Family Division

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 16th June 2009.

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Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley 2:30 pm, 16th June 2009

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the arrangements by which the Official Solicitor is appointed to act in the family division.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

There has not been a recent assessment and there are not any plans for one. However, the family procedure rule committee has invited the family justice council to consider producing good practice guidance for those cases in which parties lack capacity to give instructions. That is currently being considered by the relevant sub-committee.

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The secret family courts have been using a syndrome invented by an American paedophile psychologist.

Submitted by barbara richards

Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley

I thank the Minister for that answer. More than 100 times a year, mothers are prevented from opposing the adoption or the taking into care of their children as a result of a single expert opinion part-paid for by the local authority. Will the Minister meet me so that I can reveal to her the details of the dossier behind that and demonstrate how many mothers have their right to oppose removed because of mental capacity when in fact they do have the capacity to instruct a solicitor? I hope that a further assessment can be made and that these miscarriages of justice can be stopped.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

I will be more than happy to have a meeting with the hon. Gentleman about that, but I should say that the expert witnesses called to court to decide on capacity are not in the pockets of the local authorities. They are appointed with the agreement of both parties and they are there to answer the questions that the courts ask of them. It would be scurrilous to suggest anything other than that. I remind the hon. Gentleman of what Lord Justice Wall said after the hon. Gentleman attacked such an expert recently. He referred to the hon. Gentleman's allegations as untenable and said that the way in which the hon. Gentleman described the expert psychologist was an abuse of position. I ask the hon. Gentleman to think very carefully about what the Lord Justices have said about his own behaviour in some of these cases.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I fundamentally disagree with the Minister. John Hemming is doing a great service to justice and the families whose children are unnecessarily, unjustly and wrongly taken from them. I also have such cases, and have liaised with the hon. Gentleman on the subject. Will the Minister accept his request for a meeting so that the dossier that he, I and others have produced can be discussed with her? In that way, she will see the injustice, secrecy and behind-the-door dealing involved in the current situation.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

I will be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss individual cases—as long as they are not in the middle of court proceedings, in which case such a discussion would be impossible. I shall be happy to discuss these things in general terms. The hon. Gentleman talks about the secrecy of the family courts, but my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State has only recently addressed those very points in giving the media more opportunity to scrutinise the substance of what happens in the family courts. He has done that for a number of reasons—not least to give back to the public the confidence that the family courts are acting in the best interests of the child. That is what everyone in the House and in the Court Service would want.

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The family courts do not act in the best interests of the child and you jolly well know that already, Bridget Prentice.

You lied to me about the paedophile Richard Gardner and his syndrome PAS. You knew that the secret family courts were using a syndrome invented by a paedophile and you did nothing to stop it.

YOU have not acted in the best interests of the children of the UK, and you ought to be sacked!

Submitted by barbara richards

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Does the Minister agree that since the abolition of the death penalty, the most drastic action that a court can take is the permanent removal of a child against the wishes of the parents? John Hemming referred to various cases involving mothers with low IQs who have their children put up for adoption; even though they wanted to contest the cases, the Official Solicitor refused to do so. Does she accept that the Official Solicitor's inaction could be contrary to section 4(6) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005? Will she confirm that from now onwards, the Official Solicitor will contest all cases involving mothers with low IQs who wish to keep their children? Surely anything less would be heartless and wrong.

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The secret family courts have been using a syndrome invented by a paedophile.

Submitted by barbara richards

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

These are very sensitive cases, and we should be very careful about the way we address them. The Official Solicitor's job is to act on behalf of someone who lacks capacity. Their job is not to act on behalf of the child or the local authority, but, usually, on behalf of the adult—although occasionally it could be on behalf of the child—who lacks capacity. The Official Solicitor will so act only if there is evidence before the court suggesting that the adult lacks capacity to understand the court proceedings. The Official Solicitor would be acting outwith their responsibility as an officer of the court in doing anything other than acting on behalf of the person who lacks capacity.

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Bridget I am not impressed at all with the reply you sent to me about contacting the GP or NHS in adoption cases. Your own IQ madam is not looking good. You really must take on board the facts . In ACUTE CASES of leukaemia you simply do not have the time to go through all of these channels it is too long it is also corrupt or unsafe for most families to venture near a GP . the suggestion you have made to the right Hon...

Submitted by linda mcDermott Continue reading