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Showing posts from May, 2008

Smoking Adverts through the ages

The link is to a blog entry by NHS Blog Doctor looking at Cigarette Advertising. That was in the days where you could advertise cigarettes without having to lend the Labour Party £1 Million.

I have never smoked. However, I started out going to political "smoke filled rooms" in the 1970s which I found quite uncomfortable.

Much that I discourage people from smoking I dislike the way in which the arguments are exaggerated.

Results: Thursday 29th May 2008

Mendip DC, Shepton East
Con 435 (50.3 +4.1)LD Bob Champion 307 (35.5 - 3.0)Lab 122 (14.1 -1.1)Con HOLDPercentage changes are from May 2007.

Mendip DC, Street North
LD Bryan Beha 347 (47.9 -19.8)Con 297 (41.0 +8.6)Ind 81 (11.2 +11.2)LD HOLDPercentage Changes are from May 2007.

Somerset CC, Shepton Mallet
Con 950 (47.4 +10.0)LD Rachel Witcombe 783 (39.1 +5.5)Lab 271 (13.5 -15.5)Con HOLDPercentage changes are from May 2005.

Somerset CC, Shepton Mallet
LD Jenny Kenton 423 (47.2 - 5.0)Con 320 (35.7 -0.7)BNP 154 (17.2 +17.2)[Lab (0.0 -11.4)]LD HOLDPercentage changes are from May 2007.

Offerton Park PC, Stockport
No comparable figures for previous elections.
Two separate wards in Offerton Park PC held by-elections:. The independent candidates were endorsed by all three main parties.
Ind 100BNP 72
Ind 125BNP 73

Labour Cash Crisis

The link is to the story about Labour having to find about £7m in cash. This is a consequence of the large sums of money spent on campaigning. Parties have fewer volunteers in part because there are fewer volunteers in many types of activity, but in part because there is less of a willingness to be involved in party politics.

This is replaced considerably by spending money. A party that looks like it will be in power will attract cash - see Bernie Ecclestone's "loan". I was always surprised that the fact that a payment of £1m occurred followed by an exemption from the smoking advertising ban did not elicit any wider concern.

I don't think this will tip them over the edge, but as they go towards 2010 their financial position will be weaker. Don't be surprised if suddenly taxpayers money becomes available to political parties for political activity (as opposed to the Short monies which are supposed to be for policy).

Reading the article, however, it appears that…

Cafcass South East - report by Ofsted

Ofsted see this report as being better than The East Midlands one. However, the following is in the report:

Overall, Ofsted judges safeguarding in the region as inadequate

The key is the following:

Inspectors found no consistent use of an assessment
framework in their analysis of case files and court reports,
or in discussion with Family Court Advisers. Recent
inspections of Cafcass have reported similar findings
from around the country.20 Inspectors found that Family
Court Adviser’s practice is not supported systematically by
knowledge which is based on research and best outcomes.
Instead, service delivery is determined by the individual
experience of Family Court Advisers or that of their
immediate colleagues.

I did write to Cafcass after the last report. However, there is no sign that they are going to move towards a research and evidenced based approach.

Standards Board Cases in Administrative Court

The following appear to be all the Administrative Court decisions relating to Local Government Standards Board cases.
Murphy v the ESO [2004] EWHC 2377 (Admin) Macclesfield Councillor appeals against suspension of 1 year for involvement in a decision about the ombudsmans report about a planning decision where he had a prejudicial interest. Reduced to 4 months. This is an interesting one as it raises the complex question about the code and planning decisions.

Adami v ESO [2005] EWHC 1577 (Admin) A North Dorset Case with a successful appeal against a 4 year disqualification where the decision was found to be insufficently well argued.


Scrivens v ESO [2005] EWHC 529 (Admin) Farnham Town Council , Waverley, Surrey. Appeal dismissed because the question as to whether a Councillor has a personal interest in a matter is objective, not one of the opinion of the Councillor however reasonable that may be.


Sanders v Kingston [2005] EWHC 1145 (Admin)
Sacking of Tory Leader of Peterborough, who got re…

Birmingham City Council's Statement: Khyra Ishaq

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said:

“A serious case review into the death of Khyra Ishaq has been officially
started today (23 May 2008) after a meeting of the Birmingham Safeguarding
Children Board (BSCB), an independent, cross-agency body. A serious case
review will always be conducted when a child dies and abuse or neglect is
known or suspected to be a factor.

“The death of Khyra Ishaq is however the matter of a criminal and coroner’s
investigation and therefore the BSCB will not impede or compromise these
investigations.

“Results of this serious case review will be made public sometime after the
completion of the criminal process. The findings will be issued to OFSTED
and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

“Statutory guidance is being followed by launching a serious case review;
pupils and teachers at Khyra Ishaq’s school, Grove Primary School, in
Handsworth, are being supported by city council psychologists; and the
council has provided public statements each day since …

Crewe and Nantwich By-election result

By Election Results For Crewe & NantwichAt the By Election in Crewe & Nantwich on 22nd May 2008, 41856 votes were cast (approximately 58% of the total number of eligible voters) with the following result:49.1% Edward Timpson (Conservative): 20539 votes (+16.5%). 30.3%
Tamsin Dunwoody (Labour): 12679 votes (-18.5%).
14.4% Elizabeth Shenton (Liberal Democrat): 6040 votes (-4.2%). 2.2% Mike Nattrass (UK Independence Party): 932 votes (+2.2%).
0.9% Robert Smith (Green Party): 359 votes (+0.9%). 0.7%
David Roberts (English Democrats Party): 275 votes (+0.7%). 0.6%
The Flying Brick (Official Monster Raving Loony Party): 236 votes (+0.6%). 0.5%
Mark Walklate (Independent Candidate): 217 votes (+0.5%).
0.3% Paul Thorogood (Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel): 118 votes (+0.3%).
0.3% Gemma Garrett (Independent Candidate): 113 votes (+0.3%).
Thanks to Tim Prater-Raines for the result
Historic worst swings results Lab->Con Crewe at 8
1) Walsall North 1976 (Swing to Con: 22.6%)
2) Dudley 1968 (Swing to Con: 21.2%…

Oil breaks new price barriers

Crude oil rose to a record above $135 a barrel in New York after U.S. stockpiles unexpectedly dropped and a report said the IEA may lower supply forecasts.

The price will be likely to drop from time to time, but all the evidence is that we are now an a systematically constrained supply situation. This changes the market from primarily a buyers market to a sellers market.

Demand, therefore, does get reduced. The system everyone is going for at the moment is that where the weaker members of society suffer.

After a few more airlines have gone bust I don't think we will see any arguments about expansion of airports.

20th MayWillie Walsh, British Airways’ CEO, has told journalists that he expects a string of bankruptcies and mergers in the commercial airline industry to make headlines this year.

Khyra Ishaq

The rather tragic case of Khyra Ishaq has occurred (and her siblings). Obviously we should not jump to any conclusions.

However, for a child of 7 - which is school age - to starve to death raises a large number of questions. After all it does not happen quickly.

In a sense it is a test of the new post Laming framework. We now have a vastly larger number of references to Childrens Services (Specialised Services in Birmingham). I have been concerned for some time at the overwhelming effect this has on the system.

I have always felt that the system should concentrate on the more serious cases. Superficially this appears to be one of those. However, although serious questions need to be answered now is not the time to speculate.

I must admit I have supported the calls from practitioners for the retention of the Child Protection Register in preference to the Common Assessment Framework - that puts all sorts of irrelevant information into a database.

However, questions will need to be a…

Child Protection damages Public Health - AIMS

The following is an AIMs press release sent out recently that I quote.

The punitive way child “protection” is practised in the UK may be doing more harm than good. In their many cases on file, the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services has numerous examples:
Women with postnatal depression who are at risk of suicide conceal their illness - for fear of losing their children
Women who are being beaten up by their partners don’t report it - for fear of social workers taking their children
Women in need of support whose pregnancies were the result of rape conceal it from midwives at antenatal clinic - for fear of social workers being called in.
Parents are afraid to take sick children to A & E - for fear paediatricians will have them taken away.
Health visitors, once valuable supporters, are no longer welcomed since they became “the health police”

These and many other examples were outlined in a letter AIMS sent to Chief Medical Officers in the UK - which has now been publ…

HFE Bill again

Yesterday I voted generally against human hybrid embryos on the basis that currently research regulation is not working and I am hence concerned about pushing the boundaries of the law whilst research regulation is inadequate.

I voted both (present abstention) on saviour siblings and to prevent a saviour sibling from being created to give an organ transplant. (the "regenerative" option).

On the issue of children and IVF I am concerned that insufficient priority is given to considering children and their interests. When it comes to lesbian couples and single women the law already requires that they are not discriminated against. I do, however, think that it is better for the child for there to be a knowledge of who a child's father is with the potential for (infrequent) contact than no links to the father other than through a clinic - hence "need for a father". The parental responsibilities would lie with those caring for the child, but there would be a positi…

HFE Bill - Second Reading

I voted against the Second Reading of the HFE Bill.

It was interesting listening to the arguments about the Bill from its proponents. One argument related to establishing rights in respect of contact with children for lesbian couples. This was done last year in the House of Lords. Similarly the arguments about discrimination are not valid because the various acts against discrimination take precedence when interpreting the 1990 Act.

My constituency consultation was against the Second Reading. My concerns are that the direction we are taking is one that devalues certain people. That is seen specifically in the RP case where she was not allowed a trial because an expert said she was too stupid.

It is very worrying how we are trampling on the rights of people who have difficulty fighting for themselves. Although some of the detailed decisions in the Bill are finely balanced the general direction is a worrying one.

The Leeds story

"How social workers took away our children for 11 months without a shred of evidence."

This is the real world result of the single expert system. The experts get things wrong whether or not there is malice. At times you might as well toss a coin. The real problem, of course, is that they get rewarded financially for alleging abuse.

Thats because they get family court expert fees.

Trial by Expert

The link is to a well argued article about the over use of experts in Family Proceedings. The only key point it misses out is that the courts tendency to allow the Local Authority to exclude experts from giving evidence (the single expert system) leads automatically to an unfair process.

If parents cannot even ask an alternative expert about a case without permission from the judge they are unreasonably hobbled in their defence.

Peak Oil EDM

The link is to my most recently tabled EDM relating to Peak Oil which states:
That this House notes that current movements in energy and food prices are in conformance with the predictions as to what would happen as oil production peaks; and calls for the Government urgently to review its predictions as to when peak oil occurs with a view to determining whether or not urgent policy adjustments are called for.

At the time of writing 31 MPs have signed it which is quite a good response.

[2008] EWHC 802 (Fam) LEEDS CITY COUNCIL v Mr & Mrs YX

As part of my collection of important cases this is the one in respect of Mr Justice Holman and Leeds. This relates to the quality of expert evidence in abuse cases.

I wish only to stress, as that document does at paragraphs 1.2 and 1.13, the very great importance of including in any assessment every aspect of a case. Very important indeed is the account of the child, considered, of course, in an age appropriate way. An express denial is no less an account than is a positive account of abuse. It is also, in my opinion, very important to take fully into account the account and demeanour of the parents, and an assessment of the family circumstances and general quality of the parenting. The medical assessment of physical signs of sexual abuse has a considerably subjective element, and unless there is clearly diagnostic evidence of abuse (e.g. the presence of semen or a foreign body internally) purely medical assessments and opinions should not be allowed to predominate. Even 20 years af…

Election Result: Thursday 8th May 2008

Medway UA, Rochester South and Horsted
Con 1847 (48.7 + 7.2), Lab 819 (21.6 -5.0), LD Viv Parker 767 (20.2 + 3.6), BNP 257 (6.8 + 6.8), Green 104 (2.7 + 2.7), [Medway Ind (0.0 - 6.2)], [UKIP (0.0 - 9.2)].
Majority 1028. Turnout 41%. CON HOLD. Percentage change is since May 2007.

The Court of Appeal [2008] EWCA Civ 462

The linked judgment is the one in which I was criticised by the Court of Appeal for two points.

Bias and Apparent Bias
Firstly I provided the court with evidence that local authorities and Nottingham in particular had been in receipt of hypothecated funding ringfenced towards adoption. This practise ceased from 1st April 2008.

The second leg of Natural Justice requires Nemo Judex in Causa Sua. The decisions of the local authority in terms of both whether to initiate care proceedings and assessment fall foul of the need for the local authority to make those decisions in an unbiased manner. It is clear that both the existence of the BV163 adoption targets and the hypothecated funding (both scrapped from 1st April 2008) created an apparent bias on the local authority. Magill v Porter [2001] UKHL 67 [2002] 2 ACT 357 at [103] (Lord Hope: “The question is whether the fair minded observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was …

Abortion - statute is not the answer.

One of the problems in the UK is that there is an obsession with using laws to get solutions. This arises in part from the fact that parliament is hobbled from properly holding the executive to account.

There is no doubt that the number of abortions in the UK is high. The question is what the best way of dealing with this is. Yesterday I had a meeting with the pro-life group and I made the point that they should be looking at how we could get the numbers of abortions reduced without trying to use the criminal law.

What should happen is that the Department of Health should look at why women end up having abortions and review what would be a better way forwards. Having a late term abortion is not something that has no effect on the mother and this should also be recognised.

We really do have to ask questions about a society in which a 14 year old child has even one abortion let alone two. Arguing at length about the number of weeks will give no answers to this question. In any event the as…

East Sussex Adoption Case

The link is to the judgment in terms of the East Sussex Adoption Case as reported recently. I post it here because people could do with a link to it.

Note
"There are many who assert that councils have a secret agenda to establish a high score of children that they have placed for adoption."

The Adoption Targets (now essentially scrapped) wree not a "secret agenda", but indeed a public agenda.

Cleveland Lessons not learned

Justice Holman is a judge who has made a number of really good judgments. This one (linked) is another one.

The secrecy of the family courts allow masses of miscarriages of justice to occur. In the linked case things have been sorted, but not without a year of trauma for the children as well as the parents.

At least they were able to stay with their grandparents.

Bring the Sunshine in

John Hemming, a Birmingham MP who chairs the organisation "justice for families" is releasing a charity song called "bring the sunshine in" to fight miscarriages of justice against mothers and fathers.

"The song", he said, "calls for more openness in the Family Courts. Britain has a network of secret courts that lock up mothers, fathers and grandparents for heinous crimes like talking to their children or grand children. These secret courts make lots of money for lawyers and expert witnesses, but the general public is not allowed to know what goes on".

"The verses in the song refer to real situations although some of the names have been changed. If the names had not been changed then people could be sent to jail for playing the song because of the secret courts."

"The money raised will go to the Angela Cannings Foundation and to pay for advisors to help parents fight for justice."

"Not all of the decisions of the Family …

By-elections from 1st May

Aberdeenshire UA, Troup
SNP 1721 (62.5%; +14.8%)
Conservative 515 (18.6%; -5.7%)
Liberal Democrat (Edward Acton) 503 (18.3%; +10.7%)
Turnout 36%. SNP hold – elected at 1st stage
(Percentage change since May 2007).

Barnet LBC, Hale
Con 2798 (50.1; +4.0), Lab 1882 (33.7; -2.5), LD Geoffrey Jacobs 487 (8.7; -1.8), BNP 213 (3.8; +3.8), Green 206 (3.7; -3.4).
Majority 916. Turnout not available. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2006).

Bournemouth UA, Queens Park
Con 910 (47.6; -7.3), LD Mike Carlile 466 (24.4; -10.6), UKIP 175 (9.1; +9.1), Lab 149 (7.8; -2.3), Ind 146 (7.6; +7.6), Liberal 67 (3.5; +3.5).
Majority 444. Turnout 26.3%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

Bournemouth UA, Winton East
Con 590 (35.6; -14.9), LD Anson Westbrook 411 (24.8; -3.5), Lab 244 (14.7; +3.1), Ind 132 (8.0; -1.7), Green 126 (7.6; +7.6), BNP 104 (6.3; +6.3), UKIP 51 (3.1; +3.1).
Majority 179. Turnout 24.6%. Con hold. (Percentage change since May 2007).

Cambridgeshire CC, Romsey
LD Kilian Bourke 781 (37.0;…

Birmingham votes by Parliamentary Constituency

LDmLabConBNPGrnOthLDm %Lab %Con %BNP %Grn %Oth %Edgbaston139458321147111281380164213696.52%27.29%53.68%5.28%6.46%0.77%Erdington26155581704516995932651779814.69%31.36%39.58%9.55%3.33%1.49%Hall Green84658262406475697456712819230.03%29.31%14.42%2.68%3.45%20.12%Hodge Hill1007511715251119596512192713037.14%43.18%9.26%7.22%2.40%0.81%Ladywood54948196170554665224931908628.79%42.94%8.93%2.86%3.42%13.06%Northfield16636499953526598320211887.85%30.67%45.00%12.55%3.93%0.00%Perry Barr486784094452141170120192185922.27%38.47%20.37%6.46%3.21%9.24%Selly Oak3426623910286173520171102381314.39%26.20%43.19%7.29%8.47%0.46%Yardley122443749228226015883222178656.20%17.21%10.47%11.94%2.70%1.48%Sutton Coldfield21473355148251521854782234849.14%14.29%63.13%6.48%3.64%3.33%

East Sussex Case

This story from East Sussex demonstrates that the priorities of Childrens Services are not what is defined in statute.

Effectively they have used sleight of hand to prevent a father from caring for his child. I think procedurally he may just be out of time to take the authority to judicial review. On the other hand he should be able to use the argument that he applied to the Court of Appeal to deal with this.

I have not read the judgment on this. However, I have some scepticism as to whether the judgments on the Convention of the Court of Appeal on Family matters are properly in accordance with Jurisprudence at the ECtHR. More on this later.