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Vote fraud (in Kenya)

The above video is a good one for pointing out ballot box stuffing. We should not pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen in the UK. One interesting thing about elections in Birmingham is that some polling stations have presiding officers working for the Labour Party. This may sound surprising given that the council is now run by a non-Labour partnership. However, it developed during Labour's control of the authority and is taking some sorting out.

Remember that 4,000 people's votes were defrauded by Labour in the Bordesley Green Ward in 2004. Totally unacceptable.

Labour must not be allowed anywhere close to power in Birmingham until they give up fiddling elections.

John Hemming's New Year's Message

Its that time of year and I think there is some merit in doing a message for the new year. Normally I don't comment about constituency issues on this weblog. That is because the audience is a wider one than those people living in Yardley. People living in Yardley should get leaflets and reports. However, this time I will look at local issues as well.

Yardley
One aspect of local activity that is always busy is dealing with local people's problems. I started a new casework system in 2004. The last case created in 2006 was 5597 and in 2007 7763. This gives rise to just over 2,000 new cases in each year. Some are simple and are resolved quickly. Others take a long time and are difficult to resolve.

Some issues affect more than one person. Issues like the redevelopment of The Swan have dragged on for almost 10 years now. We are, however, seeing the start of the practical work. Some of the buildings are being demolished and work should be starting on Bakeman House soon. Th…

George W Bush and the Rule of Law - (Top 10 dumb US legal arguments)

The link is to the top ten nonsensical legal arguments of the Bush Government and a detailed analysis of them.

This is a summary (in increasing level of stupidity):
10. The NSA's eavesdropping was limited in scope.
9. Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted because it was excessive.
8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.
7. Guantanamo Bay detainees enjoy more legal rights than any POW's in history.
6. Water-boarding may not be torture.
5. Everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.
4. Nine U.S. attorneys were fired by nobody, but for good reason.
3. Alberto Gonzales.
2. State secrets.
1. The United States does not torture.

We face some similar difficulties in the UK. Getting proper answers from the government remains very difficult. I am continuing to try to stop some of the cover ups that go on in the UK.

However, I think the USA government have the edge on us in terms of…

Paediatricians and Child Protection

There has been much debate recently about Export Witnesses, Paediatricians, the GMC and Child Protection. A lot of the difficulties arise from the mismatch between medical decision-making and legal decision-making. However, there are other factors that need looking at. Given a bit of spare time today I will make a start at consolidating information about this.

It is worth looking at a few facts first. People who act as Expert Witnesses in the Family Court get paid substantial sums for their reports. The government is proposing to change the system. However, it is important to recognise that there is a financial interest in the system for expert witnesses.

Secondly, often Family Court judges will refuse second opinions. Even the Court of Appeal will refuse a second opinion. What this means is that if an expert states that a parent is guilty of child abuse frequently there is little that the parent can do.

A number of the theories which are used for expert opinion in the courts are…

Thank you to PC Pro

PC Pro have kindly stated that my quotation about the Government and IT was one of the top ten IT quotes of 2007: (see link)

9. John Hemming MP
The loss of 25 million child benefit records on a couple of CDs was an open-goal for opposition politicians. But hand the match ball to Liberal MP, John Hemming, who said the government couldn't even be trusted with CD burners and warned of worse to come.

"Normally what happens is that we close the door after the horse has bolted, but in this case we're leaving the door open for more horses to bolt."

He wasn't wrong, was he?

Essex Enquirer Story into Essex Childrens Services

The following story has just been published by the Essex Enquirer. They publish on the net using PDF so I have extracted the text:

IT’S USED up more than £90m per year for the last four years and has the power to save children’s lives or ruin families for ever.

It has overseen the adoption of about 450 youngsters since 2002 and investigated the home lives of 8,000 more.

And it employs more than 150 people with the power to investigate anyone’s home life answering only to itself.

But there are calls to make Essex County Council social services more accountable to the public over controversial cases hitting the headlines.

Just 18 people have launched formal complaints against the department since 2004 but the authority will not say how many of these have resulted in disciplinary action taking place.

A spokesman told The Enquirer: “The complaints procedure and disciplinary process are quite separate from one another and, therefore, do not become linked at any stage.”

Following its controversia…

Sad case in Bristol

The link is to a story about a sad case in Bristol where a young baby was hurt by his birth parents. What mystifies me about this is that it went on over a period of 50 days. That is when there should be at a minimum a health visitor visiting.

It explains a good reason why we need to open up the work of the safeguarding boards to scrutiny.

Since prior to the Climbie case the decisionmaking process in child protection has been skewed. If we are going to get it right we need to know where it is going wrong.

Election Results: Thursday 20th December 2007

Castle Point DC, St Marys
Con 509 and 461 (41.0; -27.3), Lab 480 and 456 (38.6; +6.9), BNP 253 and 234 (20.4; +20.4).
Majorities 48 and 19. Turnout 24.8%. Con hold and Lab gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Hackney LBC, Springfield
Con 1244 (59.0; +16.1), Lab 590 (28.0; +0.4), LD Brian Stone 113 (5.4; -4.8), Green 85 (4.0; -9.5), Christian Party 40 (1.9; +1.9), Communist 37 ( 1.8; -4.0).
Majority 654. Turnout 33.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Shepshed TC, East
Lab 275 and 259 (32.8), LD Sarah Fall 193, James Nasmyth 155 (23.0), Con 187 (22.3), BNP 183 and 173 (21.8).
Majorities 82 and 66. Turnout 14.5%. Lab gain from Con x 2.

Further Result from 13th December 2007, from Chris Nelson
Barton Seagrave PC, St Boltophs
Con 323 (65.1%) Lab 173 (34.9%)
Majority 150. Turnout 25.9%. Con hold

Clegg shadow Cabinet

Leader
NICK CLEGG

Deputy Leader
Vince Cable

Chief Whip
Paul Burstow

The economy and business

VINCE CABLE
Shadow Chancellor

Jeremy Browne
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Sarah Teather
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Home Affairs

CHRIS HUHNE
Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

David Heath
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor

The Rt Hon the Lord Thomas
Shadow Attorney General

David Howarth
Shadow Solicitor General

International affairs

ED DAVEY
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Chair of Campaigns and Communications
Nick Harvey
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Mike Moore
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Public services

DAVID LAWS
Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Norman Lamb
Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Julia Goldsworthy
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Lembit Opik
Housing

Danny Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for…

Keran Henderson - Medical Expert Evidence

The link is to a story about a Juror from Keran Henderson's trial believing that a miscarriage of justice "has occurred."

Keran's trial was essentially one about medical expert evidence. We had a useful discussion on Radio 5 yesterday about how the use of expert evidence needs to be improved to avoid miscarriages of justice.

The key point is that legal decisionmaking and medical decisionmaking operate at different levels of certainty. If people wish to introduce pet theories into court they need to have justified them in some way.

One approach is a form of Daubert hearing. However, there is a need to look in detail at many unproven theories to decide whether there is sufficient certainty for them to be used in court. These include Shaken Baby Syndrome, Classical Metaphyseal Lesions and FII by proxy. This should not be done on a trial by trial basis.

These are large sources of many of the miscarriages of justice in the Family and Criminal Divisions (mainly Family Di…

Newport case - taking children into care wrongly hurts the children

The link is to today's story in The Mirror about the Newport Case.

What those who defend the current system have to recognise is that taking children into care hurts the children. Where it was not necessary substantial damage has been done without good reason.

Yes there will always be times when children do need to be taken into care, but there should be good well argued reasons first.

The biggest trauma caused to many children is the step of taking them into care. In studying this it seems clear to me that the system is doing masses of damage to people (parents and children).

Stop the Secret Jailings - release Charles Roy Taylor

The campaign to stop secret jailings is going well. The law is entirely clear people cannot be jailed with giving details in public of what is happening including the offence and jail term.

The fact that this hasn't been done doesn't mean that we will tolerate it from now.

Interestingly the reason the 1679 Habeas Corpus Act was brought in was judges jailing people for things that weren't illegal. What is happening is that illegal court orders are issued and then people jailed in secret for breaking them.

I really do think the law should apply in Family Division courts as well as the rest of the country.

Charles Taylor's jailing has now been reported in The Times (Thursday) and on Meridian ITV News (yesterday). The campaign for his release is also growing.

Election Results: Thursday 13th December 2007.

Brighton and Hove UA, Regency
Green 749 (41.6; +8.7), Con 397 (22.1; +2.1), Lab 376 (20.9; -0.6), LD Simon Doyle 148 (8.2; -9.1), Ind 130 (7.2; -1.1).
Majority 352. Turnout 23.0%. Green hold. Last fought 2007.

Harrow LBC, Canons
Con 1208 (56.7; -11.1), Lab 389 (18.3; -0.1), LD Anne Diamond 296 (13.9; +0.1), Ind 182 (8.5; +8.5), BNP 56 (2.6; +2.6).
Majority 819. Turnout 24.0%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Hounslow LBC, Chiswick Riverside
Con 1207 (61.1; +16.1), Lab 414 (21.0; +3.2), LD Phyllis Ballentyne 250 (12.7; -7.1), Green 103 (5.2; -12.2).
Majority 793. Turnout 24.6%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Merthyr Tydfil UA, Treharris
Ind 405 (35.8; -9.9), LD John Pappas 328 (29.0; +29.0), Lab 317 (28.0; -5.1), Ind 81 (7.2; +7.2), [People before Politics (0.0; -21.2 )].
Majority 77. Turnout 24.0%. Ind hold. Last fought 2004.

Reigate and Banstead DC, Earlswood and Whitebushes
Con 421 (37.6; -3.9), LD Steve Oddy 380 (33.9; +4.9), Lab 152 (13.6; -1.9), UKIP 113 (10.1; +1.8), Green 54 (4.8; -0.9).
Majority 4…

Perceived Neglect?

The linked story from Yesterday's Guardian is an interesting one. It raises the question as to what parameters should permit the state to intervene. In this case a child was allowed to walk to school alone. (under a mile).

It raises another question about the subjectivity of our systems of child protection.
What is acceptable to one person, is risky to another. However, at what point should the state intervene. I believe that is a decision for parliament.

Victoria Ward's Case

The link is to the story of the Ward family in Cambridgeshire. They were unusual in that they managed to win their case. What normally happens when totally innocent parents get trapped in the system is that they lose their children.

US tests of drunkenness

The US alternative to the breathalyser it appears
Formal administration and accreditation of the program is provided through IACP. The three tests of the SFST are:
the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
the walk-and-turn
the one-leg stand.
These tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect.
HGN Testing
Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object. In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each …

Election Results: 6th December 2007.

Derbyshire Dales DC, Masson
Con 356 (48.2; +7.2), Lab 256 (34.7; -8.8), LD Tracy Steadman 126 (17.1; -1.6).
Majority 100. Turnout 30%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Maidstone BC, Shepway South
Con 251 (36.0; -9.7), Lab 240 (34.4; +34.4), LD Brian Vizzard 173 (24.8; -22.0), Green 34 (4.9 ; -2.6).
Majority 11. Turnout 16.1%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Richmond upon Thames LBC, Barnes
Con 1643 (56.2; +3.8), LD Barbara Westmorland 1103 (37.7; -5.8), Lab 91 (3.1; -1.0), Green 87 (3.0; +3.0).
Majority 540. Turnout 41.2%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Sandwell MBC, Princes End
Lab 796 (48.1; +12.4), Con 517 (31.2; +11.4), BNP 314 (19.0; -15.9), LD Dorothy Brayshaw 29 (1.8; +1.8), [Ind (0.0; -9.6)].
Majority 279. Turnout 18.6%. Lab gain from BNP. Last fought 2007.

Wokingham UA, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe
Con 913 (70.6; -2.9), LD Martin Alder 237 (18.3; -0.5), UKIP 83 (6.4; +2.5), Lab 60 (4.6; +0.8).
Majority 676. Turnout not known. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Government introduces another counterproductive policy

This is from Yesterday's Hansard (see link for full details). The government are trying enforce a law so vague that people (including the police) don't understand the limits.

John Hemming: Obviously, this Christmas the Government are discouraging people from going to pubs and clubs, and encouraging them to drink at home by penalising such drinks as the yard of ale. People are likely to face a fine for drinking a yard of ale in any pub or club outside the House of Commons. Does the Minister not accept that it is better to encourage people to drink in controlled circumstances? Under what the Government call the responsible alcohol sales campaign, if people are argumentative—that includes a lot of hon. Members, I presume—they are deemed to be drunk, so serving them would be an offence punishable with a fine of up to £80.

John Hemming: My hon. Friend said that there was too much drinking in the home. Does he share my concern that someone who recently drank a single pint in Birmingh…

How to spot a drunk

Across the land (apart from the bars in the House of Commons and House of Lords) pubs and clubs are going to have undercover policeman looking for drunk people. The Home Office have issued guidelines (thanks to The Publican for giving me details) to help spot drunks.

How can police spot a drunk?

Police have been told that the aim of the guidelines is “to present such compelling physical evidence of the person’s level of intoxication that it would be impossible for a court to accept that the person who conducts the sale did not know of this fact”.

Evidence police have been told to look for includes:

A noticeable change in behaviour
Bad tempered, aggressive;
Offensive language;
Becoming loud, boisterous or disorderly;
Becoming physically violent;
Becoming incoherent;
Slurring, or making mistakes in speech; and
becoming argumentative.

A lack of judgment
Being careless with money;
Annoying other persons, employees etc;
Exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour;
Drinking quickly or competitively (‘down …

Birmingham's Single Status Motion about Pay and Grading

The following motion was passed yesterday by Birmingham City Council.

This Council wishes to thank its employees for their hard work and effort that have lead to the Council making progress in returning to its rightful, traditional position as the best run local authority in Western Europe.

The Council regrets that a situation was allowed to develop over many years where the pay and grading structure of the Council was not in accordance with Equal Pay Legislation and the "Single Status Agreement” with the trades unions. The Council notes that a number of legal actions were initiated against the Council in June 2006 which gave urgency in reviewing the pay and grading structure of the Council to ensure that it operated in accordance with the law.

The Council regrets that the review has resulted in a situation in which a number of members of staff who have been doing an efficient and high quality job now face the threat of pay reductions from 1st April 2010 as a consequence of needin…

Southall - what about the research

My biggest concern about the matters releating to David Southall is that there has not been an independent investigation into his research and the impact it had on the subjects of that research.

That remains a concern notwithstanding the fact that he has now been struck off.

This issue is, however, raising another smokescreen. (with the RCPCH helping to generate smoke).

Paediatricians who report in the Family Court make substantial additional money from reports relating to alleged Child Abuse. If they did not get fees linked to each case I would be more comfortable with the situation.

Obviously some people maltreat children. There are people who Fabricate and Invent Illness, there are also people who do this by proxy.

The key question for a judicial process (be it family or criminal division) is
a) How much evidence is required to initiate an investigation.
b) What standard of evidence is required for findings to be made.

These are not zero sum issues. We are doing badly in this country…

Election Results: Thursday 29th November 2007

Elmbridge DC, Cobham Fairmile
Con 418 (74.6; +0.4), LD 45 (8.0; -9.3), Labour 38 (6.8; -1.7), Ind 32 (5.7; +5.7), Ind 18 (3.2; +3.2), Monster Raving Loony Party 9 ( 1.6; +1.6).
Majority 373. Turnout 17.9%. Con hold. Last fought 2006.

Kerrier DC, Helston North
Con 315 (37.1), Ind 226 (26.6), Ind 194 (22.8), MK 115 (13.5).
Majority 89. Turnout 17.8%. Con gain from Ind. Uncontested in 2007.

Rochdale MBC, Middleton North
Lab 603 (41.6; -9.8), LD 566 (39.1; +21.3), Con 280 (19.3; -11.5).
Majority 37. Turnout 18.2%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007.

Natwest / Enron Three and plea bargaining

When I met up with the Natwest Three they told me that they were likely to plead guilty. The reason is quite simple. If they plead not guilty and loose they would get 35 years, but if they admit guilt they get 5 years (actually it turns out 37 months).

There is always a question of risk with a court. I am quite happy to have an incentive for guilty defendants to plead guilty. I am also happy that this is greater at the start of the process than at the end. However, the risk penalty should not be as great as it was in this instance.

This saga always had a question about the ethicality of what happened with Natwest. It was also clear that a lot of unethical things happened.

It remains, however, that we have skewed extradition arrangements to a jurisdiction that seems interested in cases like this one where Natwest and the defendants were all in the UK jurisdiction. This seems to be a trend in dealing with cases of alleged fraud.

As to whether what the Natwest / Enron three did was …

Drinking Alcohol in Pubs

These four articles are from the publicans trade magazine. Basically the police are starting to raid pubs looking for drunk people. This is not something the police want to do and is being driven by the Home Office.

www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=50988
www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=51390
www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=53823
www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=53947

This is an absurd waste of police time and will be very very unpopular when it happens (in a sense it has already started).

Southall - what about his research?

Responding to today's GMC hearing:
John Hemming MP has called upon the General Medical Council to investigate the research of Dr David Southall. "The GMC", he said, "have so far refused to investigate the research of Dr David Southall. They have found most of the recent allegations considered by the GMC to be proven."

"It is very important that Dr Southall's research is properly investigated. His research involved giving babies dangerous gas mixtures and this must not be swept under the carpet. If he is struck off by the GMC that must not stop any investigation into the research that he has managed. The fact that his research managed to be performed is something that needs in itself to be considered."

"In fact there should be a public inquiry into what he has done over many years. This must not be the end of the issue.".

Does Paul Flynn mean this?

Paul Flynn is one of the Labour MPs I respect. However, about the Labour Party's donation scandal he says:

David Abrahams wanted to give money while protecting his privacy. He did not want to hunted and hounded by the jackals of the national press.

Labour party supporters are right to be furious that again we are being portrayed as the bad guys. Idiotic administrative failures of this kind do not compare to other scandals. Buying peerages is a utterly wrong. So is stuffing £50 notes in brown envelopes to ask PQs. Lobbyists treating politicians to buy votes is abominable.This is perceived to be worse than it is because it comes in the wake of other scandals involving party funding.

The point about the register of substantial donations is to identify where rich people (eg David Abrahams) are giving large sums of money and to identify if it is something which could be thought of as buying favours.

David Abrahams is a developer. Hence the fact that the government did him the favour o…

Another question for those supposed to protect children

The linked story is one where a child died because of failures from his mother. I cannot tell from the story whether or not it fits my thesis. However, what it does demonstrate is that Childrens Social Services are normally aware of the families where children die from abuse or neglect. The system of references, therefore, is not failing.

Indeed the increase in references is making the system creak. Although the growth has now plateaued.

Election results: Thursday 22nd November 2007

Carmarthenshire UA, Llandybie
Ind 496 (39.9; +0.1), Lab 337 (27.1; -6.7), SNP 310 (24.9; -1.5), Con 52 (4.2; +4.2), Ind 49 (3.9; +3.9).
Majority 159. Turnout 42.0%. Ind hold. Last fought 2004.

Conwy UA, Rhiw
LD Trevor Stott 548 (44.3; +44.3), Con 513 (41.4; +3.0), Ind 80 (6.5; -12.7),
BNP 61 (4.9; +4.9), Green 36 (2.9; +2.9), [Lab (0.0; -13.2)], [PC (0.0; -29.1)].
Majority 35. Turnout 26.0%. LD gain from Con. Last fought 2004

Dundee City Council UA, Lochee
First preferences:
SNP 2005(48.9;+1.8), Labour 1395(34.0; -2.8), LD Chris Hall 435( 10.6;+3.9),
Conservative 154(3.8; -1.4), Solidarity 57(1.4; -1.7), SSP 55(1.3; +0.2).
Turnout 29.2%. SNP elected at fourth stage. SNP Hold. Last fought 2007.

Forest Heath DC, Manor
LD Tim Huggan 281 (53.6), Con 211 (40.3), UKIP 32 (6.1).
Majority 70. Turnout 41.3%. LD gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Norfolk CC, Aylsham
LD David Harrison 1696 (60.6; +23.2), Con 854 (30.5; -6.4), Lab 177 (6.3; -19.4), UKIP 71 ( 2.5; +2.5).
Majority 842. Turnout 39.0%. LD hold. Last f…

Remove the HMRC CD Burners

I have been appointed by Vince Cable to head up the Lib Dem investigation into Government Data (in)Security.

My first call is a simple one. Remove the CD Burners from the HMRC computer room until they have sorted out security.

There is no sense allowing any more horses to depart through the same stable door.


Thanks due to b3ta for the image.

ADVICE TO CONSTITUENTS FOLLOWING HMRC DATA LOSS

John Hemming MP ISSUES ADVICE TO CONSTITUENTS FOLLOWING HMRC DATA LOSS

John Hemming MP is calling on all constituents to remain vigilant following the loss of bank account details, national insurance numbers and other personal information belonging to over 25 million individuals.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday announced that “two password-protected discs containing a full copy of HMRC’s entire data in relation to the payment of child benefit were sent to the NAO, by HMRC’s internal post system operated by the courier TNT. The package was not recorded or registered.”

Commenting on the loss of personal data by HMRC, John Hemming MP said: “This is a major error by HMRC with clear implications for many families in Birmingham (Yardley).

“We all have a responsibility now to watch our accounts closely, and ensure that we report any suspicious behaviour either to HMRC or our banks.”

Nigel Evans MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Identity Fraud has said “If they are not e…

Hemming endorses Clegg

I have been asked which candidate I support for Leadership of the Liberal Democrats. After some thought I have decided to support Nick Clegg.

Concerns had been raised about his views in some areas, but the following quotation from the Politics Show makes it clear that he supports the National Health Service rather than a continential health scheme and does not support education vouchers.

(see link for show)
NICK CLEGG: I'm against vouchers, I'm against social insurance.

Judges make surrogacy enforcible

When Parliament agreed the Human Fertilisation Embryology Act in 1990 it decided that surrogacy agreements were not enforcible - whether that is right or not I am not commenting.

36 Amendment of Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985(1) After section 1 of the [1985 c. 49.] Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 there is inserted—
“1A Surrogacy arrangements unenforceable
No surrogacy arrangement is enforceable by or against any of the persons making it.”

The Court of Appeal - however (see link), has just decided that it is acceptable to enforce a surrogacy agreement even though the child has been with its birth mother for 18 months. The issue that concerns me here is the constitutional issue. Parliament decided that surrogacy agreements are unenforcible, but one has just been enforced.

There is also this in the judgment:
Dr Arsen had been instructed by the guardian ad litem, and the guardian ad litem fully supported Dr Arsen's conclusions, as well as expressing her independent expert view that, of t…

Evidence Based Evidence - moving away from witch finding

The link is to an article in the Sunday Times about the unreliability of expert evidence. There does seem to be little concern in the legal profession about the reliability of opinion offered in court.

That essentially is much like the witching courts where the witch finder says "she's a witch" and then the state dunks her. The similarity goes as far as the amounts of money made by various expert witch finders.

When you put that together with manufactured "evidence" and phony letters in the Famliy Division where there is little if any accountability and you have a recipe for disaster.

Disaster is indeed what we have got.

I have written to the LCJ suggesting how we could act to improve the quality control on expert evidence. The difficulty of course is that many of the experts sincerely believe what they are saying is true. It just so happens to be false. The outcome for the expert is more money in the bank. The outcome for the other parties to the case is o…

An important Shaken Baby judgment from earlier this year

This judgment made is very clear that the SBS triad can occur through a fall. (where the baby's head is bigger than normal).

There is still the question as to what is really evidence of a baby that has been harmed through shaking.

This comes back to the Evidenced Based Medicine Question.

Where James Munby is particularly good (he was the judge here) is in recognising the harm of care proceedings themselves.

What needs to happen is for the harm of care proceedings to be more fully recognised in the way that matters are handled.

The fact is that the system causes harm. What harm it prevents is less clear. Clearly it prevents some harm, but in many cases it is merely a futile way of enriching professionals.

Prime Minister Responds on Adoption

Q6. [163661] John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In England in 2006, 4,160 children under five were taken into care and more than 60 per cent. of them—2,490—were adopted. However, in Scotland 574 left care and 373, roughly 64 per cent., went home to their parents. Can the Prime Minister explain why in England children under five who leave care get adopted, while in Scotland they go home to their parents?

The Prime Minister: Social work legislation in the two countries is, of course, different. I shall look at the figures that the hon. Gentleman has put before me. But as is known, we have made strenuous efforts to try to ensure that children in difficulty are given the proper upbringing, whether that is by returning to their parents or, where it is essential, by being fostered or adopted. I will continue to look at the matter, but the hon. Gentleman has to understand that social work practice in the two countries is different.

This does go to the nub of the issue. What is so differ…

Secret Prisoner to move to Ford Open Prison

The story so far:

About 2 weeks ago Charles Roy Taylor (age 71) was imprisoned by Nottingham Family Court (Judge Mitchell) in private proceedings for 20 months.

There was a bit of confusion as to the nature of the proceedings. It has been clarified (not that it was unclear to start out with) that the UK cannot have secret prisoners and that his name, offence and length of sentence need to be public.

We are now at the stage where "the system" (being the Ministry of Justice) now admit that he has been convicted and sentenced to 20 months for contempt of court - ie breaking a court order.

The question, of course, is which court order and what did he do.

I think the law is quite clear that it needs to be public as to exactly what he did to end up being locked up for 20 months.

This clear Munby J judgment makes it entirely clear (para 49) that orders should normally be public. So we need to know.

What was the court order that resulted in him getting 20 months for breach and what has he…

Birmingham Remembrance Parade 2007

As usual I took photos of the remembrance parade from the VIP stand. Although there are other people who take photos I don't think anyone else posts them on the web.

I also take the view that it would be good to have photographs of record that involve all the participants including the crowd. However, I have to take mine from a stationary position which is not ideal as you can see from the struts that appear in the photos.


Includes salvation army band and 4 riflemen that fire shots to start and end 2 minutes silence.




The Lord Mayor comes out of the Rep.

Lord Mayor's party awaiting parade.

Colours passing the Lord Mayor.

The West Midlands Fire Service Pipe Band wearing full regalia.
Previous Parades:
20052006
Someone else's photos - better quality than mine

Fran Lyon moves to Warwickshire

The link is to a story in the Newcastle Journal about Fran Lyon moving to Warwickshire to get away from Northumberland County Council and certain doctors in the North East. Hopefully Warwickshire Childrens Services will be more rational than Northumberland.

Election Results: Thursday 8th November 2007.

Babergh DC, Hadleigh North
LD Richard Whiting 446 (49.0; +25.5), Con 261 (28.6; +3.6), Ind 138 (15.1;
-6.4), UKIP 66 (7.2; -3.7), [Lab (0.0; -19.1)].
Majority 185. Turnout 27.4%. LD hold. Last fought 2007.

Guildford BC, Holy Trinity
Con 1110 (50.9; +3.9), LD Vivienne Johnson 944 (43.3; -5.9), Lab 83 (3.8;
0.0), Peace Party 43 (2.0; +2.0).
Majority 166. Turnout 37.0%. Con gain from LD. Last fought 2007.

Hadleigh TC, Hadleigh North
LD Tracey Alexander elected unopposed.
LD hold.

Tamworth DC, Castle
Lab 619 (40.3; +2.1), Con 613 (39.9; -7.7), BNP 208 (13.6; +13.6), LD Jenny
Pinkett 95 (6.2; -8.0).
Majority 6. Turnout 27.5%. Lab gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Telford and Wrekin UA, Brookside
Con 593 (52.0; +21.7), Lab 362 (31.7; +3.2), Ind 114 (10.0; -1.5), Ind 72
(6.3; +6.3), [UKIP (0.0; -10.7)], [Telford and Wrekin Peoples Association (
0.0; -18.9)].

Majority 231. Turnout 22.5%. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

Respect Splits

With Galloway changing the locks on the office it appears that his faction has de facto control of the National HQ. (see link for Story in Independent).

Officially the party is called "Respect - The Unity Coalition". It has a number of election names:
Respect
Respect (George Galloway)
Respect - Homes For All
Respect - Peace, Justice, Equality
Respect - People Not Profit
Respect - Save The NHS

Offically at the election commission, however, the key roles are:
Leader: Ms Linda Smith
Nominating Officer: Ms Linda Smith
Treasurer: Ms Elaine Graham-Leigh

So it appears that Linda Smith has de facto control on candidates. I have now been told she is in the galloway faction.

The Website is controlled by the not George Galloway faction.

I presume that Birmingham's group are in the Galloway faction.

Another sad death from child abuse in Essex

Lets be entirely clear. This mixed race child was known to the authorities and left with its parents who were crack addicts. This would be a logical consequences of a skewed gateway procedure that concentrates on taking into care the more adoptible children. The budgetary limits on care proceedings mean that this skews the threshold.

This happened in Essex.

A sad story (Jonathan Phillips)

The link is to a story in the Daily Mail about how the system has now caused the destruction of a family.

It is important to understand how some social workers deliberately set out to upset parents in the hope of getting a reaction that they can then use against the parents in the courts. The unannounced visit is one trick used to upset mothers.

Still another baby for the government's adoption targets.

Climbie Foundation Head Speaks out

The link is to an article in Community Care which essentially argues the same case about failures that I am arguing. Interestingly there was also this snippet:

An independent social worker, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed with Dioum but said that the system has deteriorated since Laming’s inquiry.

She claimed that decisions about cases were being made higher up in the system while the assessments of frontline social workers were ignored. “It’s about targets, money and dogmatic procedures,” she said.

Court of Appeal on urgent appeals for children

The link is to an appeal about an ICO. The ICO actually expired before the hearing into the appeal. The answer from the Lord Justices was this.

In office hours, a potential appellant who wishes to apply for an immediate stay should contact the Court of Appeal office at the Royal Courts of Justice on the conventional telephone number, 0207 947 6000; out of hours, such an appellant should contact the security offices of the Royal Courts of Justice, 0207 947 6260. In either event, the appellant will be able to speak to a Deputy Master who, in turn, will speak to a Lord Justice. Provided the latter is satisfied that the matter is appropriately urgent, and a short stay is called for, he or she will either grant a stay, or arrange for the matter to be listed at short notice for a short oral hearing, on notice to the other parties, within the time frame permitted by the judge at first instance. If the court is then satisfied either that permission to appeal should be granted or that the a…

Capacity to Litigate

The link is to a case which looked at an Adult's ability to litigate and when a "next friend" should be appointed.

Para 58 is quite clear:
The authorities are unanimous in support of two broad propositions. First, that the mental capacity required by the law is capacity in relation to the transaction which is to be effected. Second, that what is required is the capacity to understand the nature of that transaction when it is explained.

Generally English Common Law is not that bad. After all much of the ECHR is based upon it. On the issue of capacity to litigate it is clear that this capacity relates to understanding not the litigation, but the issue about which the litigation is ensuing.

All we need to do, therefore, is to find some way in which English Common Law can be applied to courts in the Family Division and we will be away.

Fran Lyon on "This Morning" - ITV

The link is to Fran's story on "This Morning".

Denise Robertson said:"I was scared because it seemed so cold so remorseless. I can't understand why the public are not rising up about what is going on. We know this is happening. We have talked about it. Fran's an example. The message that is going out there to young girls is "do not tell" because it will be held against you.

"I cannot understand why people are not getting behind John Hemming's campaign. We have had so much sympathy, quite rightly, for the McCanns, but I cannot see the difference between a child being abducted by a stranger and being abducted by the state. To me the loss, the pain is identical.

"I think that the family court always without exception takes the word of social services and rubber stamps what is put in front of them. On this programme some while ago I appealed to hear from someone who had been to the family court who had had the situation reversed to writ…

Election Results: Thursday 1st November 2007

Ashfield DC, Sutton West
LD Fiona Asbury 873 (37.0; +37.0), Lab 560 (23.7; -3.7), BNP 321 (13.6; +13.6), Ind 275 (11.7; -38.2), Con 257 (10.9; -11.8), Green 72 ( 3.1; +3.1).
Majority 313. Turnout 26.5%. LD gain from Ind. Last fought 2007.

Bridgnorth DC, Brosely West
Ind elected unopposed.
Ind hold. Last fought 2007.

A Saudi view on Oil Production

Sadad Al Husseini was head of exploration and production for Aramco (the Saudi oil company). He has presented recently at the Oil and Money conference in London.

He also has information on David Strahan's site. One part about reserves and another podcast about general issues.
[David Strahan did a presentation at the first APPG OPO meeting.]

Key points on these are:
The world’s proved reserves have been have been falsely puffed up by the inclusion of 300 billion barrels of speculative resources, according to the former head of exploration and production at Saudi Aramco, and this explains the industry’s inability to raise output despite soaring prices.

One simplistic, but not unreasonable system for predicting production is to take the total producable reserves and halve them. This, therefore, knocks off about 4-5 years of production.

I have also extracted the following from the podcast:
Every indication is that the increasing prices that we haev been seeing are part of a trend. You ca…

Labour's vote buying on Newsnight

Newsnight's reporter did an excellent job in obtaining usable evidence that Labour candidates have continued buying votes. The advantage of buying postal votes is that it is easier to check that people have voted for the party's candidate. It is possible for people to show their ballots in the polling station.

They were paying about £15 a vote in 2004 and hence an increase to £20 per vote is only slightly in front of inflation.

What would be particularly interesting would be to trace how they get the money to pay for the votes. That investigation sadly is unlikely to happen.

Kittens and Breast Cancer

A few more pictures

Mummy (of the kittens) is tired.

The babysitter (is actually only 6 months old)

More babysitting (actually about a week ago - kittens grow quickly)

Lord and Lady Mayor plus two members of the leaders office at the coffee morning for breast cancer. It is difficult to fully comprehend James North's attention to detail. A pink tie and pink braces are visible, but he does also have pink socks.

Daily Mail story on David Southall

Following Rachel Pullen's story being public I have been contacted by more people who are being messed about by the system.

In essence the "experts" generally avoid being held to account. The story in the Daily Mail continues another of those examples.

Election results: Thursday 25th October 2007.

Cumbria CC, Penrith East
LD Patricia Bell 800 (59.8; +14.7), Con 380 (28.4; -2.20), Ind 123 (9.2; +3.6), Green 34 (2.5; +2.5), [Lab (0.0; -18.7)].
Majority 420. Turnout 29.7%. Ld hold. Last fought 2005.

Great Yarmouth DC, Nelson
Lab 329 (42.5; +0.1), Ind 257 (33.2; +33.2), LD Nick Dyer 96 (12.4; +12.4), Ind 49 (6.3; +6.3), Green 43 (5.6; -1.8), [National Front ( 0.0; -22.9)], [Con (0.0; -27.3)].
Majority 72. Turnout not known. Lab hold. Last fought 2007.

Harlow DC, Little Parndon and Hare Street
Lab 794 (52.6; +3.4), Con 598 (39.6; +0.5), LD Nick Macy 117 (7.8; -4.0).
Majority 196. Turnout 28.4%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007.

Harlow DC, Toddbrook
Con 728 (45.2; +5.4), Lab 713 (44.3; +3.3), Respect 102 (6.3; -6.6), LD Julian Watkiss 67 (4.2; -2.1).
Majority 15. Turnout not known. Con gain from Lab. Last fought 2007.

North Devon DC, Witheridge
Con 448 (58.5; -0.2), LD Kate Palmer 318 (41.5; +0.2).
Majority 130. Turnout 42%. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

Penwith DC, Gwinear, Gwithian and Hayle East
Con 493 …

Evidence, Law and Medicine

The link is to a summary from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine's levels of Evidence (from May 2001).

This looks at the question of how reliable evidence is. Much of the "evidence" in the courts is from the lowest level (5) of certainty viz:

"Expert opinion without explicit critical appraisal, or based upon physiology, bench research or "first principles"."

Rachel Pullen's Petition

The link is to a petition in the House of Commons tabled last night.

This raises a number of interesting question as to how capacity is determined and who should be allowed to determine capacity.

If you have a number of parties to a court case it appears to me as wrong that one party should be able to pay someone to give an opinion which strikes out the capacity of another party.

I am also quite unhappy in the way that CAFCASS obtain opinions that the opinions of children that are "gillick competent" are invalid and strike out the children's capacity to express a view.

The official solicitor issue (see Hansard) is not one that will go away.

UK Government and Renewables in Europe

What I found interesting from Herr Fell yesterday was that the UK government is actually lobbying to prevent the Germans from encouraging renewable electricity generation.

He also explained how the MPs had to fight the government to force through legislation to achieve what is being done in Germany. I presume it will be the same here.

German Predictions on Oil Supply

The link is to the story in "The Guardian" about energy supplies. I am scheduled to meet the German MP behind this later today.

I will comment about the details in the report when I have read it. In essence, however, the thesis is valid. The minor details as to precisely the rate of decline and date of peak are not so important.

What matters is that peak is "about now" - within this or the next parliament.(making reasonable assumptions as the normal length of a parliament.)

Most importantly (as has been mentioned previously on this weblog) other primary sources such as U235 (with a reasonable energy cost of extraction) face peak as well.

Hospitals, journalists and political theory

An advantage journalists have in dealing with the media is that they understand how journalists think. Hence either Chris or Nick is likely to do a good job as far as Public Relations go.

The problem, however, is that the conventional wisdom within the media as to "what should be done" is:
a) Not necessarily something that will achieve the objective.
b) Not necessarily something politically popular.

A good example for this is the debate about "Healthcare acquired infection". It is possible to change the management of hospitals to prioritise hygiene. However, this would probably mean inter alia taking the cleaning contracts "in-house".

This does not fit the conventional wisdom of the chattering classes. It sounds a bit luddite and traditional. On the other hand it would work and would be politically popular.

I, however, am not a moderniser. I am happy to be described as a progressive. However, I do not believe in change for changes sake - modernisation.

Election Results: Thursday 18th October 2007.

Basingstoke and Deane DC, Whitchurch
LD Eric Dunlop 858 (52.8; -5.6), Con 709 (43.6; +2.0), Lab 58 (3.6; +3.6).
Majority 149. Turnout 42.5%. LD hold. Last fought 2007.

Congleton BC, Sandbach West
Con 445 (45.1; +3.6), LD Patrick Darnes 382 (38.7; -3.1), Lab 160 (16.2; -0.5).
Majority 63. Turnout 19.2%. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

Ellesmere Port and Neston DC, Rossmore
Lab 504 (54.4; -4.0), Con 325 (35.1; -6.5), English Democrats 60 (6.5; +6.5), LD Graham Handley 38 (4.1; +4.1).
Majority 179. Turnout 20.0%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007.

Meltham TC
Ind 819 (53.9), Con 394 (25.9), LD Graham Colledge 307 (20.2).
Majority 425. Turnout 24.1%. Ind hold.

South Derbyshire DC, Church Gresley
Lab 639 (43.8; -23.0), BNP 516 (35.4; +35.4), Con 304 (20.8; -12.4).
Majority 123. Turnout not available. Lab hold. Last fought 2007.

Wellingborough DC, Croyland
Con 698 (52.6; -7.3), Lab 448 (33.8; -6.3), Ind 125 (9.4; +9.4), Green 55 (4.1; +4.1).
Majority 250. Turnout 25.4%. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

Wigan MBC, Wigan Centr…

Leadership Election

It is quite clear that I will not be a candidate in the Leadership Election. I will, however, not decide for now who I will support and I will announce that in the future when I have discussed matters with the other candidates and colleagues in Birmingham.

Parliamentary Question 17th October 2007

Health: University Hospital of North Staffordshire: Research

Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies were undertaken at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire involving children from overseas in the 1990s.

A:The information requested is not centrally held by the Department. The NHS West Midlands strategic health authority reports that University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust has recently written to the hon. Member following a similar request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Dawn Primarolo (Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)

Nominations and the Leadership Election

During the last Leadership election I found that the rules permitted nominators to sign more than one paper. The rules have, however, since been changed.

I do have one person other than myself willing to sign my own paper. However, I can see that there is going to be a challenge getting nominated.

It is, however, important to have a debate about the party's direction. The two front runners don't really have any political strategy differences.

Getting the 200 signatures from constituenties, however, is relatively straightforward.

Position Statement for Leadership Election

It surprised me just as much as anyone else when Ming resigned yesterday. We must thank Ming for the way in which he brought stability and improved the professionalism of the party although we still have further to go.

Unsurprisingly I am interested in putting myself forward for Party Leader. I am writing this note as a “position statement”. The reason I wish to stand is to be able to argue, and potentially implement, a particular strategy for the party.

The first point I will make is that we as a party must retain our system of involving party members in the determination of policy direction. I do not think all the detail should go through such a process. However, I do believe that anyone wishing to lead should first persuade the party and then persuade the country.

However, anyone wishing to lead has a responsibility to put forward the basis of the direction in which they wish to take the party.

The first question that is asked is about the Left/Right Axis. This demonstrates a …

Kitten Pictures

I like kitten pictures. Here are a few:


Solicitors in the Family Division EDM

Signatures continue to mount for EDM 2021 (which I tabled before the recess). This EDM (see link for current position) says:
That this House notes the comments of a senior social worker that meetings have been held during which solicitors acting for parents have discussed how to undermine the cases of their clients; further notes that there are many odd cases in which solicitors fail to oppose care proceedings or accept that the section 31 threshold has been met notwithstanding the opposition of their clients; recognises that reporting and obtaining the investigation of such behaviour outwith parliamentary proceedings remains a contempt of court for hon. Members; and asks the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to review the implementation of the new solicitors' code of conduct and how this relates to conflicts of interest in the Family Court.

Let me highlight part of this:
solicitors acting for parents have discussed how to undermine the cases of their clients