BBC Panorama programme ‘I Want my Baby Back’ that was transmitted on 13th January examines evidence used in ‘Vitamin D cases’ in family courts. The BBC says that crucial evidence against parents came from doctors, who erroneously viewed fractures on x-rays as evidence of abuse, rather than a lack of vitamin D (or Rickets) which could provide a more plausible explanation for the fractures.
During the Programme John Hemming MP, chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, told the BBC that ; ‘All the cards are held by the local authority. It has large resources to fight the cases – it does all the assessments.’ Further he went on to say that his advice to parents threatened with Care |Proceedings was to ‘if they can afford it… just to go abroad. You can’t get a fair trial here, because you can’t rely on the evidence being fair…It’s best simply to go if you can, at the right time, lawfully.”
Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of charity Family Rights Group has lambasted John Hemming MP for his ‘crass, ignorant and potentially dangerous advice’ stating that it could seriously backfire on any parent who follows it. It could put a child at risk in serious danger.
“There is plenty of evidence that the most important factor in safeguarding a child who is deemed at risk, is an open working relationship between the family and social workers. Lack of co-operation is likely to result in the local authority seeking to apply for a care order. Parents need to understand their rights, have access to specialist expert advice and the ability to constructively challenge social workers. John Hemmings encouragement of them to flee is the antithesis of helpful advice to parents in such circumstances.’’
The Family Courts advisory service, CAFCASS, has warned going abroad would not solve the problem for most parents, and that “To advocate leaving altogether doesn’t solve the problem for the vast majority of children and parents who need our courts to be as good as they possibly can be.” (CAFCASS chief executive Anthony Douglas.) “We can’t play poker with children’s safety, we’ve got to have a system that plays it safe to begin with
Statistics released from CAFCASS today show a 6% decrease in the number of care applications taken in December 2013 Anthony Douglas believes that the fall in numbers may be attributed to the greater amount of pre-proceedings work now undertaken by the Local Authority.
If social services are involved with your family it is important to get legal advice as early as possible. Legal aid is still available for such cases, often even when court proceedings have not been commenced.
For expert legal advice from a Stockport Solicitor please contact us.