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News of the Day ... In Perspective

12/06/2005

British attorney attacks former children’s minister on child-abuse cases

Attorney Sarah Harman, who has been barred from practice for three months for releasing redacted documents, attacked Margaret Hodge, the former children’s minister, for ignoring the plight of parents whose children were seized on dubious evidence.

After a case based on testimony by Professor Sir Roy Meadow was overturned (AAPS News of the Day, 8/31/05), many parents hoped that their cases might also be reviewed. There are, however, tight restrictions against publicizing such cases. Harman’s circulation of information to highlight a case was deemed “conduct unbefitting a solicitor,” although the client’s identity was not disclosed. The child had been diagnosed as having “Munchausen syndrome by proxy.”

Harman said that Hodge’s decision to allow local authorities to conduct their own review of cases involving expert medical testimony, instead of setting up an independent inquiry, was “craven, absolutely craven.”

Harman believes that a more thorough review might have exposed dozens or even hundreds of cases in which parents inappropriately had their children placed in foster care. “The family courts prefer 20 years of tyranny to one year of chaos,” she said
(The Sunday Times 12/04/05).

In an article in the Guardian last January, columnist Nick Cohen wrote: “The iron law of bureaucracies is ‘first we protect ourselves.’ In an ideal world they would look to free themselves from scrutiny by operating under the cover of secrecy…. In an ideal world they would want to achieve the state of perfect irresponsibility achieved by the Family Division of the High Court.”

“If Charles Dickens were around today, he’d be writing The Family Division,” Cohen writes. “Enter into its courts and you enter a British Guantanamo where basic traditions no longer apply.” Traditions such as a presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Only in November was the law changed to allow anonymized papers regarding children’s cases to be released to Members of Parliament. (The Guardian, 12/1/05). Previously, MPs could not check out constituents’ stories of heart-rending abuses of power.

Additional information:

“British Expert Witness Delicensed” (referenced above), AAPS News of the Day 8/31/05.

“Shaken Baby Conviction Overturned,” AAPS News of the Day 9/1/04.

Presentations on Shaken Baby Syndrome, AAPS 2004 annual meeting.

(2005 tapes on possible misdiagnosis of child abuse in preparation; email [email protected]).

 

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