It won’t be the first time anyone in family cases has heard that comparison, but it is certainly the first time I’ve heard it from a Judge.
I’m very grateful to Ian from Forced Adoption for bringing this story to my attention. It arises from an appeal in Sheffield Crown Court from a criminal trial, where a father was convicted of harassing a school.
The conviction was upheld on appeal but the Judge was extremely sympathetic to the father and extremely critical of the social workers and social work that had put him in that position.
We don’t have a judgment in this case – you’d only really get a judgment in a criminal case if it was a criminal Court of Appeal decision, otherwise you just get judicial summing up and sentencing remarks, which are not generally published. I don’t know whether the Ministry of Justice will publish these judicial comments in full (which are a matter of public interest, if anonymised) .
So the quotations come from the Court reporters who were present, and we have to proceed on the basis that they are accurate. If the Local Authority involved want to respond to this, I’m more than happy to print their response, but I appreciate that for data protection and confidentiality issues they may not be able to.
Here’s the Press report. (I expect some of the nationals might well be in touch with the Barnsley Chronicle to run this story.)
From the story, four things seem to have happened
- A six year old whose mother had committed suicide ten weeks earlier told her school that she ‘wanted to be with her mummy’ and that was reported by the school to social workers
- A referral was received by social workers suggesting that the paternal grand- father had sexually abused the child, that allegation was not substantiated.
- The father was either asked or told, to agree to a child protection medical (or one took place without his consent – the article gives two conflicting accounts on this), where the child was intimately examined to see if there was any sexual abuse.
- The father became outraged at the school for putting the child through this, and started a campaign of harassment including derogatory leaflets about the school and headteacher.
The father was then convicted of harassment against the school. He appealed that, unsuccessfully, but the Judge attributed a lot of responsibility for the situation on the social workers.
However, he blasted social services for their handling of the case. They became involved after an unrelated allegation – which police said was unfounded – was levelled against his father. That led to social services investigating the youngster’s welfare and temporarily stopped her from seeing with her grandfather, contact which has now resumed.
“Social services were like the SS of Nazi Germany,” Judge Moore said. “They’re literally the SS in their name and their manner of working is somewhat draconian.
“But the facts are clear. I have sympathy for the appellant as I did at the beginning of this case, but what came afterwards was the harassment of a headteacher when really the school were only following their orders.
“Had the headteacher have argued against social service officers’ intervention, they would have found themselves before a disciplinary hearing.”
Generally speaking, either parental consent or a Court order should be obtained before conducting a medical examination of a child, particularly an intimate one.
It isn’t clear to me whether the father consented (but felt under duress to do so) or wasn’t asked.
The article opens with
A JUDGE likened Barnsley social services to the Nazi Party’s SS after a young girl who had expressed suicidal thoughts was subjected to a naked medical examination without her father’s consent.
which suggests no consent
But later, the father is quoted as saying
Speaking after the hearing, he told the Chronicle: “Despite previous investigations finding no evidence of any risk of sexual abuse, I was forced to allow Barnsley social services to take my daughter out of school and transport her to Barnsley Hospital where, without my consent, she was stripped naked and examined from head to foot.
Which suggests that he did allow the child to be taken for the medical, but did not know or agree to the medical being of the nature it ended up being. Obviously have no way of knowing whether or not he is right about that, because we don’t have a forensic judgment looking at all of the evidence and reaching a conclusion, but he was certainly left feeling considerably aggrieved after the investigation, and a Judge felt that there was considerable force in some of his complaints, to the point of using extremely strong language of condemnation.
What I don’t know in this case is whether it was the circumstances in which the medical came about that the Judge was appalled by, or whether he was just appalled that the child was medically examined at all (which rather depends on exactly what the original allegation about dad was about, and whether the medical examination was proportionate to the allegation). I don’t know whether this Judge also has a care ticket, but I’d expect even a Judge who exclusively does crime to be familiar with medical examinations for alleged sexual abuse. It might be that the allegation, on examination was so patently threadbare or malicious that the child should not have been put through a medical and wasn’t a credible allegation. I don’t know.