Cor­rupt prac­tices dis­guised as child-wel­fare cam­paigns

The dra­co­nian child-pro­tec­tion laws that many Euro­pean na­tions are now adopt­ing are dis­turbingly sim­i­lar to what has been go­ing on in Bri­tain for years. A vet­eran English jour­nal­ist weighs in.

The Sunday Guardian - - Living - CHRISTO­PHER BOOKER

Ihave been de­lighted to see The Sun­day Guardian tak­ing up the cam­paign to ex­pose the hor­ren­dous in­ter­na­tional scandal whereby count­less chil­dren are to­day be­ing re­moved from their fam­i­lies by gov­ern­ments, for what too of­ten turn out to be wholly in­ad­e­quate and of­ten quite fraud­u­lent rea­sons.

I first be­came drawn into this bat­tle as a weekly colum­nist for the past 27 years on the Lon­don Sun­day Tele­graph. In 2009 I was alerted by read­ers to the hor­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of two quite dif­fer­ent mid­dle-class Bri­tish fam­i­lies, who had each found them­selves plunged into a sur­real night­mare, when out of the blue their beloved and happy chil­dren were snatched from them by lo­cal so­cial work­ers.

In each case the po­lice had forcibly as­sisted the so­cial work­ers to re­move the chil­dren into the “care” of the state. In one case this was in a school car park and, sim­ply for protest­ing, the father was locked away in a nearby men­tal hospi­tal.

In the other case 18 po­lice­men ar­rived early one morn­ing at a well-or­dered fam­ily home, which they re­duced to chaos. They ar­rested and re­moved the hus­band and wife in front of their scream­ing seven-year-old daugh­ter, leav­ing the lit­tle girl to be taken away by so­cial work­ers.

In each case the so­cial work­ers pro­duced in court the most ex­tra­or­di­nary trumped up charges to jus­tify what they had done. At least in one, a judge even­tu­ally re­turned three chil­dren to their par­ents, after find­ing that there was not a shred of ev­i­dence to sup­port the so­cial work­ers’ claims.

But in the other, after a se­ries of bizarrely one-sided court hear­ings, a se­nior judge or­dered the lit­tle girl to be sent for adop­tion. Only re­cently has it emerged that, now she is 16, she has been able to es­cape to be re-united with her par­ents, and that while in adop­tion she was se­ri­ously abused and emo­tion­ally dam­aged.

Fol­low­ing my ac­counts of these hor­ror sto­ries, I was con­tacted by sev­eral ex­pe­ri­enced ex­perts, in­clud­ing a Mem­ber of Parliament, who told me that the two cases I had de­scribed were merely the tip of a vast ice­berg.

Cases sim­i­lar to these, they told me, were hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try, on an al­most daily ba­sis. Yet this was al­most wholly hid­den from the pub­lic thanks to the vir­tu­ally im­pen­e­tra­ble wall of ju­di­cial se­crecy which sur­rounds al­most every­thing which goes on in Bri­tain’s “child pro­tec­tion” sys­tem.

Over the next nine years, far more than any other Bri­tish jour­nal­ist, I was able to re­port on lit­er­ally hun­dreds more in­di­vid­ual cases like these. And the more I came to dis­cover of what was go­ing on be­hind that wall of se­crecy, the more I came to see it as one of the most shock­ing scan­dals un­fold­ing in Bri­tain to­day.

Ev­ery year, the num­ber of chil­dren be­ing re­moved from their fam­i­lies like this con­tin­ues to break all records. The to­tal num­ber of chil­dren now in state “care” in the UK is more than 90,000. And the fam­i­lies be­ing thus forcibly torn apart are then plunged into a night­mare un­der­world, which stands ev­ery ba­sic prin­ci­ple of Bri­tish jus­tice on its head.

The par­ents find them­selves in court ranged up against bat­ter­ies of lawyers, sup­posed “psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­perts” and judges who are all on the other side against them. Even the lawyers given by the state to rep­re­sent the par­ents them­selves nor­mally seem only too ea­ger to side with the so­cial work­ers in want­ing the chil­dren to be re­moved.

The most pop­u­lar rea­son now given for re­mov­ing chil­dren from their par­ents is not that they have been phys­i­cally abused or ne­glected, but that they face “the risk of emo­tional abuse”.

In other words, the so­cial work­ers do not have to pro­duce any ev­i­dence that chil­dren have suf­fered from gen- uine abuse. They merely have to claim that in their opin­ion, and that of tame “psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­perts” paid to sup­port them, that there might pos­si­bly be a “risk” of the chil­dren be­ing emo­tion­ally abused some­time in the fu­ture.

As shock­ing as any­thing, and flatly con­tra­dict­ing a core prin­ci­ple of jus­tice, is the way wit­nesses are al­lowed to present the flim­si­est of hearsay ev­i­dence, or bla­tantly bi­ased per­sonal opin­ions, with­out judges al­low­ing par­ents to chal­lenge what is be­ing said in any way.

My clos­est and most heroic ally in the cam­paign to ex­pose just how cru­elly this sys­tem has gone off the rails is Ian Jo- sephs, a busi­ness­man based in France, now in his eight­ies, who for more than a decade has been run­ning a web­site called “Forced Adop­tion”, a phrase he coined back in 2004.

Over all that time, Josephs has used his le­gal back­ground to help lit­er­ally thou­sands of par­ents with ex­pert (and free) le­gal advice. And the way he de­scribes what is be­ing done to the par­ents and chil­dren who fall foul of this ut­terly de­hu­man­ised sys­tem is that they are fac­ing “pun­ish­ment with­out crime”.

Noth­ing con­firms this more har­row­ingly than how of­ten we are told that chil­dren snatched from lov­ing par­ents then suf­fer gen­uine emo­tional and phys­i­cal abuse in state “care”, far more se­ri­ous than any­thing al­leged against the par­ents as the ex­cuse for re­mov­ing them in the first place.

Apart from every­thing else, this ul­tra-se­cre­tive sys­tem is now cost­ing tax­pay­ers many bil­lions of pounds a year, to fund not just the so­cial work­ers, their tame “ex­pert wit­nesses” and the thou­sands of “fam­ily lawyers” who work the sys­tem, but the even greater num­ber of fos­ter car­ers, who can be paid up to £ 100,000 a year or more to “look after” the un­happy chil­dren who have been taken from their fam­i­lies.

And lurk­ing be­hind them is an im­mense fi­nan­cial racket whereby most of the ar­range­ments for fos­ter­ing and adop­tion are now made by a hand­ful of agen­cies, al­most all run by ex-so­cial work­ers, pay­ing them­selves up to £450,000 a year. These have be­come hugely suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial busi­nesses (one a year or two back was sold to a Cana­dian pen­sion fund for £130 mil­lion).

Of course no one can deny that it is right for the state to in­ter­vene when there is proper ev­i­dence that any child is be­ing abused or ne­glected by its par­ents. But what is truly weird about the Bri­tish sys­tem is how of­ten so­cial work­ers are ex­posed for hav­ing failed to in­ter­vene in cases of gen­uine ill-treat­ment, while seem­ing only too quick to pounce on lov­ing fam­i­lies where chil­dren have not been harmed.

In other words, the sys­tem has be­come hor­ri­bly cor­rupted from the ini­tial high­minded ideals for which it was set up in 1989. And what makes this even more shock­ing is all the ev­i­dence we have come across in re­cent years of how other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Nor­way, Hol­land and the USA, are de­vel­op­ing “child pro­tec­tion” sys­tems in many ways dis­turbingly sim­i­lar to the one we are so fa­mil­iar with in Bri­tain .

We are un­doubt­edly look­ing here at a very se­ri­ous evil, which needs to be ex­posed, chal­lenged and fought with all the skill and de­ter­mi­na­tion we can call on. That is why I am so pleased to have seen Su­ranya Ai­yar and her al­lies, and now The Sun­day Guardian, join­ing a bat­tle for truth, jus­tice and hu­man­ity as im­por­tant as any in the world to­day. Christo­pher Booker is a se­nior English jour­nal­ist and au­thor; he was one of the founders of the mag­a­zine Pri­vate Eye and has been a colum­nist for The Sun­day Tele­graph since 1990

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