The Daily Telegraph
Blunkett urges police to stop threatening ‘blocked’ grandparents
POLICE must stop “inappropriately” threatening grandparents who want to see their grandchildren, Lord Blunkett has said.
The former home secretary said officers should not be getting involved in situations where a grandparent is simply trying to stay in contact when there has been a breakdown in relations with the children’s parents.
In some instances grandparents who have tried to send cards or gifts to their grandchildren have faced police intervention, including being threatened with prosecution, a Savanta survey of more than 1,000 grandparents revealed.
The survey showed that 15 per cent of the 1,082 respondents - 161 grandparents - had been blocked from seeing their grandchildren, Half of them were unable to see their grandchildren for more than a year.
More than 50 grandparents were penalised for attempting to contact their grandchildren through the threat of a police caution or prosecution, a solicitor’s letter or had court proceedings taken against them.
Lord Blunkett said: “I think great sensitivity needs to be exercised between harassment and unwelcome approaches, and basic common sense where you say if grandparents are simply trying to acknowledge Christmas and desperately just trying to keep in touch so the youngster knows that they’re there and will be there in the future, then it’s inappropriate to be using police powers,” he said.
In the “very few” instances where there is unwelcome intrusion, Lord Blunkett said the police should “carefully” communicate that to the grandparent, he added.
He took an interest in the issue after two of his close friends had problems seeing their grandchildren.
“It’s absolutely fundamental to have that contact,” the grandfather-of-seven said. “For some grandparents it never comes right until the grandchild is an adult and can make their own choice, by which time they’ve missed years of nurturing and support and the wisdom that can come from grandparents, and of course the support that they can give to the parent.”
The Grandparents United for Children campaign, which commissioned the survey, is calling for a change in the law to allow grandparents to see their children’s offspring more easily. In a report set to be published tomorrow, the group will push for an amendment to the Children Act 1989 to enshrine in law the child’s right to have a relationship with their grandparents. Some have taken legal action to obtain a court order to see their grandchildren but this tends to be a lengthy and costly process.
Chief Constable Catherine Roper, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “All action taken by police will be proportionate and necessary, enforcing the law without fear or favour and always in the best interests of the child.”