Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Judge blasts social workers telling them they ‘are not above the law’ after they remove nine-year-old from family then keep him away without consent
A judge has blasted social workers who he said illegally withheld a nine-year-old boy from his mother. Judge Gareth Jones said that social services were not above the law and that he suspected proper procedures were not followed in order to save money.
Now the mother - who won an injunction to have her son returned to her immediately - is seeking damages from Anglesey County Council in North Wales. Her lawyer, Frances Jones, today confirmed the child had been returned to his mother immediately after the injunction was granted.
She said: 'As the mother’s solicitor I am delighted to have played a part in bringing the child home. 'We are now continuing with the claim for damages.'
The child was taken in as a temporary case while the mother received treatment in a psychiatric unit but was not returned to her for five months for which there was consent. When she came out of treatment she withdrew consent and asked for her son back.
However social workers refused and put him in foster care. But they did not make applications for a care order first – so rights were denied.
Their barrister David Abberton took the issue to court and said social services had acted unlawfully.
Judge Gareth Jones, sitting at the family division of the high court in Mold, agreed and asked for his judgement to be made public so that lessons could be learned.
The court heard how the child had been taken to hospital with pneumonia in March of last year and the mother had a short stay in a psychiatric ward.
On release from hospital the boy was placed in foster care and in April, when she was back home, the mother asked for her son back.
The judge said that once the mother indicated her consent for the child to be in care had been withdrawn, the local authority should have asked itself very carefully on what statutory basis it continued to place him with foster carers.
Mr Abberton argued there was simply no legal basis at all which breached their client’s human rights to a family life.
Anglesey County Council claimed that it acted in good faith and said the placement was for the child’s welfare - but accepted that social workers had not followed the correct procedures.
The judge said that once the mother’s consent was withdrawn the authority should have gone to court to apply for an emergency protection order or an interim care order.
In the absence of any application to the court, the mother was entitled to remove the child from care at any time, he said.
The authority had acted unreasonably by failing to initiative such applications.
'By failing to do so, they were essentially maintaining an unlawful position,' he said.
The judge said that he was 'extremely critical' of the council’s conduct.
No one dealing with the child had asked themselves under what lawful authority the child was being placed in care.
'The social services department of Ynys Mon Council in that respect, it seems to me, were acting beyond the proper control of that local authority’s legal department,' he said.
They had failed to take proper legal steps, its failure to apply for orders meant that there was no judicial over-sight, the child was deprived independent representation to look after his interests.
Judge Gareth Jones sad that he had previously voiced his concern about a health board case which involved Anglesey council.
'I have a suspicion, and it is only a suspicion, that this local authority may have fallen into the temptation of withholding the commencement of public proceedings for reasons of economy. I hope very much that this is not a correct suspicion.
'If that suspicion was well founded, that to my mind would be wholly unacceptable.'
The judge said that the authority needed to carry out an urgent review of its internal procedures and he said that key personnel in positions of authority in social services and the children’s services department needed to be fully informed by the legal department of the legal framework in which they operated.
'Social services are not above the law and they, like everybody else, is subject to it,' he declared.
The judge said that Anglesey Council needed to demonstrate to the public of Ynys Mon that it is 'able and competent' once again to administer its local authority function without outside intervention.
It had 'failed abysmally' in the present case to demonstrate to the public that it could discharge its functions in a proper manner.
He said he hoped very much that the lesson would be learned for future cases. The judge said the matter should be made public because if the public at large and those in authority were not aware of it there was no prospect of improvement.
To conceal matters when they went badly wrong served no public purpose whatsoever. 'I see no reason why the court should connive in concealment of important information in cases of this kind,' he said.
An Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesperson said: 'Due to ongoing legal considerations, we are not in a position to comment on this matter.'
Now children get checklist on how to play outside! Council introduces 13-point code to tell youngsters exactly what to do
Council chiefs have issued a 13 point checklist telling children how to play outside, it emerged yesterday.
The ‘outdoor play code’ included instructions such as ‘don’t climb over walls’, ‘try not to shout’ and ‘don’t play in one place for a long time’.
Children were also warned to keep their play area tidy, that playing on the roads could be illegal and to ask neighbours before going into their gardens to retrieve balls.
The briefing was posted through the doors of families in North Tyneside, Newcastle, after a resident complained about several incidents of groups of children playing ball games on a number of local roads.
A child kicking a ball into a resident’s garden and damaging their plants is also believed to have triggered action from the council.
Within days, everyone in the area received a letter from the council to say children’s play would be monitored and residents should read the ‘outdoor play code’.
Last night local residents were furious about the letter and branded the move ‘ridiculous’.
A father-of-two, who lives on one of the roads affected, said: ‘I was very surprised to get a letter.
‘There was an incident a few weeks ago, a ball had gone into a man’s garden and some of his flowers were squashed. It was all tittle-tattle and then we receive this letter through the door.
‘The play code is quite condescending. The council have not given any evidence of how many complaints have been made and to what extent the damage is, if any.
Mother-of-two Sally Farn, 55, said she was furious over the council’s letter.
Mrs Farn, whose two grandchildren, Abi Lee, nine, and her seven-year-old brother Steven, live with her in one of the roads, said: ‘I think this is absolutely ridiculous. They aren’t allowed to play in the street but there is nothing else for them to do around here.
‘I don’t like my kids to play away from the door. I like to be able to see them so I can keep an eye on them.
‘This is a stupid set of rules. The people who created them obviously don’t have kids or theirs have grown up.
‘They should back off and let the kids play.’
Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah warned at the time that children should not be made to feel like criminals for playing in the outdoors.
A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: ‘As a council we want all of North Tyneside’s children and young people to enjoy playing safely outdoors, especially in the long summer evenings.
We have a great range of leisure activities and some brilliant parks and play sites.
‘But we also have a role to play in making sure neighbours get along together.
‘Over the years, particularly in summer, we get complaints about a tiny minority of young people upsetting some residents. In order to be fair to everyone, we have a ‘Play Code’ which we simply drop off in an area where there have been complaints.
‘This allows everyone to understand what is reasonable.’
Scrap compulsory Christian assemblies in schools because they are 'meaningless' in 21st Century society, say governors
Governors have been told to defy a 70-year-old law which says state schools must hold daily Christian assemblies because it is 'meaningless' in today's society.
In a landmark move, the National Governors' Association said many non-faith schools are already ignoring the law because teachers are 'unable or unwilling' to lead group worship.
The organisation, which represents more than 300,000 school governors in England, added: 'Schools are not places of worship, but places of education.'
The move was welcomed by the British Humanist Association, whose leaders include the atheist scientist Professor Richard Dawkins and the philosopher AC Grayling.
The National Governors' Association had already moved towards banning Christian assemblies in non-faith schools four years ago, when it said they should no longer be compulsory.
Now its policy committee says they should be abolished completely.
It announced in a newsletter to members: 'Few schools can or do meet the current legislative requirement for a daily act of collective worship, partly because there isn’t space in most schools to gather students together, and often staff are unable or unwilling to lead a collective worship session.
'There is also the added issue that worship implies belief in a particular faith – if the 'act of worship' is not in your faith then it is meaningless as an act of worship.
'The view was taken that schools are not places of worship, but places of education, and expecting the worship of a religion or religions in all schools should not be a compulsory part of education in England today.
'This is different in schools with a religious character – as faith schools are termed in the legislation – where parents have chosen to send their child in the knowledge that the particular faith and its worship is at the core of the ethos of the school.
'Removing the collective worship from the remit of schools that are not faith schools would not prevent them from holding assemblies that address a whole range of topics, including faith and belief.
'In addition, it does not alter our position on religious education; it is important that students should continue to be taught a broad and balanced curriculum that encourages a knowledge and understanding of all faiths.'
Faith schools, private schools and schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be affected.
The 1944 Education Act made it a legal requirement for all English state schools to 'provide a daily act of collective worship' for all pupils, unless their parents object.
The only significant change to the law has been the 1988 Education Act - but that only removed a requirement for worship to take place 'at the start of the school day'.
Assemblies must still be 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character', and head teachers must apply to their local council to allow non-Christian pupils to skip them.
The National Governors' Association said it is consulting with the Department of Education to change the law, which still remains in force.
The change was welcomed by the British Humanist Association, which campaigns to keep church and state separate.
Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: 'The continued operation of this 70-year-old law requiring daily Christian worship in schools is widely opposed.
'Teachers don’t want it, parents don’t want it, pupils don’t want it, and according to opinion polls, 60 per cent of the public don’t want it.
'Children as young as four are coming home and telling their non-religious parents they believe in God, or being distressed at age-inappropriate tales about hell.
'In a plural and fair-minded society that cares about children and their development, schools should be holding inclusive assemblies that forward the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils and staff, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs.'
The announcement comes in the wake of comments by Education Secretary Michael Gove that all schools should adhere to 'British values'.
And it was criticised today by the Church of England, which said Christian assemblies were about community and shared experience, not just praising God.
The Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said: 'The unique contribution of worship in church schools is to involve pupils in a shared experience of reflection and silence, singing and story framed with reference to Christianity and other religious traditions.
'It takes its place as part of the religious and spiritual education of the pupils, but with a far greater range of possibilities than a lesson leading to well-scripted outcomes.
'Worship may be the only place in our over regulated schools where the tyranny of SATs and constant assessment can for 15 minutes be forgotten and real engagement take place.'
Banned Books: City Shuts Down 9-Year-Old Boy’s Little Library
Check the regulations: You may be in violation of a city ordinance if you decide to share your books with friends and neighbors. For 9 year-old Spencer Collins of Leawood, Kansas, it meant receiving a government citation for doing just that in his front yard.
It all started with Spencer’s plan to create a little free library in front of his house. With the help of his father and grandfather, he built a small bookcase to allow neighbors to freely borrow and exchange books. This concept has been widely promoted by the non-profit group Little Free Library as a community movement to encourage literacy and a love of reading. According to Little Free Library, there are around 15,000 little libraries all over the world.
This project was especially significant to Spencer, because he built it as a gift to his mother.
Spencer told Fox4kc he wanted to build a little free library in his family’s front yard as a surprise Mother’s Day gift. “Reading is one of my favorite things to do. We built it on Mother’s Day as a present for my mom because she really wanted one.”
The City of Leawood had other plans.
After returning from vacation, the Collins family found a letter from the Leawood City Codes Enforcement Office warning that if the little library was not removed from the front yard, they would be issued a citation. According to the City of Leawood, local ordinances prohibit detached structures on single-family homes.
The relevant portion of Section 16-4-2.2 of the Leawood Development Ordinance states: “No detached structure including garages, barns, sheds, greenhouses, above ground pools, or outbuildings, shall be permitted, unless expressly allowed by this Ordinance.” Inexplicably, the code enforcement office believed the ordinance prohibits a bookcase despite the fact it does not fall within the definition of the ordinance. Consider: Each item mentioned in the ordinance could hold a person. A bookcase cannot. Spencer could have used a box to hold his books. A box would have four sides and maybe a top but could not reasonably be deemed a “structure.” If so, Spencer also should have been able to use a bookcase. It has three sides and a top but no front. That difference is immaterial. In fact, if Spencer laid his bookcase on its back, it would not differ at all from a box.
Richard Coleman, the Leawood director of community development, said the law must be strictly enforced against Spencer Collins and his family because, as he told told KMBC, “We need to treat everybody the same. So we can’t say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries—we think they’re cute—so we ignore it. We can’t do that.”
This is not the first time local government regulations have interfered with little free libraries.
In Wisconsin, Avi and Dannette Lank decided to check with their local government before building a little free library on their private property. Officials from the Village of Whitefish Bay denied them permission to build, citing the need to comply with ordinances which prohibited structures such as mailboxes from being built in residential areas.
The village even went so far as to demand that a local church remove its little free library.
Christ Church of Whitefish Bay had built a library on its property, but pressure from the village resulted in Rev. Dietrich’s decision to tear down the structure. After significant backlash from the public, the village passed an amendment to accommodate little free libraries for residents who wished to build one.
Government regulations are extensive, and citizens are often unaware they might be in violation of the law—even for something as minor as building a little library in their front yard. The expansive nature of government regulations should give cause for concern about the level of intrusion into the private lives of citizens, and increase scrutiny into how laws are enforced.
If Spencer took the issue to court, his First Amendment rights certainly would come into play since this ordinance prohibits his ability to share and disseminate information on his private property. How differently would the city have treated this young boy if he had simply stood out on his front lawn holding the books in his arms for neighbors to borrow, instead of the little library he built to accomplish the same purpose?
For Spencer Collins, the joy of reading will not end simply because of threats from the government. He plans to challenge the ordinance in City Hall and advocate for the creative power of reading to be shared with local neighborhoods and communities. Let’s hope he (and common sense) prevail.
You can check out his official Facebook support page to view pictures of his little free library and receive updates as this story develops.
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, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.