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Escape from Social Workers

April 7, 2013 permalink

Christopher Booker reports on the sure way to save your children from social workers.



The lawyer mother who beat the social workers

A barrister who fought for parents trying to keep their children found herself a victim of the same system

The more the mother expressed unhappiness about the situation the social worker had created, the more she was told she was being 'obstructive' (picture posed by model)
Photo: ALAMY

Whenever I report a new story of parents struggling to prevent social workers seizing their children for what seems no good reason, I try to give a new slant on the wider picture of how our ''child protection’’ system has gone so tragically off the rails.What makes this week’s example so unusual is that it centres on a barrister who for 10 years fought hundreds of cases on behalf of parents trying to hold on to their children, in a system where she describes them as being “like lambs led to slaughter” – only to find herself a victim of the same system after she complained to the police over serious allegations made by her older daughter against the girl’s father.

The police called in Barnet social services, who initially shared the mother’s concerns, advising that the girl should have no more contact with her drug-addicted father. But when a new social worker took over, she took the opposite view, working for the child to live with the father. This made the girl so miserable that she took to self-harming by slashing herself, leaving her mother distraught.

The more the mother expressed unhappiness about the situation the social worker had created, the more she was told she was being ''obstructive’’ and that there were “concerns about her parenting”. Last December she was summoned to a meeting to be told that the council wished to apply for care orders on both her children. Knowing how automatically the courts grant such orders, the mother – who although British was also an Israeli citizen – saw her only hope of retaining her children was to escape to Israel.

Within 36 hours, having obtained written permission from the older girl’s father, she took her daughters, now aged 14 and five, on several flights across Europe, terrified each time they landed that she might be arrested by police.

Scarcely had they arrived in Israel than she heard that the council had been granted care orders. Barnet approached our embassy in Tel Aviv to arrange for the children to be deported to Britain, with the co-operation of Israeli social services. After assessing the family, however, the Israelis advised that they could see no reason why the children – now having nightmares about being returned – should not remain in Israel.

In Britain the matter returned to court before a circuit judge, who criticised Barnet for its “relentless” pursuit of the family, ordering a further hearing in February. At this, although the social worker testified that the older girl had said that she would be happy to live in foster care in England, the mother was allowed to take part by video link, along with a “guardian” from the court advisory service, Cafcass, who had interviewed the 14-year-old on Skype. When the guardian supported the children’s wish to remain with their mother, the judge ruled that the children were now out of English jurisdiction, ordering Barnet to withdraw its case.

The two overjoyed children are thus free to continue living with their mother in Israel, with no more nightmares about being bundled on to a plane to live with strangers 2,000 miles from what they now regard as their new home.

Says the mother, in words many other parents would echo, “It seems my only real mistake was to dare to seek help from the authorities in the first place.”

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Fixcas has several times advised parents to leave the jurisdiction, or even the country, on the first hint of CAS involvement in their family. None have taken that advice. One prior case in the fixcas archives of a family getting their children out of the country promptly is again that of a lawyer, Louis A Piccone, in Massachusetts. When child protectors showed an interest in his family, he put his kids on a plane with his Russian wife and sent them to Russia. Only lawyers understand the dangers well enough to take the necessary action. Many other families have fled, or attempted to flee, their country but most wait until the case is well advanced, and they are in personal danger from authorities if caught trying to leave with their children.

British MP John Hemming comments:

Family Court Barrister becomes refugee from Family Courts

This story should cause concern. If a barrister who was on the verge of becoming a judge believes that the best thing to do is to leave the country what should others do. Given that Ireland, with its financial problems, has been trying to drive family court refugees back to England I have been talking to other countries to find out if they will simply apply the law to protect people from the abuses of power in England. I did speak to one country today who I think will help.

There is also enthusiasm amongst foreign embassies for a conference in parliament to look at how to fight corruption in the family courts in England.

Source: John Hemming blog

Addendum: Months later after a court dismissed the case Michelle Freedman reentered Britain, only to be arrested on the authority of the dismissed order.



An illegally arrested mother is saved by her phone

Social services can't even keep track of court orders

Israeli flag
Michelle Freedman was reunited with her children in Israel
Photo: ALAMY

On April 6 I reported on the disturbing story of Michelle Freedman, a long-time family-court barrister, who for utterly bizarre reasons fell foul of the system herself. Only in the nick of time did she manage last December to escape, quite legally, with her two daughters to Israel, of which Miss Freedman is a citizen, before Barnet Council’s social workers could seize her own children. The family settled happily into their new life. In February a circuit court judge excoriated Barnet for its conduct and closed the case.

Last week Miss Freedman returned to England to fill three large suitcases with clothes and belongings left behind in their rush to leave the country. At Luton airport on Tuesday, just as she was boarding an El Al plane to return to Israel, she was detained by three policemen and a policewoman. Showing her a piece of paper from the tipstaff’s office, headed “Child Abduction”, and ordering her arrest, they demanded that she hand over her passport and other documents, including her driving licence.

Her thoughts raced wildly in every direction. Might she soon be facing two years in Holloway prison, with her beloved children 2,000 miles away? She was taken to a baggage room where the policewoman went through every item in the suitcases, which had been taken off the aircraft. But while this was proceeding, she looked again at the paper under which she had been arrested and saw that it referred to an order dated last December. Fortunately, she was able to find on her phone an email from her solicitor in February with the wording of the order given later by another court, voiding the earlier one and closing the case. After lengthy discussions, the police agreed to send a copy of this email to the tipstaff’s office. Eventually, word came back that she could be released and all her documents returned. But, of course, she had missed her plane and imagined she would have to pay for a new flight the next day.

After checking with El Al, a policeman reported that it had another flight leaving Heathrow that evening and would give her a complimentary ticket. Early next morning, to her astonished relief, she was reunited with her overjoyed family.

But a puzzle remains: when the judge gave his order in February, Barnet Council was instructed to communicate it to the tipstaff’s office, to show that, since her case was closed, she was now free to enter and leave Britain without interference. Having emailed the council’s lawyer to ask why the order was not passed on, and despite a further email to the lawyer on her behalf from John Hemming MP, Miss Freedman is still awaiting a full explanation.

Also last week, as we see how our “child protection” system continues to go off the rails, it was reported that more young girls removed from their parents, in this case living under the care of Essex County Council, are alleged to have been forced into prostitution by a group of British Pakistani men (who deny the charges). Meanwhile, in Scotland, under the “Getting it right for every child” scheme, social workers are making children fill in a questionnaire rating the adequacy of their parents on a scale of 1 to 10. Presumably, this is trawling for clues as to whether there is a case for taking the little mites into care.

Source: Telegraph (UK)