would make is that although this occupation was better behaved than the previous occupation it still disrupted the business of my office. The business of my office involves solving problems for constituents. Hence it is not fair to my constituents.
There are limits to protest. Violent protests are not acceptable. The occupation was generally well behaved, but there was an attempt to push past me into my office. (I was holding the door shut) That actually is the use of violence even though I have told the police that I do not wish to take this further.
The issue they were raising about the certainty of the arrangement of finance is a very important principle. It is important that when students commit to a financial arrangement that this is stuck to by government. It is governed by a number of statutory instruments. One if SI 2012/1309 The Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012. This was laid before parliament on 21st May 2012 and could have been blocked by a motion in parliament. Hence it has parliamentary accountability. Furthermore it is also subject to judicial review (and there are no proposals to change this particular aspect of judicial review). Hence the arrangements in Article 1 Protocol 1 could be used to quash changes which affect the contractual elements of the arrangement.
Where they are right is that the money that graduates have to pay is more important than the amount of money that universities charge the system. About 3/4 of graduates' payments are dependent entirely on their income and are not affected by the amount of the fees that the universities charge the scheme.
This is to be fair the most important element of this area of public policy where there have been threats to change the arrangements but a number of politicians have argued against this (including myself).
Hence the basic principle behind the demonstration was flawed as well as its execution although I was not as stressed about this group as I was about the previous group who did do some specific harm to two of my constituents.
Factually, however, on the issue of the terms and conditions they are wrong. Hence it does not matter who actually owns the debt.
Parliamentary Petition from Interpreter working in Family Courts
is a link to a petition from a translator working in the family courts.
The Petition of an interpreter working in England,
Declares that the interpreter works in family court proceedings translating for families who speak Czech and Slovak.
She has been shocked at the way in which a judge was partial in proceedings and the evidence that was accepted which would never be accepted anywhere else in courts. There was a social worker who was interrogated by both sides who was asked whether the grandmother behaved appropriately with her daughter in the contact centre and the social worker said “yes she did”. The next question was whether she would behave appropriately in her own house. The social worker said that she could not say that she would and hence the court decided not to place the child with the grandmother. Furthermore the grandparents were criticised for approaching the media in England.
In a second case the family had signed documentation that they did not understand thereby giving their children to the local authority and this documentation was used to get the children adopted.
In other cases really flimsy evidence is accepted and parents are misled by their legal advisors into accepting the case against them because they may then get the children returned. The parents then find that the children are adopted using the fact that the parents had accepted the case against them as evidence.
Additionally a mother was forced to sign documents disowning Slovak nationality for her child on the basis that otherwise she would be imprisoned.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons establishes an inquiry into the quality of evidence accepted in family court proceedings.
Obviously I know who the interpreter is. However, that information is not publicly available. This is a good mechanism for whistleblowers to put information into the public domain protected by parliamentary privilege (in other words it is not subject to contempt of court proceedings) without themselves being identified. (A petition is a proceeding in parliament.)
English Refugees find refuge in Belgium with Belgian Family
The Family I have interviewed below are one of many families to have left the UK to avoid the forced adoption industry. What is unusual about this particular family is that a Belgian family have offered to look after them as refugees because the Belgians are opposed to the way in which the English system works. I have interviewed both the mother and father and the mother and father with whom they are staying.
Lodgers, Boarders, Non-Dependents and payments for Spare Rooms
The issues here are complex and I will try to explain them accurately (using the figures for 2013-14), but it is always worthwhile checking things out as to precise details.
There has been considerable debate about the change in policy so that tenants in Social Housing have to pay for any spare rooms in the same way that tenants in Private Rented properties have to pay the extra rent for a spare room.
The difference in Social Housing is that the rent is subsidised and housing benefit pays all of the rent apart from the spare room. In Private Rented rents are higher and if the rent without a spare room is greater than the lowest 3 in ten properties in the area then housing benefit is limited to that amount.
In a home (flat or house) there is the basic household which could be a single person or couple with or without dependent children. However, at times there might be "non-dependents" in the household. Those are normally adult children who have grown up, but not left the house. They could include a grandparent (or two). Additionally there can be lodgers (aka Sub-tenants) or Boarders.
A non-dependent is defined as someone who lives in the household, but on a non-commercial basis. A lodger is a sub-tenant who is living in the property on a non-commerical basis and a boarder is a lodger who eats some meals provided by the tenant.
As far as Social Housing goes (Housing Associations, Council Housing, ALMOs etc) any adults be they non-dependents, lodgers or boarders are included in the calculation as to how many rooms are needed. For non-dependents there is a "non-dependent deduction". For a non-dependent on benefits this is £13.60 per week. This might be less than the spare room payment (aka Bedroom tax) or it might be more.
For a lodger the tenant is allowed to keep the first £20 per week before any benefits are reduced, but there is no spare room payment. For a boarder it is the first £20 per week and then half of any greater sum (hence if someone pays £30 a week for boarding the tenant gets £30 and benefit is reduced by £5 (meaning the tenant keeps £25 per week).
I must stress that taking in lodgers is not something everyone would want to do. I personally have often had lodgers or shared accommodation with others. However, there are circumstances where this would not be appropriate.
However, if you think of a single man occupying a 3 bedroom flat. Say the rent is £80 per week. The spare bedroom payment is £20(25%). If the man has an income of £71.70 he is left with £51.70. With two lodgers he has an income of £111.70 and does not have to pay for the spare bedrooms.
The government wishes to see the spare bedrooms being used and to reduce rents more generally which is why the government is encouraging people to take in lodgers. I am currently trying to find out for certain if LHA will pay the £20 (It will not pay the non-dependent contribution).
F v F  EWHC 2683 (Fam) MMR Vaccination Case
case is the one the fuss has been about over the weekend. It is where a court had decided that an 11 and 15 year old should get the MMR vaccination when they and their mother oppose this and the father wants it.
Personally I am supportive of the MMR vaccination and think it is appropriate for my own children. However, I do have some difficulties with the approach of the court particularly in respect of a 15 year old girl. This falls into the questions of Gillick competence and the like.
If you have a toddler or an older child who has no strong views then that is one approach. However, if you have a child who is 15 I feel uncomfortable about forcing a decision on that child.
The courts do seem too willing to impose a judicial decision on people who are from a capacity perspective competent. Before the recess I assisted a young man with Muscular Dystrophy in resisting such an imposition. However, I do think there are issues about the extent to which people's decisions are overridden by the state. I could see a situation in which the state makes a decision that for herd immunity individual discretion is overridden although I am unsure that this justifies such an approach. After all anyone who wishes immunity can have the vaccination and that gives a substantial element of protection.
At this point in theory the vaccination has been given. However, we don't know the story from the perspective of anyone other than the judge.
There is also the issue that this appeared in the media before the anonymous judgment was published on Bailii (or the associated ones from 2011). I note that the judgments went onto Bailii yesterday (Saturday).
A Belgian Social Worker's View on the situation in England (in French)
Que se passe-t-il donc en Angleterre au niveau des services sociaux de
protection de l’enfance ?
La situation anglaise n’est en rien comparable avec le
fonctionnement dans les services sociaux belges francophones ou avec un certain
nombre d’autres pays d’Europe.
Les services sociaux anglais sont bien-sur
fonctionnels et compétents. Mais, ils posent aussi question.
Nous allons tenter de cerner par quelques exemples et
quelques points le dysfonctionnement.
Nous nous référerons notamment aux articles et 3 reportages
de Florence Bellone sur la RTBF à son témoignage écrit au
parlement anglais ;
mais aussi à des sites officiels, des études et des articles de journaux
anglais et encore au seul reportage télévisuel que j’ai trouvé sur le sujet et
qui fut diffusé par canal plus.
Mise en question par l’exemple :
Vous avez un compagnon qui devient violent. Vous osez
finalement le quitter et passer la porte d’un service social du comté (le « county »
est un arrondissement administratif et judiciaire anglais). Au bout de la
procédure qui va se mettre en place, vos quatre enfants sont placés, pour
qu’ils ne subissent pas les effets de la violence. L’argument invoqué : votre
instabilité affective, le service social n’est pas certain que vous ne
retournerez pas vivre avec votre ex-compagnon violent. Cette question se posera
même si vos enfants n’ont pas subi / ne subissent pas directement la violence
conjugale mais qu’ils en sont témoins ou qu’ils puissent en être témoins.
Finalement, rien ne vous aura été proposé concrètement.
A aucun moment, on ne vous aura proposé une action qui vous aurait permis de
vous sauvegarder, vous et les enfants, en tant que famille.
Autre exemple, vous avez été placée dans votre
jeunesse, vous avez un enfant, vous en attendez un deuxième. Votre situation
économique n’est pas des meilleures et vous demandez de l’aide. Sur base de ce
que n’avez pas eu une enfance familiale heureuse, on placera l’enfant que vous
avez et on vous prendra celui que vous attendez, juste après la première tétée,
dans la salle d’accouchement même. On le proposera à l’adoption, sans votre
consentement. Pour qu’il puisse vivre dans une bonne famille, vous ne le
reverrez jamais. Et s’il est adopté après un certain temps, que vous avez
choisi son prénom, vous ne pourrez plus le prononcer en public. Un ordre de
bâillonnement a été émis. Si vous le faites, vous risquez la prison.
Dans l’exemple ci-dessus, j’oubliais de préciser que
lorsque vous avez été placée, vos parents se sont battus pour vous récupérer,
qu’ils ont obtenu gain de cause et qu’ils ont même reçu un dédommagement
financier parce que le placement était abusif. Mais cela, on ne l’aura pas
mentionné pas dans votre dossier.
Le système anglais pro-adoption pose de tels problèmes
que le Gouvernement slovaque est finalement intervenu lui-même auprès des cours
et tribunaux pour récupérer des enfants slovaques « saisi » par le système
protectionnel britannique .
Un rapport éclairé, d’un professeur d’université
anglaise a été remis aux instances européennes. Le conseil de l’Europe a
adopté une résolution. Cela n’a pas suffi pour
faire changer la politique gouvernementale britannique. Et ce, malgré les inquiétudes
que peut avoir le président de la
High Court -section Famille- (l’équivalent de la cours
de cassation ou du conseil d’état belge).
L’erreur logique de base : « Nous ne nous occupons pas des
familles mais des enfants ! »
Cette expression d’un membre de l’administration
centrale est le point de départ de l’erreur anglaise qui veut croire qu’une
famille est responsable de sa situation.
Bon nombre d’études sociologiques montrent que la
situation d’une famille dépend de la situation économique du pays, de
l’éducation que les adultes ont reçue, de la santé physique et mentale de ses
membres et de bien d’autres facteurs.
En Belgique, nous pensons bien souvent qu’aider réellement
un enfant, c’est l’aider à vivre dans SA famille. Et si, effectivement, cette
famille dysfonctionne, la meilleure et la première façon d’aider l’enfant est
d’aider cette famille à fonctionner le plus sainement possible. Ce n’est pas le
La vision anglaise se réduit à un raisonnement
simple que nous pourrions résumer ainsi: les familles sont responsables de
leur situation, si elles dysfonctionnent, elles sont responsables et doivent donc
être sanctionnées en tant que famille. Cette sanction doit assurer la sauvegarde
de l’enfant. Le meilleur moyen pour y arriver : le retrait de celui-ci.
(Voire de ceux-ci lorsqu’il y en a plusieurs et ce même si le problème de
départ ne se pose qu’avec un seul enfant).
Le placement est le principe dominant de l’aide à
l’enfance en péril Anglais. Le second principe est de prendre chaque enfant
individuellement. La fratrie sera souvent disloquée et les enfants placés dans
différents milieux d’accueil. L’idée de base, en divisant la fratrie, est que
chaque enfant a plus de chances de s’en sortir seul si il ne subit plus du tout
l’influence des autres.
Ces principes ne sont pas nommés tels quels dans des
documents officiels, mais ce sont des pratique que seule une enquête
statistique pourront relever. Hélas, nous n’avons pas trouvé d’étude sur ce
Linden Homes Sod Cutting in Sheldon
There are a number of reasons why this is good for the area. There is the general economic issue that involves people having jobs. Then there are additional houses and in particular some rented houses at reasonable rents (from Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust). Perhaps 20 houses will be available by May 2014 and the remaining 80 finished in 2015.
Twenty Police sent to arrest baby
video is a video of a mother and baby being taken away somewhere in Somerset. No-one involved seems to understand what the law is. The police officers refer to a "police protection order". What they are actually doing is using Section 46 of the Children Act where the police have powers to take children into police protection.
For the purposes of this Act, a child with respect to whom a constable has exercised his powers under this section is referred to as having been taken into police protection.
At times this power is abused by the local authority childrens services. They tell the police a child is at risk and the police go and arrest the child. The danger for the mother is that she only has a roughly 20% chance of getting her baby back. (whether she goes to the hospital with the baby or not).
Most likely what should have happened is that the local authority should have applied for an emergency protection order. That is a better system because because it gives the mother the chance to argue against the action rather than it just happening.
Potentially a judicial review of this decision would succeed. Sadly the people lobbying for the mother are people who have a strange legal belief known as "Freeman of the Land". I have never seen anything good come of FMOTLing. They mean well, but they ignore the fact that the "glorious revolution" was in fact a popular revolution in 1688 that established a new constitutional settlement. Only things derived from that constitutional settlement have force.
In any event we have this strange event in Somerset probably about a week ago where a mother is taken to hospital with the threat that her baby will go without her if she doesn't go. It may be injuncted off the net, but also it may not.
The rumours around the net is that the argument is that mother supports things being natural including no vaccination etc. Personally I support vaccination for my children, but I don't think this sort of argument necessarily warrants a baby being arrested within 24 hours of birth. At the same time, however, no-one present appears to fully understand the law in this area. Most importantly, however, the avoiding of an EPO process prevents the mother arguing her own view and merely takes the view of the state.
Demonstrator Banned from using Council Toilets
Here's the letter:
Serious Case Review on Keanu Williams
The serious case review on Keanu Williams was published earlier today. To a great extent the recommendations are the same as previous serious case reviews. I quote below on key recommendations from this report and the one from March 2009 (which dealt with a very similar case).
From Serious Case Review 8 dated 14th March 2009 (8 pages long)
When a child is presented to the Accident and Emergency Department there is a great need to challenge the history of an injury and any inconsistencies relating to that history as part of sound clinical skills in analysing paediatric injuries. There is great importance in using discussions with seniors as a forum for challenging opinions of juniors. These discussions must be documented. There is a need for greater awareness of safeguarding procedures particularly around referral to Children’s Social Care. Second opinions should be sought in equivocal cases, where the need for referral to child protection services is uncertain. There is importance in setting out the list of possible diagnoses and documentation of non diagnosis at the end of medical assessments. The need to communicate and document concerns to medical staff, nursing managers and the safeguarding nurse lead. There is a great need to communicate concerns to the community health staff via the liaison form. There is a need for criteria on timescales for visits for community staff when a child has been presented to accident and emergency with an injury – query cause. Timescales should be dependent upon the nature of the injury and this would aid staff in prioritising visits.
From Serious Case Review 25. (182 pages long) Keanu Williams died on 9th January 2011. He was only 4 months old when the previous serious case review was published.
Key Learning Point 4:
The quality of child protection medical assessments and the process followed by
staff before and after the child protection medicals was found to be seriously lacking
particularly when sharing and analysing information. The lack of clarity between the
professionals involved, including their line managers, in terms of their understanding
of their respective roles and responsibilities affected the quality of the decision
making and therefore the outcome.
The BSCB should ensure that the Interagency Protocol for Child Protection Medical
assessments and the procedures in place to support this should be critically
reviewed by representatives from Children’s Social Care, Health and the Police in
consultation with front line staff in the relevant agencies to ensure that the medical
assessments are carried out to a good standard as a part of the assessment
process. The updated Protocol should be reviewed regularly by the BSCB on the
same interagency basis.
Expected outcome 4:
The core agencies; Health, Children’s Social Care and the Police, should undertake
child protection medical assessments in line with the relevant Protocol, which should
be subject to regular BSCB audit. When there are differences of opinion and /or
specialist medical knowledge is required there should be arrangements in place to
ensure that staff can access second opinions or specialist practitioners.
Unless we can deal with both the bullying management culture and the guidelines that prevent experienced staff being employed and move away from the tick box culture things will not improve.
Comments on Radio 5
ISPs and content filtering databases
I wrote an article published in PC Pro which explained why the technical approach to content filtering is one which should cause concern. The essence of the article is that it is wrong to have a centralised database which records everyone's content preferences and that this information should be stored in the domestic router (as some routers do).
As it currently stands the four largest ISP's all offer systems which use a centralised database. The following are the comments that I have from each of the ISPs.
Virgin Media said:
We're in the process of transitioning from our existing device-based parental controls solution, to a new, DNS network-based solution. By the end of 2014 all new and existing customers will be given the choice of whether to implement these new controls. Through a robust, two-step verification process, we will ensure it is only the adult account holder who makes the decision on whether to apply the filters.
Our new solution is applied at a household router level. It uses the IP address assigned to the subscribers' router to deliver a consistent level of filtering to any and all devices connecting to that home broadband connection. We have procured and invested in the solution in line with Government's desired objective of "whole home" filtering.
Where a subscriber has opted in to apply the filters, DNS lookups associated with that subscriber's IP address will be analysed against our block list to determine whether access is permitted. Only subscribers that opt in to the filters will have their DNS lookups analysed.
Whilst it is clearly necessary for us to retain data on whether an IP address has selected filters in order for us to implement them, details of sites accessed by subscribers will not be recorded unless specifically required for diagnostic purposes, and will not be retained after diagnosis is complete.
Our solution does not utilise Deep Packet Inspection technology. As such, our systems only get sight of URL data, unlike systems that use DPI which have the capability to view all traffic passing across the network.
We are committed to providing our customers with all the tools they need to keep their families safe online. As a result, we will be rolling out a ‘whole-home’ filtering service before the end of the year. This will give our customers complete piece of mind, letting them control the type of content that is available across all internet-connected devices used in the home.
The system will use DNS technology to identify the websites that need to be filtered out according to a customer’s preferences and will not use deep packet inspection technology.
To make this solution work, we need to store the level of filtering required by each customer and we will not keep a record of individual web queries. The information on the choices customers have made about what content to filter out is also subject to stringent data protection measures
We don't have a formal response from TalkTalk, but their system appears to operate based upon a proxy server. With a central database.
We at BT take seriously the need to keep children as safe as possible online. The Government has been clear in its online child safety agenda about its desire to see ISPs do more to make all their customers aware of and apply filtering tools. BT is responding to that. We take customer privacy, data protection and confidentiality of customer records equally seriously in doing so.
Our child protection filters are optional . There are multiple filtering categories of which pornography is but one – and this has always been the case. By the end of next year all new and existing BT customers will be given the unavoidable choice as to whether to block pornography, but as before, they can also choose to block any of the existing other categories: these will be applicable to all devices in home. BT and other ISPs are required to have in place a process which ensures that the internet account holder is not by passed in the setting, re-setting or alteration of filtering choices. This is to ensure that children in households cannot bypass parental choices without their knowledge.
To conclude. All the four top ISPs operate a central database. TalkTalk's system is the most intrusive as it also tracks the individual pages that people look at.
C (Children) Re:  EWCA Civ 1158
judgment is a long history which causes me considerable concern. However, as is often the case it would be contempt of court to say what the concerns are.
However, the fact that this has been prevented from being considered before the Court of Appeal even on paper does cause me further concern ... more later.
More state sponsored child stealing
The table below is part of the Statistical First Release. It demonstrates that the increase in adoption numbers isn't as a result of getting older children "languishing" in care adopted, but instead in an increase in toddlers and pre-schoolers getting adopted.
Some children are placed for adoption because the courts claim that the mother agrees to this when she doesn't. Others are in care because of mums political views (going on an EDL march for example). I really don't think this is other than state sponsored child stealing.
Obviously we need a child protection system but it doesn't protect children from being starved to death or indeed from being raped whilst in the care of the local authority. What it does do is get children adopted.
Energy Prices are a problem, but a retail price freeze risks blackouts
These are today's figures for SSE.
Note the overall profit of 62.31p per share in a turnover of 2935.07 per share. This is a profit of just over 2% of turnover.
The problem is the underlying price of energy. That, however, is set by the global markets and we are energy importers. If you have a retail price freeze and an increase in the underlying price of energy then there is only a 2% leeway of profit before the company goes into losses. The first thing that would stop is the investment in new plant. Without new plant we face the threat of blackouts.
Companies like BG (British Gas) make a higher proportion of profit because they are benefiting from producing fossil fuels and are not mainly a retail company.
Slovak Investigation and the International Criminal Court
I spoke last Thursday about the investigation in the Slovak Republic into corruption in the courts in England. There is a press report on Joj TV (in Slovak, but you can use Google translate on the text), here
The following is the statement by the General Prosecutor in the Slovak Republic
Jana Tokolyova, spokesman of the only biggest institution of investigation in
the country, called General Prokuratura.
On Monday Silvia M. has made criminal complaint. On Wednesday, the director
of General Prokuratura met the deputy director of National criminal agency of
Police Prezidium and they have named a special agent that will deal with this
case. We will not publish further information
because of possible investigation obstruction.
---------- Původní zpráva ----------
Datum: 14. 8. 2013
Předmět: Re: dotaz pro TV
pondelok 12. 8. 2013 podala Silvia M. na Generálnej prokuratúre Slovenskej
republiky trestné oznámenie. Vzhľadom na obsah trestného oznámenia, sa dnes
stretlo na pracovnom rokovaní vedenie Generálnej prokuratúry so zástupcom
riaditeľa Národnej kriminálnej agentúry Prezídia Policajného zboru. V trestnom
konaní bude činný policajt tejto zložky Prezídia policajného zboru.
kvalifikáciu skutočností uvedených v trestnom oznámení, ako trestný čin,
nebudeme uvádzať z dôvodu, že trestné konanie je v tomto štádiu neverejné a
tiež, aby nedošlo k zmareniu tohto konania.
som Vás ešte upozorniť na Vami nesprávne použitý termín. (Žaloba sa podáva na
príslušný súd, obžalobu podáva prokurátor na súd) - na prokuratúru bolo
podané trestné oznámenie.
Vám príjemný deň
hovorkyňa generálnej prokuratúry
tlačové a informačné
Generálna prokuratúra Slovenskej republiky
I am now in discussions with various people about making a more general application to the International Criminal Court.
Labour did pilot and plan a Bedroom tax for social housing
In Hansard you can find this
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the local housing allowance will be extended from the nine Pathfinder authorities to all local authorities. [R] 
Malcolm Wicks: There will be a comprehensive evaluation of local housing allowance Pathfinders including interviews with claimants, landlords, local authority staff and stakeholder organisations, as well as an analysis of administrative data. This is already underway.
The findings of the evaluation will inform decisions on the national extension of the allowance. It is envisaged that local housing allowance will be extended to all local authorities in 2006.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons the local housing allowance applies only to the de-regulated private sector. [R] 
Malcolm Wicks: We hope to implement a flat rate housing benefit system in the social sector, similar to that anticipated in the private rented sector to enable people in that sector to benefit from the choice and flexibility that the reforms can provide. We aim to extend our reforms to the social rented sector as soon as rent restructuring and increased choice have created an improved market.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how the rent of those tenants whose rent is higher than the local housing allowance will be paid; [R] 
(2) whether there will be a hardship payment to prevent the eviction of those tenants whose rent is higher than the new local housing allowance. [R] 
Malcolm Wicks: Tenants whose rent is higher than their local housing allowance will be expected to make good the difference with their landlord. This is no different to what happens under existing rules. During the Pathfinder stage, no claimant will be worse off financially at the point of change as they will be covered by a form of transitional protection.
There will not be a hardship payment to tenants whose rent is higher than their local housing allowance. Tenants will have the choice to shop around and look for a cheaper property in such circumstances.
Labour did bring in limits on spare rooms for people in private rented property in 2008. It is clear from this that their plan was to later on introduce this for people in Council Houses and other Social Housing. The delay was because they wanted the rents to raise to be close to those in the private sector. "as soon as rent restructuring and increased choice have created an improved market."
My speech from Thursday
The text is here
Lord Ashcroft on the Tory Party Bills Tabled by Peter Bone MP.
Lord Ashcroft has obtained opinion polls about the bills tabled by the tories to show what would happen were there to be an overall conservative majority. He wrote about them here
. Quoting from that:
Mr Bone’s favourite among this assortment of “true blue bills” is the proposal to name the August Bank Holiday “Margaret Thatcher Day”. Unfortunately it is also the least popular. Only 13% of voters thought this was a good idea (and only 9% of those who were told the idea had been put forward by Conservative MPs); two thirds did not. Even Tory voters disagreed with the policy by a margin of 23 points.
The idea of allowing employees to opt out of the minimum wage was also strikingly unpopular, with only 23% agreeing. The suggestion of abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change won over a full quarter of the electorate, while privatising the BBC amassed the support of 28%. Less than a third also approved of scrapping the office of Deputy Prime Minister and ending subsidies to wind farms.
Interesting case for Grandparents
is an interesting permission to appeal case for grandparents. It uses the argument that because grandparents have successfully brought up some children then they should pass an assessment. This is an argument I have used in the Family Justice Bill.
I am not sure where the case went in the end, but this was a useful step.
Secret campaign launched against Lobbying Bill called Stopthegaggingbill.com
A secret campaign has been launched against the Lobbying Bill. They have created a website www.stopthegaggingbill.com
. They are encouraging people to send out emails against the bill (in which the website itself is misspelt). However, they don't say who they are. A whois search gives no information as they have decided to hid their identities (see below).
In a sense the issue is being sorted anyway as the concern of NGOs that they might have to register their spending is being dealt with. I asked the government for a commitment that the bill would be changed in committee and it will be.
However, I think it is a bit naughty not to reveal who is behind the campaign. There should be at least one named person identified. I don't think the law needs to be changed, but a bit of transparency would be nice.
WHOIS information for stopthegaggingbill.com:***
[Redirected to whois.123-reg.co.uk]
This domain is provided by 123-reg. We're the UK's largest
registrar with over 3 million domains sold. We also provide
cheap, easy website creation.
Domain Name: STOPTHEGAGGINGBILL.COM
Creation Date: 2013-08-21
Expiry Date: 2014-08-21
Registrant Name: Identity Protection Service
Registrant Company: Identity Protect Limited
Registrant Address: PO Box 795
Registrant Address: Godalming
Registrant Address: Surrey
Registrant Address: GU7 9GA
Registrant Address: GB
Administrative Name: Identity Protection Service
Administrative Company: Identity Protect Limited
Administrative Address: PO Box 795
Administrative Address: Godalming
Administrative Address: Surrey
Administrative Address: GU7 9GA
Administrative Address: GB
Administrative Email: email@example.com
Technical Name: Identity Protection Service
Technical Company: Identity Protect Limited
Technical Address: PO Box 795
Technical Address: Godalming
Technical Address: Surrey
Technical Address: GU7 9GA
Technical Address: GB
Technical Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Data Protection used to stop the truth being told
post by Rico Sorda goes into some further details on how the power of the state is being used in Jersey to stop the truth being told. This should really worry people, but I don't think it will get much attention.