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Tape recording of an expert (a SHOCKING case)

Truly, absolutely shocking.

This was a set of care proceedings, transferred up to the High Court before Mr Justice Hayden. A  consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Ben Harper, was instructed by the Court to assess the mother. The mother unknown to him, tape recorded their sessions. After the report of Dr Harper arrived, containing words set out in quotation marks attributed to the mother that she says she did not say, those tape recordings were transcribed and showed that she was correct.

 

Re F (A Minor) 2016

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2016/2149.html

 

Here are the findings that mother’s team invited the Court to make – you’ll see that they are very powerful  (perhaps even career-damaging stuff)

 

  1. Ms Taryn Lee QC and Ms Olivia Weir prepared a very extensive schedule prefaced by the following summary of the findings they invited the Court to make:
    1. 1. Dr Harper has either misread or exaggerated the mother’s presentation during the appointments. The recordings do not support the assertion that the mother was at any point agitated, abrupt, irritated, defensive or frustrated. Indeed in respect of (iii) and (v) the conversations never, in fact, took place.

2. Dr Harper misrepresents, inaccurately surmises and/or falsely asserts that the mother made comments listed in the body of the schedule. The comments set out and attributed to the mother were either (a) not said by her in those terms, or (b) other factual information provided by the mother has been re-interpreted by Dr Harper and presented as a quote of the mother with a negative or twisted emphasis attached to it. Dr Harper then uses these ‘quotations’ by the mother to form his conclusions and recommendations.

3. Dr Harper records that the mother reported/stated various facts and/or provided the accounts listed below when in fact there is no evidence during either appointment that the subject was even discussed or if the subject was discussed these comments were not made at any point. Dr Harper has fabricated these conversations/responses and has chosen to attribute negative comments to the mother including assertions that during the assessment sessions the mother called previous experts liars, which she simply has not done. Dr Harper has abused his position of trust as a professional and as a doctor and his actions in fabricating these conversations, comments and conclusions are abusive to this vulnerable mother and are a contempt of court.

4. Dr Harper states that he completed the following psychometric tests: It is not easy to discern at what point in the assessment sessions Dr. Harper states he administered these psychometric tests and he is invited to provide (a) all of the relevant guidance and assessment papers/questions and identify within the transcripts where the assessments were conducted.

5. Dr Harper suggests that the mother was reluctant and/or unable to provide information in the following matters: Dr Harper did not, in fact, ask any specific or structured questions to elicit a response to any of the matters that he then seeks to criticise the mother for and in respect of. Some matters that he suggests she refused to provide information/answer questions in respect of [they] were never at any point raised by Dr Harper.

6. Dr Harper misrepresents what the mother has actually said, in such a manner as to create a negative impression of the mother in the examples identified.

7. Dr Harper inaccurately quotes other experts’ reports in a manner that presents a negative impression of the mother.

8. Dr Harper then relies upon his own false reporting of what the mother is supposed to have said to reach his conclusions, which ultimately lead to a recommendation of separation of the siblings and adoption of the youngest two children.

9. It is asserted that neither Dr Harper’s handwritten notes nor his comments regarding the 6th April 2016 can be relied upon for the reasons asserted in the schedule.

  1. As these findings were particularised it became clear that the allegations extended to: ‘false reporting’; ‘inaccurate quoting’ designed to present the Mother in a ‘negative light’; ‘fabrication of conversations’ and deliberate ‘misrepresentation’. In cross examination Ms Lee accused Dr Harper of ‘lying’.

 

 

Holy wow.

 

Dr Harper was invited to intervene in the proceedings, and was represented by Fenella Morris QC.

 

The Judge did not approach the matter on the basis of the schedule of findings drawn up  (that’s rather annoying for me, as it would have helped to look at such particularised findings, but that was a judicial decision)

 

  1. Whilst I am full of admiration for the industry which underpins the extensive schedule prepared by the Mother’s team and the equal energy expended in the detailed response document, I am bound to say that the two do not provide a user friendly framework to negotiate the contested issues. Partly for this reason but primarily because I consider it to be a distraction, I do not propose to address many of the minute allegations which, as I have indicated during the course of exchanges with counsel, are of varying cogency and forensic weight. What I propose to do is to analyse, in what I consider to be a proportionate manner, those allegations which it is necessary for me to determine in order properly to resolve the issues in the care proceedings. Thereafter I must consider a further important question: are the findings made out against Dr Harper sufficiently serious so as to render his evidence in these proceedings unreliable?

 

  1. Dr Harper’s report is dated 11th April 2016, it is 70 pages in length. At its conclusion it contains the following, now standard, declarations:
  2. i) ‘I have exercised reasonable care and skill in order to be accurate and complete in preparing this report’;

ii) ‘I understand that this report will form the evidence to be given under oath or affirmation’;

iii) ‘I am likely to be the subject of public adverse criticism by the Judge if the Court concluded that I have not taken reasonable care in trying to meet the standards set out above’;

iv) ‘I confirm that I have acted in accordance with the Codes of Practice for Experts’.

  1. Finally, the ‘STATEMENT OF TRUTH’ appears at the very end of the report. Familiar though it is, it requires to be repeated here:
    1. “I confirm that the contents of this report are true to the best of my knowledge and that I make this report knowing that if it is tendered in evidence, I would be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated anything that I would know to be false or that I do not believe to be true”

 

Responding directly to the schedule of findings sought by mother’s team, Dr Harper said this

 

  1. Responding directly to the schedule Dr Harper makes this concession:
    1. 12. There are a number of occasions where I have referred to Mrs Mother as having said something by way of italicised text within double quotes. It is quite clear to me that anyone reading my report would have interpreted these as suggesting they were verbatim quotes. I did not, however, take verbatim notes and a number of sentences attributed to Mother are inaccurate.”

 

Yes, if I read a report from an expert that said

 

Mother said she was sorry for all the trouble she had caused

I would think that there was an apology along those lines but not that this represented a verbatim account but

 

Mother said “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused”

 

I would read as being, the expert is reporting the words that she used and is stating with confidence that she used those words.

So having remarks in quotation marks that mother did not actually say is a significant deficiency.

What did the Judge say about that?

  1. I have read this paragraph a number of times. It seems to me to do Dr Harper no credit at all. It is crafted in a way that seems designed to minimise the extent of the very significant failing it represents. When pursued in cross examination it was revealed that extensive parts of the report which purport, by the conventional grammatical use of quotation marks, to be direct quotations from the Mother, are in fact nothing of the kind. They are a collection of recollections and impressions compressed into phrases created by Dr Harper and attributed to the Mother. They convey to the reader of the report only one impression, namely that they represent the authentic voice of Mother herself. The quotations are also italicised and drafted in full sentences in the idiom of the Mother rather than in the formal argot of psychology which characterises the remainder of the report. Within the context of the evaluative exercise that the Court is involved in, during care proceedings, the accurately reported phrases and observations of the parties themselves are inevitably afforded much greater forensic weight than e.g. opinion evidence, hearsay or summary by a third party. It is very likely that a Judge reading such ‘quotations’ in the report of an experienced expert witness will at least start with the strong presumption that they have been accurately and fairly recorded. It is, to my mind inconceivable that a witness of Dr Harper’s experience, which I have taken care to set out in some detail above, would not have appreciated this. Indeed, it strikes me that it would be obvious to any lay party or member of the public. Moreover, I find the concession in the statement, where mention is made of ‘a number of sentences’ is a complete distortion of the reality of the document. The report is heavy with apparent reference to direct speech when, in truth, almost none of it is. Thus, the material supporting the ultimate conclusion appears much stronger than it actually is. Given the forensic experience of Dr Harper and his extremely impressive academic background I cannot accept that he would have failed to appreciate the profound consequences of such distorted reporting.
  2. In the course of the public law proceedings the Court authorised interviews between one of the children and Dr Harper. I very much regret to say that the purported quotations in that report i.e. presented as if they were the words of the child himself are also nothing of the kind. Dr Harper used the same approach there. They are in fact a jumble of phrases extracted from jottings and / or perceived recollection. Dr Harper voluntarily submitted his notes to scrutiny, they can properly be characterised as minimal. They prompted this submission on behalf of the children’s Guardian by Mr Cohen QC and Mr Edwards:
    1. “It is hard to know why Dr Harper has reported as he has. His methodology and minimal notes of the 3 meetings with the mother would have made it very difficult to accurately record what she had said. The court will form its own view as to his evidence. We do not suggest that he had an intent to mislead but he showed a carelessness which verged towards recklessness in making statements which he must or should have known were to be relied upon. His evidence may also have shown an overconfidence in his own professional judgment and ability that was indifferent to the correct assessment process.”

 

 

I am genuinely shocked by this. It undermines a lot of credibility of expert witnesses, if an expert attributes quotations to a parent and a child that they did not say, that were ‘impressions’ and that the note keeping was minimal.

 

As these ‘quotations’ were not present in the tape-recorded formal sessions, there was some consideration of whether they were instead conversations or discussions that took place at one meeting on 6th April, which appears to have been a contact session and two discussions on the way in and way out of the session

 

  1. Ms Lee and Ms Weir pitch the findings they seek very highly indeed, they are of the utmost gravity. It is for this reason that I required counsel to be very clear about the legal framework. Ms Lee has, in the proper presentation of her case, repeatedly impugned Dr Harper’s integrity and honesty during the course of her cross examination. It is alleged that he has fabricated the fact of the discussions between himself and the Mother and, says Ms Lee, where there is no written note of any topic of discussion it has been, in effect, invented by Dr Harper. There is no ambivalence in the way Ms Lee advances her case. In her closing written submission she asserts:
    1. “For the avoidance of doubt, it is submitted on behalf of the mother that Dr Harper’s account of the ‘discussions’ that took place on the 6 April is a lie. Likewise his handwritten note is a fabricated document (Finding 9) in which he has attempted to back-fill some of the gaps that he knew would come to light once he was alerted to the fact that the assessment sessions on the 15 and 23 March 2016 had been recorded; he of course being present at both sessions and knowing exactly what he discussed and what he did not. As such, it is submitted that his handwritten note can not be relied upon.”
  2. Given that the earlier meetings were recorded and transcribed it must follow that the purported quotations from the Mother not covered on those sessions must therefore have taken place at the meeting at the contact centre on the 6th April 2016. This inevitably therefore has been the focus of the dispute at this hearing. The first conflict of evidence is as to the length of the meeting. There were in fact two meetings, one before the children arrived for an observed contact session and a second later encounter in the car park at the conclusion of the session.
  3. The 6th April was a day on which plans went awry. The Mother had been led to believe that her meeting with Dr Harper was to provide her with advice on how best to manage the eldest child’s challenging behaviour. On Dr Harper’s account he had decided to change the agenda and look at what he has referred to as ‘the inconsistencies of the Mother’s various narrative accounts’. He had, to my mind, settled on the view, for reasons that I will come to below, that this was the key issue in this case. The undoubtedly discrepant histories of her own childhood and relationships recorded from the Mother are, as Ms Morris QC (on behalf of Dr Harper) describes them, ‘polar opposites’ and ‘at a 180 degrees to each other’. Essentially, there is both a light and benign version of these issues alongside a dark and abusive account. In any event what is clear is that the Mother finds discussion of both these areas to be highly unsettling and distressing. That she would do so was anticipated by Dr Harper but nonetheless so important was this issue to him that he forced it through in circumstances which were, in my judgement, insensitive to the Mother. Of course it follows from this comment that I have accepted his account of the 6th April, at least in part. In fairness I should record that Dr Harper offered the Mother a further appointment which she did not take up.
  4. In addition, building work was being undertaken at the contact centre and it was necessary to shorten the contact. This had not been communicated to the Mother, Dr Harper or I assume the children either. The conditions both in which to observe contact and to undertake important features of the assessment of the Mother were inimical to constructive and fair assessment. I am satisfied that the Mother was understandably upset and that Dr Harper’s account of her as agitated is an honest expression of his perception.
  5. The second meeting in the car park was cursory and ended peremptorily in the rain. The first meeting was, on either party’s view no longer than 15 minutes. It is not necessary for me to resolve the conflict as to the duration of the meeting, there is very little between the Mother’s recollection and Dr Harper’s. What is significant is that in this period Dr Harper contends that he dealt with somewhere between 13 and approximately 20 significant points of assessment.

 

 

[That does not sound terribly plausible]

 

  1. From his notes of assessment it is clear that some of the issues were discussed. The notes are silent on other issues. In his analysis Mr Cohen submits that Dr Harper ‘has produced no satisfactory explanation of the inconsistencies nor is his credit enhanced by what seems to us to be an unwillingness to recognise the effect of his wrongdoing’. This leads Mr Cohen further to submit:
    1. “We suggest that as a result of his admissions the burden should shift to him to show that he has accurately reported the gist of what the mother has said in interviews. In light of the above this is a difficult burden for him to satisfy and he has failed to do so.
  2. Ms Morris vigorously resists this approach, she contends that the burden of proof rests on the applicant and does not shift. I agree. Certainly Dr Harper’s admissions require him to explain his admitted misconduct but they do not cast upon him some additional burden of proving the accuracy of his notes of what he contends the Mother said to him in interview.
  3. I do not propose further to burden this judgment with a list of the various topics which Dr Harper contends were discussed on the 6th April. In response to Mr Cohen Dr Harper accepted that there were 13 topics. I simply fail to see how this range of challenging and difficult material could have been covered to the extent that Dr Harper purports in such a limited time. It would have involved rapid fire question and answer on each topic. Given the circumstances and the nature of the material, such a process would have also required a degree of brutality or at least gross insensitivity. The subject matters ranged across e.g. domestic abuse, childhood experiences, sexual issues. Having listened to Dr Harper in the witness box he does not strike me for a moment as a man capable of such crassness. His work has been widely respected. I do consider that there was an enthusiastic effort by him to cover some of the material that day. I entirely accept his evidence that his notes are genuine and not fabricated, as Ms Lee contends, but I find on the balance of probabilities that some, though not necessarily all, of the material which is not corroborated by the notes was most likely drawn from other sources and incorporated into the report again as if it were direct speech from the Mother to Dr Harper.

 

 

The Judge’s overall impression and his decision about whether Dr Harper’s report could be relied upon in the care proceedings :-

 

  1. The overall impression is of an expert who is overreaching his material, in the sense that whilst much of it is rooted in genuine reliable secure evidence, it is represented in such a way that it is designed to give it its maximum forensic impact. That involves a manipulation of material which is wholly unacceptable and, at very least, falls far below the standard that any Court is entitled to expect of any expert witness. It simply cannot be reconciled with those duties which I have pointedly set out above at para 10 and 11. Moreover, it is manifestly unfair to the Mother, who it should be emphasised is battling to achieve the care of her children whilst trying to manage life with diagnosed PTSD. Ipso facto this is a case of unique gravity and importance. Common law principles of fairness and justice demand, as do Articles 6 & 8 of the ECHR, a process in which both the children and the parents can properly participate in a real sense which respects their autonomy. Dr Harper’s professional failure here compromised the fairness of the process for both Mother and children. These are fundamental principles emphasised in Re B-S [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 and Re A [2015] EWFC 11.
  2. Mr Rowley, on behalf of the Local Authority, submits that Dr Harper’s central thesis is probably correct. He summarises it succinctly thus:
    1. “Dr Harper’s concern about the mother’s inability to provide a consistent narrative about her relationship history and childhood experiences is again objectively valid. It cannot be sensibly argued that the mother has done anything other than provide wildly divergent accounts of such experiences. Whether this is, indeed, impression management or the consequences of her PTSD it robs the psychological professional of a baseline for diagnosis and thus prognosis and treatment recommendations. This makes it, as Dr Harper concludes, difficult (to say the least) for measurement and management of risk.”
  3. Mr Rowley may very well be right. He goes on to suggest that notwithstanding the significant criticisms made of Dr Harper, his report should be allowed to stand, with the Judge who hears the case entitled to give it such weight, if any, as he thinks fit. I disagree. These are such fundamental failures of methodology that I do not consider any Judge could fairly rely on the conclusions. Furthermore, there is an inevitable risk that were I not to order that a new expert be instructed the Judge might at the conclusion of the hearing find a lacuna in the evidence in consequence of his being unable to rely on Dr Harper’s opinion. That would result in further delay for the children in a case where I have been told the final hearing is now unlikely to be effective in any event. The delay in this case in already unacceptable, the harm caused to the children because of it is the responsibility of the professionals not, I emphasise, the Mother.
  4. I should say that my conclusions here are predicated substantially on my evaluation of Dr Harper’s evidence and the available written material. I have found myself unable to place a great deal of weight on the Mother’s own evidence even where my findings are essentially in her favour. I agree with Ms Morris, who advances the point sensitively and elegantly, when she says that the issue in the Mother’s evidence is ‘reliability’ not ‘credibility’. Her reliability is sadly compromised by her inconsistent accounts which may well be, as Dr Harper has postulated, a facet of her psychological distress. I have in mind Re H-C ( Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 136 and R v Lucas [1981] QB 720.
  5. Finally, there has been much discussion at the Bar as to how I should characterise Dr Harper’s professional failings. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that the language or nomenclature is irrelevant. What matters is the substance of my findings and their impact on these children.
  6. Ms Lee is right to emphasise the observations of Butler-Sloss (P) in Re U: Re B (serious injury;standard of proof) [2004] 2 FLR 263 at para 23iv:
    1. “The court must always be on guard against the over-dogmatic expert, the expert whose reputation or amour-propre is at stake, or the expert who has developed a scientific prejudice”
  7. I do not consider that Dr Harper has developed a scientific prejudice nor that he is jealous to guard his amour-propre but I do consider that his disregard for the conventional principles of professional method and analysis displays a zealotry which he should recognise as a danger to him as a professional and, more importantly, to those who I believe he is otherwise genuinely motivated to help and whom he plainly has much to offer.

 

 

[I’m not sure why the Courts have felt that amour-propre is an expression in common use, but basically ‘reputation’ would do the trick just as well – the self-esteem that comes from the opinion of others]

 

It is a bitterly ironic twist that part of the disputed attributed quotations were Dr Harper stating that the mother had been critical of other (past) experts, calling them liars.

 

This concept of an expert taking an impression but then attributing quotations to the mother that she did not say and that the notes could have given no indication of her having said is a truly shocking one.  As the Judge says, doing this gives the conclusions and recommendations of the report far more weight as it seems to come directly from mother, she condemning herself out of her own mouth, rather than the expert stating that he had the impression  (which of course can be cross-examined as to the forensic basis of this)

Let us be honest – if the mother simply asserted that she had not said this, and had not tape-recorded the sessions, who would have been believed? We have to be able to trust experts – they may genuinely form the wrong opinion, and may be shifted in cross-examination, but there has to be trust that if a report says  Mother said “X Y Z” that she actually said those things.  Future of children is at stake here.  We must demand higher standards from experts than we would of political journalists, surely.

 

(I’m reminded a little of the Overegging the Pudding case  https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/11/28/over-egging-the-pudding/    though of course this goes still further, from cherry-picking only the negatives to flat out creation of quotations that the mother did not in fact say)

 

It is also an interesting comparison, given that both were Hayden J to the criticism he made of the ISW in the radicalisation case (which were about competence rather than integrity) and the fairer process here where the expert had the opportunity to be represented and respond to the criticisms – in both cases they could have a serious impact on livelihood of the experts, for whom reputation is a vital component in them obtaining future instructions.

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About suesspiciousminds

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

92 responses

  1. Reblogged this on L8in.

  2. truly shocking.

  3. The only holy wow I can see here is that the b’stard got caught, and as for ‘career -damaging’, I would think that this ‘expert’ will be in great demand with every local authority in the country, since he has so amply demonstrated his willingness to comply with his masters’ wishes. I’m sure he’s a worthy member of this local authority’s team of hired guns. This is nothing different from the stuff that Justice for Families deals with on a daily basis: indeed, 100% of our clients (and by that I mean all of them) say that social workers and ‘experts’ have lied in their cases. The difficulty is in getting the courts to believe the parent’s account, and herein lies the vital importance of electronically recording interactions with child “protection” authorities from the earliest stages.

    • True Tim, The one common factor in all family court cases is that so called professionals Lie. They lie by exaggeration, omission, interpretation, weigh attributed and many other methods, not to mention just plain old fashioned lies.

      • Not _all_ experts lie. Fact is, though, that many do. What worries me is that many of these people are recognised through their respective registration bodies via – in this one’s case – chartering. This case highlights the fact that being a chartered psychologist is very often NOT a mark of quality of expertise and practice.

        Reason I went into psychology as a profession: I got fucked over badly by a psychologist as a child.

    • I agree with Tim.This behaviour is so common it is remarkably difficult to find an ‘independent’ expert witness who will not colour the report to suit his paymasters, rather than remain honest to the court. Local Authorities have lists of experts who are in their pockets. I sincerely wish that this was not the case, but note that when Dr. Ireland pointed out the difficulites with experts, the response of the Ministry of Justice was to attempt to shut her down, and in June this year she was brought before the HCPC on charges of not having properly researched the material for her report, produced in 2012 – and totally exonerated.

    • Tim Haines you are indeed correct. We see so called psychologists who are not in clinical practice. They have formed a company and their sole income is from writing reports for the LA and/or GAL. This is such a conflict of interest. If they are not in clinical practice they do not receive regular supervision and are using the most up to date evidence, which the NHS states that it does. You know when a psychologist is introduced by either it is to damage the credibility of the parent.

      • Somebody called Mark Webb, did an assessment for me, Apparently he owns a company which employs 20 people who do assessments, he drove a very expensive Mercedes, smiled to my face, then recommended that I was not able to take care of the child in question, despite being 50 years old at the time, 100% clean record, respected self employed member of the community etc. etc. How can he possibly be described an INDEPENDENT ISW, He has no other source of income?

      • Mike Howard, you are absolutely correct in what you are saying about how can a professional with no other income be ‘independent’.

        I was assessed by a Dr, who worked within the NHS who recommended I go home with my Son from the placement I was in, the now registered HCPC impaired SW didn’t seem to like that and began a dutch auction of psychologists, and along comes a woman who has made quite a name for herself, a regular court attendee, with her out of date, incorrectly applied MCMII to say I am ‘schizophrenic’, though two other psychologists and my own family Dr. disagreed!

        Regardless of the in fighting between ‘professionals’ a three to one in my favour, the one won! My ISW had actually been the manager of the team I had been assessed by a few years previous to my involvement with the SS, who in her report castigated social services treatment of me which was causing me to lose weight, become ill and cause my hair to fall out. She stated that the placement itself was the risk to my Son because of the fact it was making me ill. Needless to say he was adopted, because one woman put her love of fancy cars and regular trips to the south of France above her (obvious lack of) integrity and oath to ‘first do no harm’.

        Rape victims are able to testify anonymously, so in my opinion the private/secretive family courts would be able to do the same for natural parents if they were to incorporate a jury. I wonder how many of these children adopted for hypothetical ‘risk of future emotional harm’ concerns, would have actually been adopted had the general public had the opportunity to hear the SS reasons why they must be? I wonder how many SW’s would have the gall to say half the psychobabble things they do in front of a jury? SW’s tired rhetoric of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ would be obsolete overnight, because of course, if things went wrong, they would have a jury to blame for the non removal of the child. Not only that, but when I enter into a court room, I expect the judge to know what powers are available, and what the ramifications of his/her decision would be, but yet SW’s still write in the reports, you COULD make an order for X but that would mean Y might happen….. etc. Is that a joke? It always came across to me as a technique used to attempt to persuade the decision of the judiciary, and quite frankly an insult to their intellect. I have witnessed SW’s swear on the bible and perjure themselves, they must on some level be laughing at just how many people they manage to convince of their tall tales. If only all the solicitors involved knew, if only the judge knew, I wonder if they would be as deeply offended as I was.

        Had my case have been heard before a jury, I am sure no jury would condemn my Son to a life without his Mother because the ‘hired gun’ believed I couldn’t parent because I dared to grieve for the Mother I lost while I was in placement. On the charge of grieving for my own Mother, how would the jury find me I wonder?

      • Further to my last comment, how many natural parents were at some point in the court process looking at their legal aid solicitor thinking, legal aid really was your only option because realistically nobody would pay from their own pocket for THAT…….. My line of thought was 1) I’m pretty sure you scraped a third. 2) Is THAT what you went to law school for? So you could say, don’t agree but don’t oppose, we will wait for the final hearing?.

        I hear about legal aid cuts, and solicitors kicking up a fuss about it, but if you happen to be one of the aforementioned types of solicitor as mine was, be grateful for your minimum wage, it’s all you’re worth and quite frankly, generous!

        I’m not quite sure why a single solicitor hasn’t worked out yet, that if they were to create a law firm that deals only with the natural parents, it would be a very lucrative firm, realistically any parent in proceedings wouldn’t consider going anywhere else for their legal representation because they would have inspired trust from the outset, and removed all worries of ‘paid loser’ types.

        Considering how many parents are now protesting, and won’t shut up until they are heard, do legal aid solicitors not grasp that if they actually fought for their clients, as they went to law school to learn how to do, that those same parents would be shouting just as loud in opposition to legal aid cuts when they occur, because they would view them as a pivotal part of having justice for the public that are unable to finance their own defence?

    • Well said Tim Haines.

  4. Rukhsana Farooqi

    I can only say in my case the Judge as far I am concerned was very rude to me as he told me to go and sort my head out. I made a formal complaint and was basically informed that the Judge can say whatever he wants.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with my competency. I would have raise concerns if a fact finding is made without crucial material looked at by any Judge so lets leave at that.
    I was the only Muslim expert that was denied access to this material and I think the comments made to me by this Judge were very interesting as anyone that knows me knows there is nothing wrong with my head. I attach a reference from a Barrister that I have undertaken a great deal of work with over the years. I have been working in this area since 1996 and I have undertake work for some very wise and learned Judges sitting in the court of Appeal and Supreme court. I was also praised by the President on a Radicalisation case. Surely this indicates the difference of approach that is being used by the Judiciary on Radicalisation cases. It is interesting that certain Judges want to go to such great lengths to try to undermine and criticise certain people. I would ask what is going on under the surface.

    “Rukhsana is perhaps the most tenacious social worker I have worked with. She is not only tireless but also creative in seeking child-centred outcomes for the children and young people she is dealing with.”
    Jerry Fitzpatrick
    Barrister Coram Chambers

  5. This is the problem with all so called “experts” They form an opinion rightly or wrongly, and then they write their report with the main intention of finding reasons to substantiate this opinion. The method they use of making notes and basically relying on memory is fundamentally flawed. This case shows that all “interviews” MUST be recorded in order for the Judge to make his decisions based on truth and not on the falsified and exaggerated reports which the current system tends to offer to the courts as “expert” testimony.

  6. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    Yet another remake of the Emperor’s New Clothes at taxpayers expense? The time to ditch over-zealous experts – together with their nauseating lemming-logic – as incompatible with the overriding objectives of justice and proportionality is long overdue!

  7. What other mistakes has he made .how many children’s lives affected by proffesinal mistakes.

  8. The expert here was clearly out of order but I wonder how people feel about the issue of clandestine recording of interviews by parents or others? Does the end always justify the means?

    • They would not need to be clandestine, if “professionals” had nothing to hide, they should welcome recording, if only to ensure an accurate record of events.

      • But the point is, Mike Howard, that in this instance the recording WAS done clandestinely; to that extent the action of the mother was underhand – it cannot properly be described any other way. None of that excuses the subsequent actions of the psychologist, but everyone should have the right to know whether or not they are being recorded. Secret recording smacks of totalitarianism.

      • @Barry

        “WAS done clandestinely; to that extent the action of the mother was underhand – it cannot properly be described any other way. ”

        An unqualified right is just that, you can just do it, you do not need to inform or seek permission, just like picking you nose, it may not be quite polite but you are totally free to do it, underhand is not a good word to use.

        “Secret recording smacks of totalitarianism.”

        that refers to the state and those that act for it NOT us, which is why the DPA exists and it does not apply to us and does not restrict US.

  9. A Social Worker

    As a manager and a social worker, I always expect all of my conversations to be recorded and on the face of it, have no issue with it. It troubles me when professionals say no to parents asking for permission to record their discussions.

    • And yet they do.

    • Re- allowing recordings. I think it depends on context. I was happy to be to be recorded but found that it did often damage the interaction as I found myself inadvertently becoming less natural and more legalistic (extensively clarifying every comment I made or by deferring all challenging questions). Moreover sometimes I found that it completely destroyed the interaction, particularly when it was evident that the parent was less interested in what I had to say and more focused on ‘catching me out’ through asking accusatory/intentionally tricky questions. However I guess this was only when I was aware of being recorded. Were someone to say they had tape recordings of all of my visits- I am reasonably confident that so long as they were not edited and were understood contextually I would be okay for them to be played in a court.

      Re- consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Ben Harper. Were the recording to not exist- no one would have believed this parent.

      Re- Experts- Is it true that Local Authorities choose ‘independent’ experts which are most supportive of its views? I can see how an expert that constantly goes against the Local Authority could be looked upon less favourably and visa versa.

      • Re Recordings in of itself its an unqualified right

        “I am reasonably confident that so long as they were not edited and were understood contextually I would be okay for them to be played in a court.”

        The court will not tend to listen to recordings, always they should be transcribed

        This is why they should be fully transcribed, it helps the court, whilst a limited section can be used if disputed the full transcript and recording can be provided, it would then be for the other side to challenge how presented or of course a witness if the higlight is out of contect etc

    • With regard to social workers being recorded and the expectation of this, I had an interview with a woman from CAFCASS in Manchester for a Section 7 report.

      At the time I wasn’t aware of the issue of recording interviews so I didn’t do this. Anyway, the Section 7 report differed factually in a number of areas from my recollection of the interview.

      As a result I made a request to CAFCASS under the Data Protection Act for all information that they held on me and, interestingly, one of the things that came back were the notes that were written up immediately after the interview based on the very few contemporaneous notes that she had made while we were talking.

      Just as an aside, I was seriously impressed as to how detailed the notes were – it was almost as though the interview had been recorded by CAFCASS and she had simply typed up the notes from this. The interview lasted almost 3 hours and the notes were very detailed indeed.

      It turned out that the CAFCASS officer’s contemporaneous notes directly contradicted things that she wrote in the Section 7 report which meant that the judge disregarded large parts of the report and meant that we had to go to the expense of a getting an expert report.

      All I can say is that, at least when it comes to CAFCASS, even if one doesn’t record the interview it is still worthwhile making a Data Protection Act request to force them to disclose all relevant information.

    • Well done, but professionals cannot say no to parents and no permission is needed and it is unlawful to insist that because there is no authority to require permission or to forbid.

    • Finnish social workers are very arsey about it – a fact which predisposes me to the understanding that they are intent on bending the rules in order to leave the client in the worst state permissible.

  10. It would be very difficult to suggest that this mother was wrong to do what she did. I think the idea that all such interactions with professionals are recorded routinely with there being access to the recordings in the event of any dispute is one that will happen, and in five years time we will be amazed that we ever did it any differently.

    For example, police body-vest camera recording, now that it is happening, is such an obvious protection against false allegations AND a much better source of accurate evidence than an officer’s notebook, it seems ridiculous that we did without it.

    Tim, I can’t see ANY LA having that view that this expert suddenly became hot stuff to be sought after on cases. (I’d accept that some LAs do like experts who have a reputation for being harsh on parents, just as some parents reps like experts who have the opposite reputation, but I don’t believe that either side would want an expert who did what happened here).

    And even if they did, the application has to be made in Court when the parents are represented and their representatives will hopefully be aware of this decision and it will factor into the advice that they give the parents.

    • I would give anything and everything I own to go back in time and record the assessment session I had with my ‘hired gun’ psychologist, who wrote a report so awful, my Son was adopted and I’m too terrified of social services to have another child. I had my Son at 20, I’m now 27 and still the thought of another child and being involved with them again has me sat writing this in tears.

      I was assessed in a placement, and the ISW who used to be the manager of the team assessing me said I should be allowed to go home immediately. Then my own Mother died whilst I was under supervision 24/7. I missed the last 6 hours of my Mums life because they made me sign a contract saying I would have my own mobile phone off during the day and if I didn’t sign it, I would be made to leave the placement without my Son, and yet they could not understand why I was so upset with that. I have in black and white my ‘hired gun’ saying I couldn’t parent my Son because I was putting my own feelings before my Son’s by grieving for my Mother. ‘Risk of future emotional harm’, my God, I will never have a family of my own because of an ‘expert’ just like this one, 27 and I can’t be in a relationship, I have spent the last 7 years on my own because I just can’t face the thought of a man daring to ask if I might want to make him a Father. For the love of God I hope my menopause rolls around quickly, or I make the £1,720 after all my other bills to be sterilised. Until then……..

      I would advise anybody not to step foot into an office with a social worker or any expert they would want you to see without recording them, or having a professional that has no interest in the case with you, I just don’t do it. We aren’t talking about screwing me and other people over for a couple of grand, we are talking losing a child.

      • I can’t remember specifically who it was, but I think it may be Sarah Phillimore, who wrote some guidance on recording of meetings. it was an amazing thing to do and as I have heard from other parents, tremendously helpful. Law is just not for me, you may as well put a plate of alphabet spaghetti in front of me. With guidelines like the one I am thinking of things are so much clearer and the lay person is able to understand their rights without feeling the need to learn Latin. I wish I had known I actually had any rights when I was told that if I didn’t sign a contract saying I would have my phone off all day until my Son was asleep, that I would be in court on the following Monday, when I asked what for? the SW replied ‘not complying’. It would have been nice for my Sister to have been able to get hold of me to tell me my Mum was in hospital dying, slipping in and out of consciousness, asking where I was in her dying moments, though I was graciously given 6 hours out of placement to attend her funeral, lucky me! I did record a conversation I had with my SW recently about letterbox, where she said ‘I often wonder if things could have been different’. *Sigh, I’m out of faith in humanity, faith in the majority of solicitors, faith in social workers etc……….

      • “I have in black and white my ‘hired gun’ saying I couldn’t parent my Son because I was putting my own feelings before my Son’s by grieving for my Mother. ‘Risk of future emotional harm’, my God, I will never have a family of my own because of an ‘expert’ just like this one,”

        This expert should be barred, they are an idiot, grieving is natural normal healthy process and not one that many people have control over, it would be like blaming you for having a head, you cant help it. And i fact it is unhealthy to even try and help it!

  11. Tom – really good question. The situation now is that no expert should be instructed either in Court proceedings or pre-proceedings work before the parents have legal advice and are able to thus give an informed view as to whether they like that expert or want a different one.

    In some cases, it is the LA who suggest the expert and other parties decide whether they want that one or a different one. In others, it will be the parents lawyers who come up with the suggestions and other people discuss them.

    In all of those cases, the Court actually makes the decision and if there’s an argument the Court hear it and make the decision.

    Usually these days it is more about finding an expert who can answer the questions, in the timescales you’ve got, and for the very strict limits that the Legal Aid Agency put on it.

    In practice, an expert who is known to strongly bat for one side or another just finds themselves frozen out, since really you want someone who is acceptable to all sides.

    There’s this case here :-
    https://suesspiciousminds.com/2016/04/26/coal-board-and-age-assessments/

    which is good authority for – if someone can answer the questions, for the fee, in timescales, go with the one that the parent prefers.

    • For my own part, these are the things I want in an expert

      1. They answer the questions, and tell you something that isn’t just common sense. The good ones make you think about the case in a different way.

      2. They report on time. Lateness is awful on a 26 week timetable, there’s just no room for it.

      3. They don’t waffle on and on, and just cut and paste from loads of documents that we’ve all already seen and read, thanks.

      I want an expert who if they say to me “These parents are safe now” I can see why they say it, and recommend the conclusions to my client, and if they say the opposite that I feel that they have properly looked at it and given the parents a fair crack of the whip. In evidence, they should be thoughtful and consider good points put to them, and not be dogmatic or defensive. Hired guns are a waste of time.

      • Then that is laudable, but frankly rare in my experience, but have you even gone against the conclusions of a report that not fit this?

    • I had an expert instructed in my case when I was not legally represented, ( long story) he was recommended by the LA lawyer. I can’t say I am shocked at all by this case, I think professionals are now starting to understand what parents have been saying for years. All meetings with any professional should be recorded.

    • I have frankly never been involved in a case where the parents expert has been accepted or chosen at 1st bat and rarely in the case of the respondent in a private law case.

  12. A Social Worker

    In my Local Authority we have resident psychologists, psychiatrists, sexual risk experts etc. who complete court instructed assessments. It is very rare for the Courts to instruct outside experts and there are significant savings that are used in other parts of the service, such as preventative work.

    This team of experts sits outside of locality services and have different line management and are jointly funded by other organisations. The advantages of this is that the experts are known by all parties and there is greater accountability regarding their competence. I don’t hear the representatives of parents complain about their skill base or approach that favours one side or the other.

    There is a broader issue about the number of available experts within this team and there can be some delay but generally the quality of their work is excellent.

    • Oh social worker ,what an admission that these so called experts are tame résidents who complets assessments for courts not parents! Hired guns working for the “SS” in other words.
      Of course you will hear no complaint from représentatives of the parents because nearly all of these lawyers do their best to persuade parents to “go along with social services” and to agree with everything the local authority request!
      Try asking the PARENTS what they think of so called experts whose testimony deprives them of the children they love and you willhear a different story !

    • “In my Local Authority we have resident psychologists, psychiatrists, sexual risk experts etc. who complete court instructed assessments. ”

      That may indeed work better as there is no need to be seen as a desirable expert with the risk of fudging to be seen as getting the result so more work is given.

      In many LAs and even private law I often see the experts that are prefered for this reason.

    • How can you say these experts are independent ? Who pays them ? Who instructs them ? What are they instructed to do ? How can they not be bias?

      What happens if they do not find evidence of what is asked by those instructing ?

      How, on what grounds, do at risk ‘experts’ decide the risk ?

      And how reliable is their opinion ie how is it measured, that they might be right ?

      An expert can only base his opinion on facts, who decides these facts are correct ?

      And who decides if these or what in fact causes emotional abuse/neglect?

      If an expert does not find abuse or risk of, then it means their source of future work the LA, has got it wrong, wasted money and court time, and could even be accused of abuse of process.

      Why do we need experts on non physical, non actual sexual abuse ?

      What is the definition of this, and of ‘being at risk’ of it ?

      Who checks risk of abuse in foster, adoption and care homes ?

      Who checks the definite risk of emotional abuse by removal from parents, foster placements and adoption breakdowns and re entering care ?

      Who checks the parenting skills of newly adopting parents and foster parents ?

      Are they not a risk as strangers who have never parented before?

      Expert evidence, is only admissible if needed to assist the court, surely the court can decide for themselves, if a child is at risk of emotional/sexual harm on the facts of parents behaviour, parenting and background.

      With over 80% of care applications, and many care orders by consent, unless the child protection teams are very good at detecting abuse, the system appears bias.

      How can parents systemically complain about the experts you instruct ?

      • Cafcass have no stand-alone risk assessment policy. With this in mind, how do they assess risk of future emotional harm. How do they assess significant harm. They have no risk assessment tool. http://www.ukfamilylawreform.co.uk/cafcassdonthaveariskassessmentpolicy2ndapril2013.htm
        All risk is grounded in actual or historical data. Where there is no evidence someone has caused emotional harm then there is no evidence they will in future cause emotional harm.
        Even with an unexplained injury where there is no previous data that a parent has harmed their child should a parent be immediately accused of being the perpetrator.
        As we know, once parents are accused the state machine rolls into action. Then, every attempt is made to rule in harm, not rule it out. Those who simply write what they are told should hang their heads in shame. As should everyone involved who know that parents are innocent.

      • But how do we know what will ’emotionally harm’, or what that even actually means.

        Each LA has different DEFINITIONS AND EXAMPLES, that amount to it. And these are looked for on a perfunctory basis, out of context, and effectively could apply to anyone or anything.

        Some might think, sending children of 8 to boarding school emotional harm, some might think undue praise emotional harm, some might thing abortion/ morning after pill emotional harm.

        PSYCHOLOGY is untested and its theories vary.

        Certainly there is a grave risk of emotional harm, if a child id removed from parents, family community and all they know, to a successive team of foster parents or an adoption breaks down and they are back in care- care is, as we know, a risky place and psychologically damaging.

      • Have the future risk of emotional harm Crystal Balls been calibrated?
        Have you asked for a Crystal Ball calibration read out?

      • We don’t need one to calculate the emotional risk, of being removed, and in care, or the effect of adoption per se, let alone its breakdown and back into care.

      • It creates the next generation of customers for the mental health, criminal justice, prison, probation and NHS industries. They all need customers who are dependent on them.

  13. The most important point has not been raised at all ! Who selected this clinical psychologist (supposed to be a joint appointment but in practice parents rarely have a say) ? He sounds rather like one of the hired guns mentioned in her report for the government by Professor Jane Ireland ! They always testify in favour of social workers and rarely exonerate parents in case that ruins their chances of being asked to return to court a second time to be again rewarded by extortionate fees!
    I looked up his site and despite his having worked in various academic situations I could find no actual exams thats he had passed,no letters after his name just “experience “though maybe I missed something so correct me if I err……….
    Andrew tomorrow you could call yourself Andrew Pack top psychologist with a plaque on your front door and noone could stop you as you would be breaking no laws……….

    Unfortunately this case is 100% typical of cases where so called experts are called in to make sure that parents lose their kids ,social workers win their cases,and babies get handed over to complete strangers who may well love and care for them but who might also sexually abuse them and beat them;Nobody cares about these risks because the top top priorityof social workers is to win their cases come what may and by fair means or foul;
    Careers progress by winning cases not losing them………..!

    • I’ve just left a reply above about a CAFCASS officer that misrepresented what was said in an interview and was subsequently found out. As a result we had to get an independent expert involved.

      That expert was the person you mention in your post – Prof Ireland from the University of Central Lancashire. Interestingly, she was rather cheaper than some other well known experts and organisations in the field and could get the work done quicker as well

  14. What is the law on recording covertly or openly?

    • In one word – unclear. In two – still developing. We have the very clear guidance that recording your children covertly is very bad and expect the court to come down hard if you do this. On the other hand, this case and the mother who recorded the mother-and-baby foster carer being verbally abusive to her show that the Courts are willing to listen and take action if the recording produces something significant. I think there’d have to be a smoking gun on the tapes for the Courts to want to listen to them.

      • What about social workers and guardians?

      • What about recording SW’s and GAL’s

      • “We have the very clear guidance that recording your children covertly is very bad and expect the court to come down hard if you do this.”

        I find no authority for this in statute and only at law properly where such is clearly misused or disruptive to a lawful process, I don’t give a damn about guidance or a court or LA purporting to come down heavy, when such is challenged with a clear understanding that such is ultra vires, which I have done and am doing, all including courts back down eventually.

        Pictures and recording and video is lawful and to breach this is a Bill of Rights issue.

        I think the issue is courts and LAs playing follow the lead, but whilst it may be common practice, it is not law.

        You will find most LA’s in breach of the law in this with either policy or practice and of course sanctions for not compliance.

    • You can record any matter in which you are involved openly or covertly except without permission in a court of law, a royal palace (inc westminster) and a military establishment.

      You are not an organisation and are exempt from the data protection act

      You will find that many authorities say you cant, that they can forbid you but parliament gives no authority for that, not even to judges.

      In fact it would be a breach of s1 (1A) of the protection from harassment act to do so.

      For evidence in court it must be transcribed and if disputed then you provide copy of the recording.

      The material is your copy right and you can publish, except there are rules regarding identifying children of course under the children act etc.

      There is no law that says you cannot record your own children or SW or anyone if you are there or in your own property if you are not.

      I find no basis in law for a judge to say you cant, it may be frowned on, of course as evidence it must be pertinent. I have used recording of my child in court no problem and it was to show that CAFCASS had deliberately omitted the child’s wishes in private law because it did not fit her prefered outcome.

      I have had battles with LA’s on this issue, requiring contracts not to record or forbidding mother and young teenage child from doing so and case meetings, they all had to back down even when the LA legal advise was you cant.

      Im directly challenging the Sec of State for DWP on this issue re forbidding and constraining recording in disability work assessments as ultra vires.

      YOU ARE FREE TO RECORD EVERYONE except as above and in family law under the restrictions regarding identifying children in proceedings.

      RECORD RECORD RECORD

      • You will hear a lot of conflicting things in this area but what I say is accurate, so if anyone says any different you can just say you are wrong that is not the law.

        And there are plenty of lawyers, SW, some judges and even gov ministers who get it 100% wrong.

      • of course the Royal Palaces one is not enforced, imagine all the tourists that could be done at say windsor castle or the bloody tower and even an mp was recorded at westminister and it was published without penalty

        one anomaly though was all the court building notices saying you could not record, but the law only applies to court rooms and had to be changed though they still take devices from you at security but the law does not forbid the devices only using them

  15. As I say to people, you must by all accounts, record any assessment you have, especially in family law. This includes with psychologists and Cafcass. I personally also adopt this policy in general, especially when in meetings or on the phone to either housing associations or local councils. Th professionals don’t like it, but hey ho, if they’ve nothing to hide, then what’s the problem.
    #tommi #tommicaydendarby

  16. Social workers, managers, experts, cafcass, barristers – All get promoted when they lie, smear, perjure and show loyalty to their masters……

  17. I am a psychologist who has a therapeutic clinical practice and conducts assessments mainly in Private Family Law proceedings. My standard protocol has evolved and I now audio record all assessments, seeking informed consent at the outset.

    There are pros and cons to recording, but from my persepctive, the pros far outweigh the cons. Not having to make contemporaneous notes enables me to better enagage with the individual I am assessing, responding appropriately and compassionately where necessary – this is not an easy process for anyone. It also means I am able to replay the assessment, to ensure accuracy and give pertinent verbatim quotations. To date, I have not found recording to impact negatively on the assessment process.

    Of course, any individual has a right to refuse to be recorded – which has only happened with me on one occasion.

  18. Whoever thinks this is not common is fooling themselves, LA’s choose the experts that give them the results they want, bending the rules ensures experts work.

    Same is true of all involved, I have seen it often

    Frankly its acts tending to pervert the course of justice.

    One rule RECORD EVERYONE! You don’t need permission.

    And yes ask the court for permission to record as well, it can only refuse with good stated reasons. I have seen judgements that do not reflect proceedings and even the current president of the supreme court is not innocent!

  19. I’d really like to know more about the legal arguments advanced in relation to the admissibility of the Mother’s covert recordings of her assessment sessions. Parents often say they are going to record their conversations with the Expert, but are invariably advised against it. Yet had the Mother not done so in this particular case, the Court’s findings in relation to the Expert’s evidence would have been very different !
    Suggestion for a Suesspiciousminds article on the subject of covert recordings!

    • I did one together with the Transparency Project http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/guidance-on-parents-recording-meetings-with-social-workers/ and it is starting to get some traction. My understanding is that significant voices in BASW and CAFCASS are moving away from the ‘no no no’ approach to one that reflects that parents can be asking to do this for legitimate ends.

      I don’t think there is a legal argument that could prevent recording (the Data Protection Act one is, IMHO sketchy) but the Court can obviously use magical sparkle powers – inherent jurisdiction, if all else fails.

      It feels odd at the moment that a parent who tapes and finds a smoking gun can use it and do so without criticism, but one who uses it and doesn’t get that smoking gun gets criticised and called paranoid and that it is indicative of inability to work with professionals. My personal view (and I NEVER speak here for the LA I advise, but I’ll stress vividly, personal view) is that the profession needs to recognise that there’s an imbalance of power between professionals and parents, that an awful lot of what parents read online about social workers makes them feel very scared and doubtful about trusting and that allowing parents to tape their interactions (not contact with the child) is a way of relieving some of that imbalance and fear.

      • “I don’t think there is a legal argument that could prevent recording (the Data Protection Act one is, IMHO sketchy)”

        There is not, the Data Protection Act does not apply to a person in their personal capacity, so the Data Protection Act arguments some authorities use are 100% nonsense and the ICO says so!.

      • Yes, and even the High Court have said no (in the dad who bugged his daughter by sewing bugs into her school uniform case).

        The one I always hear is “What about MY human rights” and I have to explain that human rights are owed BY the STATE to an individual, and not vice versa. The parents don’t owe professionals article 8 duties

      • “The one I always hear is “What about MY human rights” and I have to explain that human rights are owed BY the STATE to an individual, and not vice versa. The parents don’t owe professionals article 8 duties”

        Spot on, or to put it more simply servants (public or private) owe rights to masters not the other way round and the limitations are on the servants as they are not acting in a private capacity but in a service capacity and HRA, Constitution and DPA etc are all terms and conditions of service so to speak

        Unfortunately the attitude of some servants is that they act like masters and give orders or act in a manner they are not empowered to and people out of fear comply, its not the law, they can write internal regulations but they cannot enforce them on me.

        For instance I can order any servant, from sec of state to judge to police and parking attendant even shop attendant as long as they lawful orders to comply with the law and I do and have authority to do do, though I may require assistance for compliance. I love the case of Queen v Tooley 1710 as an example, the officer came second in a sword fight.

        Once you understand your position It is most effective and I fully respect the authority of any servant to give lawful orders that require me to comply, but i resist unlawful ones john cleese style. (dead parrot sketch and fawlty towers etc)

        I am afraid I am a bit of a shock to some authorities and servants but if I know where the lines are and they dont I am very clear and stubborn till the back down, I have even had judges threaten to have me arrested and I just say do as you choose but you will be making an even bigger mistake, one even called the police and when the matter was explained to the officer he said there is nothing for me to do.

        Resisting Tyranny (cruel and oppressive government or rule & cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control) is unfortunately needed in all sorts of places and I try and do my bit, however petty tyranny is a creeping malaise that has infected most authorities.

      • Though I prefer to use the word liberties before rights, one extends from the other, I find HRA limits the understanding, my liberties can only be constrained by parliament and are not limited to the to rights expressed in the HRA, take for instance the Bill of Rights and Magna Carta and all sorts of case law as examples.

      • My god the amount of education public servants need is incredible, but susspiciousminds is an exceptional cut above the moras of what i would call playground stupidity. Keep it up.

    • Admissibility is simple, record, transcribe and submit the transcript, if it is relevant!

  20. No-one should be really surprised by this. The Ireland report demonstrated what a mess the system is. Social workers in Birmingham admitted to me that they “advocate for the child” when they tell experts what conclusions they expect them to come to. Birmingham refused to pay for an expert report that they were unhappy about and it resulted in legal action.

    It remains that employees and agents of the local authority generally do what the LA requires. Experts can be on retainers to local authorities and the courts still claim that they are independent.

    The system is a total mess.

    • The system should never be a total mess?
      In my experience the courts relied on our evidence being the Christian swearing on oath, which brings into force the ninth Commandment Quote You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour, this principle includes all forms of lying, is designed to prevent slander and perversion of justice, simple rule, and not open to interpretation.

      • It is not a mess.

        It runs as they want and the number of children taken into care has risen from 750 in 2010 to 1,200 per month this year.

        You will find proportionally less in Northern Ireland where the policy has not taken hold.

        It has been created by successive governments and legislation to create and feed a multibillion pound, increasingly venture capital backed fostering and adoption industry.

        It appears, now that they are running out of foster parents/ adoptive they are building more care homes.

        Check out the interagency and fostering fees, paid to adoption and fostering agencies, that increase well above inflation per year, and the money is public, guaranteed
        http://corambaaf.org.uk/res/financial-uk#agencyfees and the customers created by the state.http://corambaaf.org.uk/res/financial-uk#agencyfees

        £30,000 fixed sum is paid per child adopted, and over £900 per month supervision fee.

        There is also a government site with fixed sums payable to LA, if they adopt hard to adopt children , and I am not sure if this is additional.

        Add to these sums, that it was estimated each child adopted saves the LA £38,000 per year.

        Successive governments have, and are, making huge profits from our children, and our money, at the expense of the deficit, they keep telling us, is the reason for LA cuts that prevent support at home.

        The same modus is happening with the Court of Protection enforcing the Mental Capacity Act to place all learning disabled/autistic into £4,000 per week independent/supported living. google finolamoss for details.

    • Totally agree. anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see what is really going on. The worrying thing is that no one seems to have to balls to come out openly and say what is wrong and what needs to change. To point the finger at offending SW’s GAL’s solicitors and barristers and say ‘you got that wrong, you lied, you falsified, you perjured’, etc, etc.
      The power the state have over parents is beyond measure. The fear instilled into parents to get them to comply is abhorrent. It is like having a loaded gun to your head. ‘Do as we say, or else’.
      If there was no money involved, this would change overnight. It motivated by money and greed. There are some well-meaning people involved who truly believe that they are doing the right thing. There are those who are not well meaning and see the monetary value this brings.

    • A great deal of care has to be taken to ensure that where there are retainers (some LA’s do use them, a lot don’t) that there is (a) complete transparency about that so the parents know from the outset and (b) really really strong committment that the contents of the report are independent and that the expert on retainer has carte blanche to deliver their own independent view of the case without fear of not being paid or taken off the list. I can see why critics of the system would have doubts about both of those vital facets being applied.

  21. So we put pressure from central government on local authorities to achieve particular outcomes (permanence and children not going back to their families) we then have to trust the local authorities not to abuse their power over the experts that are essentially in house experts or employees.

    In years to come the government will be forced to apologise to the children who have been abused by this system. The big question is when do people recognise this is going wrong badly and needs to be fixed.

    Adoption UK recently revealed that many adopted children have the symptoms of reactive attachment disorder and are not doing well at school (or more generally in life). However, over 2,300 babies are taken off their parents before the age of 6 months (to march 2015). RAD tends to by caused between 6 and 18 months (Rutter) so it is the actions of the state that are causing psychological damage to these children. Many (but not all) would have been better left with their mother or parents. However, the system operates such as to deliver the outcomes that the local authorities are tasked with achieving.

    In the year to 31st March 2015 6,070 children aged 1-4 left compulsory care in England. 83.5% satisfied the government’s demand for permanence. Only 11% returned to their parents.

  22. Feel a bit worried about putting my head above the parapet- but here goes:-
    I find the above case and discussion deeply painful and difficult.
    I work as an independent practitioner (I don’t like the term ‘expert’ as I believe it is divisive and unhelpful). Years ago if someone had asked to record our meeting, I would have felt that this was unhelpful to the process. Now I know that many parents will feel suspicious (partly due to the kind of comments outlined above) and that’s cool- I don’t have a problem with this.
    The language of some of the posts here is very troubling. As a psychologist, I am not concerned with ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a case – my job is to be entirely independent and to help the court with enormously difficult decisions about the child/children’s future; what is best for them.
    Sometimes my opinion is supportive of the LA and sometimes one or other (or both) parent. Sometimes I don’t agree with anyone and find myself as ‘Billy no mates’ at Court. That’s fine – part of my job, and what I am paid for, as an independent practitioner.
    I think it is probably important to emphasise that I (and most ‘experts’ that I know) are not compliant or greedy individuals. I love my work and am deeply committed to it.
    I have never (as far as I am aware) kowtowed to Children’s Services (or others) and this has not affected my practice yet. Indeed I believe that my independent status leads to a successful practice model. I (and the clinical psychologists that I know) generally try to do what is right for the really vulnerable families that we work with. I trained in my profession to help people – not to harm them.
    There is no pressure on me to do what the LA want- if there was I would complain to the Judge. I always try and do a good job; I am not perfect and have a strong belief that we need to be humble and acknowledge our fallibility. I just give my part of the jigsaw that will be put together by the Court).
    The idea of misrepresenting a mother or telling lies to the court is truly shocking.
    I agree Seuss – filing reports on time and answering the questions is important. I hope I help people to understand complex psychological data in terms that are straightforward (when I report ‘common sense’ this is usually because the person should not have been referred in the first place).
    I really enjoy assessing, working with and enabling parents who have a learning disability and who otherwise would slip through the legal process.
    What is most difficult for me currently, is the lack of NHS services for adults who have complex problems. Very occasionally I can convince the LA to pay for therapy alongside rehabilitation- and surely that must be a good thing????

    • LOL rather than fearing putting your head up I suspect a lot of people here would want to know who you are because YOU sound independent and fair, the complaints are about unfairness and corrupt practices which are very common, so your service would be in demand, i know several of the posters here who would agree with me.

      Frankly people like you are like gold.

      • Yes, but would they be instructed by the LA,OS or Cafcass ?

        And, even then does not solve problem, that system unfair, as both inquisitorial and adversarial, and parents cannot have their own expert, as they did prior to legislation over 10 years ago.

      • Agreed instruction only and a fair expert is better than a non fair one, it can make all the difference

        except if the judge is prepared to fudge it, which most are

        my advice is RUN with your child, head for the hills from the zombie family law system (abroad) if you can, not ireland, but france and spain have worked out that english family law is more like the moaist cultural revolution than a real system of law

      • I forgot about the huge new weapon, the state now have of wilful neglect, a conviction can now give validity, more credence to care proceedings but as the term ‘neglect’, is so vague anything could amount to it, its worse than the term abuse.

        And it allows far to much subjectivity to the executive, in breach of rule of law, will vary with area.

        That is excellent advice, as then how could they prove it ‘wilful’, if you actually ask what you are doing wrong so that you have specifics.

        But what an appalling way the ;law allows certain parents to be treated, and what a weapon of fear and forced conformity, only I should imagine, in the UK.

        Yet parents, have no rights to even sue, let alone criminalise the state,nor remove their children from state care for neglect/abuse..

      • There are other mechanisms being explored!

      • It appears the state now does what it likes- and who can or will stop them ?

      • There are legal doors they are unaware of, so don’t have preparations for and do not control. im not going to say here.

        I have spent enough time studying the patterns and breaches to have a clear list of issues to be addressed, when ready they will not know what has hit them.

    • If what you say is true, I applaud you. I have met a 100% honest assessor, a Doctor Glasgow, who clearly did everything possible to present an honest and balanced report to the court, but there were still a few errors in his report.
      Others I have had the displeasure to deal with have been absolutely shocking and have definitely lied in their assessments in many ways. A doctor Ashcroft reported “He moved to the centre of the room, as if to take control” whereas in reality he moved to the only table in the very small room which was in the centre of one wall, to perform a card trick which needed a table to lay the cards on.
      Yet another ISW a Mark Webb “He allowed (child’s name) to take control” whereas in reality he was in a very tiny room with an eight year old and the ISW with toys fit for 2-3 year olds, the child made a small den on the floor with soft sponges, then knocked it down. On both occasions the psychologist’s buzzword “Control” was used as a criticism.
      It seems like it is always, heads we win and tails you lose.
      These incidents of “Spin reporting” although possibly insignificant in themselves were just two of many, and identify a pattern of reporting which is undoubtedly biased against families and in my opinion will continue as long as the reporting is allowed to be done in its present way.
      The system is open to abuse, and a psychologist/ISW who was afraid to bite the hand that feeds them and would always prefer to agree with LA’s views would have little chance of being exposed.
      The police in the early eighties were riddled with such corruption, false confessions etc, the Birmingham 6, Guilford 5, Stefan Kisco, etc. until the introduction of “PACE” in 1984, which included amongst other things that all interviews would be taped with a solicitor present, and in the case of children, a family member or other responsible adult present. Two tapes were recorded and sealed, one for each side, to ensure accuracy. Prior to this , they used the same system as SW’s etc, making notes which were written up (and edited) at a later date.
      It is time to have all “interviews” , meetings etc. recorded and accepted as evidence in court, surely it would save court time if judges could just watch a video rather than sift through pages and pages of notes containing the usually contradicting memories of all sides?
      If people are honest, they will not object to being recorded, the fact that so many “professionals” and SW’s object is a good reason to believe that they are happy with the current system because it enables them to apply whatever spin they choose.

  23. Care proceedings are effectively inquisitorial, but parents are then put to proof on the balance of probabilities that they did not abuse their children, and therefore the threshold for intervention has not been proved ie adversarially.

    The only expert evidence, now allowed to them to prove this, is the evidence relied upon to show their abuse see Webster and ‘Dangerous Consensus’ NLJ by googling finola moss and Bearing False Witness SJ.

    This is because, experts are chosen and remitted by the Local Authority, agreed by CAFASS, if parents do not agree this expert evidence, they will need to adduce other expert evidence which is systemically impossible.

    So parents are forced to rely on evidence that points to abuse to prove they did not abuse.

    In the last 3 years, this has been worsened, as before additional expert evidence not pointing to abuse can be obtained by parents, they now must show it is ‘necessary’ rather than before ‘reasonable’, and obtain Legal Aid, or be rich and find an expert.

    Which has proved largely, as far as I am aware, impossible.

  24. This blog entry relates to a case which has gone to ECtHR on the basis of a lack of independent expert evidence (and a dossier about the adoption targets and their impact on this specific case).
    http://johnhemming.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/in-matter-of-cb-child.html

    The response of the supreme court on the issue of independent evidence is absurd.

  25. ‘The Mother had been led to believe that her meeting with Dr Harper was to provide her with advice on how best to manage the eldest child’s challenging behaviour.’ .

    Increasingly, once targeted, either under Care or MCA proceedings, or indeed earlier, the LA’s duty to support, which a parent believes, and is lead to believe they are receiving, is in fact an evidence gathering exercise.

    As are the many assessments carried out .

    The team- care workers, psychologists, experts, GPs Social Workers, assessment services managers etc, then have meetings without parents, and all this hare information, for one purpose, and that is to gain evidence for intervention be it into the care of a mentally disabled adult or a child.

    This is borne out by the successful statistics for care and COP capacity and welfare applications.

    The parents are continually hoodwinked, and lead to believe that the authorities need these assessments, in order to support them, or as here they are part of the support.

    Therefore the system, in respect to the information given to parents, and the secret meetings of all involved, is covert, far more covert, as systemic, and the state, than covertly tape recording, as this mother has been forced to do.

    Had she asked to tape record, it most likely would have been refused, on some spurious grounds of ‘confidentiality’/ invasion of privacy, yet in view of the seriousness of the nature of intervention under care and MCA, removal for life, this, as with any petty criminal investigations should, as a matter of essential practice, be done of all conversions with all assessors, experts, social workers and indeed any agency representative.

    In criminal proceedings, an accused has a common law right not to incriminate himself ,this is what the right to silence is based on, it would appear in care and court of protection matters, parents do not even have the right to accuracy of what they have actually said.

    We must consider why this is happening – because care, adoption and disability are now private growth industries, and welfare/support appears to be being used as a harvestor for them.

    • “Increasingly, once targeted, either under Care or MCA proceedings, or indeed earlier, the LA’s duty to support, which a parent believes, and is lead to believe they are receiving, is in fact an evidence gathering exercise.

      As are the many assessments carried out .”

      I advise parents to do the same, to ask questions record and establish where THEY are not following and breaking the rules especially for criminal breaches, I say the common pattern with these people is criminal acts and you must collect the evidence.

      They don’t like it up them capt Manering!

      it works, i have seen cases refused in court on this approach

  26. Pingback: Tape recording of an expert (a SHOCKING case) @suesspiciousmin | National IRO Managers Partnership

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