The Daily Telegraph

Blunkett urges police to stop threatenin­g ‘blocked’ grandparen­ts

- By Investigat­ions Team

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.”

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