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I agree with Nick

Ah, those heady days of the televised election debates, where Brown and Cameron were falling over themselves to position as the party who most agreed with Nick Clegg, and for a time Nick Clegg had the brightest burning star in British politics…


No, this is about District Judge Nicholas Crichton, and his very firm views about the PLO.  For those who don’t know D J Crichton, he is the pioneering judge behind the Family Drug and Alcohol Court in London, which has done so much to help troubled families and children.  He is not the ,ost influential or powerful family judge in the country – the Daily Mail wouldn’t be able to call him “Top Judge” but he is one that most of the profession look up to as a thoroughly decent, committed and imaginative judge who has tried to help those who come before him.

Therefore, when he speaks out, what he says is worth listening to.


And what he says here is that the rigid 26 week mandate is a tyranny that will lead to grave injustice for individual families who could have turned things around given the time, and he urges solicitors to appeal decisions where the 26 week mandate is rigidly imposed.

I think regular readers of this blog will know that I share those concerns myself – not that aspiring to cut out delay and the ‘dead time’ in care proceedings where nothing happened other than waiting for experts is a bad idea, rather that the rigidity of ‘one size fits all’ was inevitably going to lead to some cases being decided at the wrong time for that family.  So yes, largely I do agree with Nick.

I possibly agree less vehemently than I would have done two months ago. I think that DJ Crichton suspects now, as I did then, that the 26 week mandate was part of a greater political drive to faster and more adoptions and that troubled families weren’t going to be given a fair and reasonable chance to turn things around.  My only interpretation of the recent batch of Court of Appeal cases is that there is some judicial moving around of chess pieces on the board to lay the foundations for less adoptions and more Care Orders at home, with Local Authorities being ordered to hold onto higher levels of risk than they have historically been prepared to, and to provide more services at home to families than have historically been available.

It might be argued that this is long overdue, it might be argued that as we have a Child and Families Bill going through Parliament, that a proper and thorough debate about what Society and Parliament wants to do about families who come into the family justice system – are we there to penalise them, to test them, to help them, to prop them up? would have been the appropriate place for such a shift in national policy to happen.


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

13 responses

  1. Similar to the debates on prison: is the purpose to be deprivation of liberty or must there be brutalisation and deprivation of decency as well?

    To anyone who’s interested, I commend the book “Scarcity”, by Mullainathan and Sharif, professors of economics and psychology respectively. This shows when organisations and individuals are subject so scarcity, whether food, water, time, money or anything else, that skews the brain’a ability to cope and to make wise decisions.

    . – this is a review of the book.

    And all people behave like this when in these circumstances, From which one of the conclusions must be that people who lack money need er… more money.

    I’ve always been struck by effect of the reality check of court proceedings. It takes time for things to shake out. Perhaps proceedings should take more rather than less time, with the coudrt involved earlier?

  2. If you had a trusted friend that friend would do all those things. You would prop them up when in turmoil, you would help them when the confusion ends, you would test them to see if the situation was really stable and use tough love if the friend had not learnt.
    From that I think the only question is, why should family courts be that ‘friend’. And the answer to me is clear.
    That anything a family court, a govenment, an LA or a local council does should be in respect of the people they serve and which ALL of us pay into.
    The basis for this is a civilised country where the foundations of life consists of our families.
    It is what we strive for, pay our taxes for and live for, our human rights to live our normal lives and have others respect our rights to that.
    It is also what our soldiers go to war for. The right to be free from hostility and fear. The right to our lives and culture.
    So if the govenments want to be nanny and tell us all what to do and how we should live. Remember this that the front lines are made up of us neets, family in crisis and poorer working classes and even with austerity and lack of legal aid we are fighters.

  3. Family judge orders drug addict mother to give up her 14 children ……/Family-judge-orders-drug-ad

    Yes, this cruel judge Crichton took 114 babies from one reformed drug addict mother ! Virtually one baby each year for 14 years as she tried desparately to replace the one that was taken by a new one hoping against hope that she would be given just one chance in a mother and baby unit to show she could be a good mother.No £2500/week for 3 months would be too expensive he said,preferring to spend 10 time that amount for each of his 14 court appearances ! Give me just one chance she said ;please just one…
    But answer came there none !

  4. Actually not a neet, retired having worked all my life but know what it is like for young people (and older) struggling to find work or at least work that will pay their way and put food on the table.
    It must be remembered that most people in difficult circumstances dont stay that way. Most manage to resolve the problems at some stage.
    Family courts should take account of this.
    Financial incentives were brought in to help the children who had been lost in the care system. We were all made to believe that, but it came instead to be a forced adoption scandel, where thousands of children have been wrongly removed from loving and ‘good enough’ parents. With 4000 babies having child protection orders before they are even born.


    And while I sit and read many cases of social workers removing children on lies or reasons of hardship, crisis etc. and the Judges failing to act on it,I wonder why these immunities exist.. Certainly its not to protect the children.

  6. I think you’ve summarized the current situation perfectly; there really does appear to be a battle between the political push for adoption, and a backlash by the Court of Appeal in terms of adoption decisions. The question is where is the focus on children and their experiences in all of this jostling. As you so rightly point out, there needs to be a frank debate about the fine balance between the level of risk that local authorities should manage in order to keep children in their families, and when is that risk too high and the children need long term alternative carers.
    Given the current minefield, who is going to want to adopt, with the risk of ending up in the High Court having Placement Orders challenged in relation to children that are already living with you?

  7. I “Follow” @SecretFosterer on Twitter and yesterday the little girl she is fostering was told by the Authorities they had found her a “Forever Family” the girl was obviously anxious, and extremely angry, well today the young girl was informed by the Authorities the “Forever Family” were pulling out, this is the 3rd or 4th time this has happened to the wee girl in as many weeks, how on earth can we continue to allow this to happen, I am appalled and ashamed by these situations that are deep rooted in a system that simply continues to fail those it was set up to protect,

    It’s all fine and well being able to sit in a court room and dictate X,Y,Z, read reports about the Children and Parents, the Plans put forward by the Local Authority, listen to a Judge contemplate the best plans for the Child, that’s fine, those in the court room simply do their Jobs and leave at the end of the day feeling Job well done, I however, do not simply do that, I am forever more hearing the heart breaking stories like that of Secret Foster Carer, I meet the parents and wider families who live this nightmare 24/ 7, I am the one who is on the end of the phone at 2,3 and 4 o’clock in the morning listening to the parent I support tearing themselves apart with the sheer weight of the system on their shoulders, believe you and me it does have an effect on you dealing with these situations day in day out,, I’ve meet with many children too, some young and some who are just about to leave care, time and time again the issues that causes the most angst for them is that no one ever listens to them, that I feel is quite true and upsetting all the same

    The more and more we all sit and pontificate the system reforms or debate the next judgment or policy, the more and more Children and Families are failed,

    Do we ever sit back and put the breaks on and have a second thought, are we taking the right path or are we simply walking the Plank ready to be dumped into shark infested waters, having that second thought is something we should all do,

    I am in a unique position as Dr Peter Dale put it on another blog thread, that is quite true, I witness the good and the bad, I have witnessed every corner of Child Protection and the Family Courts for many years, I will say that when the good parts of the system works well then the results are far reaching and congratulations are afforded, however ,when it goes bad, which sadly is a very high percentage these days then the outcomes result in books being published like that of Ben Ashcroft and his 51 moves,

    I know many Social Workers who have case loads of 47+ Children with over half of those children unallocated to a specific Social Worker, how on earth does that help the Children? the Social Workers are deflated, undervalued and overworked, how does that help the children and families?,

    I know how we help those Children and Families, we simply listen to those in Government. those who don’t have any Idea to what really happens out there in the world of Child Protection, we listen to them dribble on how they want the system to work, if its anything like Iain Duncan Smith to go by, who it seems will soon be out of his role at the DWP then who is in the right position to dictate to us minions who are faced with the hurdles every day , we should be the ones dictating to Government how the systems reforms should happen, the Judiciary, the Lawyers of every scale, the Social Workers, Guardians, The Foster Carer’s, Adopters and Children, the parents, and maybe the likes of people like me, we should be the ones in the forefront of pushing the reforms that will work the best, instead no, that’s too simple an idea, like the Legal Aid Reform Consultations, those holding the consultations were just in most case a couple of kids themselves who did not have any idea what it is like in the big wide world.

    The Judiciary of late have been making significant changes to the way they hope the system will work better and more efficiently, there has been a few opportunities for most I mention to have their say, lands on deaf ears springs to mind though, that is obviously not a good thing but making significant changes and streamlining the processes someone has to loose out, I do not need to spell out who will lose out the most here.


    Protected to death. I have the lists of adopted parents, foster parents, children homes and carers in the UK who have abused the children in their care in all forms AND murdered children.

    Think it is good for forced adoptions, foster care and no contact for birth parents and or extended family. Think again.

    Take off the rose tinted glasses. This is NOT child protection.

  9. I can only equal the 26wk and supporters as being like crackheads on a fix oblivious of the reality where seperation and emotional pain imposed on children on ‘normal’.

    I do apologise if I have feelings. BUT

    Some of these at least during their moments of reality would understand the raw and unjust 26wk programme.

    NOT to mention the large numbers of parents with NO illegal abuse (or legal for that matter) who parent their children and whose children are no doubt central to their lives.

    So while we are talking of ‘illegal’ perhaps something can also be done about the social workers more in tune with their LAs and making up numbers for forced adoptions than caring about the needs of the children.

  10. And while there is some sympathy and understanding for those facing addictions and ending up in the family courts, there are thousands of parents out there going through family courts for nothing more than a crisis, ill health, worklessness and minor learning disability.
    There are also many parents going through a court where they may have been wrongly thought of as child abusers. Or even in the family court because of a malicious neighbour or resident report and even a malicious social worker.

    It is in these cases that psychological reports abound, nit picking on the parent to find some reason to justify the removal of their children. The serious emotional trauma to these parents and children could not be put into words. And all on the pretence of child protection.

    Many of the above will lose their children under a 26wk rule. It can take more than 6 months for a parent to collect paperwork, cross reference, obtain their own witness (though often refused by the court) and even attempt to prove wrong actions by the LA.
    And most would be refused leave to appeal.

    It is not rocket science to see how so many aggrieved parents believe there is a sinsiter undertone to the workings of the family courts.
    And the 26wk rule does nothing to change anyones mind.

  11. End “forced adoption” and “punishment without crime” and justice will once again prevail !

  12. A solicitor remarked to me recently. The problem is the ones making the decisions want perfection from parents. Have we not ALL heard this somewhere before.
    My father being a soldier in WW11 fought against the same as did millions of others along with our countries politicians and Royalty.
    It concerned a man who had his ideals of ‘perfection’. In his wake he left millions murdered and tortured. And there have been many such dictators since.
    What is there left for the descendants of these soldiers when our very own country seeks the same perfections and chases their own ideals.
    And while all the people who can see it cry out in the wilderness, the cold and detached click their heels and make the rules that will carry on destroying all that is good within the human.race.

    No doubt Hitler thought he was right because people who chase perfection are also detached from reality.
    While those that care know there is no such thing and work the hardest to make other’s lives happier, just because they care.

  13. Another comment was from a very well heeled, very conservative (and shocklingly woman) middleaged advisor at a citizens advice centre in a very conservative town
    When requesting advice concerning someone who was caught up in the family court system, having had 2 children removed on very questionable grounds. She said, “Well people who have no money should not have children”.
    She may just have well said, put those parents in the gas chamber, they are of no use to us and give the children to one of our comrades.

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