Losing the Thread – Hemming and Mumsnet

Twitter recently alerted me to the existence of an interesting discussion thread on Mumsnet concerning adoption and care and John Hemming (Hat tip to @carlgardner, who in turn got his heads up from @thesmallplaces). I have also found another equally interesting thread concerning and involving Hemming.

As a preliminary point let me say that I can’t comment on whether or not the comments contained in these threads are true or accurate. But I can comment briefly on their potential significance if true.

In the first thread the points of most interest are contained in the account given by user Trippy, who describes having been encouraged by Hemming to adopt a stance of non-cooperation and to flee the jurisdiction. She is admirably able in hindsight to acknowledge her own failings as a mother, but appears to feel that Hemming’s advice to flee the jurisdiction and to adopt a stance of non-cooperation with social workers may have adversely affected the outcome in her case, or at any rate was not helpful. She also suggests offers of assistance with travel abroad were made. If what Trippy describes is accurate it would be both shocking and concerning behaviour from an MP. However, I am not in a position to verify or investigate these matters, and I can only flag them up for others to consider. Note, as I have been writing this post the comment in question from Trippy has been removed and marked “Message withdrawn at poster’s request”. I don’t have a screen capture, but if I did I would have to consider carefully whether or not to post it or to respect Trippy’s privacy. As it is I have decided to go ahead with the post and use it as a starting point for a discussion about the issues it raises rather than an analysis of the individual case.

The second thread is interesting for a number of reasons. It contains in places some very well argued points in defence of the current system, or at least rebuttals of some of the points made by Hemming and other posters, and gives the perspective of foster carers, adopters and parents rather than lawyers. The comments and assertions made by Hemming in this thread do not in large part appear to be backed by evidence, and although he does at one stage draw on statistics which he has obtained by asking written questions in Parliament he appears to have a non-conformist view about what represents “the majority” (see posts on the evening of 8 May).

Both of those threads refer to a number of posters who regularly post “guidance” to parents involved in care proceedings, apparently in the vein of Hemming and organisations advocating non-cooperation stances, guidance which is of concern to some Mumsnet users.

Reading those threads did remind me that there is little information out there for parents about the other side of the “secret corrupt child snatching family courts” coin, so I’d like to take a first step towards redressing that balance [Edit – see also Kate Gomery’s excellent post on Family Law which makes a similar point rather better than I have here]. I think it’s important that information is out there so that parents can make properly informed decisions about how to conduct themselves. There is a lot of noise about how awful the system it is and how to fight it. It is in that context that it vitally important that parents faced with care proceedings and the possible removal of their children are made aware of just how high risk the strategies apparently recommended by Hemming, Ian Josephs and the like can be.

So let me deal with it in the hypothetical:

If a parent adopts an approach of non-cooperation, resisting social work intervention, refusing to give information, fleeing the reach of the court or publicising their case through the press or other media (all of which have been either put forward by Hemming or are guidance attributed to him), they could well adversely damage the chances of keeping or securing the return of their children. There may be high profile cases in the press which appear to demonstrate that such tactics are an effective way to protect your family (see Booker articles for example), but my experience suggests that the far more likely outcome is that a parent will only succeed in creating a further set of concerns that will need to be allayed in addition to the original concerns before a child can be safely returned. They leave a parent open to criticisms that they are focusing on their own needs rather than the child and are prevent parents from demonstrating that the original concerns were not well founded. They cause delay, which can end up being determinative of successful rehabilitation. That is not to say that parents should not determinedly resist the removal of their children, or that they are not entitled to do so, but generally the most effective route is a lawful route, and a route which involves being open and cooperative. It is also absolutely right that lawyers representing parents should fearlessly defend their client as they are mandated to do, and that they should be rightly criticised for failing to do so, or for failing to act on instructions.

However, it would be very concerning if parents were fed information suggesting that they should not trust their own legal representatives (as a number of commenters on this blog have regularly suggested), because this can render them unable to benefit from good legal and strategic advice about how best to maximise their chances of a good outcome for them and their family. Parents in care proceedings are vulnerable and generally not well equipped to tell good advice from bad. They are likely to rely upon advice from person in a position of authority, or perhaps to accept advice which lays the responsibility for their predicament at someone else’s door, or which gives them the answer they wish to hear. I would be very concerned to think that any person, but particularly an MP (well intention or otherwise) was conducting himself in such a way as to interfere with the proper legal process and with the relationship of trust between lawyer and client, to the ultimate disadvantage of parents. I would not in any way want to prevent an MP and his constituent from communicating freely, but I would expect an MP to avoid giving potentially inaccurate or misleading information or guidance to parents in matters which are legally and factually complex.

Postscript: hat tip again to @carlgardner for alerting me to this judgment in respect of the Goodwin injunction case, in which Hemming is criticised for misleading comment, and the prospect of referral to the Attorney General is raised.

Postscript 2: this post really ought to be read in conjunction with this really really excellent post on Ministry of Truth: The Hemming Agenda.

24 thoughts on “Losing the Thread – Hemming and Mumsnet

  1. When any pregnant women contact me with evidence in writing that the “SS” are seriously considering taking their babies at birth for risk of emotional abuse I advise them [edited – you can push this advice on your own website, not here. I don’t edit much but I strongly disagree with your advice and so I’m exercising my right of veto.]

  2. Well it’s your site LUCY SO I accept your ruling and have ordered your book !
    Why not answer the question that never gets an answer?
    Why is the UK the ONLY ,yes ONLY place in the world where women can have their babies taken at birth for “risk” of emotional abuse and then be so harshly gagged that they are threatened by judges with prison if they protest publicly?
    Nowhere else do judges gag such mothers so why do we alone do it?

    • I did answer the question you posed the other day. You are asking a slightly different one now. It appears other jurisdictions do restrict publication of information and identification of minors involved in proceedings, albeit with different emphases and legislative frameworks. At it’s 11.30pm on a Friday I’m not proposing to conduct any research on whether or not other jurisdictions encompass the risk of emotional abuse within the reasons for removing children form birth families. But I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Do you think emotional abuse doesn’t exist? Do you think that if a mother has been proven to have emotionally abused one or more children but has yet to abuse a subsequent child because it has yet to be born we should wait until the damage is done before acting?

  3. Whether John Hemming actually advised a mother to flee abroad I don’t know.

    However it appears that many family advisory organisations are telling expectant mothers or mothers with young children where there is not yet any court orders to go abroad or return to their own country.

    It gets worse.

    An Underground Network has been set up in a cross-Channel country, reviving that of the last war, to hide out British mothers and their children.

    This followed broadcasts about the British FC system which shocked Romance language speaking listeners, as these countries place great emphasis on family.

    Unfortunately it isn’t a gag.

    With this level of activity, there ha to be an enquiry as to what is wrong.

  4. Forced adoption is illegal in Ireland and nearly everywhere else in Europe . That like it or not is a fact!
    Familoo,you have not named a single country in the world outside the UK where mothers are threatened with jail if they dare to protest publicly when their children are taken by the “SS” whether emotional abuse is a factor or not.
    Even your ingenuity does not stretch to find a country that does not exist,and the best you can do is say other countries do have restrictions generally speaking on reporting details of minors (and quite right too) but none of them threaten to jail mothers of babies that have been snatched, who dare to protest publicly because only the UK is that barbaric !
    Lastly ,emotional abuse is a subjective term that can mean anything from shouting ,to over criticising,to ignoring.Everyone suffers emotional abuse at some time and it’s called”living” and certainly it’s no reason to break up a family and hand out the children to complete strangers! Yes we should wait until damage is done before snatching babies and toddlers .Just because some charlatan makes a prediction of harm it does not mean it will happen.We do not arrest windowshoppers because some quack says they might go inside and steal something.
    PUNISHMENT WITHOUT CRIME MAKES A MOCKERY OF uk JUSTICE !

    • I think the link to the Australian system suggests that it is an imprisonable offence to publish information in breach of the restrictions.
      The English system permits care orders to be made in respect of the risk of harm only based on proven facts, and in the hypothetical question I posed the mother had previously harmed other children through emotional abuse.

  5. ‘Let’s threaten them with prison’: MP goes to war with judge

    Like the man said we all have two reasons for doing something, good reason and the real reason.

    It would appear the extraordinary campaign against John Hemming was because he called for four judges to be locked up for Contempt of Parliament and started the proceedure for doing so, they having issued injunctions to stop people speaking to their constituency MP’s, which is a breach of the Family Court regulations as well as Contempt of Parliament.

    The story is carried in the Daily Mail on April 9th.

  6. They do NOT gag PARENTS whose children have been taken by the “SS” in Australia or anywhere else!

  7. Except the UK of course !

  8. The trippy allegations are clearly not true. The first person I dealt with that I advised to consider emigration was in late 2007.

    Trippy claims to have given birth in 2006. I would also be very uncomfortable suggesting that a 16 year old emigrate without substantial support networks.

    • I notice that your more recent posts are being deleted from the end of the thread on Mumsnet and that this coincides with you beginning to comment here. Readers of this blog should be aware that there is now a very long thread on mumsnet (link in main post) in which Trippy maintains her position, although wishes to withdraw from the debate for reasons of privacy. Trippy is unlikely to be aware of comments made by John Hemming on this blog and therefore unable to respond, even if she were willing.

  9. Who is this woman? what a load of rubbish i say particulary at this paragraph..’If a parent adopts an approach of non-cooperation, resisting social work intervention, refusing to give information, fleeing the reach of the court or publicising their case through the press or other media (all of which have been either put forward by Hemming or are guidance attributed to him), they could well adversely damage the chances of keeping or securing the return of their children’.
    I will have you know that there are MANY women including myself that have kept their children by fleeing abroad you really dont know the half of it.Only a handful are reported,mainly because people have ben to hell and back and on winning their cases abroad just want a quiet life and to parent their children in peace.This writer does not know the ‘other side’ of the coin at all , maybe she should do her research better instead of concentrating on ‘Hemmings’ as she rudely calls him.Mr Hemmings also runs a charity which has helped 100’s of people and he does not always advise people to leave the country, only the ones he knows that will win in another country due to the idiotic court system and childrens act that is currently in the UK.

  10. This blogger is completely biased towards her own profession (obviously) and so no wonder she does not want families to flee with their children because she will not get paid (as much anyway)due to the absence of parents.She does not seem like a mother to me, a good mother will do anything she can to save her baby which includes fleeing to a place of safety.If some cannot understand this logic then they are clearly suffering from cognitive disortion of the career kind.

  11. The link is in fact an amazing hate campaign being organised by another barrister on mumsnet against John Hemming, apparantly in the belief that all Family Court legals for the families are vigorous and fearless for the parents, which is why she thinks he is so dangerous.

    Unhappily it is the parents who constantly complain of the lack of vigorous support and the problems it brings.

    It is also clear that “Trippy” is highly unlikely to be genuine,, which poses questions as to how this story originated at this time,
    although Mr. Hemming has been circumspect about saying so.

    I do not doubt Angela’s child would have been Forced Adopted had she not fled abroad, as would those of many other mothers.
    So they really had little choice.

    • On what basis have you been able to assert the link is a hate campaign organised by a barrister? Do you mean that Trippy is a concoction of a barrister?

  12. Familoo, I think you should read the link you post, admittedly being a long one.

    The mumsnet link was set up by someone who states she is an F C barrister, which also becomes clear by the questions asked.

    The most intemperate and violent language are used by the posters.

    Someone coming on, “Trippy” you would be entitled to ask how genuine they are from the details given and Justice for Families stating they have advised no-one whose case fits the description.

    • I have read the entire thread and I see that it was started by a barrister. I asked whether you were suggesting that Trippy was a concoction of a barrister. With all due respect to your opinion I don’t think it is clear at all from the post that Trippy is not a real person nor that the details given by her are not genuine. There is clearly a dispute as to the truth between her and John Hemming – I may have my own opinion about which rings true, but how can we know which is true? We can’t. However, it is a very elaborate fabrication if this is indeed the case – I note that Trippy has returned back to the thread towards the end to clarify her position and has not withdrawn her allegations, and that many of John Hemming’s later posts have been removed by the moderator (along with a few from the thread’s initiator). There are still a lot of unanswered questions notwithstanding the enormity of the thread.

  13. When Kate McCann had her daughter kidnapped in Portugal nobody tried to gag her !From many UK mother’s point of view their right to protest is no less urgent than her’s.In the UK cases mothers should have the right to protest to the media if they feel their children have (rightly or wrongly) been removed by the State.The media are after all the last protection left to citizens who feel they have in any way been oppressed and ill treated by the apparatus of the State;For a mother to seek the return of her baby is putting the child’s interest first because much as a mother needs her baby the baby needs its mother even more !

  14. I’m sorry but I forgot to emtion it.

    The statistics that are derided as the invention of the St. John of Yardley are in fact the official DoH/DSCF statistics compiled by their professional statisticians.

    For years we were told no official statistics were kept. Then Saint John went round the back to the statistics section and spoke to the statisticians, as in the story of Lloyd-George in WW1 and convoys.

    Perhaps he should get a picture of David Lloyd-George for his Birmingham office.

    Then there are those other statistics.

    I possess the print out for the PSA (Public Service Agreements) with each council to increase the rate of addoptions by x number p a in return for a large cash payment.

    If you don’t meet your target in any one of the PSA agreements you don’t get the money there but are penalised all acroos the board from your government grant.

    This is why as the above heretic says there was a huge increase in children under 5 for adoption, babiies, and taking babies when they were born, as they are the easiest to adopt, thus allowing cash-strapped councils to meet their PSA targets and balance their budgets.

    My local councillors deny there were any such agreements. I then hold the printout under their noses. “Look this council got £1,025,000 for increasing the adoptions by 40 p.a.”.

    The second heresy St. John is accused of in the second thread is Attachment.
    (Doesn’t this get like a religious theological controversy?).

    Classical Attachment Theory states that if the attachment with the mother is disrupted.

    Thus if severely disrupted, as in Forced Adoption, emotional problems and trauma will occur. This will happen if the child is strongly Attached to their mother and comes from a good home.

    If the child is not strongly Attached to the parent it won’t.

    This is called Reactive Attachment Disorder and has always been the objection to Forced Adoption.

    Naturally its activists say it is caused by traumatic experiences before the child was adopted, as I see do the adopters on the second thread.

    But to misquote Mandie Rees Davis “They would say that wouldn’t they”.

  15. It is not only mothers that it happens to, fathers spend so much time in the courts and lose so much money because of this Totalitarian state that we live in, I personally think what John Hemming is doing is a fantastic thing that very few Members Of Parliament have the Testicular Fortitude to do as they are a lot more concerned with how it would go down within Parliament or that they are afraid that they would end up getting their bonuses cancelled a la my local MP,

    I have 2 little boys, one of whom is forcibly adopted by the name of [edited] and another whom lives with his mother, but for him to live with her she was told she had to get me out of the picture by making a false Domestic Violence Claim, so that I would never have kids ever again and also then that means because of that I would not be able to apply to court again as it would not be in [edited]’s best interests, I have tried and get fobbed off, because it is accepted, which I would understand if it was genuine but is not, but I am not finished, got a few plans and I don’t have a gagging order not any restrictions, I have no doubt that Lawyers and Nazi’s watch this Blog with I am OK with them reading what I have put,

    They are Child stealing bigoted fools who don’t know what it is to be a parent and I think that JH should continue with what he is doing as he has bigger balls than a lot of the others that I could mention.

  16. Wow!I didn’t know Hemming had so many supporters!

    I seriously doubt any of the above commentators work daily within the family court system, or that they have direct experience of as many care cases as Familoo.

    When they have read 1000s of pages of statements, reports, contact notes, and spent hour upon hour with the parent(s) involved, PER CASE, then they may be more properly qualified to comment.

    Working as a legal adviser for parents in these types of case is hard hard work – it is legally and emotionally draining. Anyone who chooses to work in this sphere does so out of a sense of justice and social conscience, NOT for the supposed pots of gold involved (and the vast majority of it is paid for from the meagre Legal Aid pot)

    The Family Court system has many many flaws, and at the moment, Mr Hemming is adding to them, not highlighting them.

  17. I’m a supporter of both Vicky Haigh and John Hemming MP:

    [edited]

    and I know why:
    [edited]

  18. Familoo, I figured that out, and in the future will avoid posting my son’s name’s if I can, but I do thank you for allowing my postings as you could have deleted it or future ones that go against the grain,

    Thanks again,

    Cole 🙂

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