John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Saturday, November 29, 2008
  Gissa job
Quoting from The Times, see links

The official said Stephenson should have told Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary who called in police, that leaks of nonclassified information were not a matter for a police inquiry.
Normington will chair the panel that will interview and vet applicants for the job of Met commissioner. The deadline for applications is tomorrow.

  Eternal Vigilance
I have linked to part of the proceedings of the Employment Bill. The relevant section follows. The attitude of the Labour Party is that they don't need to legislate to prevent vindictive acts because they are nice people and wouldn't do that sort of thing. Sadly, however, although some people are nice and would hold themselves back - others are vindictive and as such systems need checks and balance to prevent vindictive acts obtaining state sanction.

As yet Gordon Brown has not commented on "Green-gate". At some stage he will have to.

Natascha Engel: The hon. Gentleman is trying to legislate for something that I do not think will ever happen. The idea that a trade union might be purely vindictive and get rid of somebody because 40 years ago they were a member of such-and-such an organisation just will not happen.
Mr. Djanogly: I assure the hon. Lady that in Nazi Germany a person’s membership of the Communist party 20 or 30 years previously may well have been taken into account in deciding how they were dealt with. Such treatment is therefore conceptually possible. As to whether it has happened in this country, I do not have any proof. Is it conceptually possible? Is it a fear that as legislators we should be looking at? I think it is.
Natascha Engel: The point is that we do not live in Nazi Germany. If we are legislating on the basis that we are living in Nazi Germany, we should start all over again.
Mr. Djanogly: I see myself as a guardian of democracy in this country, and I hope that all of us do to some extent.
Michael Jabez Foster: Is it not the case that Nazi Germany did not have proposed new subsection (4H), which will impose reasonableness? With respect to the hon. Gentleman, any of those bizarre examples, such as someone who was a member 20 or 30 years ago, would be unreasonable unless their conduct had been different in the meantime.
Mr. Djanogly: I think that I have made my point.
Mr. Binley: Does my hon. Friend agree from his history lessons—I lived through it—that vindictiveness occurred in the union movement consistently in the 1970s? Before saying that it did not, one should talk to many of my friends who fought that battle in Nottinghamshire and other parts of the country. It may happen again, and we need to be aware of that when we are writing law. We are not writing law for a week or a month; we assume that we are writing law for a long time indeed, and we must take that into account.
Mr. Djanogly: I totally agree with my hon. Friend.
John Hemming: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and that our role is to ensure that the laws operate properly and protect people against vindictive actions? Although I would disagree with him on this occasion in valuing the right of voluntary association where a person does not suffer any disadvantage as an important issue to be taken account of, it is our responsibility as hon. Members to protect the freedoms of the people of this country.
  The Green Case: the tip of an iceberg of tyranny
The case of Damien Green's arrest is particularly egregrious involving as it does the abuse of parliamentary privilege. Parliamentary Privilege exists to protect those people that MPs serve - the citizens as a whole.

In the mean time, however, it is clear to me that this is in fact the tip of various tyrannical acts The Sally Murrer Case is another over the top prosecutoin relating to information. The number of tyrannical acts in the family court is legion with people being imprisoned in secret time and time again.

Hopefully the Green case will wake up everyone to the fact that we are sleepwalking towards tyranny.
  Proposals for change in Child Protection
Together with two social workers I have written an article about how the decisionmaking system in social work needs to change. This does not directly refer to the Family Court although if the family court was not as much of a procedural mess then we could not have got the initial decisionmaking system wrong as cases would have bounced at the family court level.

Initially the article was published in the Birmingham post, but has now also appeared in Family Law Week and Community Care Magazine.
Friday, November 28, 2008
  Parliamentary Privilege
The question, of course, is to what extent communications by MPs is privileged. In fact in 1957/8 there was a case in which the LEB threatened a writ against an MP because of a letter he had written to a Minister.

This was raised in the house to be referred to the Privileges committee

The committee considered the issue and on October 30, 1957 concluded that

"(a) In writing the letter of February 8, 1957, to the Paymaster-General of which the London Electricity Board complain, Mr. Strauss was engaged in 'a proceeding in parliament within the meaning of the Bill of Rights 1688.

"(b) The London Electricity Board in threatening by the letters from themselves and their solicitors to commence proceedings for libel against Mr. Strauss for statements made by him in the course of a proceeding in Parliament are threatening to impeach or question the freedom of Mr. Strauss in a Court or place outside Parliament, and accordingly the London Electricity Board and their solicitors have acted in breach of the privilege of Parliament.

"(c) The opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be sought on the question whether the House would be acting contrary to the Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770, if it treated the issue of a writ against a Member of Parliament in respect of a speech or proceeding by him in Parliament as a breach of its privileges."

On December 4, 1957, the House of Commons presented a humble address to Her Majesty in accordance with conclusion (c)of the committee, and on December 13 an Order in Council was made accordingly.

On 1958 May 7


VISCOUNT SIMONDS: Their Lordships now turn to the question referred to them. They point out at the outset that this question is a very narrow one. It is independent of the conclusions (a)and (b) in the conclusions of the Committee of Privileges above set out. Upon them their Lordships are required to express, and express, no opinion. Before considering the text of the Act of 1770 and certain other Acts with which it is inseparably connected, it is only necessary to observe that the words "in respect of a speech or proceeding by him in Parliament" refer (though not quite accurately) to that part of the Bill of Rights by which, after reciting that "the late King James the Second by the assistance of divers evil Counsellors Judges and Ministers employed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this Kingdom" by the divers means therein set out, "the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons pursuant to their respective letters and elections being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation … do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare. …

[1958] 349

"9. That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament."

The Bill of Rights was enacted in 1688. In 1700 the first of the group of Acts was passed which fall for their Lordships' consideration. They are clearly of opinion, and it appeared to be common ground between the parties, that the ambit of the later Acts was no greater than that of the earlier. This Act must therefore be closely examined. It is the Act 12 & 13 Will. 3, c. 3, and is entitled "An Act for preventing any inconveniences that may happen by privilege of Parliament." Its opening words, which can hardly be called a preamble, are significant. "For the preventing of all delays the King or His subjects may receive in any of His Courts of Law or Equity and for their case in the recovery of their rights and titles to any lands tenements or hereditaments and their debts or other dues for which they have cause of suit or action" - here is the declared purpose of the Act, which goes on to enact that from and after June 24, 1701, any persons may commence and prosecute any action or suit in any of His Majesty's courts of record or other courts therein enumerated against any peer of this Realm or Lord of Parliament or against any of the knights, citizens and burgesses of the House of Commons for the time being, or against any of their menial or other servants or any other person entitled to the privilege of Parliament at any time from and immediately after the dissolution or prorogation of any Parliament until a new Parliament shall meet or the same be reassembled, and from and immediately after any adjournment of both Houses of Parliament for above the space of 14 days until both Houses shall meet or reassemble, and that the said respective courts shall and may after such dissolution, prorogation or adjournment proceed to give judgment and to make final orders, decrees and sentences and award execution thereupon, any privilege of Parliament to the contrary notwithstanding.

It is convenient to pause at these words which conclude the first section of the Act and to ask what is its scope. It is not in doubt that its language is comprehensive. It is apt to cover any suits, including suits for defamation whether in or out of Parliament, and in every case to bar the plea of any privilege of Parliament. It should therefore prima facie be read in this sense. But there are considerations, which will be strengthened by later sections, pointing to a necessary limitation of its meaning. In the first place, as has already been noted, the declared purpose

[1958] 350

of the Act is to prevent delay in the bringing of those actions to which the Act relates. The Members of both Houses had long notoriously abused their privileges in respect of immunity from civil actions and arrest, which by ancient usage extended during the sitting of Parliament and for 40 days after every prorogation and 40 days before the next appointed meeting. It was to curtail this delay in the commencement and prosecution of suits that the Act was avowedly passed, and by clear implication it referred only to those suits which, subject to delay, were ultimately enforceable. But there was no right at any time to impeach or question in a court or place out of Parliament a speech, debate or proceeding in Parliament. No question of delay or ultimate enforceability could arise in regard to that privilege which demanded that a Member should be able to speak without fear or favour in Parliament in the sure knowledge that neither during its sitting nor thereafter would he be liable to any man for what he said and that Parliament itself would protect him from any action in respect of it either by the Crown or by a fellow subject. Here, then, is a strong reason for limiting the meaning of the general words which have been quoted.

In the second place, the section empowers not only the subject to "commence and prosecute any action or suit" but the court "to proceed to give judgment and to make final orders decrees and sentences and award execution thereon." The last words of the section "any privilege of Parliament to the contrary notwithstanding" must apply equally to all the preceding words. If, then, the Act is read so to have any application to speeches made in Parliament, the effect is substantially to repeal the ninth article of the Bill of Rights. It is not a question of a writ being issued in a court of law and the defendant then making a plea in bar or a plea to the jurisdiction on the ground of privilege of Parliament. Final orders, decrees, sentences, and execution may follow the commencement and prosecution and no plea of privilege is to be available. It appears to their Lordships that a consideration of this consequence supports the view that the Act applies only to proceedings against Members of Parliament in respect of their debts and actions as individuals and not in respect of their conduct in Parliament as Members of Parliament, and does not abridge or affect the ancient and essential privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament. The conclusion that this privilege, solemnly reasserted in the Bill of Rights, was within a few years abrogated or at least vitally impaired cannot lightly be reached.

[1958] 351

The following sections of the Act of 1700 support, or at least do not militate against, the same view. The second section provides that the Act shall not extend to subject the person of any of the knights, citizens and burgesses of the House of Commons or any other person entitled to the privilege of Parliament to be arrested "during the time of privilege" - a significant phrase. Section 3 again emphasizes the temporal aspect of the impediment to a plaintiff pursuing his proper remedy by providing that, if he shall by reason of privilege of Parliament be stayed or prevented from prosecuting any suit by him commenced, he shall not for that reason be barred by any Statute of Limitation or nonsuited, dismissed, or his suit discontinued, but shall from time to time upon the rising of the Parliament be at liberty to proceed to judgment and execution. Section 4 makes special provision in regard to actions against the King's original and immediate debtors and other persons therein mentioned which do not appear to call for comment. Section 5 provides that neither that Act nor anything therein contained shall extend to give any jurisdiction, power or authority to any court to hold plea in any real or mixt action in any other manner than such court might have done before the making of that Act. Of this section it may be safely said that it does not touch the question of the privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament.

The Act of 1700 having been closely examined, the succeeding Acts can be briefly dealt with. An Act of 1703 (2 & 3 Anne, c. 18) entitled "An Act for the further explanation and regulation of privilege of Parliament in relation to persons in public offices" throws no additional light on the scope of the earlier Act, nor does an Act of 1738 (11 Geo. 2, c. 24), which purported to do no more than amend the Act of 1700 by further curtailing the so-called time of privilege. An Act of 1763 (4 Geo. 3, c. 33) sufficiently indicates its purpose and effect by its title "An Act for preventing inconveniences arising in cases of merchants and such other persons as are within the description of the Statutes relating to bankrupts being entitled to privilege of Parliament, and becoming insolvent." It is in no way relevant to the question that has to be determined. Finally comes the Act of 1770, the immediate subject of reference, and little remains to be said about it, for it is clear, as has already been stated, that it did not extend the ambit of section 1 of the Act of 1700, and that its only relevance is that it altogether abolished the time of privilege during which suits might not be commenced or prosecuted against Members of Parliament.

[1958] 352

Their Lordships have already expressed their views upon the Act of 1700, and it follows that they must answer the question referred to them by saying that the House would not be acting contrary to the Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770, if it treated the issue of a writ against a Member of Parliament in respect of a speech or proceeding by him in Parliament as a breach of its privileges. It is proper, however, that they should mention certain arguments that were addressed to them.

It is a commonplace in the interpretation of statutes that the court may be assisted by a consideration of the existing law at the time of the passing of the statute under review, and of the evil which it was designed to remedy. Accordingly, the Attorney-General, as he was well entitled to do, invited their Lordships to consider what was the law in regard to the issue of a writ against a Member of Parliament at the relevant date, which by common consent was the year 1700. Sir Frank Soskice, who assisted their Lordships by contending that the Act did not affect the privilege of freedom of speech, in effect made the same plea, for he opened his speech by asking that it should be decided, first, whether, if the 1770 Act and the earlier Acts had not been passed, the issue of a writ would in the circumstances mentioned in the reference be a breach of privilege, and, secondly, if the answer was in the affirmative, whether it was the effect of those Acts to prevent the issue of such a writ being any longer a breach. As a result of this approach to the construction of the Act of 1700 and, accordingly, of the Act of 1770, the argument on both sides ranged widely over the field of parliamentary privilege. In particular their Lordships were reminded of the manner in which from the earliest times the right of freedom of speech had been asserted. Strode's Act, passed in the fourth year of Henry VIII, was recalled, by which it was declared that all suits and proceedings against Richard Strode and against every other Member of the present Parliament or of any Parliament thereafter "for any bill, speaking, or declaring of any matter concerning the Parliament to be communed and treated of, be utterly void and of none effect." Nor was there any doubt that, though the form was new, this was but the assertion of an ancient privilege.

Then their Lordships were invited to examine, and examined, a large number of cases through the seventeenth and following centuries in which many aspects of privilege were discussed, but it did not appear to them that there was any authority relevant to the only question referred to them - viz., the meaning of the Act

[1958] 353

of 1770. For even if it is assumed, as the Attorney-General contended (and their Lordships do not pronounce upon it), that the mere issue of a writ for defamation in respect of a speech in Parliament is not a breach of privilege, the assumption does not assist his argument that the Act of 1770 is to be construed so as to cover suits against Members of Parliament in respect not only of their actions as individuals but also of their speeches in Parliament. Nor can it be relevant first to determine, as Sir Frank Soskice invited their Lordships to do, what would have been the state of the law if the Act of 1770 and the related Acts had not been passed. The single question is whether "the House would be acting contrary to the Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770, if it treated the issue of a writ against a Member of Parliament in respect of a speech or proceeding by him in Parliament as a breach of its privileges." This question can, for the reasons already given, be answered by saying "No," without embarking upon a general consideration of parliamentary privilege.

Their Lordships repeat that they answer this and no other question. It was referred to them and it became their duty to answer it. But they do not intend expressly or by implication to pronounce upon any other question of law. In particular they express no opinion whether the proceedings referred to in the introductory paragraph were "a proceeding in Parliament," a question not discussed before them, nor on the question whether the mere issue of a writ would in any circumstances be a breach of privilege. In taking this course they have been mindful of the inalienable right of Her Majesty's subjects to have recourse to her courts of law for the remedy of their wrongs and would not prejudice the hearing of any cause in which a plaintiff sought relief. As was justly observed by the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1810 to consider the famous case of Burdett v. Abbot (see Hatsell's Parliamentary Precedents, vol. 1, at p. 293): "And it appears, that in the several instances of actions commenced in breach of the privileges of this House, the House has proceeded by commitment, not only against the party, but against the solicitor and other persons concerned in bringing such actions; but your committee think it right to observe, that the commitment of such party, solicitor, or other persons, would not necessarily stop the proceedings in such action." This is an aspect of the matter which cannot be ignored, for in the words of Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, 16th ed., p. 172: "The House of Commons … claims to be

[1958] 354

the absolute and exclusive judge of its own privileges, and that its judgments are not examinable by any other court or subject to appeal. On the other hand, the courts regard the privileges of Parliament as part of the law of the land, of which they are bound to take judicial notice. They consider it their duty to decide any question of privilege arising directly or indirectly in a case which falls within their jurisdiction and to decide it according to their own interpretation of the law. The decisions of the courts are not accepted as binding by the House in matters of privilege, nor the decisions of the House by the courts. Thus the old dualism remains unresolved." An example of this dualism may be seen in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard 1 and the subsequent case of the Sheriff of Middlesex, 2which are part of history.

In accordance with the views expressed above their Lordships humbly report to Her Majesty that the question referred to them should be answered in the negative.

It is important to note that the question being asked is whether the 1770 act meant that the committee could not take action against the LEB for threatening the writ. The answer was no ... this meant they could take action.

Obviously, this was the end of it. If by merely threatening a writ (rather than arresting an MP for 9 hours) the London Electricity Board could be sent to the Tower of London then they were not going to be any more "peeps" from the LEB.

The privileges committee recommended that no further action was taken.

The house later resolved that this letter was not privileged by a narrow margin

It remains, however, that this does not affect what is and what is not privileged. The extension of privileges is a matter that can be done through an act of parliament. The House of Commons could still consider the arrest of Damian Green as a contempt of parliament. It would be up to the courts to decide if that were right if challenged in the courts.

In modern days, however, Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights would be brought to bear (additionally).
  Results: Thursday 27th November 2008.
Cambridgeshire CC, Hardwick
LD Fiona Whelan 1369 (49.9; +14.5)
Con 1169 (42.6; +1.3)
Lab 208 (7.6; -7.4)
[Green (0.0; -8.3)]
Majority 200
Turnout 36%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2005

Devon CC, Exminster and Kenton
LD Alan Connett 1969 (62.5; +12.1)
Con 1182 (37.5; +0.4)
[Lab (0.0; -12.5)]
Majority 787
Turnout 43%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2005

Teignbridge DC, Kenn Valley
Con 924 (48.2; +7.0)
LD Hilary Berman 832 (43.4; -15.3)
Ind 160/128 (8.4; +8.4)
Majority 92
Turnout 42.1%
Con gain from LD
Percentage change is since May 2007

Walsall MBC, Birchills and Leamore
Con 764 (43.9; +12.9)
Lab 661 (37.9; -16.7)
BNP 90 (5.2; +5.2)
LD Christine Cockayne 72 (4.1; +4.1)
Democratic Labour 69 (4.0; -2.3)
UKIP 52 (3.0; +3.0)
Green 34 (2.0; -6.1)
Majority 103
Turnout 19.6%
Con gain from Lab
Percentage change is since May 2008

Bridlington TC, North
Ind 369 (38.1)
LD Mike Heslop-Mullens 275 (28.4)
BNP 198 (20.5)
SDP 126 (13.0)
Majority 94
Turnout 9.9%
Ind gain from Lab

Bridlington TC, Old Town
SDP 183/172 (30.6)
LD Keith Chambers 147 (24.6)
BNP 143/114 (23.9)
Ind 125 (20.9)
Majorities 36/25
Turnout 7%
SDP hold x 2

Knutsford TC, Bexton
LD Barbara Austin 320 (56.2)
Con 249 (43.8)
Majority 71
Turnout 27%
LD gain from Con

Knutsford TC, Nether
Con 315 (53.0)
LD Caroline Aldhouse 166 (27.9)
Ind 113 (19.0)
Majority 149
Turnout 28.5%
Con hold

Thursday, November 27, 2008
  Damien Green: a complete non starter (and I don't mean Damien himself)
I cannot believe that any action has been taken against a member of parliament about leaked government documents. This goes straight against Article XI of the 1688 Bill of Rights.

I accept that various local authorities have threatened me with imprisonment, but to have a go at an opposition member of parliament is totally and absolutely wrong.

OK so Parliament is in suspension now. However, there must be a reaction against this.

Whistleblowing to MPs is implicitly protected as part of the 1688 Bill of Rights. If we are going back in legal terms to pre 1679 (Habeus Corpus) that is very worrying.

This is not in any way something minor.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
  Tories vote with Labour on Pre Budget Report
Confusion reigned in The House as the Conservatives decided to vote with Labour to ensure that there wasn't a vote on the Pre Budget Report. Personally I think they didn't know what was going on and will regret this in the future. Some came into the aye lobby and wandered out again. Technically there was a vote to have a vote 30 seconds before the end of the debate against which Labour and the Tories voted.

On the substantive issue there is a need for investment to bring back confidence into the economy (which is what it needs). The word "kick start" is misleading in that sense.

Looking through the PBR itself, however, the government seem to be ignoring £70,000,000,000 of debt (not precisely), £37bn of bank funding and £33bn of off-balance sheet - Enron style government debt. (I have those figures from a March report of 505 off balance sheet PFI projects). We are committed to paying £156bn over the next 30 years for all the PFI projects which has a net present value of £86bn. The capital value, however, is recorded at just under £33bn.
Monday, November 24, 2008
  RP and Others v The United Kingdom
The link is to an entry on BAILII for RP and Others v The United Kingdom. I was surprised to be told that this entry is there.

This is the case where I had a row with two court of appeal Lord Justices. There are a material number of similar cases where mainly women have had their legal rights to fight their own case removed - in my view wrongly.

This particular case is one where the House of Lords seemed entirely happy that a woman had had no trial at which the evidence claiming she was an unfit mother was tested.

I am quite pleased that the European Court of Human Rights has moved in what is a relatively rapid manner for this particular court..

We are in the middle of preparing a second similar case to go to ECtHR.
Friday, November 21, 2008
  Results: Thursday 20th November 2008.
South Cambridgeshire DC, Teversham
LD Frances Amrani 269 (38.6; +2.9)
Con 237 (34.0; -30.3)
Ind 191 (27.4; +27.4)
Majority 32
Turnout 36.1%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007

Tower Hamlets LBC, Mile End East
Lab 1208 (47.3; +15.0)
Con 630 (24.7; +13.7)
Respect 604 (23.7; -0.3)
LD Jainal Choudhury 110 (4.3; -15.7)
Majority 578
Turnout 31.4%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2006

Barnstaple TC, Forches and Whiddon Valley
LD Tony Clark 287 (51.3)
Con 164 (29.3)
Ind 97 (17.4)
Communist 11 (2.0)
Majority 123
Turnout 17.0%
LD hold
Thursday, November 20, 2008
  Ofsted reveals true picture on child deaths
The time story reports Ofsted's report into child deaths from abuse. This figure gives around 200 a year rather than the government's 100 a year (80+). The report is available here.

Quoting from the report
Since April 2007, Ofsted has been responsible for
receiving notifications of serious incidents involving
children and for evaluating the quality of serious case
reviews. Between 1 April 2007 and 31 August 2008, Ofsted
received notifications from local authorities of 424 serious
incidents, relating to 282 deaths of children, 136 incidents
of significant harm or injuries and six incidents of which the
outcome is not yet known. Four in 10 incidents involved
babies under the age of one.

Their figures are closer to those I have produced than those of the government.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
  Government Cover up - response
So the government's response (see linked story) is:

A spokeswoman for the Department said: “We have not ordered councils not to reply to Mr Hemming.”

Why then do I have all these responses which say:

Your request for information on Part 8 Serious case reviews request 1 of 5, received on 01-JUL-2008, has been considered.

Unfortunately we will not be able to provide you with this information. This is because we have been informed by central government that a national response is being provided by DCSF.

In accordance with section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as a refusal notice.

I have since been instructed by The Department for Children, Schools and Families that they will be providing you with a coordinated national response and Bolton Council has no requirement to respond.

  1. The fact that someone else is producing a response is not a reason for not responding. DCSF are not allowed to "instruct" departments that they have "no requirement to respond."
  2. DCSF have not been willing to give a list of Serious Case Reviews.

There is no sense trying to come to any conclusions about whether or not the system is working properly if you don't start with reliable information.
Monday, November 17, 2008
  Serious Case Reviews: Government attempts to cover up lists of child deaths
The link is to a story on "The Stirrer" based upon a press release I sent out over the weekend.

The following is the text of an email I have just sent to the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee:

Dear Barry

I am writing to you as Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee as you may wish to review the matter of Serious Case Reviews.

You will be aware that where a child dies or is seriously injured as a result of child abuse that a Serious Case Review is instigated. There is an important question as to whether these reviews achieve their objective of informing practise. However, these reviews are being carried out.

I have been concerned for some time as to the decision making process in respect of Public Family Law. It is my belief that substantial numbers of falst positives and false negatives occur - I believe that this arises as a consequence of the lack of accountability in the system which is caused by threat of contempt proceedings in the Family Division. However, that is not relevant to this email.

You will be aware that many local authorities operate a management gateway system for care proceedings. This enables budgets to be controlled. Often such a system will operate on the basis of "one in" "one out" or some similar structure.

This has the tendency of establishing a cap on numbers in care and frequently local authorities create their own target numbers for the purpose of budgetary control.

As a consequence of this any system which facilitates children being wrongly taken into care will also and as a consequence create a situation where those who need to be taken into care are prevented from being taken into care by the management gateway. The abolition of BV163/PAF C23 (the adoption targets) will, of course, reduce the number of wrongful removals, but the problems built into the decisionmaking system remain.

I have, therefore, been studying the question of deaths from child abuse in England (note that the Scottish system is very different and does not have as many problems - although it is not perfect) as the English system.

It is relatively difficult to make international comparisons as the systems for monitoring child abuse vary from country to country. However, I have been working on the question of the deaths of children which result in a Serious Case Review. I have selected this threshold as it is a clear threshold that allows tracking of numbers.

I have found DCSF unwilling to provide information for audit purposes although they will provide some statistical summaries. I have, therefore, approached the local authorities and Safeguarding Committees in England and asked them for an anonymous list of Serious Case Reviews consequent to the death of a child.

Some authorities have complied. Sadly DCSF sent around an instruction to local authorities to tell them not to comply with my request for information. I am now taking this through the Freedom of Information Appeals process.

I am suggesting to your committee that it may be worth the authority of the committee being used to obtain a list of serious case reviews from local authorities. The provisional information I have indicates that DCSF are understating the numbers. This is an important question as one of the objectives of the child protection system has to be to reduce the number of deaths from abuse. If, therefore, numbers are going up it raises a question as to whether the recent changes are exacerbating problems inherently within the system - which I believe they are.

I attach two files. One is a few examples of how local authorities have been responding in a manner instructed by DCSF plus the DCSF summary figures. The second is my working list of serious case reviews from 2005 onwards.

There are other questions about Serious Case Reviews as to who should perform them and to what extent they should be open to external scrutiny However, I believe that starting with reliable figures as to the numbers is a good foundation.

I would be happy to talk to the committee about these things. I did offer earlier this year to provide evidence of the failings of the system, but the secretariat indicated that I would not be an appropriate witness.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
  Haringey is not unique
The link is to a story how a retaliatory allegation was made against the Haringey whistleblower for telling the truth.

Sadly this sort of thing is not in any way unique. It doesn't only happen in Haringey.
Friday, November 14, 2008
  Results: Thursday 13th November 2008
Boston BC, Fenside
BNP 279 (42.6; +42.6)
Boston Bypass Independents 141 (21.5; -21.8)
Con 119 (18.2; -0.1)
Lab 69 (10.5; -13.2)
UKIP 24 (3.7; -11.0)
Majority 138
Turnout 22.1%
BNP gain from Boston Bypass Independents
Percentage change is since May 2007

Darlington UA, North Road
LD Anne-Marie Curry 561 (50.8; -4.1)
Lab 262 (23.7; 0.0)
Con 115 (10.4; -1.0)
BNP 106 (9.6; -0.3)
Ind 60 (5.4; +5.4)
Majority 299
Turnout 24.2%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Hinckley and Bosworth BC, Markfield, Stanton and Fieldhead
Con 637 (35.2; -0.1)
Lab 521 (28.8; -11.8)
LD Robin Webber-Jones 390 (21.5; +12.8)
BNP 263 (14.5; -1.0)
Majority 116
Turnout 41%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Wokingham BC, Coronation
Con 850 (53.2; 0.0)
LD Coling Lawley 675 (42.2; +4.6)
UKIP 74 (4.6; -0.2)
[Lab (0.0; -4.3)]
Majority 175
Turnout not known
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Woodley TC, Coronation Central
Con 255 (50.8)
LD Patrick Power 247 (49.2)
Majority 8
Turnout not known
Con hold

Woodley TC, Coronation East
Con 639 (59.2)
LD Mark Thomas 380 (35.2)
UKIP 61 (5.6)
Majority 259
Turnout not known
Con hold
  EDM 2499 - Independent Inquiry
This EDM is at the nub of the issue recent deteriorations in child protection practise. The government is proposing to look at how well the changes have been implemented. We need to look as to whether the changes were the right thing to do.

I would not go about reorganising local authorities again. I would, however, move away from ticking boxes towards visiting people.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
  Jumping to Conclusions
The link is to Camilla Cavendish's article today where she argues a similar case to the one that I argue. I add concerns about the Integrated Childrens System and the fact that this drives social workers to make earlier decisions and remain in the office feeding the machine.

The Family Court system then fails to challenge these wrongful decisions.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
  Review into Child Protection
It seems to be that the government are going to have a review of Public Family Law. The question, however, is whether it will be wide ranging enough.

*edit Having Lord Laming look at what has happened since Climbie is thoroughly insufficient. Firstly, his proposals were unlikely to help in solving the wrong problem and actually making things worse. Secondly, this is taking the same person to look at the same issue which is likely to result in the same conclusions.

A typical family court nonsense.
  Baby P - Haringey again
The link is to the story about Baby P. That is another false negative.

The system we operate in England (and Wales) for child protection is systematically flawed. It generates wrong decisions and causes masses of damage.

Not only that, but the changes post Laming have made things worse.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
  Birmingham Remembrance Parade 2008
As usual I took photos of the parade from the VIP stand. This really is not such a good location to take photos. There may be other photos on the web later.

Previous years: 2005 2006 2007

The parade is gathered.
Then the wreath layers come out of the Rep.
The Colour bearers gather outside the Hall of Remembrance
The service is run from the Hall of Remembrance
A volley of shots is fired at the start and the end of the 2 minute silence.
The Lord Mayor's party stand outside Baskerville House
and the parade parades out past the Lord Mayor

There are more photos on flickr

Lest we forget.
  Birmingham Childrens Hospital
The link is to the commissioner report about Birmingham Children's Hospital.

A lot of the criticisms relate to short cuts by not having evening and weekend services and not having specialist teams.

A few years ago concerns were raised about the tariff paid to childrens' hospitals.

The consequences of these changes now seem clear.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
  Edinburgh and Glasgow by-elections
What is interesting about STV elections is that you find out voters subsequent preferences.

The full result for Forth is here

The Scottish Socialist Party vote went a third green and only 3 votes to Solidarity whereas Solidarity went independent. The Lib Dem votes went first non-transferable, then tory then Labour then SNP. The tory votes went mainly-non transferable, but more than half transferred and that was 270 SNP and 267 Labour.

What this says to me is that this battle has a distinctive anti SNP element to it.

The glasgow results are harder to find, but can be tracked from here. You need to download a zip file and extract it.

The few green votes went SNP in preference to Labour. The BNP voters preferred the tories to SNP then Labour. The SSP just about preferred the SNP to Labour, but it was close. The Lib Dem votes preferred Labour, then SNP then Tory. The Tory votes mainly didn't transfer, but otherwise preferred SNP (77) to Labour (48).

I find that interesting, but perhaps less anti SNP although it is a much more fertile ground for Labour.
Friday, November 07, 2008
  Zimbabwean Inflation in pictures
The link is to pictures of Zimbabwe's 231 000 000% inflation.

I noticed in 2012 that the webserver it was on had stopped working so I found the page in the internet graveyard and have uploaded it here.

One image is missing, but most of the quality of the original post is there.
  Results: Thursday 6th November 2008
Edinburgh City UA, Forth
First preference votes:
Labour 2013 (29.5%: +0.5%)
SNP 1841 (26.9%: +4.2%)
Conservative 1180 (17.3%: -2.9%)
Lib Dem (Sanne Dijkstra-Downie)
985 (14.4%: -3.5%)
Green 341 (5.0%: -0.8%)
Independent 1 297 (4.4%: +2.6%)
Solidarity 80 (1.2%: -0.6%)
SSP 53 (0.8%: +0.0%)
Independent 2 26 (0.4%: +0.4%)
Turnout 32%
The Labour candidate was elected at Stage 9
Labour hold

Glasgow City UA, Baillieston
First preference votes:
Labour 2257 (46.8%: +0.8%)
SNP 2027 (42.1%: +9.1%)
Conservative 226 (4.7%: -1.8%)
Lib Dem (David Jackson) 142 (2.9%: -0.9%)
SSP 88 (1.8%: -0.4%)
BNP 46 (1.0%: +1.0%)
Green 32 (0.7%: -1.1%)

There were no Solidarity or Scottish Unionist candidates in the by-election. In May 1907 between them they polled 6.7%)
Turnout 21.1%
The Labour candidate was elected at the 7th stage.
Labour hold

Rutland CC, Whissendine
Ind 154 (41.3; +41.3)
Con 148 (39.7; -60.3)
LD Roy Robinson 71 (19.0; +19.0)
Majority 6
Turnout 35.2%
Ind gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2007

Waltham Forest LBC, Valley
Con 1183 (50.2; -9.5)
LD Henry Boyle 734 (31.2; +9.9)
Lab 439 (18.6; -0.4)
Majority 449
Turnout 27.8%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2006

Thursday, November 06, 2008
  Fire Station Proposals
People living in Yardley will be aware that we are unhappy with the proposals in terms of locations of fire stations and closures of Hay Mills and Sheldon.

We now have the files with the maps of timings now and proposed timings. Anyone who wishes to see those should contact my office. They are big files of about 5Mb each and there are over 10 so we cannot email them.

Constituents with a memory stick can have a copy and we will display the maps in the window.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
  Camilla wins Paul Foot Award
Camilla Cavendish should be congratulated on winning the Paul Foot award for her work on opening up the family courts.

This is a battle between the vested interests of lawyers, experts and practitioners and the interests of children and families. The people who earn money from the system want to be kept away from scrutiny. Those who suffer from their actions want the professionals to be held to account.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
  'You can't see your son - but can he have one of your organs?
A mail on Sunday story about another example of the system working against families.
  Sam Thomas and her baby in Ireland
The link is to Fabulous. That is the News of the World's magazine.

I am not sure the link will last for ever. Hence I have extracted some of the article.
As they count down to their due date, most mums-to-be are busy putting the finishing touches to the nursery and packing their hospital bags.

But not 19-year-old Sam Thomas. In the last weeks of her pregnancy, she became so terrified the British authorities were planning to take away her baby, she fled 262 miles from her Somerset home to Wexford in Ireland, where 7lb 5oz Ellie-Jay was born on September 30.

"She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. She makes everything I've gone through worth it," says Sam.

I am the MP referred to in the article. What is important about this is that it was another case where a baby was scheduled for removal at birth. Providing all the information to sensible authorities (and remember that a Social Worker from Somerset went to Ireland to argue for removal at birth) results in a sensible decision.

My advice to anyone running to keep their baby is to have things checked out and make sure that they provide all the information to the authorities where they are going.

We have contacts in a number of places who will support mothers (and fathers) who are running to keep their children from being stolen by the state. In Ireland there is a charity that will provide a small amount of funding as well.
  Canadian Miscarriage Suicide
The link is to a story from Canada where similar mistakes are being made to those in England and Wales. I don't think they have the problem in Canada where cases are dragged out merely to increase the legal fees, but the same problem with assumption of guilt causes tragedies like the one involving the murder/suicide in Canada.

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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Published, promoted, and printed (well not really printed I suppose, more like typed) by John Hemming, 1772 Coventry Road, Birmingham B26 1PB. Hosted by part of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, United States of America. This blog is posted by John Hemming in his personal capacity as an individual.

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