Saturday, March 15, 2008

Outstanding Work by Camilla Cavendish, Journalist

Here are links to some of the excellent articles by Camilla Cavendish, journalist at the Times of London.

Guilty until proved innocent: the grotesque reality of family courts
John Sweeney, an investigative reporter and presenter on the BBC’s Real Story, describes reporting on the family courts as being as difficult as reporting from Zimbabwe. Of the seven child abuse cases he has covered in the criminal courts over the past few years, all have ended in the quashing of convictions. Some of the defendants — Angela Cannings and Sally Clark — have become household names. But of the five cases he has covered in the family courts, all have ended in the parents losing their children for ever. You will probably never know the names of those people. Their names must be changed and their faces blocked out, to “protect” the children. It is hard to expose miscarriages of justice when the stories are drained of human content.

Free the 'Grandfather One'
A man named Charles Roy Taylor has been sent to prison for 20 months for being in contact with his stepgrandson. Charles Roy Taylor is a 71-year-old with a heart condition. He knew that a jail sentence was the penalty he might pay if he did not take steps to avoid his stepgrandson. But this seems desperately unfair. The teenager, whom we shall call John, has been in care since his mother died of an overdose. He has been phoning his grandparents and running away to see them for some time. In the end, social services became concerned that the grandparents were “undermining the care plan” by continuing to see John. It does not appear to be clear to the grandparents what the care plan is. But it does not seem to include them, even though they could presumably be John's first port of call when he leaves the care system at 18.

The rank hypocrisy of family court judges
A few long-suffering readers may remember that this peculiar case concerns a woman whose baby was removed by social workers, not because the child came to any harm but because there was a suspicion that her father might have injured a child from his previous marriage. That suspicion was never proven, no charges were ever brought and the child of the earlier marriage was never removed. But a woman who everyone agrees is blameless has lost her only child – for ever – because she is deemed to be besotted with a man who may pose a danger.

British justice: a family ruined
Last autumn a small English congregation was rocked by the news that two of its parishioners had fled abroad. A 56-year-old man had helped his pregnant wife to flee from social workers, who had already taken her son into care and were threatening to seize their baby. Most people had no idea why. For the process that led this couple to such a desperate act was entirely secret. The local authority had warned the mother not to talk to her friends or even her MP. The judge who heard the arguments from social services sat in secret. The open-minded social workers who had initially been assigned to sort out a custody battle between the woman and her previous husband were replaced by others who seemed determined to build a guilty case against her. That is how the secret State operates. A monumental injustice has been perpetrated in this quiet corner of England; our laws are being used to try to cover it up.

Child protection? No, ruination
If you look up Hansard, the parliamentary record, you can read the name of a man I wrote about three weeks ago. Prisoner X, whom I called Hugh, was jailed for helping his pregnant wife and her son to flee the country to escape from social workers. An MP has named him in the House of Commons, to express concern at his treatment. But The Times still cannot print his name. It is a longstanding convention of British law that individuals who are incarcerated should be identified, and the charges against them made known. That is an age-old protection against tyranny. But today the “privacy of the child” trumps every other principle, whether or not the child in question wants his or her privacy protected. In this case it seems very unlikely indeed that the gag on everyone involved serves the interests of anyone except the authorities who put it there.

No comments: