Monday, July 02, 2007

Beware of the Baby Snatchers and the Secret Courts

According to figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph the numbers of babies less than 1 week old taken into care has risen by 3 times since 1997 to 900 a year whilst the total number under 1 year old have risen from 970 to 2,120.

These cases then go before the Family Courts which operate in complete secrecy. To give you an idea how bad it is a Solicitor concerned about one such case (Sarah Harman) was suspended from practicing for three months for showing papers to the then Solicitor General, Harriet Harman (her younger sister).

These cases can't be discussed beyond a very narrow group of people, breach of this secrecy counts as contempt of court. So we don't know what goes on in these courts. What is more they rely on expert evidence which is frequently from one source.

It gets worse than that though. Unless you can find evidence to prove the expert wrong there is no point in appealing, it takes time and money to find new expert witness evidence and both are frequently in short supply as young children end up being put up for adoption fairly quickly. Once adopted that is it. No appeal will get the children back. They are lost and gone forever.

There was a case of a family from Norfolk who had had 3 children taken into care on the footing that it had suspicious broken bones, and without any need to prove who did what the children were taken into care. When the fourth child was on the way they went on the run and got as far as Ireland. Regrettably they were sent back. However they eventually scored a victory as their council backed down and accepted that the child whose broken bones led to their children being taken into care did in fact have a medical condition which led to that. By this time of course the 3 other children had been adopted so no appeal will get them back. This is a full life sentence for a family convicted not beyond reasonably doubt, but on the balance of probabilities with no appeal, no time of fro good behavior or anything else and all done in the strictest secrecy.

Some say that the numbers are going up because of the incentives for councils to get more children adopted, and it is a lot easier to get a new born adopted. Obviously this has been denied.

There is however a real problem here. Children are being taken away from their families, and once adopted there is no recourse to law, that is it, the end. This happens in secret so there is no scrutiny. This is patently unjust and wrong, even though the secrecy is supposedly there for the best of reasons, to protect the anonymity and best interests of the children. It seems to me that the secrecy now only benefits the system by hiding the injustice and absurdity of some of the decisions.

John Hemming MP has a blog and frequently raises this issue. In this article he links to a Times law report of a judgement in the Court of Appeal which came to the conclusion that as the law currently stands if a child is taken into care and it now should no longer be in care, that if the judge views it in the best interest of the child then that child will be adopted.

The Sunday Telegraph has this.

No comments: