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Panorama and the William Ward Case

The William Ward case was an exceptional case in a number of ways. However, Panorama have really missed the key points.

Most mothers facing a case like this one would not only have lost their son to adoption, but also lost subsequent children.

Firstly, they were allowed to have the grandparents supervising. That is rare.

Secondly, they were allowed a second medical opinion. That also is rare.

What would normally have happened would have been that baby William would have been put with foster carers and limited contact (perhaps three times a week if they were lucky) would have been the option.

What needs to be looked at in respect of this case is, however, more complex than presented in the programme.

Firstly, we should not attack experts who offer opinion merely because the judge does not agree with it. Experts have to offer their viewpoint.

Where the real problem lies is in the interface between medical opinion and legal certainty. Medical opinion is often not that certain. There must be proper review of all medical evidence to enable it to be tested for truth.

The issue of spiral and metaphyseal fractures and similarly the SBS triad absent physical damage are areas where there is not sufficient certainty to warrant life changing decisions.

We also need to do a systemic risk review for how cases are managed. The criminal law remains a good deterrent. There comes a point at which additional supervision does not reduce the risk. These are the issues that often cause substantial problems and a misallocation of resource.

Furthermore the medical profession have to move away from the assumption that unexplained injuries equate to child abuse. It may be child abuse and it may be something else.

Finally the conflict of interest on experts with pet theories who can make massive incomes by hawking them around in the secret family courts has to be recognised. If only expenses were paid then there would be less of a conflict of interest.

It was good to have a further review of procedures in the family courts, but the programme was some way off recognising how bad the system can really be or identifying real solutions.

ps

There are quiet a few comments on the BBC website about this story.

Comments

Jerry said…
John, A programme of only half an hour could not address every possible scenario that is failing the children and the parents involved in the child protection system but your so right it missed a very good oppertunity to do this.

I was not at all suprised by the lenght of time the initial judgment was given out in the case or by the fact the Judgment from the County court was not allowed to be shown to the parents only the sols got to see it at the start.

More so the Judge would be praised in this case for making the right moves, we both know how seriously wrong it can turn in these cases.

There was still the real possibility that either parent could have been found guilty of causing the none accidental injuries of baby William, even though the CPS dropped the case, again a too common occurance these days.

This is the very real fact of the family courts systems which I would have liked Panorama to delve deeper into the subject.
jacquig said…
I am not Panorama's biggest fan but this was a fantastic programme and glad to see it. I have blogged it on family law week too. As you know am big fan of the Judge and the recommended expert. I also agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the medico-legal interface. More to follow!
moira said…
4. At 8:48pm on 23 Aug 2010, PMR1980 wrote:

I am watching this with anger. This is typical of the Child Protection/Social Services system and I am speaking as a Police Officer. Day in, day out, I see cases of children living in squalor, cruel and blatantly dangerous situations. These situations go unpunished with little or no action taken. When it comes to a 2.4 children family who care and love their child who gets injured in unexplained or accidental circumstances, they have the book thrown at them. I could give countless examples of such cases and nearly everyday in my working life I come across the next 'Baby P' that is just not dealt with. It is typical of the scum of this county being untouched and the good upstanding people being targeted!

A comment left on the BBC site from a police officer.

Regarding the programme. I have never heard of social services allowing family members to supervise like this. Perhaps it is because the parents worked for the council and someone said the mother worked for strategic childrens dept. For the majority of parents under investigation, the kids would have been taken and a set up expert witness would have been employed. Lets face it. I actually think they were more fairly treated than most. But then I didnt see the remainder of the programme because my son started crying when he heard social services mentioned. Then again I only asked for respite after some bereavments and the vindictive SS thought that gave them the right to haul my son and I through hell with their lies.
Sarah said…
Panorama has opened a can of worms that needs further exposure. However, it has to be stressed that this child had a serious injury and the health care professionals did as they should have done. Social services did as they are required to do. The length of time to judgment is horrendous and is a poor reflection of the courts in cases of this sort.

Justice Munby makes, as usual, excellent points. The crux of this programme was really about identifying medical experts. medical experts should be identified. Any clinician who is prepared to take money to provide an opinion (a personal opinion at that) should be willing to be open to public scrutiny and to defend his/her statements. The NHS is, after all, a public body. It is not uncommon for "experts" to make their own personal judgments about parents (although the General Medical council states that this should never occur) and give seemingly biased opinions.

I am in child care proceedings currently. I have never injured my child. He has never been injured. I have a bipolar illness (depressive mainly) and may cause "emotional harm". There is no evidence of emotional harm and the "experts" say that I am not a risk to my son but the proceedings continue. The LA are covering themselves and have openly said that they want a judge to make a decision. To date we have spent £120000+ of public money, have attended court anticipating that the LA will apply for an Interim Care order only to come away with a written agreement because they have never had a care plan and their views are not supported by the CAFCASS guardian. It is madness and I am sure that this is not unusual. In October they may withdraw proceedings. We have never been able to hear the evidence, have the LA or experts cross examined or have our say.

The system is biased, backside covering and infringes the rights of children and their families. It is the legal system that need to lead the change. Whilst some judiciary continue to "adopt a conservative" approach there will be no change. Rightly or wrongly society respect judges like they once respected doctors. judges are humans too and they need to change before the rest will follow. I hope Munby keeps up his fight. Some of his recent judgments give hope to families.
phil1936 said…
I challenge Walsall Social Services and any other government body to take me to court for what I have said in this post on Youtube.
Walsall social services child kidnapping/adoption?
I am easily found on Facebook. I WILL make people from SS answerable in spite of all the indifference from people in HIGH OFFICE. Will I be approved by the moderator I wonder?
phil1936 said…
Dear Moderator, I see that you have not published my comments. TOO strong?. OK. If you can, please allow the other commenter's on this WebLog to contact me.

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