Skip to main content

Cinderella Act is seriously flawed

This is an article I wrote in the Sunday Express which is published today.

By this it does not mean banning girls from marrying princes but is talking about criminalising “emotional abuse”. 
We are told it is a contender for the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.
There is no question that there can be situations where children are traumatised by the way they have been treated but the Government does need to think through the details before enacting this law because this is one of the most complex subjects we face.
Where and how do we draw the line and on to whom should we place responsibility?
Let me assure you of this: you would not want your family sucked into the murky and sometimes nightmare social care system based on vague definitions. 
I have spent many years campaigning in this area with Justice for Families. 
I have seen appalling miscarriages of justice where troubled families are ripped apart by social workers and court-appointed experts claiming that children have been emotionally abused.
The consequences of such interventions are horrific for all involved. There are good outcomes but there are nuances. 
Some of the most traumatised children are those who have reactive attachment disorder, which means they have trouble forming a bond with their primary carer.
Where and how do we draw the line and on to whom should we place responsibility?
Very often these children have been taken into care when very young and end up adopted before the age of five. 
When they get into their teens there can then be all sorts of problems and they often end up back in care. 
These children have clearly been emotionally abused but who is responsible?
Is it the mother? 
Is it the local authority for moving them around from foster carer to foster carer or is it the adoptive family? 
ONE THING you can be certain about local authorities’ children’s services is that they avoid accepting responsibility. 
I have encountered numerous adoptive families who have been caring for traumatised children with no support from their local authority.
Very often the local authority puts all its effort into blaming the adoptive family and it has vast sums of taxpayers’ money and tame experts who will back it. 
If the Government starts looking for someone to prosecute when this happens you can bet your bottom dollar that it will not be the local authority.
The proposed law would have implications for those families willing to adopt.
Would you be willing to adopt if you might be liable to criminal investigation for the emotional abuse of a troubled child? 
The argument of “emotional abuse” and “risk of future emotional abuse” is often used in the care system when there has been a history of domestic violence. 
It is undoubtedly the case that children can suffer emotionally when they witness conflict between their parents. 
However domestic violence is already illegal and anyone perpetrating domestic abuse can be prosecuted.
Campaign group Action for Children’s proposal for a change to the law defines emotional abuse as “including exposing the child to violence against others in the same household”. 
This would mean a domestic violence victim can be held liable for emotional abuse of the child. What kind of justice is that?
Rape victims and victims of domestic abuse are already finding this used as a reason for taking children into care. 
There have been protests recently outside the Royal Courts of Justice about the unfairness of removing a rape victim’s children and putting them up for adoption.
Campaign groups such as Women Against Rape have been highlighting the unfairness of punishing victims but it is only a short step towards blaming the victim for a child’s emotional abuse.
This is already done in a secret court in care proceedings and does not take much to move it forward to the criminal court.
This is an area in which the views of experts will be key.
Many experts know that they have to keep local authorities on their side. 
Hence we should not be surprised if those experts decide that they wish to point the finger at parents.
Another group of parents who are concerned about this proposal are those who have autistic children. 
Given the costs of special needs education it is easier for councils to blame the parents, claiming the way they have treated their child has caused it to be autistic. 
USING the criminal law in situations like this is something that needs to be done subtly and in a way in which it is very clear as to who is to blame for a clearly identifiable harm. 
There are many family disputes that occur at the moment.
However using the criminal law to deal with such disputes is likely to make the disputes worse.
We already have a very aggressive child protection system but at the same time the system is not good at protecting children from abuse and neglect.
Often people explain to me how the arrogance of children’s services means that the local authority workers are unwilling to co-operate or understand.
This is particularly difficult for adoptive families who are often on the end of expensive campaigns by the local authority to blame them for all the ills of its adoptive children.
I accept that the law is out of date and that replacing the word “wilful” with “reckless” has merit.
However given the many cases that go wrong in the family courts and the way that local authorities always blame the parents this law needs a detailed rethink.

Comments

sue said…
I am in the situation where my children have been taken into care because Im a DV victim. I called the Police on several occasions but nothing was done and no other agency offered to help. How can I be reponsible for a criminal act committed against me. My ex has unsupervised contact with the children I dont. I wish I had never called 999
michael wade said…
I met an old friend who was royally stitched by as. Now there on my case. Our worker is fine only trouble is she's resigning over the ofsted report. So now what
Geoff Heathcote said…
when I start to explain about the corruption that exists in the family courts in relation to children being taken care for no reason the reaction is one of disbelief. That disbelief is that no one can believe that the courts of the law are capable of such an act and also disbelief that the authorities could be able to make false reports. In general it appears that unless a person has been affected or knows somebody that has been afftected by this unlaw act then most people don't want to know. The truth looking at it from the outside seems to far fetched to be true but as you know Mr Hemming it is more close to home than people realise.

Popular posts from this blog

Homelessness vs Selling Books

Candidates in elections tend to find themselves very busy with lots of things to do.  It is, therefore, necessary to prioritise things to ensure that the important things are dealt with.

To me the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping is an important issue.  Therefore, when Birmingham's Faith Leaders group contacted me to ask me what I would propose and whether I would work with them to make things better I was pleased to respond with my views and indicate that I would work with them after the election.

The Faith Leaders Group (Bishops and other religious leaders in Birmingham) have now sent out their report.

Sadly, according to their report,  I was the only candidate for Yardley to respond.  The group in their report said:

"Particularly disappointing was the lack of response from some of those candidates seeking re-election as MP for their respective constituencies."
It is worth looking at the priorities of my opponent.
Interestingly today she has decided to be at th…

Millionaires and politics

The Labour Party spent most of the last election criticising me for being a successful businessman (aka millionaire). That is business in the private sector employing over 250 people. It is worth looking at the situation for the Labour Candidate now:

For the year 2016-7 Annual Income from Parliament74,962Specifically for her book51,250Other media income etc5,322.82Total declared income131,534.82

Traditionally anyone with an annual income of over £100,000 has been considered to be a millionaire. I did not use my position in parliament to increase my income.


I have been asked for sources for this. This BBC piece looks at how one should define rich. It was written in 2011 so the figures will be slightly out of date. There are perhaps 2 relevant pieces:
"In 1880 a rich person would have had £100,000 in assets or an income of £10,000 a year, he says. About a hundred people a year died leaving £100,000 and by 1910 this was 250 - "a microscopic fraction of the number of death…

The Labour Candidate's Book Promotion Tour and Why It Matters

In the 2015 General Election the Labour Candidate criticised John Hemming for having an external interest and made a pledge that she would be a "Full Time MP for Yardley and my only other job will be mom & carer ...".  Here is a copy of that pledge:


Since that point she has been working on paid Television Programmes and has also written a book. John Hemming has made no secret of the fact that he chairs the board of the company he founded in 1983. This involves one meeting a month. When he was the MP for Yardley he was a full time MP and the Job of being MP for Yardley came first. The Labour candidate has reported 1,274 hours of work other than being an MP in the two years she has been elected and her income in the last year was over £131,000.

Ignoring the question as to how she reconciles that with her "pledge" the question is raised as to what extent her external activity conflicts with the role of Member of Parliament for Yardley. She is supposed to de…