There remain a number of issues to be sorted out relating to how she got banned and the delays in giving her a visa. Liberty (the NCCL) also seemed particularly complacent about her being banned. They showed no interest in the issue at all.
Oddly enough the immigration department promised a response, but have not produced it.
It is completely nuts.
This is the key paragraph
The Defendant does not have any burden of proof in the issue I have to decide. She does not have to offer an alternative explanation of why a peer, whose name and career is known to few members of the public today, might have been trending on 4 November 2012 without her knowing why he was trending. But where the Defendant is telling her followers that she does not know why he is trending, and there is no alternative explanation for why this particular peer was being named in the tweets which produce the Trend, then it is reasonable to infer that he is trending because he fits the description of the unnamed abuser. I find the reader would infer that. The reader would reasonably infer that the Defendant had provided the last piece in the jigsaw.
This was a clear example of jigsaw identification.
The Tweet reads:
"Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*"
However, we should welcome the progress that has been made even though more progress on this is needed.
Mike Whitby and I were both lobbying the government to be flexible on this issue. I have already called for the funding to be extended into future years in a debate in Westminster Hall.
The court decides on issues affecting mentally incapable people.
The claims, reported in the Daily Mail, suggest the woman disobeyed orders relating to care for her 80-year-old father, who was suffering from dementia.
It is a bit odd that the BBC report this as if there isn't a court judgment that has been published which already indicated that Wanda Maddocks' imprisonment was subject to reporting restrictions.
Interestingly a BBC journalist actually turned down the story on the basis of the anonymous judgment. It demonstrates the BBC's general complacency about criticisms of the establishment. This is a big problem in Jersey.
b) particularly is the key element although a) is important. b) is what was in my private members bill Section 8 (2).
This is a clear victory for the Justice for Families - secret prisoners campaign - where with the assistance of the Daily Mail the rules have been made workable and more accountable. It remains important, however, that we keep an eye on the system to make sure it is following the rules. (which it wasn't in the past)
There are, of course, the issues of a single social worker being able to imprison someone through the court of protection. That I will come to later. I will also keep an eye on the court to make sure that the rules are followed. What is important about this practice direction is that it makes it clear that this includes suspended sentences.
What is also important is to see the judgments being published for recent commitals (say in the past 5 years).
There is also a question as to where the National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty) were on this. I have asked them for support, but they refused to support my criticism of secret jailings.
The problems in the Family Division (and I include the Court of Protection in this) have arisen because individual judges have been left to just get on with it. Some do a good job and others do a dreadful job (and of course there are those in between). The Rule of Law is supposed to mean that it should not matter which judge a case is heard by. However, things don't work like that in practise.
The biggest issue for the court of protection is actually the question as to how reliable the assessments of capacity are. It is driven by this.
Alistair Pitblado (the Official Solicitor) has also managed to escape scrutiny. His office have a responsibility of protecting the interests of contemnors. He won't answer any questions I ask him about individual cases, but I wonder what his office did about the jailing of Wanda Maddocks.
This really is not on. There is complacency in government about this sort of thing.
The Joint Committee on the Draft Bill produced a report. I have now read the report. In that report it says:
297. The Home Office knows that not all overseas CSPs will comply with retention notices. It is for this reason that the notices issued under clause 1 may require United Kingdom CSPs to keep third party data traversing their networks. United Kingdom CSPs are rightly very nervous about these provisions. The Home Office has given an oral commitment to United Kingdom CSPs that the Home Secretary will invoke the third party provisions only after the original data holder has been approached and all other avenues have been exhausted. The Home Office has also given a commitment that no CSP will be asked to store or decrypt encrypted third party data. These commitments should be given statutory force.
Note the emboldened penultimate paragraph. I personally don't try to ensure that my mail and internet accesses are encrypted. However, I do deal with people who are "on the run" as a result of nonsensical decisions by the family courts in the UK - I am dealing with quite a few cases at the moment. You cannot trust the state to make rational decisions all the time. Hence giving too much power to the state is dangerous.
It remains, however, that I don't think that modern encryption is that easy to break. I don't think it is practically possible within a sensible timescale without a massive commitment of technology (like all the computers in the world using spare cycles to decrypt one session).
I would think, therefore, that if this bill comes in then practically everyone will ensure that their communications are encrypted. That will mean that there will be almost nothing that isn't. Organisations such as twitter routinely encrypt communications (try typing in http://www.twitter.com and watch it change to https://www.twitter.com). So if that happens then the proportion of data transmissions available to be recorded will go down to something like 5% or even less.
The principle of recording who everyone is talking to all the time is wrong. RIPA already gives quite a few powers to public authorities. I cannot see any benefit to anyone from bringing in a Communications Data Bill anything like the one proposed. In fact I cannot see the benefit of a change in the law to anyone other than vendors of data storage.
Works which were undertaken on 5 oak trees included;
The Sycamores, along the fence on Broughton Road, were growing through the fence and starting to obstruct the footpath for pedestrians etc. They would eventually start damaging the fence and it is easier and cheaper to remove when they are small. They were self-set trees anyway.
Oaks have been pollarded and reduced because of severe stem decay and storm damage in the upper crowns, which obviously cannot be seen now. I know the visual impact is quite high doing this but it is far better, in our opinion, than complete removal. No doubt removal would have caused more concern locally. Other Oaks which are in better condition have been crown lifted and deadwood removed only.
The large Hornbeam, by the nursery on the perimeter, had a large trunk cavity extending up and down at approx 2 metres and now it has been felled the extent of the decay into the stump can clearly be seen.
Robin Bryan has assured my office that the Parks Department only touch park trees if it is absolutely essential. The safety of our City’s residents and visitors has to be of paramount importance.
5 new oak trees will be planted in The Oaklands during the next planning period which falls between November-March.
Should you have any further queries about this location or any related issues please do contact my office further on 722 3417 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Tree pruned due to storm damage.
Trees affected by recent works
Shows the level of disease and decay present in the removed tree.
The underlying problem is evidence.
Because much of the evidence is opinion unreliable opinion from "experts" gives rise to unreliable conclusions. Professor Jane Ireland's report which is available here. concluded (inter alia): "Two thirds of the reports reviewed were rated as below the expected standard, with one third between good and excellent.". What this means is that 2/3rds of the decisions in the care proceedings are unreliable because the evidence was unreliable.
An additional difficulty is that the experts (which include social workers) who are giving their opinions are often subject to conflicts of interest. For example in the Court of Protection a social worker can conclude that someone "does not have the mental capacity to decide where they can live". This then allows the local authority to place that person in a care home and to charge for the costs of that from the estate of the "protected person". If the person was cared for in their own home then that would be likely to cost money to the local authority for any assistance. Hence there is a clear pressure on the social worker to conclude that the cheapest solution for the local authority is also the best. There is, of course, a question as to how to handle the interplay between budgets and care decisions, but pretending that budgets have no effect is turning a blind eye to injustice.
There are additional problems in that the local authority tends to control the purse strings of many of the partipants. Hence "independent" advocates are not actually "independent". The "independent reviewing officer" is also not independent. A good example of this failure of independence is A&S v Lancashire County Council. (click for judgment) Para 2 sums up the issue: "Over the years, the local authority defaulted on its duties towards the children and its independent reviewing system did not call it to account. The matter was never returned to court as it should have been and as a result the local authority's actions did not come under independent scrutiny. Statistically there were as at 31st March 2011 around 1,300 other children in the same legal limbo. I don't have the later figures yet.
The same problem exists with Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards where the local authority (or other commissioning body) also controls the incomes of the advocates. Wrongful removals of mental capacity are so frequent that the system really doesn't notice them.
The recently revealed case of the family barrister who has left the jurisdiction to protect her children (see here in The Telegraph). Demonstrates a number of things. She is not the only mother who has left the jurisdiction because she did not think that the courts would decide what was best for her children. It is clear from the evidence in her case that the local authority were wrong. I have asked the local authority for comment, but they have not as yet given any - I may update this later if they do comment.
In this case, however, it was someone with years of experience of what actually happens in the courts that decided the best thing to do was to go before legal proceedings were initiated.
As I said in my speech on March 26th the international aspects are particularly interesting. Professionals in other countries find the behaviour of the authorities surprising and in care proceedings damaging to the children. Professor Eileen Munro's comments that I quote from on my speech are available in audiohere.
The victims of the system
The victims of the system often are quite surprised at how it acts. What is seen by some as complacency is seen by those on the receiving end as corruption. Often they become quite agitated and as such it is relatively difficult to see through the agitation to the underlying problem.
However, the first step towards resolving the problem is to recognise that a problem exists and action needs to be taken.
There is also enthusiasm amongst foreign embassies for a conference in parliament to look at how to fight corruption in the family courts in England.
Interestingly in 2.1 it says: "The MCA legislation is not well understood or implemented. Because of this, staff may be too quick to assume that people lack the capacity to make any decisions. Also staff may not try to maximise people’s capacity, or carry out decisions within the best interests framework of the MCA, because they don’t understand the legislation."
I have sent the RP case which is a key one relating to mental capacity to the grand chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Far too many people have their capacity removed wrongly. The system remains chocabloc with conflicts of interests and rubbishy assessments and the route to challenge is overly bureaucratic (a legal appeal rather than a merits appeal).
One issue which concerns me, for example, is bus fares for young unemployed people. Young people in Yardley now have go to Solihull Job Centre. From April 2013 the applicable amount for a young single person is in fact £56.80. (It was 56.25 so I am not sure where the sum of £53 comes from).
For someone on £56.80 per week the bus fares to Solihull and back are £3.90 per day. That does allow travel anywhere. However, this is a material amount of the cash they get each week.
I have raised this with the Job Centre authorities, but it appears that they did not take this into account when shifting the signing location.
The text is here.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I refer the House to my declaration of interest as the chairman of the Justice for Families campaign.
I remain concerned about cases in all the secret courts in the UK. The more secret the court, the more the system acts against the rule of law. Narrow freedoms of speech are at least as important as broad access to publicity—reporting wrongdoing to regulators and asking for advice are important narrow freedoms. Without academic scrutiny, nonsense can be spouted and experts can lie for money with impunity.
Care proceedings are an area of difficulty. I remain of the view that around 1,000 children a year are wrongly forcibly adopted in the UK. Gradually, I am getting more Government support in this area—sadly, still not from the UK Government. Last week I spoke at the Polish embassy, at a conference about care proceedings. Concerns have now also been raised by Nigeria, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Latvia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Spain and Turkey.
For the avoidance of doubt, my concern is that a material proportion of care proceedings go way beyond being plainly wrong and hit the threshold of “totally nuts”. I must stress, however, that I see the appointment of Sir James Mumby as president of the family division as a positive step. I also welcome judgments such as  EWHC 521 (Fam) of Mostyn J.
When the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) apologised to the children who were forcibly sent to the Commonwealth, I asked what confidence he had that such an apology would not be issued in the future for what we are doing today. His response was to ask me to send details of individual cases. I have, of course, sent many individual cases to UK Ministers. The standard response is “It’s nothing to do with us, guv”. The fact is that, according to our constitution, the UK Government must publicly accept judicial decisions, although in practice they often criticise them—except in the family division.
More recently, Australia has apologised for forced adoption. The question was put by Florence Bellone to Professor Eileen Munro about whether in the future we may see an apology in the UK. Her response was:
“I would not be surprised if a future generation looks back and thinks how horrific the quality of our work was and the damage that we did to families.”
What we have developed—this is mainly through a mathematical error in the use of the number of children in care for the denominator of the adoption target—is a care system that is obsessed with adoption. It is so obsessed with adoption that it does things that objectively have to seen to be irrational. I will not go into the details of Angela Wileman’s case, as I have referred to it before and I do not have time. I was pleased to hear that the arrest warrant was removed from Susan McCabe, the daughter of Councillor Janet Mockridge, who has been living in France with her two children for over five years. The attempts to remove her son for adoption in England, whilst leaving her daughter, gave the message of a system more concerned about winning than about the best interests of the child.
In another recent case, I read a note about the effect of the proposal for a child to be adopted out of her family. The report said:
“Since being told about the adoption, A’s mood has changed, she is clearly concerned and upset by this move, which perhaps is to be expected. However, she has nightmares most nights and is not getting adequate sleep, two weekends ago she vomited 5 times in one night.”
This case is not unique. There are even international cases where the system has taken children from people visiting the UK and refused to give them back, even though the system clearly does not have jurisdiction. That is damaging to the children, and I am prevented by the sub judice rule from giving more information here.
The international cases are particularly interesting as the assessments in England can be compared against assessments from professionals in other countries. Professionals in other countries wonder why such strange things are done—things that cause serious psychological damage to children in the UK. Working with Slovak politicians, I have managed to establish an inquiry by the Human Rights Commissioner in the Council of Europe. However, it remains the case that a problem that arises basically in secret courts is constitutionally difficult to fix, because it needs scrutiny to fix it. There is an additional challenge in that the people affected who are UK citizens are generally poorer people and less articulate. Hence, although stories about people who are foreign citizens maltreated in the UK get substantial coverage in the foreign media, there are only a few journalists such as Sue Reid, Christopher Booker and Ted Jeory who are willing to report on these cases. The speech of Denise Robertson, “This Morning’s” agony aunt, at the justice for families conference in Birmingham last December should be broadcast on TV to explain the truth.
What we actually have is a failure of democracy. In the same way as the cover-up over Hillsborough and the failures at the Mid Staffordshire hospital, we have a system that is going wrong in a large number of cases and maltreating families. In maltreating families, it is maltreating the children and the adults. It is reasonably well known that this is going on. However, the Government deny it. The inquiries that occur in Parliament do not look at the individual cases. Without looking at the individual cases, we cannot see the things that are going wrong. Inquiries such as the family justice review are dominated by the people who run the system, and hence are unlikely to recognise the failures of the system.
I put forward proposals in my private Member’s Bill, but it was squeezed out by the Government, who have still not explained why in detail. I have had a conversation with the Minister with responsibility for children, but I have no hopes from that. I have very little time left. I would like to give a much fuller speech, as a lot more needs to be said, but I will end by saying Happy Easter.
However, if you look at Section 12 of the 1998 Human Rights Act you will find:
(4)The court must have particular regard to the importance of the Convention right to freedom of expression and, where the proceedings relate to material which the respondent claims, or which appears to the court, to be journalistic, literary or artistic material (or to conduct connected with such material), to—
(a)the extent to which—
(i)the material has, or is about to, become available to the public; or
(ii)it is, or would be, in the public interest for the material to be published;
(b)any relevant privacy code.
This, which was introduced at the request of the newspapers, makes clear reference to press regulation in (b)any relevant privacy code..
None of the statute that has been produced as part of the process of establishing a royal charter goes any further than S12(4)(b) as above.
The scheme is optional. It would most likely include this blog as there are articles by a number of authors. However, given that most libel actions are about costs bullying I would be quite happy to sign up to such a scheme if the charges were relatively low.
There are then the questions as to the pressures on the newspapers to join such a scheme. The final draft of the clause about exemplary damages (21a) to my reading of it merely made it less likely that scheme members would face exemplary damages. It does not to my reading increase the likelihood of facing exemplary damages beyond where they are at the moment. There was not a division on the clause relating to the claiming of costs (I think 27a).
My perception is that these changes encourage newspapers and others to use a regulatory arbitration to resolve disputes rather than litigation without heavily punishing those who don't.
I have also spoken to Evan Harris who has said they will respond, but nothing ever happens.
This particular campaign are using a valid grievance (the hacking of phones) as a mechanism to bring in a substantial restraint on the investigation and reporting of issues involving powerful people and the establishment. The least they could do is to answer questions.
Notes: Letter to Chris Jeffries 3rd December 2012 - no response, Email to John Dickinson-Lilley 18th January 2013 - no response, Email to John Dickinson-Lilley 17th March 2013 (no response, but to be fair this is only today). Also an email to the Media Standards Trust Gordon Ramsay 11th February 2013 - no response. (The Media Standards Trust used to be the same as Hacked Off, but now they have been separated).
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On 29th January was a 10 minute rule bill. This was not whipped. I voted for the concept of protection of freedom of speech for those people who don't agree with marriage being redefined to include a relationship between two people of the same sex. On 28th January I voted to allow a regent to be appointed to be the head of the church of England. That was a whipped vote. On 18th December I voted against the second reading of the Justice and Security Bill. On 11th July there were a number of house sittings votes which were not whipped. On 12th March I voted for the retention of full house elections for the Back Bench Business committee. This was a sort of whipped vote. (Payroll only really). On 5th December 2011 I voted for greater parliamentary accountability. 30th November was a 10 minute rule bill as was 4th May 2011 and 13th Oct 2010 where I did a "both". On 10th October I voted for greater freedom of speech, but since the government have changed position to support this. (this was the "your horse is gay" arrest issue). On 9th September 2010 I voted for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Monday I voted four times against the extension of secret courts. The situation is quite straightforward. Secret courts are unreliable courts. The evidence tends to go astray. These are more secret than the family courts or the court of protection in that even the litigant is not allowed to attend. I accept the need to protect informants. However, PII certificates can do that - even though they have problems of accountability.
Given that the right not to be tortured is an unqualified right it is difficult to work out what evidence the government has that it needs to present to the judge in secret. An additional difficulty with this is that there is a gradual movement away from fair trials.
I have also rebelled by supporting the Yeo amendment on the Energy Bill. This, to me, is not such a different position to that of the government which is progressing on getting more cost effective sustainable energy. In a coalition compromises do need to be made and at times that can get a better result than a rebellion on the floor of the house which fails. Hence I do need to keep this issue under review.
There are two other positions I have taken which differ from the party recently. One is against statutory regulation of the media and the other is in support of an in-out referendum on the EU (once we know what the constitutional settlement is).
I, therefore, looked at writing something to make the process of dealing with phone calls more efficient and have written what is called a widget to sit on the home screen telling me who I have been talking to (or missed calls from) on the home screen. It also has a nicer contacts search using the keyboard by tapping the title line.
I have made this widget available for free to anyone who wishes to use it.
I have put it on Googles Playstore here.
It is easiest to find by searching for "john hemming".
My daughter has agreed to help me with anyone who has any problems with it. Her email address is the one registered. I have only tested it on my own phone.
If people are interested my casework system that I have used since 2004 is also written in Java. Hence I found the learning curve of writing an android widget not particularly steep.
Firstly, people should not be imprisoned in secret. That is a clear contravention of the rules of the court.
On the 12 October 2012 many of the old rules relating to committal were taken out of the rules of the supreme court see this. However, rule 81 was updated and states:
(5) If the court hearing an application in private decides to make a committal order against the respondent, it will in public state –
(a) the name of the respondent;
(b) in general terms, the nature of the contempt of court in respect of which the committal order is being made; and
(c) the length of the period of the committal order.
This has not been done.
Secondly, people should not be imprisoned for attempting to get legal advice for someone else.
This is looked at in more detail on The Witchfinder General.
The same judge (HHJ Cardinal) has been part on two separate occasions of trying to stop people talking to me (their MP).
Dear Sir Albert and Mr Hughes,
I understand that you have announced that the City Council is proposing a council tax freeze for the year. I would welcome this on behalf of my constituents. However, I would ask why if you have a council tax freeze you are still intending to charge people on JSA council tax.
In the detailed figures from the city council it is intended to raise £1,292,152 from the poorest residents because of a need to identify additional council tax benefit as a result of a 1.45% increase in council tax. If the city council takes the government grant of £2,129,441 and does not charge a contingency figure then there is no financial need to charge anything to the poorest citizens.
It is worth noting from the speech of the Minister Brandon Lewis MP that the government have said that they will keep this issue under review and although there is no promise of additional funding in the next financial year, nor has it been said that there will not be any funding.
Furthermore the government are right to argue that the city council should work to reduce fraud in the provision of a council tax support scheme. I would challenge you to work to reduce fraud rather than tax the poor.
During this interview she says (in response to a question about whether or not the UK government is likely to apologise in the future for the damage done to families today) "I would not be surprised if a future generation looks back and thinks how horrific the quality of our work was and the damage that we did to families."
I have put this to her and she wishes to ensure that this is seen within the context of improving services in places like Hackney. She said:
"I made this comment in the context of expressing a hope that we shall learn a lot more about how to help parents take good care of their children so that we then will look back on today and think how poor our work was. Taken out of context, it could be very misleading.
Like you, I want to see improvements in child protection services and I am hearing of some authorities making reforms that are getting some positive feedback from families. Hackney for example, now removes far fewer children than it did by helping to strengthen families."
There is always a challenge understanding the arguments when different people quote different figures. I will, therefore put up the two arguments about costs. These figures look only at the effect on the city council. That is about 88% of the total council tax bill. The rest goes to Police and Fire.
|Labour's figures||My figures|
|2012/3 government support||88,231,598||88,231,598|
|2013/4 government support||(79,494,242)||(79,494,242)|
|Requirement for 1.45% increase in Council Tax||1,292,152||0|
|Total to find||10,911,823||8,737,356|
The policy question is the one highlighted in my speech. Do you tax the poorest in society in order to find funds to support the council tax of the poorest or do you share the burden amongst people. (ie on the general fund).
I made the point in my speech that without any increase in council tax the council should expect an additional £1.4 million, but that the budget for 2013/4 for inflation is also high and could easily stretch to cover the missing support that results from an increase in council tax of 1.45% (much that there is an argument for taking the government money here as well).
The GDP index at the end of Q4 2011 excluding oil and gas was 103.5 and the provisional Q4 2012 figure is 103.9. For some reason ONS make this growth of 0.3% (I make it 0.4% - actually 0.3864%). The figures including oil and gas are 102.8 and 102.9. The ONS make this flat whereas I make it a 0.1% (0.09728%) increase. The reason why the ONS figures and mine are different is that I am comparing the 2011 figure directly to the 2012 figure whereas the ONS are summing the percentage variances (their approach brings in a rounding error). [note it is possible that if the figures are expressed to a greater accuracy that the ONS are right on the rounding, but wrong on the economy being flat in 2012 - as in a number rounded to 102.9 is bigger than a number rounded to 102.8]
It is disappointing, but not surprising that we have growth (including oil and gas) within the potential error of a rounding error. We should focus more on the figures exluding oil and gas as there is little we can do about depleting energy figures.
However, the total figure is the one that affects the tax take and hence issues relating to sovereign debt.
If you want me to respond to any comment please either comment only on the past few entries or put something in your comment to make it clear what you are commenting on (the URL would help). Otherwise I will not be able to find the comment quickly and will not respond.