Monday, December 08, 2008

The couple who wrongly lost three children to social services launch historic court fight to win them back

Britain's Leftist social workers are utter animals. They only pursue decent people -- and on the flimsiest of grounds in that case

A couple who had their three oldest children taken away by social services after false claims of abuse went to court last week in a bid to make legal history by reversing their adoption. A lawyer acting for Mark and Nicky Webster made an impassioned plea to three appeal court judges to right the unimaginable wrong that robbed them of the children - all under nine - who can be known only as A, B and C.

And the Websters, who now have another son, Brandon, and a fifth child on the way, are hopeful of success after judge Lord Justice Wilson remarked on the brevity of the original hearing that ruled they should be put up for adoption. He told the Appeal Court: `One thing that strikes one about that judgment is not only that it is very short but that there is very little context.'

The children were taken away in 2003 after B suffered leg fractures that doctors wrongly deemed were due to abuse. The Mail on Sunday has championed the plight of Nicky, 28, and Mark, 35, from Cromer, Norfolk, since it first came to light. And speaking outside court, Nicky explained: `We want to clear our names properly and we want the children to know the truth. They need to know that their mummy and daddy did not hurt them, that they loved them and cared for them.'

The Websters first hit the headlines when Nicky fled to Ireland before Brandon was born in 2006 so Norfolk social services could not take him away. The couple fought a long battle to prove they had not harmed their children and last year experts agreed B's leg injuries were not due to physical abuse but a disorder that stopped him eating anything other than soya milk. At that stage, a judge concluded Brandon, now two, was not `at risk'.

But winning back the older children, now eight, seven and five, will be much harder, as reversing an adoption means rewriting the law. Nicky said: `It's taken us years to get this far and this isn't the end. But we have to fight. We've been told adoption is irreversible and that however wrong it was there's nothing we can do about it so to just give up. But would you do that if they were your children? When would you decide, "Well, we've tried for long enough now. We'll just stop"?' The two eldest children, A and B, were adopted into one family while the youngest, C, went to another.

Nicky said: `I gave birth to those children and we were a family for longer than they have been with their adoptive families. So it's hard to sit and listen to lawyers argue that we can't fight to have our children back because it would be unsettling. When it comes down to it the only feelings I'm interested in considering are my children's. `We still "feel" the children. Brandon looks so like his brothers, it can really catch you off-guard. I know I'm expecting a girl this time and I'm excited but I'm scared. Will she look just like my first little girl?'

Astonishingly, last week Norfolk County Council's lawyer Kate Thirwall QC argued the Websters have no right to contest the adoption as the children are no longer theirs. `Adoption orders possess a peculiar finality,' she said. `The child becomes to all purposes the child of the adoptive parents as if he were their natural child.'

But Mark and Nicky's QC, Ian Peddie, said: `It is hard to understand how the parents cope with this injustice but the children also stand to suffer if they do not know the truth of what caused them to be taken from their parents. It is assumed that the older children are aware of their Webster heritage. Child A was five years 11 months, Child B almost four and Child C two years five months when the adoption was finalised. They have sibling contact three times a year. Child A had spent more time with her natural parents than the adoptive parents and may well have memory of her time with them. `We are well aware that adoptive orders are meant to be permanent and final. But we assert that this is a fundamental miscarriage of justice and denial of natural justice and in that case this court will interfere with an adoption order. `We are conscious of the floodgates argument but this case is quite exceptional.'

Judgment was reserved until January. In the meantime, the Websters are still unable to work with children. Nicky said: `We're still on the abusers register. Mark wants to be a taxi driver but he's not allowed to drive a child unaccompanied. A friend asked me to help at a music class for pre-school children. But I'm not allowed.'


How the Government plans to record intimate information on every child in Britain

When police raided Tory MP Damian Green's home, they `sheepishly' asked whether children were present before ransacking it. His wife assumed they were being polite. But, under sinister new guidelines, officers must assess all children they encounter - including while `searching premises' - for a police database called MERLIN. This, in turn, feeds into a giant new Whitehall database on Britain's children, Contact Point, which goes live nationally in January. The Tories have vowed to scrap it, arguing that it threatens family privacy and children's safety. But civil liberties campaigners say we must resist it now, before it is too late.

Since April 1, hundreds of thousands of State employees, from police to teachers, youth and nursery workers, social workers and sports coaches, have been entitled to interrogate children aged up to 19, using the `Common Assessment Framework' (CAF), a creepy, eight-page, 60-section questionnaire. CAF includes eyewateringly intimate questions about children's sexual behaviour, their family's structure, culture and religion, their views on `discrimination', their friends, secret fears, feelings and family income, plus `any serious difficulties in their parents' relationship'.

How has such a terrifying intrusion into private life crept, almost unnoticed, under the radar? The answer is New Labour has cleverly packaged CAF as an aid to `child protection' and delivering better services as part of its Every Child Matters project (ECM). The 224million pound programme has been beset by delays, incomprehensible acronyms and New Labour gobbledegook. But let us not be deceived - it is about control, not care, and spying, not safety.

ECM claims that nearly half of Britain's 11million children have `additional needs', so must continuously be assessed for the giant database at the Government's Department for Schools and Families. CAF questionnaires will be kept until they are 19, or for 75 years if they have been in care, and can be accessed electronically by hundreds of thousands of staff in other agencies.

Contact Point will also store information from databases kept by the NHS, GPs, schools, the Child Benefit Agency and the National Pupil Register. The potential for sensitive material about our children falling into malevolent hands is enormous.

Incredibly, parental consent is not often required for this intrusion into children's lives. Youngsters from the age of 12 are deemed mature enough to agree to being CAF-ed - whatever their parents' objections. But campaigners stress that families should teach their children to say No: submitting to CAF is, currently at least, voluntary. The Government claims that the database will identify children at risk of poverty, abuse or future criminality. But since when did filling in endless forms release funds for frontline services, rather than divert them?

By bizarre coincidence - or not - this assault on treasured British notions of privacy and propriety was devised by the woman responsible for Britain's most notorious social-work scandal. ECM was launched in September 2003 by Margaret Hodge, Tony Blair's shocking choice as Britain's first Children's Minister. Her main `qualification' was being his pal and running Islington Council when its 12 children's homes were awash with paedophiles and sympathisers of the `Left-wing' Paedophile Information Exchange. This campaigned for sex to be legalised with children from the age of four.

One can only wonder how many Pervy Petes within childcare today will relish being actively invited to ask children about their sexual behaviour (CAF seemingly views this as normal), the `sleeping arrangements' at home and how they feel about `changes to their body'.

I have been exposing child-abuse scandals for nearly 20 years and believe that this new Stalinist bureaucracy will not save a single child. Many of the paedophiles I exposed in Hodge's homes `groomed' children for eventual abuse through precisely such questions. Hodge claimed that constant State monitoring of children was justified by the Victoria Climbie scandal. Yet adequate powers to protect genuinely endangered children already exist. Why, then, did the appalling mothers of Shannon Matthews and Baby P retain their children? The problem was not lack of paperwork but too many stupid, politically correct people reading it and failing to act.

CAF will not mean that the State now swoops on the demonic families in flea-infested homes with rottweilers and broken-backed babies. No, just as with the Government's fearless war on pensioner recycling `louts', they will instead target and terrorise ordinary, decent families. Why? One reason is simply to control people. Many of today's New Labour MPs are ex-Marxists and radical feminists who still believe that the family poses the greatest potential opposition to the strong State.

The Government's decreed desirable `outcomes' for children are so frighteningly broad that many decent parents could find themselves labelled failures or abusers. Everyone involved with children - including volunteers, and police on raids - is now expected to use the Government's `Pre-Assessment Checklist', to see if they are achieving these five `outcomes' - being healthy, staying safe, enjoying life, making a `positive contribution' and achieving `economic well-being'.

Even parents working desperately hard to feed their children and keep them safe could be classified as failing them. The questionnaire asks if children's parents are `over-protective', and whether work leaves them `too tired to pay attention to your needs'. CAF practitioners are also taught specifically to ask if parents `promote a healthy lifestyle' and oppose `bullying and discrimination'.

An increasingly rigid State already rejects potentially loving foster and adoptive carers who smoke or have politically `incorrect' views because they are Christian. How long until natural parents are also found guilty of thought crime? Might Damian Green have been considered guilty of encouraging discrimination, through challenging the Government on immigration?

The worst thing is that Every Child Matters has made real protection work harder - the highly effective Child Protection Register was abolished in April and social workers are now drowning in paperwork about entirely innocent families. A suppressed University of York study found it took them a day to enter data electronically on just one child.

Terri Dowty, director of Action on Rights for Children, says: `People should fill in CAF questionnaires only if they have a real, defined need - for example, a disabled child and they need equipment - and then answer only strictly relevant questions. Otherwise, parents should teach their children that if they are asked at school to fill in these forms to say that they want first to go home and discuss it.'

Dowty fears that the new State questionnaire is `designed to teach children to accept being interrogated and classified from the earliest age, by anyone and everyone. It is truly frightening'. No one, supposedly, can be forced to fill in a CAF. But practitioners are advised to report the family to the local safeguarding children team `if a common assessment is refused and you are concerned'. They may also store the CAF centrally even when permission is refused.

Campaigners are considering challenging CAF in the European Court of Human Rights, which has thrown out Britain's attempts to store innocent citizens' DNA. But they desperately need benefactors and lawyers prepared to fund test cases and support innocent families under pressure.

Tragically, Britain, the cradle of parliamentary democracy, is becoming notorious worldwide for snooping on its citizens. Professor Nigel Parton, NSPCC Professor of Childhood Studies at Huddersfield University, warned a recent international conference in Finland that the Every Child Matters agenda means what we are witnessing is the emergence of the `preventive-surveillance state', with `major implications for the civil liberties and human rights of the citizen, particularly for children and parents'.

Once, people who warned of a growing police state seemed paranoid. The Damian Green raid was a wake-up call. Let us now protect our children, our and our country's future, with all our might.


Australia: False accusations ban father

Men are presumed guilty until proven innocent and even being proven innocent does not help much

"STEVE" has been barred from seeing his daughter for seven years. He has never harmed his only child or her mother. He has never threatened them and a court has accepted he is of good character. But last week, after a tortuous 10-year journey through four courts, more than 20 hearings, 12 psychologists and six lawyers, he was told he could not see his daughter until she came of age.

Steve, whose real name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, has gone through more than 20 intrusive psychological examinations, while daughter "Molly" has endured seven. He says he has spent more than $100,000 in 10 years.

His wife twice raised sexual-abuse allegations, proven false after months of investigation. But the court accepted she would "shut down" emotionally if Steve was allowed to see his daughter and that her distress would affect her parenting skills. It was deemed in Molly's best interests that she not see her father until she turned 18.

Now Steve, a successful small businessman from Melbourne's southern suburbs, faces being alienated from his daughter forever. "It just rips your heart out. If you can't forge a relationship with your child in their formative years, there's a real risk that you never have a good relationship," he said yesterday. "There was no violence, threats, abuse, harassment or intimidation. "I was shocked when (the judge) announced that the order would apply to both my ex-wife and our daughter and would last for 10 years. "I was able to persuade her that this would criminalise me if my daughter tried to contact me when she grew up. "But I bucked the system and paid the price. If you argue with the court's finding, they label you as unco-operative."

Steve said while everyone wanted women and children protected from violence, intervention orders should not be used as weapons in custody battles. "These orders are being used to persecute men and children by litigants who know courts will always err on the side of caution and remove fathers without there being any violence at all," he said. Steve said he feared his daughter had been scarred by the court's insistence on psychological examinations.

This year he approached his ex-wife's new partner to see if there was any chance of mediation that would allow him to see Molly. His wife instantly launched legal action alleging he breached an intervention order that prevented him approaching her or Molly. "The court decided that my - very polite - conversation with my ex's partner represented harassment. It's just unbelievable," Steve said.


Australia: Rights bill 'would take power from people'

A bill of rights would give too much authority to unelected judges and strip power from Parliament, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has warned. Federal Cabinet on Monday agreed to a national consultation process on what the bill should contain, which will start next week, Fairfax has reported. The bill, likely to be based on those in Victoria, Queensland and Britain, would outline a set of rights and require Parliament to ensure legislation complies with the rights.

Mr Turnbull said he had concerns about a bill of rights, saying they were often vaguely worded, offered a number of interpretations and would give courts too much power. "The problem with generally-worded guarantees of human rights in constitutional documents is that they give extraordinary legislative power to the courts,'' Mr Turnbull told Macquarie Radio today. "Judges are not elected. The good thing about politicians is that if you don't like what they are doing you can boot them out, and they are accountable. "The real question when you talk about a bill of rights is how much authority do you want to give to judiciary to make laws, versus the Parliament.''

Mr Turnbull was sceptical about the timing of the announcement, saying Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may be trying to distract people from more pressing concerns. "Kevin may come from Queensland, but his political style is very much Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees,'' he said. "It's all about politics of mass distraction. They make an announcement, get a headline, then never follow up.''



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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