Mark and Kerry McDougall (and family)
Mark and Kerry's story has been told in various places. They are now living in Scotland having left Fife because the local authority said Kerry did not have the capacity to marry Mark and look after their son. They now have two children.
Council Candidates 2014
What I find interesting about the 2014 candidates is that only three parties have a full slate. Even though UKIP have quite a high poll share, they are not fighting all 40 wards. The Greens have gone down in terms of numbers of candidates. There are two "anti austerity" parties the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and the Communities against Cuts, that a fighting a small number of seats.
The full details are on the council website. Respect are not fighting anything. There are very few BNP and no NF candidates.
I think the UKIP issue is probably related to the de-selection of Mike Natrass - which seemed an odd decision to me as he was one of the more sane members of UKIP.
The big issue of the local elections is the Labour Party incompetence in terms of managing the authority within the context of limited resources. They like to blame the government, but if Labour were in government there would still be further cuts in future years.
Costs awarded against volunteer advisors
story in the Sunday Telegraph is a very important issue.
Basically for voluntarily assisting someone to challenge the state some advisors have been hit with a costs bill. It has been done on a sneaky way which allowed them to challenge the award of costs, but only at the risk of paying more costs if they lose. In fact I believe this is against the practise direction in respect of costs which requires someone to be given notice and allowed to challenge it at the hearing where the decision is made.
I had a similar thing happen to me when I tried to find out what had happened to Matthew Hawkesworth. An application had been made for judicial review through a limited company (Justice for Families Limited), but they awarded some costs against me personally. That was also done not in accordance with the practise direction.
I do now have the french copy of a court order which confirms that the french (as well as the Italian) judiciary see the actions in the UK as being unlawful. It appears that the Portuguese have won a case getting children taken to Portugal.
It is important to note that volunteer legal advisors have won cases taken to appeal in the family, civil and criminal courts. Hence to introduce a costs threat against people who do work pro-bono is completely wrong.
The reason it threatens the rule of law is that there needs to be some form of appellate system. Many of the cases that have won appeals that I have helped with would not have had legal aid under any of the systems of rules that have existed since 2005. (I don't know enough about the rules before then).
Trojan Horse and Today's Arrests
There are a number of people who believe (on the balance of probabilities) that it is likely the Trojan Horse document is fabricated. I am one of them. At least today's arrests will give some opportunity of working out whether it is or isn't. My own view is that it has been fabricated for a particular purpose, but discussion of that purpose is potentially sub judice so I won't comment.
It remains, however, that Khalid Mahmood MP has made allegations and some 200 other people have made allegations. There are also press reports which seem to me to be at times unfair. However, I am continuing to do research where it affects schools in my constituency. Clearly there are also some issues to look at.
It is right to have investigations. However, it also appears that Ofsted are inclined to a "shoot first and ask questions later" policy. I don't think that is helpful. Then again I am not a great fan of how Ofsted operate. It also wasn't sensible to bring in an anti-terrorism expert as the Chief Constable has said.
A constituent of mine has written the following poem:
I wanted to do something good
society and community
I became a school
It was not a paid role, and my childcare was
Life was busy and the meetings were at awkward
But I did it for no thanks, to make a difference to
the lives of children
Standards were poor. I saw racism,
questioned. Always gently
But was suspiciously
I wanted to give the children a
At education, employment, life
All children, of all
creeds and colours
Because I thanked God for the chances my children
I tried to fulfil the governorship I was entrusted
Then they called in
a counter-terrorism expert to investigate
OECD report including data on food poverty
This is an interesting table about comparative food poverty between countries. It does not allow us to be complacent about what is an important issue, but it does argue a different case to the conventional narrative:
Cinderella Act is seriously flawed
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.
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.
MW v Hertfordshire County Council
case is an example of the judiciary seeing through the nonsense so often spouted by local authorities and their friends in cafcass. Sadly, it is a rare example.
Historic Birmingham Maps
Thanks to Wendy Pearson. The boundary changes of 2005 ignored the boundaries of 699. (Hwicca/Mercia). These maps, however, are more recent (than 699).