Data-gathering: damned if we do, damned if we don’t?

[I realise I haven’t posted for a while, but given that the widely reported case yesterday where Haringey was ordered to pay human rights compensation for an unlawful child protection enquiry was our case, it might be surprising if I had nothing to say! In fact, there is a lot to say here about good social work practice, details the mainstream press haven’t descended into…

If you don’t know the case I am talking about, it’s here: AB & Anor, R (on the application of) v The London Borough of Haringey [2013] EWHC 416 (Admin) (13 March 2013)

You can read commentary from:

The Guardian: Couple falsely accused of child abuse win damages from Haringey council

The BBC: Haringey’s social services child inquiry ruled unlawful

The Telegraph: Baby P council under fire for launching ‘unlawful’ abuse inquiry

The Mail: Parents’ social service hell after one anonymous letter]

The facts

So, briefly, an anonymous allegation is made to Haringey Social Services about parents who, it later transpires, are child protection professionals. Haringey seek information from the GP, asserting that they are undertaking a child protection investigation, and also from the school. Nothing damaging comes back, the GP says explicitly that he knows them well and has no concerns. They are contacted by mobile, and immediately challenge the lawfulness of what has gone on before; their challenge sets in motion a course of events which results in Haringey saying they are escalating to a full-blown child protection enquiry, which in due course is closed down, suspected of having been malicious, when no concerns are found.

I want to focus for now, in two posts, on two criticisms that have inevitably been made about our challenge to Haringey. In doing so, I can highlight two points of wider relevance that the case has achieved, that are comparatively unusual.

“Damned if they do, damned if they don’t”

Some have inevitably reacted that Haringey are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t”. Haringey gets it in the neck when it fails to intervene robustly, then when it intervenes too robustly. For example, comments on the Mail’s article (linked above) include “And if the child was at risk and they had done nothing?” and “No point in reporting any suspicion of child abuse then as a Judge says it’s unlawful to investigate. Crazy or what!!”

In particular, there are concerns about information sharing and data gathering. The judge in our case was scathing about Haringey’s unlawfully contacting other agencies without consent. He said,

“Issue 3: Was the data-gathering exercise before and during the initial assessment process unlawful?

76. The initial data-gathering exercise was unlawful in two respects:

(1) The initial request for data was sent to EF’s GP accompanied by the erroneous information that LBH was currently working with the family, that LBH was already undertaking a CYPS assessment and that confidential details including the possible presence of risk indicators of physical abuse, should be provided. In addition to these statements or implications being erroneous, no consent had been obtained from EF’s parents and it was not a justification to seek the information without consent that their identity was not at that time known since this statement was also untrue.

(2) The consent of the parents had not been obtained before the school was approached. Moreover, it was impermissible to post details of the referral on RIO to enable the school nurse to read them prior to obtaining the parents’ consent.

77. These were serious departures from permissible practice and these actions were unlawful.”

But isn’t “the child’s welfare is paramount: share, share, share” a lesson that is drummed into us?

Quite possibly so. And such an approach may be driven by an aversion to the risk that the next Baby P may happen on our watch, or a certain complacency that no-one ever challenges misuse of data in the child protection context and wins.

But it is wrong. The data-gathering that routinely occurs is often unlawful. It can be successfully challenged. There are good reasons it is unlawful. And it is not a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

So, three questions:

  1. What does data protection law actually say?
  2. Why is that a good thing?
  3. How can we make sure we get it right both ways, i.e. share when we should, don’t when we shouldn’t?

What does Data Protection law actually say?

The Data Protection Act does not require us to share data. Rather, it sets out a limited set of circumstances in which it is permitted. One of these is with consent. A second is where it is necessary “for the exercise of any functions conferred on any person by or under any enactment”. This second one is widely relied on, but it requires what is termed a “statutory gateway”.

One such statutory gateway is section 47 of the Children Act 1989. In the context of a section 47 enquiry, we can share relevant information without consent (subject, of course, to complying with the relevant statutory guidance).

That being the framework, the judgment in our case begins to make sense. There was no section 47 enquiry. There was no consent. The data gathering was unlawful.

Why is that a good thing?

Even if you accept this is technically right (which the judge said it is!) you might think it’s a bad thing, getting in the way of effective child protection.

I rather think that depends how far you favour a particular model of coercive child protection – which I don’t. But the legal case for that particular coercive model is dubious. Partnership with parents is one of the principles underpinning the Children Act, and what this means in the context of data-sharing is set out in the statutory guidance ‘Working Together’ (the name says it all!) at paragraph 5.35,

“The parents’ permission, or the child’s where appropriate, should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies unless permission-seeking may itself place the child at increased risk of suffering significant harm.”

So, there is a threshold test: will seeking consent place the child at increased risk of suffering significant harm? Data-mining without consent is predicated on an assumption not only that the child is at risk of significant harm, but that working in partnership with the parents will place the child at increased risk. Doing it routinely is sending out a message that we either have no ability to work in partnership with parents, or alternatively that we presume all parents will take it out on their children if we seek to work in partnership with them.

That message is dangerous. It is going to reinforce a stand-off between parents and social workers. It is going to reinforce mistrust and create a vicious circle in which co-operative working between parents and social workers is ever less likely. It is a bad thing.

So conversely, getting data protection right, as well as being lawful, and consistent with ‘Working Together’ is a good thing.

There is another reason it is a good thing. Human rights. Data-mining in child protection matters intrinsically invokes the Article 8 right to private and family life. As a human rights profession, we surely don’t want to routinely undermine human rights. In words of Eileen Munro I have quoted before,

“…liberal societies have placed a high value on privacy and confidentiality precisely because they present an obstacle to the State. While the State sees this in a negative light, the individual values it as a protection of their freedom. The professional ethic of confidentiality is seen by the government as an obstructive barrier to be removed in implementing their monitoring and assessment programme but this should remind us that the ethical principle is playing its rightful part as a protective barrier, defending the individual against excessive intrusion by the State.”

[Munro, Eileen (2007) Confidentiality in a preventive child welfare system. Ethics and social welfare, 1 (1). pp. 41-55]

How can you make sure you get it right both ways?

As the Information Commissioner explained in the context of Every Child Matters,

“The Every Child Matters agenda extends social care from protection to welfare. Although there are overlaps, this shift means that substantially more information will be collected and shared about substantially more children for different reasons. These different purposes raise different considerations from a data protection perspective. It is important that approaches used in the context of protection are not assumed to be transferable to the welfare context.”

[Protecting Children’s Personal Information: ICO Issues Paper, Information Commissioner’s Office]

Remember, then, there is a threshold test. Below it, you need consent. Above it, you don’t. Failing to seek consent when below the threshold is unlawful. Failing to protect when above the threshold is unlawful. It is not “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. It is “damned if you do when you shouldn’t, damned if you don’t when you should”. Since the boundary between the two is clearly defined, you can get it right both ways and all the time.

Of course, you need to avoid other errors made by Haringey, you need to properly understand what is meant by significant harm, the boundary between child welfare and child protection, and the point at which section 47 bites. But that is another blog for another day.

Allan Norman (@CelticKnotTweet) is a registered social worker and a solicitor at Celtic Knot – Solicitors and Social Workers. He acted for AB and CD in the successful judicial review of Haringey LBC discussed here.

24 thoughts on “Data-gathering: damned if we do, damned if we don’t?

  1. How did the parents actually win in a family court all of a sudden? Well forget the legal arguments above and just note that the mother was herself a senior social worker !! ………….

    • In addition ForcedAdoption, the solicitor is currently a registered social worker and a major contributor to Community Care . In bizarre cases such as this ( and this is just one of many) the first question I ask is ‘ Can you suggest any connections with somebody who works for Services?’ Didn’t Nevres Kemal experience something similar.?

  2. Thanks for this very interesting analysis. Good to see you back blogging with us again. 🙂

  3. Sorry for faulty research above but in fact BOTH victorious parents were themselves social workers not just the mother.
    No further analysis needed …………….!

  4. ‘Damned if you do, when you shouldn’t, damned if you don’t, when you should.’ YES!!!!!!!!!!! Someone gets this. Someone with real emotional intelligence. Brilliant. Thank you.

  5. Has there been in recent past a similar case won by “ordinary” parents?

  6. Pingback: Haranguing Haringey | suesspiciousminds

  7. ‘This is a landmark case for parents. One wonders how many families are out there suffering.”
    Actually many . Please help.

  8. Just to say this response might be quite long. If I need to do other responses I will. I am sure this case will be cited a few times by solicitors in court to invalidate attempts to protect children – but as it is a response to practice which went wrong, I suspect other case law will soon overtake it. My response is based on years of experience, not legal niceties.

    This case highlights three issues :

    1) that delay in responding to child protection concerns creats serious problems

    2) that the current (since 2000) goverment directed responses to child protection concerns do not allow for the quick resolution of a single issue

    3) that dealing with intelligently aggressive and privaleged ‘clients’ is extremely difficult.

    The problems for the decision makers in this case stem from the time gap between the apparent writing of the letter on 11/03/2011 and its arrival at what I will call the intake team on 15/04/2011. The second delay is that from the arrival at the intake team untill the start of the ‘assessment’ process on about the 4/05/2011. These delays are critical because in my view, which I will explain later, if this letter was received soon after the apparent date of writing a section 47 referral, meaning a child protection investigation, would be thoroughly warranted, and any other course of action would be a failure to protect the child.

    The current child protection proceedures, introduced following the commissioning of the first Messages From Research, which in turn generated the current Initial Assessment, S47 Enquiry, Core Assessment Formats, was critical of past social work responses to referrals. In short it stated that social work interventions were characterised by too much emphasis upon the history of the family, and a ‘one off’ assessment of each referal, which did not take into account the ‘whole’ situation – both negative and positive. It may reasonable be argued these two criticsms are contradictory, they are however not contrary.

    Finally while the middle class do not generate a significant number of referrals, they usually manage to oppose social work intervention fairly easily, particularly if they are like this family obnoxious and intellectually aggresive.

    Now let us start with the referral. It has been deemed malicious, by the plaintiffs, by the LA, and ‘probably’ by the Judge. Why? Does it display any characteristics of being malicious? The answer is no it does not. Malicious referrals tend to come from people who know you quite well, ex-partners, business associates, family etc. This referral shows no signs of knowing the family intimately. It does not know their names, it does not know of the existance of an older daughter, it gives no indication of a direct relationship at all. Middle class people will tend to have middle class enemies, and they will probably know who to contact, and how to raise the blood pressure of social workers – this referral does not exhibit these characteristics. It appears to report what the writer has seen and heard in a naive manner. Now just in case you have not recognised it – that is a risk assessment. The plaintiff described this letter as ‘illiterate’ to the press. When she did this she both displayed her value system and also her complete lack of knowledge of practice. If this letter was written by a member of the ‘underclass’ they would be less able to hide their true motivations, and much more likely to ‘drop out’ the true reason for their grievance. Unlike the super-dooper solicitors at Celticknot, or Judge Thornton, I do not have the intellect to detect this – I think this letter is exactly what it portends to be, a naive referral from a neighbour who has seen what they think is an assault and heard some negative things.

    The Judge states ‘regrettably, a small but significant number of referrals are from anonymous sources, and even more regrettably, some of those references are maliciously motivated or fabricated’. He has chosen his words carefully, but he means to agree with the plaintiff that an anonymous referral is malicious. This is ‘plainly wrong’. There are two reasons why a referrer may wish to remain anonymous – one is malice – the other fear of the plaintiff. I sugest there is plenty of reason to fear this plaintiff. An anonymous referral should not be treated any differently to a referral from a professional source or a member of the public who is prepared to be named – it should be assessed on the basis of its content – and the content of this referal is credible if not true.

    But life is even more complex than this – a referral may be both malicious and true. I can quote a case when a father made five referrals, including some in contested residency proceedings – the first four were not substantiated. On the fifth occassion he reported an assault, which when I visited revealed no less than twenty sets of linear bruises inflicted in a ‘thrashing’ of the three year old. The ex-partner shew little but malice towards his former partner – but he was right. Both Celticknot and Judge Thornton seem to be absolutley ignorant of this possibility.

    Now if the date is right on the letter it was written on Friday 11/03/2011. This is not half term, it is not Easter, the child will have been travelling back and forward to school, presumably driven by its ‘consultant’ mother. In other words there are at least ten times in which the neighbour could have seen the incident they describe, and possibly, particularly if they hand posted the referral, a weekend in which the referral could have been lost in the internal post of a Chilren’s Services Office; possibly explaining the delay. There is however another possibility – perhaps the letter was written on the 11/04/2011, which was a Monday, and somehow the writter has scrambled the date. It would have arrived on 15/04/2011, on the Friday, but have been very problematic for the intake team. If this is the case sadly the opportunity to quickly resolve this matter was missed.

    There is a further piece of information which may not bear the interpretation the Judge places upon it. The school failed to respond to the LA requests for information – assuming this is not because of Easter, it may simply mean that the school was so wary of the birth parents that it chose to adopt a low profile. The Judge fails to take into account that upon the merger of Children and Young Persons teams and Education Departments, that most merged departments are managed at a senior level by education not social work managers – and we know this to be the case in Haringay because of Baby P. When I returned to LA child protection work after six years gap in 2008 I was immediately struck by the enhanced power of Heads and Deputy Heads in child protection. If this school was unhappy with sharing information it would not have adopted a dum silence it would have phoned up and made its views known.

    Now quite a lot is made in this case about the fact that this is a first referral. This is frankly irrelevant, just as if it is an anonymous referral or a referral from an ex-partner. There is logically a first referal for every case and if it cannot be regarded as a child protection matter simply because it is a first referral it will place some children seriously at risk. Physical injuries to very young children are not found simply among the underclass. It is a pretty positive comment upon our parenting that I have only worked with three ‘near misses’ in thirty years, but two of these were ‘first referrals’ relating to the first child of middle class couples. Both babies had significant injuries including fractures; both were first referrals. Are we really being told that we have to go through Initial Assessments, seeking birth parents permission, not undertaking a Section 47 referral until the full process of the Initial Assessment has been both agreed and completed? I hope not.

    The social services evidence was often self contradictory, but all three workers, the student, the Team Leader and the Senior Manager agree that the birth mother was abrassive and aggresive. Why should we reject their testimony?. If somehow they have colluded to fabricate their evidence they have not made a very good job of it.Even more significantly the Judge rejects the possibility that the birth mother ‘lost it’ with the child in the car. The first phone call between the birth father and the student social worker occured ‘about’ 2pm on 4/05/2011. It may of course have been a little later. The Judge states that Mr Barker was lying when he called back and heard what he thought was a distressed child in the car. Why would he do this and was it unlikely? The Judge presumes that the student was exact about the time; he presumes that he gained immediate access to his supervisor and he assumes the decision making process was reached immediately.This is not my experience of an LA office – people are in meetings, they are on the phone; managers do not make themselves instantly available to staff. Most infant and junior schools close at 3pm or 3.15 pm. Is the time gap between ‘about 2pm’ and 3.15pm so great as to rule out this possibility? In any case the female plaintiff would have kept on her or his mobile an exact time of the second call, but this was not revealed to the court. If she did not the Judge could have asked for the log of calls from Mr Barker’s extension on that day to be made available, (if there was any cost to this it would have fallen upon the LA) but he chose not to do so.Why?

    I must make it clear that the plaintiffs did not consider that they should have had any contact from the LA at all. The evidence for this is an initial assessment should not be undertaken ‘since the referral had been made by an anonymous member of the public’ and ‘the applicants no longer challenge as being unlawful the decision to initiate an initial assessment’. Why are they above and beyond the law? Is it because she is a super-dooper consultant backed by the legal eagles at Celticknot? I hope not. Child Protection must apply to everyone – even the middle class. This decision seems to be another step in exempting the middle class from this process and reserving it for the underclass. You may ask would I like to be the subject to a child protection investigation? The answer is I would be a little bit embarrassed – but I would fear more being falsely accused of rape or domestic violence, but no one is suggesting that allegations of rape or DV should be treated differently simply because I am a child care professional. The difference is that at least this was a ‘private’ matter, whereas of course I would be named publicly, even if innocent if accused of rape or DV. In all three cases, I have a legal responsibility to report the matter to the HCPC – if you read the code of conduct you will find that regardless of anyone elses responsibility – I have a responsibility to do this. Did your clients? If a neighbour of mine made such a referral about me – I would not reject the right of the LA to undertaqke either a Initial Assessment or a S 47; I would not abuse the workers involved; and I most certainly not take the matter to judicial review. I would report the matter to the HCPC and I would inform them of the outcome, but your clients are beyond all that.

    There is the curious matter of the outcome. Your clients turn nice – they co-operate. they threaten on at least two occassions to use the complaints proceedure and the LA gives them the details about how to activate this process.The case remains open until mid-June. Why? Was this due to the possibility of a complaint? Was the LA asked to ammend the records and did it refuse? Perhaps so, but interestingly the Judge makes no reference to such a process. Instead we find ourselves suddenly in Judicial Revue. The applicants, who would fully understand, but seemingly have little sympathy for the financial constraints of the LA are happy to instigate this process, which the last time I checked costs about £10,000 per day. This particular judicial review was not resolved quickly. On top of that they receive, (and I presume they asked for it) £2,000 compensation. They obviously really need the money. I am pleased to report to anyone reading this site that
    Celticknot would have earned a lot of dosh from these proceedings – but hey we must make sure that the important people, the solicitors, earn a good screw out of the suffering of children.

    Finally, just in case anyone out there thinks that being part of the legal profession makes you a decent person I will quote a few examples of their behaviour. A child’s solicitor in a sexual abuse case boasted in front of me how she built her housing extension out of the proceeds of the previous round of proceedings concerning the children. Another solicitor received a text in the court, did not read it but phoned the texter back, because she could charge the call at the rate for solicitors letters under legal aid, but would not receive a penny if she read the text. A barrister instructed a client to fabricate a training course time sheet proving he was at his course instead of completing a core assessment with me in another sexual abuse case. Fortunately both my diary and the Children’s Services visiting log, (I always wrote down the address I was visiting for H &S reasons), said the same thing, and the judge indicated in his findings that I was telling the truth. Finally a child care judge who hated a particular local authority hurled a court bundel probably at the social worker, and inadvertently hit the LA barrister, (big mistake), and got struck off. My favourite quotation is ‘You can see the lice on me – you cannot see the ticks on yourself’, (Petronius Arbiter). I always felt dirty after mixing with the solicitors at court – I never felt the same way when mixing with birth parents no matter what they may have done.

    • Wow! What a lot of anger you have to let out – to the parents I represented, and it seems generally to people you perceive as ‘middle class’ rather than ‘underclass’; to me personally and to a whole profession about whom you have found nothing positive to say; even, it seems, to the judiciary for not seeing things your way.

      With so much you had to say, there is so much to respond to; I will confine myself to what I think are some of the more important things that need to be put across in a response.

      First of all, some important points of correction. I hope you appreciate it would be dangerous for your post to stand uncorrected:

      * The parents have not and would not criticise the letter as illiterate. The Daily Mail and others criticised the letter, but quite correctly did not suggest that the parents had made this comment. If you are going to rely on the Daily Mail for information, you need to read it carefully, and not post a character assassination of parents online based on what even the Daily Mail didn’t actually say.
      * You criticise me and the judge for accepting that the letter was malicious, a description that you attribute to the parents. To be very clear, this was the conclusion reached by Haringey before we or the judge had any involvement whatsoever.
      * Haringey did not, and I think would not, describe the parents as obnoxious or abrasive. That is your choice of online comment on parents that Haringey and I know rather better.
      * Haringey’s social worker team manager was not accused of lying, a serious accusation to make. Rather, he deposed as to “impressions” many months after the events, and the judge preferred our evidence.

      There are other, perhaps less important, points of correction – but I will move on.

      There is, as I have already alluded to, an awful lot in your comment about class. It is a word appearing nine times in your comment, not once in mine. I have tried to analyse in a separate post what difference the parents’ profession may have made to the case (see Quashing the child protection investigation: self-serving or breaching the dam?).

      You say, “this decision seems to be another step in exempting the middle class from this process and reserving it for the underclass.” I, and the parents I represented, desperately hope not. We hope that ordinary parents (presumably equating to what you describe as an underclass) will be helped to challenge unlawful and unwarranted intrusions into their lives that are just as wrong whoever they are applied to.

      Which brings me on to perhaps the most important difference between us about what I think it means to be a social work professional. The kernel of your defence of social work intervention can be found in this extract from your comment:

      It is a pretty positive comment upon our parenting that I have only worked with three ‘near misses’ in thirty years, but two of these were ‘first referrals’ relating to the first child of middle class couples. Both babies had significant injuries including fractures; both were first referrals. Are we really being told that we have to go through Initial Assessments, seeking birth parents permission, not undertaking a Section 47 referral until the full process of the Initial Assessment has been both agreed and completed? I hope not.

      It is a familiar argument that the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount justifies any level of state intrusion into our lives, so that such atrocities cannot happen. But it is wrong. The Children Act, ‘Working Together’, the Human Rights Act, domestic and European courts are all singing from the same hymn sheet on this. All are saying that there are limits on state intrusion, that working in partnership with parents is the first choice. I am sorry if you find working in partnership with parents troubling, but I am indeed going to say that you should go through initial assessments and seeking parental permissions before launching a section 47 enquiry – see Chapter 5 of ‘Working Together’, it’s all there!

      I am also troubled by your repeated description of the parents in this recent case as “birth parents” and “birth mother”. The term is usually used to distinguish from foster- or adoptive parents. I desperately hope you don’t go into initial assessments with foster- or adoptive parents already on the radar! Would not the simple term ‘parents’ have sufficed in this case?

      Dare I suggest your own statistics lend support to the validity of my favoured partnership approach? Only three ‘near misses’ in thirty years’ practice seems a pretty flimsy basis for favouring compulsory state intervention over partnership and due process, with parents already re-labelled as ‘birth parents’…

      I also did a double-take on your perspective on the poverty of the local authority, that the parents “seemingly have little sympathy for the financial constraints of the LA”. My experience is that citizens in dispute with the State feel the financial cards are all stacked in favour of the State, with deep pockets funded by taxpayers whether the taxpayers wish it or not. It is at least an interesting perspective that as citizens we have a duty to let the state walk all over us because challenging them could be costly in these cash-strapped times!

      But finally, can I just reassure readers that judicial review should be nowhere near as costly as you suggest, and nowhere near as costly as many other types of legal action – such as, for example, the cost of taking a child into care. One care case we know of allegedly cost the local authority taxpayers a million pounds (funded from local authority reserves) – see this story Meanwhile, in common with many lawyers who practice social welfare law, I am content with an annual income considerably lower than that of a basic grade social worker in Haringey, as reported here: There may be social workers as well as solicitors who “earn a good screw over the suffering of children”; I don’t think I am one of them.

      • Mr Norman: well done both on the case and in your response to bookwormbc.

        The latter’s comments are troubling of themselves. However, what is more worrying is that there may be more social workers out there with the same jaundiced, half-baked Marxist approach.

        How do we get rid of bad employees who can cause misery – and replace them with professional, dispassionate social workers without a doctrinaire axe to grind?

      • Not anger, but truth Mr Norman. This will be the first of several responses to your various claims and allegations. Let us start with your salary; ‘I am content with an annual income considerably lower than that of a basic grade social worker’ – you then give a link to Haringey, where including London Weighting a social workers starting salary is £29,000. If however you look at the Total Jobs web-site in London you will find solicitor’s salary starts at £24 per hour. I also note an advert for Sellick Partnership for solicitors to be paid at £25 to 32 per hour. Both of these are less than half of the legal aid rate, which is the minimum that a solicitor would receive, (plus expenses) in Magistrates court. If a case goes to the Family Proceedings Courts a certificate of special difficulty will be in most cases made by the judge, allowing much higher hourly rates to be charged. I would suggest that “There is much more of the tax return than the taxable income”, about your claim to earn ‘considerably less’ than £29,000.

        You consider judicial review is a cheap option and that it is much less expensive than care proceedings. You forget to mention that care proceedings rumble on for years. In 2002 the Home Office concluded that the average cost of care proceedings per child was £200,000. Of this well over half is paid by the LA. However by the day your judicial review cost more than any two days of care proceedings. However in this case your comparison is irrelevant, as even if the contents of the anonymous letter had been substantiated there was no likelihood of care proceedings being initiated.

        Mr Norman states he qualified as a social worker 21 years ago, presumably 1991 – 1992. He also states he has 24 years experience in ‘social welfare law’ and ten years experience of ‘supervising legal practice’. This may refer to his time at the Birmingham Law Centre. He does not seem to have any experience of working as a social worker in any capacity at all within a LA. I do not think he has any experience of working as a LA solicitor. He certainly displays scant knowledge and less interest of the tasks and duties that have to be undertaken by either LA social workers or solicitors. He displays no knowledge of the contents of a CQSW or DipSW course of the period during which he claims to have been trained.

        He does display a belief in this and other articles he has written, (and I have taken the trouble to read), that social workers normatively misuse their ‘powers’, and unreasonably take children into care, either by means of care proceedings or by ‘accommodation’. He used his second post to tout for business suggesting that LA’s are somehow forcing parents to accommodate their children with the LA.

        In one article he bemoaned the fact that the number of children in care had ‘gone up’ since the introduction of the Children Act in 1992, and cited this as evidence that social workers were normatively ignoring the principles of working in partnership and openness. Interestingly in this article he was wrong both in point of fact, and in terms of any understanding of the statistics involved. According to 2011 census data there are currently 68,000 children in care, out of a population of approximately 12,000,000 children. That is half a percent of all children are in care. In 1992 there were 70,000 children in care. He does not seem to understand, as he would if he was a social worker in 1992, that the figure for children in care did not include those residential school, in YOIs, in long term hospital units or with respite care arrangements. All of these children would now be considered to be ‘in care’, following the introduction of regulations in the years following the implementation of the Children Act. As there has also been a considerable increase in the number of children in the country, primarily because of the significant immigration of about 3 million people into the country – immigrants tend to be young and have high birth rates; the evidence would seem to show that social workers have not been unnecessarily taking children into care.

        How many children are at risk of significant harm every day? This is of course difficult to quantify, but it is statistically reasonable to suggest that of the 12,000,000 children in the country about 2.5%, (that is two standard deviations from the statistical norm, assuming that parenting skills are equally distributed around the norm) live in conditions or receive care that would unacceptable not simply in modern western society, but throughout most societies in history. This figure is 300,000 children. Of these children, according to Mr Norman, an excessively high figure of about 70,000 are in care.To be continued.

      • Ah Mr Norman, here I am in Monaco, sipping my Pina Collada, throwing the odd 1000 euros on the roulette table; the virtues of my gold plated pension that you so resent. Now where was I, ah yes. It is likely that every day social workers leave about 250,000 children suffering significant harm or at high risk of significant harm. Now I certainly left quite few. Now why did I do this; laziness? Incompetence? I cannot comment on anyone else, but for me the reason was that the whole system was designed to prevent me, or anyone else, from protecting children.

        Haringey had four levels of management above the social worker, all of which had a say in how the investigation should have been conducted. Are four layers really necessary? Police Public Protection Teams manage with one, or perhaps two layers above the investigating DEs. A social work team needs no more than this. So why are they there? Certainly not to encourage me to take more children into care. LAs do not receive extra cash for taking children into care. Ofsted is likely to penalise LAs who have more children in care than other LAs. Most importantly ambitious managers do not get promoted by opening children’s homes, increasing the number of children in foster care. Any Assistant Director who did this would not be seen as Director material. The four managers are there to stop social workers taking children into care, and for any social worker in Haringey to persuade the LA to apply for a care order would require each of the four layers being persuaded by means of a different mechanism, a different report, a different assessment, and more likely than not the answer at the end would be no.

        I accept that the dynamic in Haringey might be slightly different because of its recent disastrous history, but the above would be true everywhere else in the country. If there is a different dynamic in Haringey it might be reasonable to ask how close was Sharon Shoesmith to a charge of corporate manslaughter? The impression I got in the autumn of 2008, was not to far away.

        Even if social workers wanted to take more children into care, which they don’t, and even if their managers would let them, which they would not; where would they put them. Between them the private sector, the charitable sector and LAs have recruited practically everyone able to offer a reasonable foster home. No one is going to build children’s homes.

        Finally there is the devil and the deep blue sea dilemma. Any experienced social worker knows there are limits to what care can do, they will also know that the outcomes for children in care are pretty dismal, particularly if the child ends up in a children’s home. In the LA I worked in for 29 years almost 100% of the boys who were placed in residential care, left care as criminals, (although many of them entered care as criminals), and about 80% of the girls left care as prostitutes, (although many of them were well on the way to this when they came into care). The reticence of social workers to take older children into care probably underpins the ‘child exploitation’ scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxfordshire.

        Again if you knew anything about LA social work Mr Norman, you would know that LA social workers spend about third of their time resisting the attempts of ‘loving parents’ from thrusting their little cherubs into the arms of the LA. Interestingly once the parent has foisted their child on the LA – from that second on all of the child’s problems are the consequence of LA care. But never mind Mr Norman I detect a rich seem of litigation for yourself and others of your kind. Every cloud!

        By the way Mr Norman fishes in the same pool as I do, which means that he will know the name of the care judge who assaulted the barrister with legal bundle, and the name of the barrister as well. Now what was the name judge …….. to be continued.

  9. “damned if you do when you shouldn’t, damned if you don’t when you should”
    – if only Haringey Council would take on board this wisdom

    To forcedadoption:
    – the parents did not win in a Family Court. The parents won a Judicial Review in the Administrative division of the High Court. It was an unusual – and important – case.

    It is a great pity that a case like this could effectively only be brought by professionals – but in a real sense, those parents also brought the case on behalf of those less able, less articulate and with less expertise.

    Before these power drunk busybodies came on the scene child cruelty or neglect was a police matter dealt with in criminal courts .That is how it should be today.

  11. As one of those ‘intelligently aggressive and privileged’ clients to whom bookworm disparagingly refers I strongly endorse the views expressed by the writer of this blog. I was made the subject of a wholly unnecessary s.47 investigation which resulted in my son losing contact with me for the best part of a year. This followed a highly contentious and speculative GP referral made by a doctor who later told me she’d just come off a GMC child protection course. (At the time it made me feel a bit like a guinea pig for her to showcase her newly honed child protection skills.)

    This referral followed my child’s mother going to her GP and making an allegation against me in the course of revealing her second pregnancy. She now denies she did any such thing but whatever was said, the GP latched onto it as evidence of abuse on my part (the mother’s emotional state was never even considered for a second) and a referral was faxed over to social services and minutes later by social services to the police. A full blown s.47 enquiry was launched later that evening by professionals who at that point had not seen me, had not interviewed the mother or taken a statement and nor had my child been ‘seen’. These professionals were content to feed on scraps of false and distorted information fed into the strategy discussion third hand (from mother to GP to health visitor in turn) to justify their decision to act. The police mounted an immediate search for similar fact evidence involving other children before they had even established a scintilla of evidence regarding the child in question (mine). Despite the fact that I already had a court order for unsupervised contact, which itself followed a Cafcass review two years earlier, this judge-made law was swept aside by a police order, presumably on the basis of their emergency powers. When they finally confronted me I read them a few home truths and gave them cause to think more widely. However, the confrontational nature of the investigation had pitted them against me. I later received a rather duplicitous NFA letter from the police. This letter highlighted bogus evidence, supposedly prima facie, obtained from my three year old on whom these totally unqualified and shameless people had conducted an investigative interview in the presence of an accusatory mother.

    I ended up going to court myself and incurring £20,000 on lawyers before I reestablished contact with my son. Inevitably a complaint process followed in which exoneration,by contrast, proceeded at snail’s pace.Two years later the LA coughed up £10,000 towards my legal costs and more recently I accepted a part 36 offer from the police to settle my claim of unlawful arrest and false imprisonment. The director of children services accepted a finding that its own s.47 investigation was tantamount to administrative abuse which had caused my child harm. I’m still holding the GP and surgery to account for failing to exercise reasonable skill and care. It’s a story I could write a book about. I’d never done anything wrong to any child, let alone my own or the child’s mother yet strangely and bizarrely a collection of professionals came to the conclusion that I probably had. They had no proper evidence on which to base their case so they concluded matters with a cop-out, ultra vires finding that the ‘concerns’ (i.e. allegations against me) could not be ‘fully substantiated’. This not ‘fully substantiated’ allows an inference of abuse to be drawn at least in part, something which is not lost on one of bookworm above’s, aggressively intelligent parents. It is a finding which is not found in statutory guidance. Concerns are either substantiated or not as the case may be. Their half-way house conclusion was a deliberate contrivance, as they acted in concert to give mother a plausible excuse to terminate contact. They didn’t have the balls themselves to take their own public law enquiry to a rational conclusion or pursue a single agency police investigation so they wrecked the family instead; I’d beaten them in face-to-face combat but instinctively it seemed they wanted a case of abuse to be made against me. The possibility of mental health issues on the part of my accuser was never even remotely considered and neither were their positive obligations towards both child and parents under HRA article 8.

    • From your own words -”I read them a few home truths’, I am sure you were aggressive, but perhaps not intelligent. Also it is good to see that other people than social workers can use jargon. It is not easy to make out the sequence of events, but some things are clear.

      Since the implementation of the Children Act, there is a presumption of contact, and indeed a presumption that no order be made in the event of relationship breaking up, which involves children. You mention the making of a contact order and a CAFCASS report which preceded all of this – implying disagreement between you and your ex well before the Section 47 investigation.

      You skirt around the allegation made by your ex, but I think it is reasonable to assume it was serious. If it was also untruthful this implies a significant degree of animosity between the two of you before the Section 47 investigation. You imply that her claims should have been ignored because she was a) in an emotional state because of her pregnancy and b) has ‘possible mental health issues’. Because you use the word ‘possible’ I suspect this tells us more about how you view her than the woman herself. In any case the court that awarded you contact probably awarded her Residency – which would be a little odd if her mental well-being was as fragile as you say.

      You doubt the integrity of everyone who disagrees with you and attribute malice as the motive to any action you disagree with. This is obviously your personality and the way you conduct yourself; it would not as I pointed out to Mr Norman in the ACDC case, be how I would have conducted myself. I personally would accept the legitimacy of such enquiries and work very hard to be reasonable and avoid confrontation – that is my way. I will say at this point that I have almost been there myself, with an ex who held a significant child care position, who did something rather rash, and certainly made a number of allegations about me. I was not investigated, but she lost her position as a consequence of her actions. I made a data application request to see what was on computer, but much of the information was withheld, though I think I can guess what it says. There is something to be said for being civil and cooperative.

      You object to the GP passing on the information to Children’s Services, but I cannot see anyway she could have avoided this – you doubt that your ex actually made an allegation, but I cannot see why in these circumstances the GP would make it up.

      You object to Children’s Services communicating these concerns to the Police, but as far as I can see if they were as serious as you imply, I cannot see how they could avoid this – it also implies that what was said amounted to an allegation that a crime might have been committed. This is also indicated by your description of what seems to be an interview by ‘these totally unqualified and shameless people conducted . . . . in the presence of an accusatory mother’. This might be a Best Evidence Interview, in which case a parent would normally be ‘present’ but not participate. Such interviews would be undertaken by someone trained to undertake them, whether police officers or social workers, so I find your assertion that they were unqualified rather odd.

      I am not sure what you mean by the ‘not fully substantiated’ passage, but the fact is that parenting is a ‘private’ activity, and very little can be substantiated. As a social worker you often leave homes with no more information than when you went in, but you know a few weeks or sometimes years later, something happens which clarifies what happened in the past.

      Finally you have fully proved the point I attempted to make to Mr Norman. You have received two substantial payments of cash and are hoping to get a third one, seemingly by the threat of court action; why could not ACDC do this. In my experience agencies will pay out considerable sums of money for both real and perceived grievances. Thanks for supplying me with the evidence! I will pursue this point with Mr Norman.

  12. Well here I am, sitting on the beach in St Tropez, with two Latin lovelies draped across the sun lounger, one is feeding me Catalonian strawberries, the other is pouring the champers. I sit and think of you Mr Norman, huddled in your garret, writing legal briefs in the light of one small candle, and wonder, where did it all go so right?

    I will briefly return to the subject of anonymous referrals, a subject which you and judge Thornton know so much, and I know so little. Now I undertook social work duty during the day for 16 years in the LA and for ten years on out of hours, and in that time I received a lot of anonymous referrals, many of them malicious. The first thing to note is that very few anonymous referrals are written, the second thing to note, as anyone who had worked in an LA duty system would know, but you apparently do not, most go to the police. A proportion, if rebutted by the police will then call children’s services. Many of these calls come at weekends, partly no doubt because this is when many contacts, formal or otherwise take place. It is also when estranged partners find out that their ex has a new partner. No doubt some children wanting to please both parents say what they think their mother and father want to hear. In my experience, (which in Alan Norman’s eyes is worth nothing), the most vitriolic and volatile calls occur about 11pm on a Friday or Saturday night, often after the child has returned to its home, and often after the non-custodial parent has had plenty of time to dwell on the negatives, sometimes of course after a drink or two.

    It is usually fairly easy to establish whether the referrer has an agenda, or any concrete information to offer. It must also be remembered that simply because something has been expressed in an emotive context, it might actually be true.

    Now a referral in writing is unusual, and in my experience most written referrals have contained a significant element of truth. I pointed out in my first response that there is no evidence within the anonymous letter of any animosity, nothing is described which is patently untrue and it does not seem to be part of a campaign. Now I think the readers of this blog should consider the difference between spoken, text, twitter, communication, which tends to be spontaneous, and often disastrous, and someone sitting down to write a letter, ( I think it is reasonable to infer the referral was handwritten). I think this act is likely to focus the referrer on what they want to say, and it is likely to cause them to edit out that which they cannot substantiate. It is after all a very formal way of communicating. This does not of course mean that everything in the letter is true, but it implies an attempt to get things right. Most significantly the referrer, who shows no sign of knowing the family well, did not send the letter to the police

    I will return to the subject of what the judge and the senior social worker said later. Let us just consider what would have happened if instead of a neighbour, police officers saw this incident. The police officer would have seen an apparent physical assault and heard apparent emotional ill-treatment. Has a crime been committed?

    The police officer would probably intervene. They would not know the relationship between the adult and the child and an assault of this nature can only be justified, (there are some exceptions) by a parent of the child. If the person committing the assault is not a parent, or someone with parental consent to punish, then even if this was viewed as a common assault this would not be a defence.

    Now a lot would depend on what happened when the police officer started questioning the adult. In my experience the public adopt a very different attitude to police officers from social workers, but if in this case ACDC kicked off as she appears to have done in the car, she would be putting herself in real danger of arrest. In part this would be because an assault is not just the actual physical contact, it is also whether the threat is realistic for the alleged victim. Emotional volatility in front of the child could be so construed.

    There is something very unusual about ACDC, several of the press reports cite her as saying that corporal punishment by parents is both lawful and reasonable, and should not result in S47 investigations. This is entirely true but she belongs to an occupation which does not approve of corporal punishment at all. All social work training condemns corporal punishment. Every social work professional group condemns corporal punishment, every foster carer must sign a commitment not to use corporal punishment. Every other child care service, health visitors, therapists, counsellors, teachers publically at least condemn corporal punishment. In fact ACDC is the only social worker other than myself who thinks corporal punishment is acceptable in some circumstances. I must point out in these press reports she stated categorically that she herself did not use corporal punishment. Now judge h ……

  13. Still recovering from dinner with the Grimaldis last night. Such marvellous desert wine! They were highly amused when I told them that you implied I was a Marxist, driven by extreme left wing ideology. Crass or what. Now Mr Norman you claim to have qualified as a social worker in 1991 – 1992, but you do not seem to know the contents of a social work course, which I find a little odd. Even more so because we may have qualified at the same college. Your course does not seem to have mentioned class and you find the use of the word unpalatable. But your course, if you attended one and stayed awake would have taught you that most referrals in the child protection system relate to underclass and working class families, and that comparatively few referrals are directed at middle class families. By the time you did your course class theory would have been overlaid with layers on anti-oppressive ideology, relating to gender, but pretty much taken over by anti-racist ideology by the late 1980’s. I think there is plenty of research that suggests that child protection work has little impact upon the middle class, and certainly most of my experience of middle class families was staving off these lovely parents from dumping their daughter in residential care, because she was mixing with the wrong type, or because they adopted her 12 years ago, and what the LA had given them did not meet their eugenic standards. Should you dabble Mr Norman with accommodated children, you will run into this sort of thing.

    ACDC are reported by several of the Newspapers they talked to as suffering a ‘nightmare’, and in my view their response was exactly that, privileged paranoia. There was never a suggestion by Haringey children’s services that care proceedings or any other action was going to be taken, and even if the contents of the letter had been substantiated, there was no risk of them doing so. Mr CD would as a practicing LA manager have certainly understood that there was no risk of this happening. The very most that would have happened if the contents of the letter had been substantiated would have been a case conference, but I doubt even that.
    I think they would at the very most have been given advice, which of course AB as a ‘consultant’ would have ignored. I will return to the subject of ‘consultancy’ later.

    I am very concerned with your attitude that anyone who disagrees with you does not work ‘in partnership’. Your position is that one or two cases which go wrong prove that normatively social workers misuse their powers. If you read the comments made by others in this stream you will understand that is exactly what you say, and exactly how those respondents have interpreted you. My position is very simple – that normatively social workers work in partnership and it is the private law solicitors who do not. I quoted several examples of this, including the fabrication of evidence, (which I will also return to).You dismiss my observations by defining them as ‘anger’.; Solicitors are both trained and can do no other than behave in an adversarial manner, and in so doing often prevent their clients from undertaking the changes in parenting necessary for their children to be returned to them. From the articles I have read I would summarise your definition of partnership, as social workers doing what solicitors tell them to do, that Mr Norman is not partnership.

  14. Now Mr Norman you said ‘I am also troubled by your repeated description of the parents in this recent case as ‘birth parents’ and ‘birth mother’ . . . . . . . . I desperately hope you don’t go into initial assessments with foster – or adoptive parents already on the radar!’ It is you Mr Norman who reads the Daily Mail too much.I take this to be an allegation that because I disagree with you that I am a baby snatcher. I used the term ‘birth family’ in exactly the same way as I used the term ‘social workers’ as a circumlocution for the whole group being referred to.

    I also used the term to signal that this might be something other than a nuclear family. You of course may have been asleep in this part of your social work course, but we did a rather large section covering the complexity of the modern ‘reconstructed’ family. Your course obviously did not do this. Listen Mr Norman, you may learn something. In this case I suspect the ‘subject child’ (to use more jargon), was hers, and the older child his. My guess is that it is a second relationship for both, (the fact that he handed the phone to her during the first call they received may suggest this). If so they are both birth parents, but not necessarily to both children. Yes I have also worked in fostering and adoption, and run a small Fostering and Adoption Agency – and this experience informs me that foster carers and adopters bring all sorts of agendas and issues with them, and are not the solution to the majority of child care concerns.

    The use of such a term does not suggest as you claim, indeed you come close to stating it as fact, that I went into my child protection enquiries with the sole purpose of procuring children for adopters. I am concerned about your opinion of social workers and will circulate your views to the journals that publish your work.

    However Mr Norman I had read your articles and it was my judgment that your supercilious nature and legal training would compel you to go for the jugular, and of course legitimate my response. Mr Norman when you wrote those words were you really ‘working in partnership’, were you really trying to inform or enlighten, or were you trying to win at any cost?

    I did have a thought in the back of my mind, which was why did this couple ‘kick off’ big style? I will remind you, as you seem to have forgotten it, that the judge told us that the couple had wanted all reference to both a child protection enquiry and an initial Assessment suppressed; they withdrew their application to have the reference to the Initial Assessment suppressed earlier in the proceedings. As you have stated both in this blog and in numerous articles commenting on Working Together 3,there are only to routes a referral can take, Initial Assessment and Section 47. If both are suppressed what record would be left? Your comment contradicts the judge at this point. In your comments upon this case in Community Care you did not think the judge had gone far enough with regard to the human rights of the family, which may be a grudging admission that the family had only partly won.

    Now the couple wanted the initial assessment to be suppressed – why? The letter did not relate to him, and so his employment was not in jeopardy. She is self employed, and so it did not impact upon her. She might of course want to return to LA work later, and I must say I pity the Children and Family team that was managed by this ‘consultant’. If either were to apply for a job following a section 47 investigation there would be no criminal record. It is of course possible, but only if the job was child related, that a chief inspector might release ‘soft’ information on the subject, but as the police were peripheral to this investigation they would have no soft information to release.

    So who would receive this information and in what circumstances. The answer would be an adoption or fostering manager if the couple were to apply to adopt or foster. Part of the F Form assessment is a local authority check, and the manager would receive written feedback as to whether there was any contact between the LA and the applicants, and this feedback would include any section 47 enquiries and any Initial Assessments. the only change in this feedback would be from Section 47 enquiry, referral physical and emotional – no further action, to IA referral physical and emotional, no further action. Now if I am right and this is a reconstructed family with no joint children, adoption might be a possibility for them. I would not assess them, not because of the S47, not because of the IA but because I doubt that this couple have the ability to work as part of a team, (an essential part of the competencies involved), particularly a team involving LA social workers.

    • Dear Mr Norman:

      I guess in your line of work you come across all sorts, including those who’ve lost perspective and those that rant & rave ad nauseum.

      Again, congratulations on the AB & CD case.

      • If you want to read ranting and raving visit the Forced Adoption Website, in the meantime I will continue to address Mr Normans perception of social workers; it is I think called freedom of speech, something he claims to support. In the meantime I will continue to satirise his claims to poverty.

  15. Here I am, in the Bugatti, driving over the Alpine passes, on my way to Pinerolo, with my Isadora Duncan in the car, minus the scarf, much too dangerous. I cannot help but think of you Mr Norman, trying to park your Smart Car in the side streets of Birmingham.

    You claim that both the Local Authority and the Judge stated that the referral was definitely malicious, but that is not quite right. Both left themselves a scintilla of wriggle-room, they both said ‘probably malicious’, (read the senior social workers letter to the plaintiffs). This is further than I would have gone, I would have written ‘the enquiry has found no information to support the account contained within the letter dated etc.’ I would not attribute a motive to a source I do not know, unless there was something within the source to justify such an assumption, or I knew the person and understood their motivations.

    The LA social workers came to their conclusion of ‘probably malicious’ in extraordinary circumstances. There may have been a solicitor sitting in on the interviews, (this after all was what the plaintiffs said they intended to do), They had also written to their MP, their councillor and the Minister for Children and Families. The result is exactly what I would expect, whatever the workers involved thought they would be anxious to get out as quickly as possible, and I do not blame them for this. I do not however put much reliance in a conclusion reached in such extraordinary circumstances.

    You speak as though this is an open and shut case, and as though social workers ‘squandered’ the money defending it. But social workers and their line managers would not be involved in the decision to contest this case. Such a decision would be made by the most senior of the four layers of management, and the LA legal section, after a meeting with the barrister chosen to defend the case. This barrister would be as qualified as you, and would give a legal opinion, based on law, statute and case-law. It is very unlikely that the LA would proceed if that barrister said the case was indefensible. In any case LAs, like most public bodies tend whenever possible to settle out of court. Simon in his response gave excellent evidence of this when he indicated he had received a payment of £10,000, without going to court. Now I have a close friend who is an LA solicitor, (this is a group of solicitors I have immense respect for, as in care proceedings at least, they do almost all of the work, in circumstances far inferior to the private law solicitors who criticise them), and she informs me that £2,000 was at the very lowest end of the compensation the judge could have awarded, so perhaps he was not as enamoured with the plaintiffs as you make out.

    LAs may well have a lot of money as you say Mr Norman, and from that I would conclude that you agree with me and indeed the current government, that there is plenty of waste that could be saved, ( not least four levels of management). However rich LAs might be Children and Family teams are not. The compensation has to come from someone’s budget, and the plaintiffs would know, because they are insiders which budget. It would not come from ‘reserves’. In a Children and Family Team a large sum would come from the second biggest budget, the Boarding Out Budget, that is the budget for foster placements. As this was a small sum it would come from the Section 17 budget for the team that dealt with the investigation, that is the money meant to support children in the community, or to help children return to the community. Law is a zero sum game Mr Norman; if you win somebody else loses.

    Next I will address the curious case of the lovely Lynda Baines.

  16. Silly me, I mean Lynda Barnes. Mr Norman introduced her into the discussion in order to prove his claim that ‘social workers’, (he always uses the plural), normatively waste millions in unnecessary court proceedings and normatively lie to the court. He stated elsewhere that Lynda Barnes is ‘not a rotten apple’. Mrs Barnes has a conviction, a two years suspended sentence, for conspiracy to murder her husband. The then Avon Council did not refer her to the NGC, and she did not, as I believe she should have, refer herself. Domestic violence is specifically mentioned as part of the social work code of conduct, planning to kill your spouse just might be construed as DV. Avon Council appears to have suspended her, but during the suspension Avon was dissolved into a number of smaller authorities, and she returned to work as a manager in one of the smaller unitry authorities. In the process of a care proceeding she seems to have lied to the court, and then to have put pressure upon another social worker to also lie to the court. The other social worker did not do so, and reported the attempt to her management, and the local authority instructed its legal section to inform the court involved. It is likely that Mrs Barnes was the manager of the social worker who reported the incident. There is a review under way to determine whether Mrs Barnes herself has lied in any other cases before the court, or presumably past cases where she gave evidence. Mr Norman did not mention the integrity of the social worker or indeed of the LA involved. I certainly hope the social worker involved does not suffer for her honesty, and should receive some tangible positive recognition for her role, which was much more significant than that of the judge who ordered an investigation into the background of Linda Barnes and seemingly, (obviously respecting their human rights) into 125 other social workers employed by Bath and NE Somerset LA. The other 125 employees have had no significant information emerge from the CRBs, and as yet there is not an iota of evidence that any of them lied to the court.

    When Mr Norman made his personal attack upon me he would not have known (it was not in the link he attached) who the accomplice was. Subsequently it has been reported that the accomplice was her brother who received a thirty-eight month sentence. Now what is Mr Norman’s view of this? Elsewhere he stated ‘I am pleased as from a social work perspective that it is still possible for this to happen in this ‘risk averse’ age’. He does not seem to consider that Mrs Barnes’ actions criminalised and incarcerated a close relative. He does not seem to understand that the relative might have been vulnerable, and would have certainly been open to influence by someone so close to him. He does not seem to understand that something must have actually have happened, for the brother to go to prison, (otherwise the difference in sentencing makes no sense at all). In the church of Saint Norman planning to murder is a forgivable sin. In the church of Saint Norman, lying to the court is an unforgivable sin. This illustrates his lack of moral hinterland, and I was pleased to read that the legal correspondent for the Independent disagreed with him on this point.

    Very simply planning to kill your spouse, and inciting someone else to carry out the act does reflect upon your integrity, and therefore your ability to be a social worker, a nurse, a teacher, a police officer or dare I say it a solicitor. A professional does not have to be morally perfect, but they cannot be morally reprehensible. They cannot be functioning at a lower level than their clients. If her actions had been reported to the NCC she would not have been in a position to lie to the court.

    Finally Mr Norman, your suggestion that I normally lied to the court. I always gave all of the information both positive and negative to the court, in very long, (I think you might have guessed that) and detailed statements, giving the exact reasons for any opinion I formed. I always answered questions truthfully whether the answers reflected negatively upon the parents, the local authority or indeed myself. In my observations of other social workers I would say at least 95% did the same, a much higher percentage than the private law solicitors or indeed the birth parents. I will explain in my next response why I doubt that Mrs Barnes will have significantly impacted upon many other court cases.

    But the odd thing about all of this is that the case contradicts the claim of the judge, the plaintiffs and yourself in the ACDC case, that the merest suggestion of a child protection enquiry will have horrendous consequences for the likes of ACDC. My point was that I could not see what these horrible implications were likely to be, and the case you have cited seems to prove my point.

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