|Social workers are still too keen to split up families, says Christopher Booker. Daily Telegraph 4 July 2009
One of the most disturbing features of life in modern Britain has been the extraordinary powers given to social workers to seize children from their parents, too often – when those powers are abused – supported by the police and family courts. What makes this still more alarming is the legal bar on reporting these episodes, supposedly to protect the children, which again too often works to protect the social workers themselves at the expense of the children.
Details of yet another shocking case, which comes to its climax in a county court in eastern England this week, have recently been placed in the House of Lords Library. This follows a comprehensive investigation carried out on behalf of the family by Lord Monckton of Brenchley, who, as a hereditary peer, does not sit in the Lords, but has passed his dossier both to an active life peer and to this column.
Until six weeks ago, Mr and Mrs Jones, as I must call them under reporting restrictions, lived happily with their three young children, two sons and a daughter, aged under 13. Mr Jones, a business consultant, is related to various European royal families and his brother is a senior Army officer seconded to the UN. If he has one weakness, as he admits, it is to refer to these connections, as he did to the heads of the schools attended by his two older children, saying that he was particularly concerned for their security. He asked that he could be allowed to drive into the school grounds when picking up his daughter, because he did not want to leave her waiting, potentially vulnerable, in the road outside.
The headmistress agreed to this, but, concerned about other children’s safety, contacted the local police, who in turn passed on their concerns to social services. The result of this was that, on May 18, when Mr and Mr Jones, accompanied by their younger son, arrived at school to pick up their daughter, they were met by a group of strangers, one as it turned out a female social worker. She asked, without explaining why or who she was, whether he was Mr Jones. When she three times refused to show him any ID, he was seized from behind by two policemen, handcuffed and put under arrest.
He was driven by a policeman to a nearby mental hospital where he was told that, because of “a number of concerns”, he was being detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and “sectioned” under S.2 as of “unsound mind”. His wife, it turned out, had been similarly arrested, for loudly protesting at the handcuffing of her husband and the forcible seizing from her arms of her young son. The three children had been taken into care by social services.
Mrs Jones was allowed to return to an empty home that evening. Mr Jones was permitted to attend court two days later, to hear the magistrates grant an interim order for the children to remain in the care of social services. Because he was “sectioned”, he was not allowed to speak. The chief magistrate, it later emerged, was chairman of the trustees of the mental hospital in which he was being detained.
On May 28, Mr Jones appeared before a mental health tribunal which, after hearing all the facts relating to his case, gave him a complete discharge. He returned home to his wife and immediately contacted his MP, a local MEP, lawyers and others he thought might be able to help, one of whom set in train the investigation by Lord Monckton that led to this story appearing here.
Despite the finding of the tribunal, the social workers have remained determined to hold on to the children, with a view to their care being determined in a county court on Wednesday. The voluminous dossier setting out this extraordinary sequence of events not only includes lengthy statements from Mr and Mrs Jones but copies of detailed statements by the social worker and policewoman most closely involved in the case (along with a good deal more circumstantial evidence).
The only reason offered in these documents for the abduction of the children is Mr Jones’s “delusional belief system” that special care should be taken of his children because of their elevated family connections. The only harm done to the children is their very evident unhappiness at being separated from their parents.
It must be hoped that the court this week recognises how grotesquely this tragic case has been blown out of all proportion, and rules that a loving family should immediately be reunited.