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Judge Cannot Repair Family
July 11, 2014 permalink
Christopher Booker reports on the fate of the Musa family. After they were stripped of their six children, the parents were both sentenced to seven years in jail. The family is now beyond repair because mother Gloria Musa has been injured by other inmates. The name Musa can be published because of a recent court decision. The judge was severely critical of the actions of Haringey council, but admitted he was powerless to correct their past misconduct. Booker commented on the Musa case before: .
Judge slams Haringey council over my most shocking family case ever
Haringey went 'behind my back', says Mr Justice Holman over forced break-up of family
Of all the scores of cases I have followed over the past five years where families have been torn apart by social workers and the courts, one has stood out as more shocking and harrowing than any. From 2010 on, when five children were removed from a Nigerian couple, Mr and Mrs Musa, and then a sixth was violently wrested from Mrs Musa’s arms by six police and three social workers when she was lying helpless on a hospital bed breastfeeding the baby to which she had just given birth, I wrote about this case in heavily redacted form more than any other (a seventh child was later also taken from her at birth). I can only now name both Haringey council (of “Baby P” fame) and the Musas, thanks to three very remarkable recent High Court judgments by Mr Justice Holman, which he ordered to be published on the Bailii court website, specifically allowing both the council and the parents to be identified.
Holman only came into this case at the end of a four-year long saga that had already been before more than half a dozen other High Court judges. What he had to decide was whether, as an earlier judge had ruled they must be, the five older children, now in different foster homes, should be allowed to maintain contact with the two youngest (who have been sent for adoption and whom Haringey wishes to be given new names). Holman discovered, first, that Haringey had secretly and blatantly disobeyed that earlier ruling, by last year breaking off the children’s contact for several months until, in December, they were allowed to meet for a final “goodbye session”.
Holman repeatedly expressed his astonishment that the council had knowingly broken a court order in this way. But he was then even more astonished to discover that Haringey had managed to get the court website to remove the very judgment he had ordered to be published. In his own words, Haringey had, “gone completely behind my back”, to persuade “Bailii to remove from the public website” the judgment that he had “deliberately placed” there, “pursuant to the practice direction of the President of the Family Division” (Lord Justice Munby, who has been valiantly striving to open up the family courts to “the glare of publicity”).
Again and again in his forensically argued judgments, Holman condemned Haringey for having deceitfully broken both procedures and the law, expressing his “grave concern” at what the council had been doing. While he very reluctantly concluded that, following that illegal “goodbye session”, it was probably not practical to undo the damage, he ended one judgment by saying, “On that incredibly melancholy note, and with the utmost despair on my part, I draw the present hearing to a close.”
But Holman was careful to say that he was not familiar with all the earlier stages of this case, although he knew that it has been widely referred to on the internet and has aroused huge public concern in Nigeria. Had he in fact known all of what Haringey and the courts have done to this family since 2010, he would have been utterly appalled. Right from the start, the children were initially removed from their parents on allegations so implausible that the council eventually had to drop them and come up with new ones, quite different. After many more tragic twists and turns to the story, the parents ended up, following a very odd criminal trial, being given long prison sentences,
The children who, in the early days, were constantly pleading to be allowed to come home, have, for four years, been kept unhappily in foster care, where they are now condemned to remain. Mrs Musa, whom I knew as a smartly dressed, capable and obviously devoted mother, has been reduced by her beatings in prison to a physical wreck.
If, one day, the full story of the fate of this family can be told, it will be seen as a truly major scandal. Haringey’s bid to have Holman’s judgment suppressed was only the latest instance of an official cover-up that has so far been terrifyingly successful. Last Thursday, by another, very different judge, the council was finally given almost everything over those poor children’s future it had asked for.
Source: Telegraph (UK)