John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Saturday, April 27, 2013
  The secret imprisonment of Wanda Maddocks
What the secret imprisonment of Wanda Maddocks has shown is that an anonymous judgment does not tell you everything about a case. The Daily Mail wrote more about the case today. I do think the wider issue will also have more attention in the future.
 
Thursday, April 25, 2013
  Yesterday's Procedure Committee about EDMs
This is a recording of yesterday's procedure committee. I make some comments relevant to secret prisoners at 15:42.
 
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
  Secret Prisoner story in Daily Mail
This is a story about a woman who was initially tried in absentia and then imprisoned in secret for the "crime" of taking her father to see a lawyer in Birmingham.

This really is not on. There is complacency in government about this sort of thing.

 
Sunday, April 21, 2013
  The Communications Data Bill - probably the worst bill to be proposed by Government
I suppose I have a disadvantage when considering legislation relating to the internet. Perhaps I know too much about how things work. There are still traces on the internet of work I did on https in 1995. Although the allocation of the port 465 for an SSL implementation of SMTP was provided by IANA at my request as you can see from This page this was made defunct later by the introduction of STARTTLS which is to be fair a much more port efficient way of dealing with encryption for email.

The Joint Committee on the Draft Bill produced a report. I have now read the report. In that report it says:

297. The Home Office knows that not all overseas CSPs will comply with retention notices. It is for this reason that the notices issued under clause 1 may require United Kingdom CSPs to keep third party data traversing their networks. United Kingdom CSPs are rightly very nervous about these provisions. The Home Office has given an oral commitment to United Kingdom CSPs that the Home Secretary will invoke the third party provisions only after the original data holder has been approached and all other avenues have been exhausted. The Home Office has also given a commitment that no CSP will be asked to store or decrypt encrypted third party data. These commitments should be given statutory force.

Note the emboldened penultimate paragraph. I personally don't try to ensure that my mail and internet accesses are encrypted. However, I do deal with people who are "on the run" as a result of nonsensical decisions by the family courts in the UK - I am dealing with quite a few cases at the moment. You cannot trust the state to make rational decisions all the time. Hence giving too much power to the state is dangerous.

It remains, however, that I don't think that modern encryption is that easy to break. I don't think it is practically possible within a sensible timescale without a massive commitment of technology (like all the computers in the world using spare cycles to decrypt one session).

I would think, therefore, that if this bill comes in then practically everyone will ensure that their communications are encrypted. That will mean that there will be almost nothing that isn't. Organisations such as twitter routinely encrypt communications (try typing in http://www.twitter.com and watch it change to https://www.twitter.com). So if that happens then the proportion of data transmissions available to be recorded will go down to something like 5% or even less.

The principle of recording who everyone is talking to all the time is wrong. RIPA already gives quite a few powers to public authorities. I cannot see any benefit to anyone from bringing in a Communications Data Bill anything like the one proposed. In fact I cannot see the benefit of a change in the law to anyone other than vendors of data storage.

 
Thursday, April 18, 2013
  Oak trees in The Oaklands Park
This week my constituency office has been in contact with Robin Bryan, BCC’s Constituency Parks & Customer Liaison Manager for the Department of Parks & Nature Conservation.

Works which were undertaken on 5 oak trees included;

The two trees that have been pruned back hard were storm damaged. The hard pruning was done to give the trees a good chance to regrow better and stronger. This particular action was chosen as the alternative would have been to remove them altogether as there was the worry that they were too top heavy and may collapse.

The Sycamores, along the fence on Broughton Road, were growing through the fence and starting to obstruct the footpath for pedestrians etc. They would eventually start damaging the fence and it is easier and cheaper to remove when they are small. They were self-set trees anyway.

Oaks have been pollarded and reduced because of severe stem decay and storm damage in the upper crowns, which obviously cannot be seen now. I know the visual impact is quite high doing this but it is far better, in our opinion, than complete removal. No doubt removal would have caused more concern locally. Other Oaks which are in better condition have been crown lifted and deadwood removed only.

The large Hornbeam, by the nursery on the perimeter, had a large trunk cavity extending up and down at approx 2 metres and now it has been felled the extent of the decay into the stump can clearly be seen.

Robin Bryan has assured my office that the Parks Department only touch park trees if it is absolutely essential. The safety of our City’s residents and visitors has to be of paramount importance.

5 new oak trees will be planted in The Oaklands during the next planning period which falls between November-March.

Should you have any further queries about this location or any related issues please do contact my office further on 722 3417 or by emailing cwrteam@john.hemming.name
IMG-20130417-00269
Tree pruned due to storm damage.
IMG-20130417-00268
Trees affected by recent works
IMG-20130417-00271
Shows the level of disease and decay present in the removed tree.

 
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
  Today's Votes
In the end the government offered an improved position on the issue of corporate defamation and permitted development. Hence I actively abstained on both of those votes (voting both ways). I also opposed the government on the issue as to whether the ECHR has a duty to monitor whether society is getting better. The government took the view that it should only monitor its detailed functions and not have a general duty to improve things and monitor that. I also voted for the status quo on Health and Safety. (interestingly I was the only rebel in parliament on this).
 
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
  Human rights and the problems in the Family Division
I thought it was worth putting together a summary of the problems in the family division. Some of these problems also occur in other areas of the judiciary, but they are commonplace in the family division.

The underlying problem is evidence.
Because much of the evidence is opinion unreliable opinion from "experts" gives rise to unreliable conclusions. Professor Jane Ireland's report which is available here. concluded (inter alia): "Two thirds of the reports reviewed were rated as below the expected standard, with one third between good and excellent.". What this means is that 2/3rds of the decisions in the care proceedings are unreliable because the evidence was unreliable.

An additional difficulty is that the experts (which include social workers) who are giving their opinions are often subject to conflicts of interest. For example in the Court of Protection a social worker can conclude that someone "does not have the mental capacity to decide where they can live". This then allows the local authority to place that person in a care home and to charge for the costs of that from the estate of the "protected person". If the person was cared for in their own home then that would be likely to cost money to the local authority for any assistance. Hence there is a clear pressure on the social worker to conclude that the cheapest solution for the local authority is also the best. There is, of course, a question as to how to handle the interplay between budgets and care decisions, but pretending that budgets have no effect is turning a blind eye to injustice.

There are additional problems in that the local authority tends to control the purse strings of many of the partipants. Hence "independent" advocates are not actually "independent". The "independent reviewing officer" is also not independent. A good example of this failure of independence is A&S v Lancashire County Council. (click for judgment) Para 2 sums up the issue: "Over the years, the local authority defaulted on its duties towards the children and its independent reviewing system did not call it to account. The matter was never returned to court as it should have been and as a result the local authority's actions did not come under independent scrutiny. Statistically there were as at 31st March 2011 around 1,300 other children in the same legal limbo. I don't have the later figures yet.

The same problem exists with Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards where the local authority (or other commissioning body) also controls the incomes of the advocates. Wrongful removals of mental capacity are so frequent that the system really doesn't notice them.

The recently revealed case of the family barrister who has left the jurisdiction to protect her children (see here in The Telegraph). Demonstrates a number of things. She is not the only mother who has left the jurisdiction because she did not think that the courts would decide what was best for her children. It is clear from the evidence in her case that the local authority were wrong. I have asked the local authority for comment, but they have not as yet given any - I may update this later if they do comment.

In this case, however, it was someone with years of experience of what actually happens in the courts that decided the best thing to do was to go before legal proceedings were initiated.

As I said in my speech on March 26th the international aspects are particularly interesting. Professionals in other countries find the behaviour of the authorities surprising and in care proceedings damaging to the children. Professor Eileen Munro's comments that I quote from on my speech are available in audiohere.

The victims of the system
The victims of the system often are quite surprised at how it acts. What is seen by some as complacency is seen by those on the receiving end as corruption. Often they become quite agitated and as such it is relatively difficult to see through the agitation to the underlying problem.

How can it be fixed?
A first step was the proposals in my Family Justice Bill. My speech at the second reading explains much of this.

However, the first step towards resolving the problem is to recognise that a problem exists and action needs to be taken.

 
Monday, April 08, 2013
  Family Court Barrister becomes refugee from Family Courts
This story should cause concern. If a barrister who was on the verge of becoming a judge believes that the best thing to do is to leave the country what should others do. Given that Ireland, with its financial problems, has been trying to drive family court refugees back to England I have been talking to other countries to find out if they will simply apply the law to protect people from the abuses of power in England. I did speak to one country today who I think will help.

There is also enthusiasm amongst foreign embassies for a conference in parliament to look at how to fight corruption in the family courts in England.

 
Saturday, April 06, 2013
  Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards 2011/2 report by CQC just published
This is a link to the report.

Interestingly in 2.1 it says: "The MCA legislation is not well understood or implemented. Because of this, staff may be too quick to assume that people lack the capacity to make any decisions. Also staff may not try to maximise people’s capacity, or carry out decisions within the best interests framework of the MCA, because they don’t understand the legislation."

I have sent the RP case which is a key one relating to mental capacity to the grand chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Far too many people have their capacity removed wrongly. The system remains chocabloc with conflicts of interests and rubbishy assessments and the route to challenge is overly bureaucratic (a legal appeal rather than a merits appeal).

 
Thursday, April 04, 2013
  The £53 question
The debate about how far £53 goes is really not a sensible debate. It is possible to feed yourself reasonably cheaply, but there are other costs of course.

One issue which concerns me, for example, is bus fares for young unemployed people. Young people in Yardley now have go to Solihull Job Centre. From April 2013 the applicable amount for a young single person is in fact £56.80. (It was 56.25 so I am not sure where the sum of £53 comes from).

For someone on £56.80 per week the bus fares to Solihull and back are £3.90 per day. That does allow travel anywhere. However, this is a material amount of the cash they get each week.

I have raised this with the Job Centre authorities, but it appears that they did not take this into account when shifting the signing location.

 
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
  Barbara Hewson on the growth of state intervention in private life
This is a good article about how the inherent jursidiction of the court is overreaching itself in secret. If it was not subject to contempt of court secrecy this would not be tolerated.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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