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Showing posts from December, 2007

Vote fraud (in Kenya)

The above video is a good one for pointing out ballot box stuffing. We should not pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen in the UK. One interesting thing about elections in Birmingham is that some polling stations have presiding officers working for the Labour Party. This may sound surprising given that the council is now run by a non-Labour partnership. However, it developed during Labour's control of the authority and is taking some sorting out.

Remember that 4,000 people's votes were defrauded by Labour in the Bordesley Green Ward in 2004. Totally unacceptable.

Labour must not be allowed anywhere close to power in Birmingham until they give up fiddling elections.

John Hemming's New Year's Message

Its that time of year and I think there is some merit in doing a message for the new year. Normally I don't comment about constituency issues on this weblog. That is because the audience is a wider one than those people living in Yardley. People living in Yardley should get leaflets and reports. However, this time I will look at local issues as well.

Yardley
One aspect of local activity that is always busy is dealing with local people's problems. I started a new casework system in 2004. The last case created in 2006 was 5597 and in 2007 7763. This gives rise to just over 2,000 new cases in each year. Some are simple and are resolved quickly. Others take a long time and are difficult to resolve.

Some issues affect more than one person. Issues like the redevelopment of The Swan have dragged on for almost 10 years now. We are, however, seeing the start of the practical work. Some of the buildings are being demolished and work should be starting on Bakeman House soon. Th…

George W Bush and the Rule of Law - (Top 10 dumb US legal arguments)

The link is to the top ten nonsensical legal arguments of the Bush Government and a detailed analysis of them.

This is a summary (in increasing level of stupidity):
10. The NSA's eavesdropping was limited in scope.
9. Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted because it was excessive.
8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.
7. Guantanamo Bay detainees enjoy more legal rights than any POW's in history.
6. Water-boarding may not be torture.
5. Everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.
4. Nine U.S. attorneys were fired by nobody, but for good reason.
3. Alberto Gonzales.
2. State secrets.
1. The United States does not torture.

We face some similar difficulties in the UK. Getting proper answers from the government remains very difficult. I am continuing to try to stop some of the cover ups that go on in the UK.

However, I think the USA government have the edge on us in terms of…

Paediatricians and Child Protection

There has been much debate recently about Export Witnesses, Paediatricians, the GMC and Child Protection. A lot of the difficulties arise from the mismatch between medical decision-making and legal decision-making. However, there are other factors that need looking at. Given a bit of spare time today I will make a start at consolidating information about this.

It is worth looking at a few facts first. People who act as Expert Witnesses in the Family Court get paid substantial sums for their reports. The government is proposing to change the system. However, it is important to recognise that there is a financial interest in the system for expert witnesses.

Secondly, often Family Court judges will refuse second opinions. Even the Court of Appeal will refuse a second opinion. What this means is that if an expert states that a parent is guilty of child abuse frequently there is little that the parent can do.

A number of the theories which are used for expert opinion in the courts are…

Thank you to PC Pro

PC Pro have kindly stated that my quotation about the Government and IT was one of the top ten IT quotes of 2007: (see link)

9. John Hemming MP
The loss of 25 million child benefit records on a couple of CDs was an open-goal for opposition politicians. But hand the match ball to Liberal MP, John Hemming, who said the government couldn't even be trusted with CD burners and warned of worse to come.

"Normally what happens is that we close the door after the horse has bolted, but in this case we're leaving the door open for more horses to bolt."

He wasn't wrong, was he?

Essex Enquirer Story into Essex Childrens Services

The following story has just been published by the Essex Enquirer. They publish on the net using PDF so I have extracted the text:

IT’S USED up more than £90m per year for the last four years and has the power to save children’s lives or ruin families for ever.

It has overseen the adoption of about 450 youngsters since 2002 and investigated the home lives of 8,000 more.

And it employs more than 150 people with the power to investigate anyone’s home life answering only to itself.

But there are calls to make Essex County Council social services more accountable to the public over controversial cases hitting the headlines.

Just 18 people have launched formal complaints against the department since 2004 but the authority will not say how many of these have resulted in disciplinary action taking place.

A spokesman told The Enquirer: “The complaints procedure and disciplinary process are quite separate from one another and, therefore, do not become linked at any stage.”

Following its controversia…

Sad case in Bristol

The link is to a story about a sad case in Bristol where a young baby was hurt by his birth parents. What mystifies me about this is that it went on over a period of 50 days. That is when there should be at a minimum a health visitor visiting.

It explains a good reason why we need to open up the work of the safeguarding boards to scrutiny.

Since prior to the Climbie case the decisionmaking process in child protection has been skewed. If we are going to get it right we need to know where it is going wrong.

Election Results: Thursday 20th December 2007

Castle Point DC, St Marys
Con 509 and 461 (41.0; -27.3), Lab 480 and 456 (38.6; +6.9), BNP 253 and 234 (20.4; +20.4).
Majorities 48 and 19. Turnout 24.8%. Con hold and Lab gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Hackney LBC, Springfield
Con 1244 (59.0; +16.1), Lab 590 (28.0; +0.4), LD Brian Stone 113 (5.4; -4.8), Green 85 (4.0; -9.5), Christian Party 40 (1.9; +1.9), Communist 37 ( 1.8; -4.0).
Majority 654. Turnout 33.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Shepshed TC, East
Lab 275 and 259 (32.8), LD Sarah Fall 193, James Nasmyth 155 (23.0), Con 187 (22.3), BNP 183 and 173 (21.8).
Majorities 82 and 66. Turnout 14.5%. Lab gain from Con x 2.

Further Result from 13th December 2007, from Chris Nelson
Barton Seagrave PC, St Boltophs
Con 323 (65.1%) Lab 173 (34.9%)
Majority 150. Turnout 25.9%. Con hold

Clegg shadow Cabinet

Leader
NICK CLEGG

Deputy Leader
Vince Cable

Chief Whip
Paul Burstow

The economy and business

VINCE CABLE
Shadow Chancellor

Jeremy Browne
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Sarah Teather
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Home Affairs

CHRIS HUHNE
Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

David Heath
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor

The Rt Hon the Lord Thomas
Shadow Attorney General

David Howarth
Shadow Solicitor General

International affairs

ED DAVEY
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Chair of Campaigns and Communications
Nick Harvey
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Mike Moore
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Public services

DAVID LAWS
Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Norman Lamb
Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Julia Goldsworthy
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Lembit Opik
Housing

Danny Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for…

Keran Henderson - Medical Expert Evidence

The link is to a story about a Juror from Keran Henderson's trial believing that a miscarriage of justice "has occurred."

Keran's trial was essentially one about medical expert evidence. We had a useful discussion on Radio 5 yesterday about how the use of expert evidence needs to be improved to avoid miscarriages of justice.

The key point is that legal decisionmaking and medical decisionmaking operate at different levels of certainty. If people wish to introduce pet theories into court they need to have justified them in some way.

One approach is a form of Daubert hearing. However, there is a need to look in detail at many unproven theories to decide whether there is sufficient certainty for them to be used in court. These include Shaken Baby Syndrome, Classical Metaphyseal Lesions and FII by proxy. This should not be done on a trial by trial basis.

These are large sources of many of the miscarriages of justice in the Family and Criminal Divisions (mainly Family Di…

Newport case - taking children into care wrongly hurts the children

The link is to today's story in The Mirror about the Newport Case.

What those who defend the current system have to recognise is that taking children into care hurts the children. Where it was not necessary substantial damage has been done without good reason.

Yes there will always be times when children do need to be taken into care, but there should be good well argued reasons first.

The biggest trauma caused to many children is the step of taking them into care. In studying this it seems clear to me that the system is doing masses of damage to people (parents and children).

Stop the Secret Jailings - release Charles Roy Taylor

The campaign to stop secret jailings is going well. The law is entirely clear people cannot be jailed with giving details in public of what is happening including the offence and jail term.

The fact that this hasn't been done doesn't mean that we will tolerate it from now.

Interestingly the reason the 1679 Habeas Corpus Act was brought in was judges jailing people for things that weren't illegal. What is happening is that illegal court orders are issued and then people jailed in secret for breaking them.

I really do think the law should apply in Family Division courts as well as the rest of the country.

Charles Taylor's jailing has now been reported in The Times (Thursday) and on Meridian ITV News (yesterday). The campaign for his release is also growing.

Election Results: Thursday 13th December 2007.

Brighton and Hove UA, Regency
Green 749 (41.6; +8.7), Con 397 (22.1; +2.1), Lab 376 (20.9; -0.6), LD Simon Doyle 148 (8.2; -9.1), Ind 130 (7.2; -1.1).
Majority 352. Turnout 23.0%. Green hold. Last fought 2007.

Harrow LBC, Canons
Con 1208 (56.7; -11.1), Lab 389 (18.3; -0.1), LD Anne Diamond 296 (13.9; +0.1), Ind 182 (8.5; +8.5), BNP 56 (2.6; +2.6).
Majority 819. Turnout 24.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Hounslow LBC, Chiswick Riverside
Con 1207 (61.1; +16.1), Lab 414 (21.0; +3.2), LD Phyllis Ballentyne 250 (12.7; -7.1), Green 103 (5.2; -12.2).
Majority 793. Turnout 24.6%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Merthyr Tydfil UA, Treharris
Ind 405 (35.8; -9.9), LD John Pappas 328 (29.0; +29.0), Lab 317 (28.0; -5.1), Ind 81 (7.2; +7.2), [People before Politics (0.0; -21.2 )].
Majority 77. Turnout 24.0%. Ind hold. Last fought 2004.

Reigate and Banstead DC, Earlswood and Whitebushes
Con 421 (37.6; -3.9), LD Steve Oddy 380 (33.9; +4.9), Lab 152 (13.6; -1.9), UKIP 113 (10.1; +1.8), Green 54 (4.8; -0.9).
Majority 4…

Perceived Neglect?

The linked story from Yesterday's Guardian is an interesting one. It raises the question as to what parameters should permit the state to intervene. In this case a child was allowed to walk to school alone. (under a mile).

It raises another question about the subjectivity of our systems of child protection.
What is acceptable to one person, is risky to another. However, at what point should the state intervene. I believe that is a decision for parliament.

Victoria Ward's Case

The link is to the story of the Ward family in Cambridgeshire. They were unusual in that they managed to win their case. What normally happens when totally innocent parents get trapped in the system is that they lose their children.

US tests of drunkenness

The US alternative to the breathalyser it appears
Formal administration and accreditation of the program is provided through IACP. The three tests of the SFST are:
the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
the walk-and-turn
the one-leg stand.
These tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect.
HGN Testing
Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object. In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each …

Election Results: 6th December 2007.

Derbyshire Dales DC, Masson
Con 356 (48.2; +7.2), Lab 256 (34.7; -8.8), LD Tracy Steadman 126 (17.1; -1.6).
Majority 100. Turnout 30%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Maidstone BC, Shepway South
Con 251 (36.0; -9.7), Lab 240 (34.4; +34.4), LD Brian Vizzard 173 (24.8; -22.0), Green 34 (4.9 ; -2.6).
Majority 11. Turnout 16.1%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Richmond upon Thames LBC, Barnes
Con 1643 (56.2; +3.8), LD Barbara Westmorland 1103 (37.7; -5.8), Lab 91 (3.1; -1.0), Green 87 (3.0; +3.0).
Majority 540. Turnout 41.2%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Sandwell MBC, Princes End
Lab 796 (48.1; +12.4), Con 517 (31.2; +11.4), BNP 314 (19.0; -15.9), LD Dorothy Brayshaw 29 (1.8; +1.8), [Ind (0.0; -9.6)].
Majority 279. Turnout 18.6%. Lab gain from BNP. Last fought 2007.

Wokingham UA, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe
Con 913 (70.6; -2.9), LD Martin Alder 237 (18.3; -0.5), UKIP 83 (6.4; +2.5), Lab 60 (4.6; +0.8).
Majority 676. Turnout not known. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Government introduces another counterproductive policy

This is from Yesterday's Hansard (see link for full details). The government are trying enforce a law so vague that people (including the police) don't understand the limits.

John Hemming: Obviously, this Christmas the Government are discouraging people from going to pubs and clubs, and encouraging them to drink at home by penalising such drinks as the yard of ale. People are likely to face a fine for drinking a yard of ale in any pub or club outside the House of Commons. Does the Minister not accept that it is better to encourage people to drink in controlled circumstances? Under what the Government call the responsible alcohol sales campaign, if people are argumentative—that includes a lot of hon. Members, I presume—they are deemed to be drunk, so serving them would be an offence punishable with a fine of up to £80.

John Hemming: My hon. Friend said that there was too much drinking in the home. Does he share my concern that someone who recently drank a single pint in Birmingh…

How to spot a drunk

Across the land (apart from the bars in the House of Commons and House of Lords) pubs and clubs are going to have undercover policeman looking for drunk people. The Home Office have issued guidelines (thanks to The Publican for giving me details) to help spot drunks.

How can police spot a drunk?

Police have been told that the aim of the guidelines is “to present such compelling physical evidence of the person’s level of intoxication that it would be impossible for a court to accept that the person who conducts the sale did not know of this fact”.

Evidence police have been told to look for includes:

A noticeable change in behaviour
Bad tempered, aggressive;
Offensive language;
Becoming loud, boisterous or disorderly;
Becoming physically violent;
Becoming incoherent;
Slurring, or making mistakes in speech; and
becoming argumentative.

A lack of judgment
Being careless with money;
Annoying other persons, employees etc;
Exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour;
Drinking quickly or competitively (‘down …

Birmingham's Single Status Motion about Pay and Grading

The following motion was passed yesterday by Birmingham City Council.

This Council wishes to thank its employees for their hard work and effort that have lead to the Council making progress in returning to its rightful, traditional position as the best run local authority in Western Europe.

The Council regrets that a situation was allowed to develop over many years where the pay and grading structure of the Council was not in accordance with Equal Pay Legislation and the "Single Status Agreement” with the trades unions. The Council notes that a number of legal actions were initiated against the Council in June 2006 which gave urgency in reviewing the pay and grading structure of the Council to ensure that it operated in accordance with the law.

The Council regrets that the review has resulted in a situation in which a number of members of staff who have been doing an efficient and high quality job now face the threat of pay reductions from 1st April 2010 as a consequence of needin…

Southall - what about the research

My biggest concern about the matters releating to David Southall is that there has not been an independent investigation into his research and the impact it had on the subjects of that research.

That remains a concern notwithstanding the fact that he has now been struck off.

This issue is, however, raising another smokescreen. (with the RCPCH helping to generate smoke).

Paediatricians who report in the Family Court make substantial additional money from reports relating to alleged Child Abuse. If they did not get fees linked to each case I would be more comfortable with the situation.

Obviously some people maltreat children. There are people who Fabricate and Invent Illness, there are also people who do this by proxy.

The key question for a judicial process (be it family or criminal division) is
a) How much evidence is required to initiate an investigation.
b) What standard of evidence is required for findings to be made.

These are not zero sum issues. We are doing badly in this country…