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Grandma Apologizes for Hugging Granddaughter
December 31, 2014 permalink
Britain is now safer from the danger of grannies hugging their grandchildren. Grandmother Kathleen Danby, sentenced to three months in jail for hugging her granddaughter, had her sentence reduced to time served after purging her contempt with an apology to the court. The court wanted her to stay away because the girl was a ward of Derbyshire County Council. A news item is enclosed, followed by John Hemmings comments on his efforts to assist in getting grandma back home.
Jailed grandmother tells of ordeal
A 72-year-old woman jailed for hugging her granddaughter in breach of a court order has been freed by a judge - but branded her ordeal "humiliating".
Kathleen Danby apologised to the court paving the way for a reduction in the three-month jail sentence, handed down earlier this year at Birmingham's Court of Protection, to be cut to time already served.
However, outside court the defiant pensioner described a lengthy ordeal which had seen her arrested and "bundled" from a Ken Dodd show in Liverpool on Sunday, before being driven on a 200-mile trip between court and prison.
Wearing a large red coat, Mrs Danby said she was finding it "difficult" to believe the lengths the authorities had gone to bring her before the family court today.
In April, a judge sentenced her to prison in her absence after watching CCTV evidence of Mrs Danby greeting the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, with a hug outside a pub.
But reducing the sentence of Mrs Danby, of Kirkwall on the island of Orkney, Judge Sally Dowding told the pensioner "I am satisfied she fully appreciates the difficulties of her position and what she must do, and I am confident she will comply in future."
Contempt of court proceedings were brought by Derbyshire County Council, which is responsible for looking after Mrs Danby's now 19-year-old granddaughter.
The local authority had alleged the pensioner was in breach of court orders made in September 2013, and January and April 2014.
Those orders banned the frail Mrs Danby from any communication, save a single supervised monthly phonecall, or visiting the granddaughter's home town, college, or going within 100m of the girl.
In court, Mrs Danby's solicitor Sarah Huntbach said her client "sincerely apologised" for being in the town where her granddaughter now lives, explaining she was only there "to meet a friend".
It was, she added, while stood outside a pub her granddaughter - who has a learning disability and emotional difficulties, approached her and they embraced.
"She did not intend or want to be in breach of these (court) orders, or dishonour the court in any way", said Mrs Huntbach.
Mrs Danby denied intentionally going to meet her granddaughter, but "apologised for any nuisance that has arisen as a consequence".
Judge Dowding said it was "very sad" Mrs Danby had "failed to comply" with the court orders, which evidence showed had had "a detrimental effect" on the granddaughter's behaviour, "with consequences serious and profound".
However, she said it was Mrs Danby's right "to purge her contempt" before the court.
The spirited pensioner has been in custody since her arrest on Sunday in Liverpool, where she had been enjoying a performance by the comedian Ken Dodd.
She was escorted in to court by four security officers, and wearing handcuffs, but smiled and seemed unflustered as she walked into Court 11A.
Mrs Dowding said she noted the judgment of Judge Martin Cardinal, in April, who had been satisfied Mrs Danby "had engineered a meeting" with the granddaughter - named during proceedings as B, despite Mrs Danby's explanation.
"There is very clear evidence these events brought about a detriment in B's behaviour and the consequences were serious and profound," added Mrs Dowding.
She said it had never been the case the local authority was "seeking to isolate the child from her family", pointing out that the granddaughter's maternal family "have regular contact".
The judge added "the door is now open to Mrs Danby to seek, at any stage, to enter into constructive dialogue with the local authority - but must understand the granddaughter's needs".
Mrs Dowding said otherwise, the pensioner had the options of applying for a contact order or to vary or discharge the orders she has breached.
Outside court, Mrs Danby said she had been put through "a humiliating ordeal".
Asked if she had been scared in jail however, she laughed, replying: "No, I wasn't scared.
"I don't scare easily."
She described how the day after her arrest she was taken to the Birmingham court but claimed "nobody knew what was going on", when she arrived with security officers.
"I was sat there for three hours, wasting time," said Mrs Danby.
"Then a lady came from the court and said 'Mrs Danby wasn't supposed to be taken here, she was supposed to be taken to (HMP) Foston Hall (in Derby)'.
"So, this is then a 200-mile journey, so they took me in a rickety old van, while I was suffering a loss of sleep."
At the all-women prison, she was allocated a cell and claimed the medication she needs to treat her liver disease was taken off her because it could not initially be identified.
"It is very difficult because I cannot believe they'll go to these lengths to pursue a 72-year-old woman who's got a liver disease, just in order to keep control over my granddaughter, which is what they're trying to do.
"I can't tell you anymore about my granddaughter."
Asked about what her views were on the county council's decision to apply for contempt of court proceedings, she replied: "You really don't want to know - there aren't words to describe what I think of Derbyshire County Council."
MP John Hemming, who is calling for family law to be reformed and is chairman of the Justice for Families Campaign Group, was at court supporting Mrs Danby.
The Liberal Democrat member for Birmingham Yardley was made aware of her case by political party colleague Alistair Carmichael, as she is a resident of his Orkney and Shetland constituency.
Mr Hemming said her case was one among many, affecting families up and down the country.
"You've got this poor old granny being traipsed around in handcuffs because she hugged her granddaughter," he said.
"It is ordinary people subject to an abuse of power, and there's many more of these cases going on.
"These are the strange sorts of things that happen in this country."
Source: Yahoo News
Kathleen Danby and the Court of Protection
The Court had the sense to allow Mrs Danby to purge her contempt today and be released. G4S, however, decided that the court order was not enough and they needed permission from the prison service. In the mean time her handbag had been left in Derbyshire and her suitcase left in a hotel in Liverpool. Her tickets had run out to return to Orkney yesterday and she was dumped by the system in Birmingham. Luckily the Daily Mail have agreed to help her get home.
Even if the original court orders on contact had reliable expert evidence and the conclusion of the court on only hearing one side of the argument was right (about both of which issues there are questions). Derbyshire County Council have serious questions to ask as to where the public interest was in spending the money to get her dragged out of a Ken Dodd concert to be taken around the country.
Because she was not contactable yesterday or today, it was impossible to ensure she had legal representation. I was prepared, therefore, to act as her McKenzie friend today, but in fact a solicitor was found at the last minute.
It remains, however, that the system as a whole has treated a particular grandparent very badly this holiday period and she is owed a number of apologies starting with Derbyshire County Council.
As I say in this story: "It is ordinary people subject to an abuse of power, and there's many more of these cases going on. These are the strange sorts of things that happen in this country."
Source: John Hemming blog
Christopher Booker comments.
The most sinister court in Britain strikes yet again
The shadowy Court of Protection's treatment of a 72-year-old grandmother is a national scandal, says Christopher Booker
It was appropriate that 2014 should end as it began, with two stories exposing more disturbingly than ever the shadowy workings of the most sinister and secretive court in our judicial system.
A year ago it was the case, first revealed in this column, of the visiting Italian woman secretly ordered by the Court of Protection, without her knowledge, to be subjected to a caesarean section, so that her baby could be handed over to Essex social workers.
Last week it was the case, which I reported here in June, of Kathleen Danby, a 72-year-old grandmother, who was finally arrested in a Liverpool theatre after the Court of Protection had secretly sentenced her, in her absence, to three months in prison, for hugging her granddaughter.
This 19-year-old girl, said to have a mental age of nine, was taken into “care” by Derbyshire social workers in 2007, after her father had been seen roughly grabbing her and taking her to safety when she ran out into a busy road during a temper tantrum.
For this he was also imprisoned, as he was twice more – once just for waving at his daughter when he saw her passing in a taxi. The girl ran away from care 170 times because the only two people she wanted to see were her father and her grandmother, Mrs Danby, who was only allowed brief telephone contact with her once a month, strictly monitored by a social worker.
Last April, after Mrs Danby and her granddaughter had been recorded on CCTV illicitly hugging each other in a car park, Judge Martin Cardinal, in the Court of Protection, punished her, in her absence, by giving her a three-month sentence, saying, “I am sure this grandmother needs restraint”. But Derbyshire police were unable to arrest her because she lives in Orkney, outside their jurisdiction.
Last weekend, however, the police learnt that Mrs Danby planned to attend a performance by Ken Dodd in Liverpool. They called in their Merseyside colleagues, who summoned Mrs Danby out of the theatre just as the performance was about to begin. This tiny 72-year-old woman was then held overnight in a scruffy police cell, without food or access to the medication she needed for a liver complaint. She was not allowed to tell anyone where she was, or given access to a lawyer.
After a sleepless night, Mrs Danby was bundled into a police van (so roughly that her resulting bruising was later photographed) and taken away for two more nights and days in a prison run by G4S, with her family now desperate to know where she was. Only after they managed to contact John Hemming MP and another newspaper, which publicised her plight, was she brought to court on Wednesday and, at the last minute, given a lawyer, who was handed a three-inch-thick file on her case outside the courtroom.
Mrs Danby was led into court in handcuffs and only permitted to visit the lavatory handcuffed to a policewoman. Thanks to her promise not to repeat her “offence” – not to mention the media interest and the presence of Mr Hemming – the judge agreed that she had “purged her contempt”, allowing her to walk free from the court. But she had no money, her handbag was back at the prison, her luggage still in her Liverpool hotel – and her return ticket back to Orkney had run out. Only thanks to outside help was she able to collect her belongings and return safely home.
All this raises so many serious question marks over Mrs Danby’s treatment that one scarcely knows where to begin. The government website makes clear that anyone arrested has the right to tell someone where they are, and the right to free legal advice. They have the right to food and to any medical help required. None of these rights, it seems, was observed. “Guidance on the Use of Handcuffs”, on the website of the Association of Police Officers, makes it equally clear that “any application of the use of force to the person of another is an assault. The use of handcuffs amounts to such an assault and is unlawful unless it can be justified.” How does this equate to the treatment of a frail old woman who is less than five feet tall? In none of these instances does it appear that Mrs Danby’s rights were properly respected.
This is all profoundly worrying in itself, and we have two MPs already promising to raise these issues in Parliament – Mr Hemming and Mrs Danby’s own MP, Alistair Carmichael. But a much wider concern it raises again is the quite extraordinary powers given to the judges in this mysterious Court of Protection when it was set up by the Labour government in 2005. Only in the past year or two, thanks to the valiant efforts of Lord Justice Munby to lift something of the suffocating veil of secrecy surrounding the workings of this court, has it begun to come to light just how far it seems able to stand all the basic principles of British justice on their head.
It was this, for instance, that allowed us to know that Judge Martin Cardinal, the same man who secretly sentenced Mrs Danby to three months in prison, had earlier similarly jailed in secret Wanda Maddocks. She was the 50-year-old woman he had found guilty of contempt of court for removing her desperately unhappy father from the council care home where he was being so ill-treated that she feared for his life. Even now, although too many such horror stories continue in the shadows, it is only occasionally that they can emerge to public view.
But just as worrying as the role of the Court of Protection is the astonishing part played right across our “family justice” system by the police. When the police show themselves willing to behave as they so routinely do in such cases, to whom can we look to enforce the law?
Source: Telegraph (UK)