But the hammering her party will suffer in today’s European elections illustrates she has lost the confidence of the country too.
What Britain really needs is a general election instead of Tory MPs giving themselves a new vote on who should be Prime Minister.
The Conservative club elite plotting to exclude the rest of the nation in a fundamental decision is unforgivable. The people should decide who is PM.
As for May, she should apologise for the past three tortuous years. Incapable of resolving the Brexit crisis, the arrogance of her “strong and stable” boasts badly boomeranged.
We need a change of Government, not another change of Tory Prime Minister.
Save our Steel
Nationalising British Steel to save 5,000 jobs directly and another 20,000 in the supply chain is the only answer if a viable buyer isn’t found for the company.
Letting a strategic industry go to the wall, turning Scunthorpe into a ghost town and increasing unemployment in the North East isn’t a price worth paying.
The speculators who bought the works for a token £1, Greybull, don’t deserve another penny of taxpayers’ money but publicly owning and operating British Steel – as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn advocates – would be justified to sustain our country’s manufacturing sector.
So let’s fly the flag and Save our Steel, with the Official Receiver keeping it going until plans are implemented to secure its future.
Exclusive: ‘Chris put me in an awful position, potentially implicating me in his lie. There was no way I was going to be part of that,’ Sarah Lewis tells The Independent
Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament
A whistleblower has revealed the full scale of expenses fiddling by a Conservative MP who faces being removed from parliament by his constituents.
Brecon and Radnorshire MP Chris Davies could now be ousted from the Commons by a recall petition, triggered after he admitted to making false expenses claims last month.
The Tory MP issued an “unreserved apology” after his sentencing at Southwark Crown Court in April, saying he made “a mistake” and there was no attempt “make any financial gain.”
But former staffer Sarah Lewis, who managed Mr Davies’ office at the time was scathing of her old boss.
The 57-year-old quit the Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative Association – where she had worked since August 2014 – in April last year and is now suing it for constructive dismissal.
Her claim was due to be heard at Wales Employment Tribunal in Cardiff today after being adjourned earlier this month.
Meanwhile, a recall petition to oust the beleaguered MP – who was fined last month after pleading guilty to fabricating the invoices – will run until 20 June. If 10 per cent of constituents sign the petition, Mr Davies will be removed from office.
Ms Lewis was managing Mr Davies’ expenses when she discovered he had attempted to claim £700 worth of photos for his office walls through two smaller invoices for “furniture and pictures”.
She said, as was said in court, Mr Davies had made up dates and invoice numbers on the documents.
And she revealed how she unearthed a hole in Davies’ expenses within months of him taking office, which led to the MP’s expenses card being suspended by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
Ms Lewis agreed with the Judge and was scathing about his defence that it was all a mistake.
“He only has himself to blame,” she said.
Ms Lewis was working at the branch office in Brecon, Powys, handling membership records, fundraising and general administration, when she was employed as an office manager for Mr Davies, who is based in a rented premises 17 miles away in Builth Wells.
Mr Davies had accrued a backlog and had his IPSA card suspended in August 2015 before Ms Lewis was parachuted in to Westminster to fix the mess.
She said: “I worked hard at reconciling all the monthly statements – and discovered he had over-claimed. “When I gave Chris the paperwork and told him how much he had to pay back, he banged it down on a filing cabinet. I was shocked.”
In April 2016, Mr Davies left receipts and invoices for Ms Lewis to submit to IPSA, including an invoice for £250 for “furniture/pictures” from Creative Photography Wales
But when Ms Lewis called the photographer Nigel Forster, he told her the MP had been supplied with an invoice for £700.
She said: “He was surprised. Chris had created an entirely new invoice, with a different date and reference number. And he’d made it out for furniture and pictures, when Nigel had only supplied photos.”
Mr Forster confirmed this to The Independent.
Ms Lewis was horrified, saying: “I took my job, and the responsibility that went with it, very seriously. Chris put me in an awful position, potentially implicating me in his lie. There was no way I was going to be part of that.”
Mr Davies had already submitted a second invoice for £450 to IPSA himself, and he had been reimbursed the cash, she said.
Speaking at his sentencing Mr Justice Edis said: “It seems shocking that when confronted with a simple accounting problem, you thought to forge documents. That is an extraordinary thing for a man with your position and your background to do.”
The judge added: “There was no error here. What you did was done quite deliberately and it must have taken some time to create your fake documents.”
Mr Davies previously told The Sunday Times that he had made a mistake while struggling to balance a young family, his parliamentary and constituency duties, and visiting his father who had been diagnosed with cancer.
He said: “For the last 14 months I’ve been under investigation and it has been hell. It’s my fault, I only have myself to blame. It has been extremely difficult. It feels like being hit by a double-decker bus from every conceivable direction. I have been so lucky to have a strong and loving family, otherwise I don’t know how I would have coped.”
Mr Davies’ office declined to comment further when approached by The Independent.
Former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was the first MP to lose her seat through a recall petition earlier this year, after she was jailed for lying about speeding offences.
In 2018, DUP MP Ian Paisley avoided being expelled from the Commons after he failed to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. The recall petition missed the threshold by less than 500 signatures.
Our neighborhood around the sun may appear to be dominated by the eight known planets, a handful of dwarf planets, and their moons, but the spaces between these titans are teeming with smaller, lesser-known objects. The International Astronomical Union defines anything orbiting the sun that is not a planet, dwarf planet, or natural satellite as a “small solar-system body.” This includes asteroids, comets, trans-Neptunian objects, minor planets, and basically any other blob of natural material, right down to the smallest meteorite. With ground-based telescopes and specialized space probes, we’ve been able to image and even visit a great number of these small objects recently, discovering a wild array of shapes, sizes, and compositions.
HINTS:View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/
A backlit image of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko made on March 27, 2016, by the space probe Rosetta, which was built by the European Space Agency, when Rosetta was 329 kilometers (204 miles) from the comet. 67P is approximately 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) across at its widest point. #
The comet McNaught lights up the sky in this photo taken from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere in early 2007. #
John White Photos / Getty
This mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 Polycam images collected on December 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 24 kilometers (15 miles). Bennu is in near-Earth orbit, and measures about 492 meters (1,614 feet) across. #
Goddard / University of Arizona / NASA
A closer image shows a region near Bennu’s equator that contains many large boulders clustered loosely together by the asteroid’s gravity, taken by the Polycam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on April 4, 2019, from a distance of 4.6 kilometers (2.9 miles). For scale, the triangular boulder on the horizon is 9.2 meters (30 feet) high, which is almost as tall as the tail of a C-130 Hercules aircraft. #
Goddard / University of Arizona / NASA
The comet Lulin (center right) is seen through the trees from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia on February 23, 2009. #
Bill Ingalls / NASA / Corbis via Getty
This composite image of the primordial contact binary Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) was compiled from data obtained by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it flew by the object on January 1, 2019. Ultima Thule is approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) long, and orbits the sun at a distance of about 6.7 billion kilometers (4.2 billion miles). #
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute / National Optical Astronomy Observatory / NASA
In January 2005, NASA’s Mars-exploration rover Opportunity discovered a meteorite lying on the surface of Mars, the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. Named Heat Shield Rock, it was identified as an iron-nickel meteorite. #
NASA / JPL
This image made by the Hubble Space Telescope and made available by NASA on March 28, 2019, shows the asteroid 6478 Gault, which is gradually self-destructing. It is spinning so fast, dusty material ejected from the surface has formed two long, thin, cometlike tails. The longer tail stretches more than 800,000 kilometers (500,000 miles) and is roughly 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) wide. The streamers will eventually disperse into space. #
ESA / K. Meech, J. Kleyna – University of Hawaii / O. Hainaut – ESO via AP / NASA / AP
In this image obtained by NASA’s Dawn space probe, a peak at the south pole of the asteroid Vesta is seen at the lower right. The grooves in the equatorial region are about six miles (10 kilometers) wide. The image was taken on July 24, 2011, from a distance of about 5,200 kilometers (3,200 miles). Vesta is a massive asteroid, with a diameter of approximately 525 kilometers (326 miles), orbiting the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. #
JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / NASA
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft obtained this image of Vesta’s south polar scarp with its framing camera on August 12, 2011. #
JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / NASA
The trail of a falling object is seen above a residential-apartment block in the Ural city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, in this still image taken from a video on February 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky, exploding in an airburst, sending shock waves to the ground, shattering windows, and injuring hundreds below. #
OOO Spetszakaz / Reuters
A local resident shows a fragment thought to be part of a meteorite collected in a snow-covered field in the Yetkulski region outside the Ural city of Chelyabinsk on February 24, 2013. A meteor that exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains and sent fireballs blazing to Earth set off a rush to find fragments of the space rock, which hunters hoped could fetch thousands of dollars apiece. #
Andrei Romanov / Reuters
A detailed view of the oblong asteroid Itokawa made by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa during its close approach in 2005 #
JAXA via ESO
A long-exposure image of the Gemini meteor shower over the Ming’antu Observatory in Inner Mongolia, China, on December 14, 2018 #
Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty
A wide view of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 3, 2014, from a distance of 285 kilometers (177 miles) #
ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA
A four-image mosaic made from images taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera while close to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on December 7, 2014 #
A plume of dust (bottom center) from the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, seen by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft on July 3, 2016. The shadow of the plume is cast across the basin in the Imhotep region. This plume was especially useful from a scientific perspective. As well as observing the site of the plume and the plume itself, Rosetta went through the ejected material, allowing instruments to collect valuable in situ measurements. Analysis of these data indicates that some as-yet-undetermined source of subsurface energy helped power the plume. #
ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA
The Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission landed safely on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two images from the lander’s CIVA camera confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The view is a two-image mosaic taken on November 12, 2014. Rosetta and Philae had been riding through space together for more than 10 years. Philae was the first probe to achieve a soft landing on a comet, and Rosetta was the first to rendezvous with a comet and follow it around the sun. #
ESA / Rosetta / Philae / CIVA
The comet Pan-STARRS (left) is seen with a one-day-old crescent moon as both set over the Very Large Array radio-telescope antenna dishes near Magdalena, New Mexico, on March 12, 2013. The comet was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii. #
Stan Honda / AFP / Getty
The NASA spacecraft Deep Impact collides with the comet Tempel 1 in this image captured by Deep Impact’s flyby spacecraft, released on July 4, 2005. The spacecraft collided with the comet, half the size of Manhattan, creating a brilliant cosmic smashup that capped a risky voyage to uncover the building blocks of life on Earth. #
NASA / Reuters
This view of the nucleus of Halley’s Comet was obtained by the Halley Multicolor Camera on board the Giotto spacecraft as it passed within 600 kilometers (373 miles) of the comet’s nucleus on March 13, 1986. #
ESA / MPAe Lindau
The asteroid 243 Ida (left) and its tiny moon, Dactyl (right), as seen by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, an image that provided the first conclusive evidence that natural satellites of asteroids existed. Ida, the large object, is about 56 kilometers (35 miles) long, and Dactyl is about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) wide. This portrait was taken by Galileo’s CCD camera on August 28, 1993, from a range of 10,870 kilometers (6,755 miles). #
JPL / NASA
This image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows the shadow (center left) of the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 over the asteroid Ryugu on September 21, 2018. Hayabusa2 released two small Minerva-II1 rovers on the asteroid in a research effort that may provide clues to the origin of the solar system. #
JAXA via AP
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A panel of experts will review how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences, Ministers announced today (Tuesday 21 May).
Panel to make recommendations and report back in three months
Public ‘Call for Evidence’ to gather views on how the current system can be improved
Focus on ensuring the family court works in the explicit interests of the child
The three-month project aims to ensure that the family court works first and foremost in the explicit interests of the child, such as their safety, health and well-being. The MOJ-chaired panel will consist of a range of experts including senior members of the judiciary, leading academics and charities.
A public call for evidence will also be launched imminently and will look to those with direct involvement to share their experiences.
The move follows responses received through the government’s domestic abuse consultation in which concerns were raised around the family courts’ response to potential harm to children and victims. In addition to calls for better protections for children, some claim that domestic abusers are using the court system to re-traumatise their victims.
Every day family court judges do outstanding work making difficult decisions in highly emotive cases where the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. Ministers now want to take a closer look at how existing safeguards in the court process are working in practice and, if necessary, strengthen them.
Justice Minister Paul Maynard said:
Some of the most vulnerable in our society come before the family courts, and I am absolutely determined that we offer them every protection.
This review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused.
Its findings will be used to inform next steps so we can build on the raft of measures we have already introduced to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Specifically, the work will:
examine the courts’ application of Practice Direction 12J – this relates to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor
examine the courts’ application of ‘barring orders’ which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
gather evidence of the impact on the child and victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences
The panel will consider how the family courts handle a range of offences including rape, child abuse, assault, sexual assault, murder and other violent crime, with the government committed to ensuring the right protections are in place for victims and their children.
This will build on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, published in January, which includes measures to ban abusers from directly cross-examining their victims in family courts, on top of the £8 million of funding announced to support children affected by domestic abuse.
Last year, we made changes to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to obtain and provide the evidence required to access legal aid, including removing the time limit from all forms of evidence for domestic violence. And we have allocated £900k in funding for organisations to providing specially trained staff to offer dedicated emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after hearings in the family court. Further details on the review, the composition of the panel and the call for evidence will be announced in due course.
Notes to editors:
The Children Act 1989 states that the welfare of the child must be the court’s paramount consideration when making any decision about their upbringing, including with whom the child is to live or spend time, and there is no automatic right to parental involvement.
In circumstances where there is evidence of domestic abuse, the courts are bound by law to consider potential harm to the child and parent.
The court also has a duty to consider a range of factors, such as the wishes and feelings of the child (including instances where a child wishes to see a parent) and any evidence of risk of harm to the child and to the other parent, and has a wide discretion to conclude what is in the best interests of the child.
Practice Direction 12J sets out what the court is required to do in any case where domestic abuse is alleged or admitted, and applies to any application relating to children where there are allegations that a party or child has experienced domestic abuse.
Practice Direction 12J was revised in October 2017 to place greater emphasis on both the indirect harm that domestic abuse can cause to a child and parent, and the impact of non-physical forms of abusive behaviour. The Children Act also makes clear that the presumption of parental involvement will not apply where there is evidence that the involvement of that parent in the child’s life would put the child at risk of suffering harm.
Section 91 (14) of the Children Act 1989 empowers the court, when disposing of an application under the Act, to make an order that prevents future applications without leave of the court. This review will explore how the court handles multiple and repeat applications and whether this is used to coerce and frustrate victims.
Protecting children’s privacy should always be paramount but we cannot rely on media reports and anecdotal evidence if we are to reform the system
Family court rules designed to protect the privacy of vulnerable children come with a corollary: when something goes wrong, it is difficult to see it, talk about it or fix it.
That is why family law specialists should support a letter from more than 120 MPs to the justice minister demanding an inquiry into the handling of domestic abuse cases in the family courts.
Under present rules, most media reports of family courts are based on published judgments rather than journalists attending hearings or conducting interviews. The resulting reports are often highly selective, oversimplified or simply inaccurate.
Cases are selected for whether they can generate headlines, meaning that good outcomes are not reported, creating the impression that every case is a disaster.
The Ministry of Justice-led review will look at how the family courts handle cases where domestic abuse and other serious offences have occurred
The government has announced a three-month review of the family courts to see whether they are effectively protecting children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences.
The review will build on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, published in January, and includes an open call for evidence on the efficacy of the family courts in cases where serious offences have been committed.
It will be chaired by a panel of experts, the government announced, and aims to ensure the courts work in “the explicit interest of the child”.
The review will specifically look at:
The courts’ application of Practice Direction 12J, which relates to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor
The courts’ use of ‘barring orders’, which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
Gathering evidence of the impact on the child and victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences.
It comes as responses to the government’s domestic abuse consultation raised concerns around the family courts’ response to potential harm to children and victims, with calls for better protections for children and claims domestic abusers were using the court system to re-traumatise their victims.
Justice minister, Paul Maynard, said he was determined those who come through the courts are offered protection.
“This review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused. Its findings will be used to inform next steps so we can build on the raft of measures we have already introduced to protect victims of domestic abuse,” Maynard said.
The panel – whose members are yet to be announced but will be led by the Ministry of Justice and include senior members of the judiciary, leading academics and charities – will consider how a range of offences including rape, child abuse, assault, sexual assault, murder and other violent crimes are handled by the family courts.
The government is to take a closer look at how well the family court is protecting children in response to concerns that they are exposed to potential harm in domestic abuse cases.
The Ministry of Justice will convene a panel of experts for a three-month exercise to ensure the family court ‘works first and foremost in the explicit interests of the child’, prioritising their safety, health and wellbeing. The panel will include senior members of the judiciary, academics and charities. A call for evidence will be issued ‘imminently’ to hear from those directly involved in cases.
The ministry says the review follows concerns raised in its domestic abuse consultation about the family court’s response to potential harm to children and victims. Concerns were also raised that alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse were using the court system to re-traumatise their alleged victims.
Justice minister Paul Maynard said: ’Some of the most vulnerable in our society come before the family courts, and I am absolutely determined that we offer them every protection.
‘This review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused. Its findings will be used to inform next steps so we can build on the raft of measures we have already introduced to protect victims of domestic abuse.’
The panel will examine practice directions relating to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor, look at the court’s application of ‘barring’ orders, and gather evidence on the impact on the child where contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences.
The ministry said the latest work will build on its draft domestic abuse bill, which will ban the direct cross-examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged abusive ex-partners in court. Organisations are also being given £900,000 to fund specially trained staff who will offer emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after family court hearings.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said the review was long overdue. ‘Reinstating legal aid for early advice and updating the means test will help to ensure domestic abuse is identified at the earliest possible point and children are properly protected from parents with a history of violence,’ she said.
Originally posted on Parents Rights Blog: ? Foster Care Agencies – How much Of An Effect Adoption targets Are Having On The Numbers Of Adoptions? ? Northamptonshire County Council’s new director of children’s services being paid £1,100 a day. The post…
“While parents can and do exploit their children during divorce and child welfare proceedings, the research makes another important point – that ill-informed trends in child protection and a limited understanding of domestic abuse obscures solutions which are in the best interests of children.
And many of the problems associated with cases involving abuse run right through the system, which means a piecemeal approach is never going to be satisfactory.”
The government has announced that it will launch a mini review into cases involving domestic abuse. The inquiry falls short of a full-scale review and misses key areas vital to understanding the family courts’ failings in this area.
In a press release issued today, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has said that it will review child protection practices inside the family courts with a panel of experts and the collection of evidence from the public in an open consultation.
The panel for the review will be chaired by the MOJ and will include senior members of the judiciary, leading academics and charities. The panel will not include members of the public who have been affected by the court process.
The experts, who have not yet been named, will have just three months to report back on their findings.
The short time-scale is not the review’s only problematic feature. The investigation…
Grandma Ashrawi is more than a match for Israel’s stooges in the White House and whatever “deal of the century” they have cooked up for the Holy Land!
So, the Trump administration will no longer allow Hanan Ashrawi into the US, even though she’s a top diplomat, has family there and visits regularly. Why?
A US State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that “visa records are confidential under US law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases”, adding that the law “does not authorise the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States”.
“Pettiness and vindictiveness”
Ashrawi is reported as saying, in her forthright way, that refusal to let her in was a political act and full of “pettiness and vindictiveness”.
Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian, is something of a hot potato. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Jerusalem in 1996 and again in 2006. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 20 years, becoming the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine. It is recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the 137 states with which it has diplomatic relations. Ashrawi’s father, a physician, was a founder of the PLO.
She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in literature from the Department of English at the American University of Beirut and completed her education with a PhD in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia. She is also an Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.
Ashrawi has been an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, starting with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. In 1996 she was appointed as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research. Before that she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birzeit University.
In 2003 Ashrawi received the Sydney Peace Prize, an award praised by, among others, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Albright called Ashrawi “a brilliant spokeswoman for her cause”.
Ashrawi, now 72, is a grandmother, and several of her grandchildren live in the United States. So, why is America hostile towards her?
Israeli occupation “a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession and denial”
In a recent article in Aljazeera Marwan Bishara reminds us that for the past year and a half Trump and his administration have been showering Binyamin Netanyahu and his apartheid regime with anti-Palestinian “gifts”… like recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, ending US assistance to UNRWA (the UN agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees), quitting the UN Human Rights Council and shutting down the PLO’s office in Washington.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Trump administration has stopped describing the West Bank and East Jerusalem (which are Palestinian) as “occupied” and instead calls them “Israeli-controlled”. This gives Netanyahu all the encouragement he needs for expanding Israel’s illegal settlements and pledging to annex them. To cap it all, Trump then delivered Netanyahu a splendid election present in recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Of course, whatever Trump says that territory is still Syria’s.
Western media, when providing “balance” to news on the Israel-Palestine conflict, usually wheel in a Palestinian spokesperson who is unintelligible. Israeli spokespersons, on the other hand, are media trained and sound very British/American, giving them a huge advantage. Ashrawi has perfect English and is a highly articulate and persuasive woman – an unrivalled expert in Middle East affairs – and capable of reducing Trump and his entourage to mincemeat in any broadcast encounter. Therefore, she poses a clear and present danger to their hopes of putting across and maintaining the false narrative that sustains Israel’s rogue dominance in the Middle East.
Haaretzreproduces some of Hanan Ashrawi’s recent tweets. In one she says:
I despise hypocrisy, misogyny, absolutist fundamentalism, populism, racism of all kinds, exclusivity, arrogance & condescension, power politics & militarism, cruelty in any form, & any sense of entitlement & exceptionalism …
In another, she says:
Most of all, I have no tolerance for the Israeli occupation in all its manifestations as a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession & denial; I have no respect for the enablers of this inhuman condition nor for its apologists …
She tells it straight. And in her tweets she adds:
I’ve met (and even negotiated with) every Sec. of State since Shultz, and every President since George H. W. Bush (present administration excluded); I’ve been a vocal critic of this administration and its underlings; I believe in freedom of speech.
This is one formidable lady! I have her down as the next Palestinian president, head and shoulders above any male candidates. But will the good people of Palestine have a say in the matter? The presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, the quisling loser, should have ended in 2009. But the corrupt system he presides over has allowed him to cling to power indefinitely, to his people’s great detriment.
There are significant variations in the way different authorities deal with family separation in England, social workers say
Some authorities are too ‘knee-jerk’ in making decisions on family separation, a government minister admits
‘We can’t carry on in the present way,’ a senior family court judge says
A little before Christmas in 2007, when my daughter was 18 months old, she skipped across the living room and landed on a boiling hot cup of tea. She didn’t stop screaming from the scalding burns to both her feet until the doctor injected morphine up her nose at the hospital.
Weeks later, after the bandages had been removed and her baby skin had healed, a social worker and a health visitor knocked on the door. The accident had triggered their visit.
My daughter chatted with them, they left quickly and we never heard from them again.
If we had lived somewhere else, our experience might have been very different. Andy Bilson, professor of social work at the University of Central Lancashire, has investigated the “postcode lottery” in children’s services. He says that in some areas my experience would have not triggered any response. In others, it might have triggered a formal “section 47“ investigation, something that remains on your record for life and would have been disclosed to future employers had my partner or I wanted to work with children. “This variation is an injustice,” says Bilson.
This is what the postcode lottery in child protection looks like. The state’s decision to intervene in your family’s life depends, to a certain extent, on where you live. And that’s especially important when you consider that there are now 75,000 children in care in England.
In the previous instalment in this series, we examined the data around family separation. Poverty is the biggest indicator – the poorest areas have the highest rates of children in care. But even when you account for poverty, there are big variations in the recommendations social workers make and the decisions courts take about families across the country.
We’ve spoken to dozens of people with intimate knowledge of how the system works, from parents, social workers and policymakers to academics, lawyers and a judge.
In some areas, authorities are driven by hitting targets and push social workers to get rid of cases. Other areas are risk averse and oblivious to social workers feeling burned out.
A judge told us that it is too much to leave the final decision on family separation in the hands of one judge sitting alone.
Our interviews reveal three main themes that help to explain variations that cannot be attributed to poverty – and an admission from the minister responsible that in some parts of the country the system has drifted away from the law which says authorities must support families to stay together safely before a decision is made to separate them.
The law governing family separation applies across England, but it is interpreted differently at a local level by the authorities’ approach, attitude and culture. Social workers who move between local authorities have first-hand experience of the different values and cultures they encounter in different local authorities.
One children’s guardian, a social worker employed by the state to represent the child’s interests in court proceedings, describes how different councils get different reputations. She has also worked as an agency social worker, moving between multiple local authorities.
“When you first file an assessment, your manager feedback gives you a sense of it. It’s more of a cultural thing. You start to understand how things work there.
“There are different local authorities with different reputations. Each local authority has a different method and culture. I’ve worked in one where everything was about recording and assessment deadlines. They were really target driven and that was more important – things needed to be seen to be done rather than actually working.
“It was really important to get rid of cases. I’ve worked in another where you feel it’s absolutely hopeless from the very beginning – it’s such a mess. Then there are others where you think: they get it, I can help here.
“It’s not just local authorities. It’s about individual managers. Some are more risk-averse. When I worked in [one local authority] they were very stringent about recording and assessment deadlines. Expectations were insanely high and it didn’t matter if social workers were burning out at their desks.”
Culture is a big influence, but hard to quantify. However, there are local rules that can be clearly identified. Each area has a local safeguarding board that publishes thresholds for social workers’ interventions. These are published and publicly available.
Bilson, the professor of social work, has picked through these documents setting out “thresholds” for intervening. He found some alarming variations.
For instance, he examined the thresholds for investigating bruising in babies, which lean heavily on guidelines which are issued to the health service. They suggest that bruising is uncommon in pre-mobile babies. He challenged these National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines with research that suggests that bruising is actually relatively common in pre-mobile babies – one in 15 experience an accidental bruise every day, even though they cannot walk or crawl.
Yet in the threshold documents, Bilson found five local authorities where social workers are instructed to formally investigate such bruising, even if they believe a straightforward explanation that it was an accident. These are the so-called section 47 inspections that stay on a parent’s record and could prevent them from, for example, being security cleared to work with children.
“I don’t think that’s fair at all. It’s not only unfair, it’s actually dangerous because where there is massive over-intervention there’s a real danger that parents will be unwilling to take children with bruises to medics, and there’s a risk that children will actually die because, if you don’t get taken in and it turns out you’ve got septicaemia, this can actually kill you.
“It was interesting to see that there were huge differences across the whole of the country in terms of how this guidance was given. In some local authorities, they went as far as to say that any child with a bruise should immediately be subject to a full child protection investigation and that quite often led to children being removed just on the basis of a single bruise. At the other end of a spectrum, there were local authorities that didn’t have a specific policy on this.”
Bilson says his research suggests that in some areas of the country my daughter’s burns could have meant a formal section 47 inspection.
3. Judges’ decisions
Local authorities make recommendations on removing children from their families. But judges in the family courts decide. In the past ten years, more and more cases that are taken to court to remove a child under a care order are being rejected by judges who instead say that those children can stay with their parents under strict supervision orders setting out a plan to improve their parenting.
In 2017, 34 per cent of all cases settled in court resulted in supervision orders. But according to one study, that rate varies between local authorities from 8 per cent to 36 per cent. This suggests the final act of human decision-making is far from a science.
How does it feel to exercise arguably the most draconian power the state has and remove a child from their parents?
Stephen Wildblood is the designated family judge for Avon, Gloucestershire and North Somerset, in the south west of England. I spent a day with him, sitting on the bench in his court, sharing his view of the family and the row of lawyers that he has before him when making decisions.
Judges make the decisions in family cases on their own. There is a different standard of proof: in criminal cases they have to rule “beyond reasonable doubt”. In the family court the standard is lower: they have to believe the harm or risk of harm to that child is “more probable than not”. Crudely put, the difference is they have to be 51 per cent sure of a parent’s failings, as opposed to the 99 per cent threshold in a criminal case. Serious criminal cases are decided by a jury, lesser offences are heard by three magistrates, but in the family court the judge decides alone.
“It’s very difficult to say why one judge in one court makes one decision whereas another one would make another, and it’s right that if you put five different judges in the room and gave them the same problem you’d probably come out with a number of different answers. I’ve seen that happen when training other judges or working with other judges. You do get that variation. That’s part of the human element.
“What is done in other countries – I don’t know whether it’s better than ours or worse – you don’t have just one person making a decision you have a panel.
“We do spend an awful lot of time beating around in court and bashing around with the evidence where other jurisdictions don’t. They have a more inquisitorial system. I wonder whether a broader panel making a decision might iron out some of the variations.
“We’ve got to do something. We can’t carry on in the present way. The level that I’m operating where sometimes I’m one person in a courtroom full of lawyers and parties. it’s an enormous responsibility to place on one person. In the crown court you don’t do it. You have a jury. The judge has a very difficult task in the crown court but ultimately he says to twelve people: this is the law, these are the facts, you make up your mind. In the family court I’m making a decision of huge consequence on my own without anyone sitting with me. I’m judge and jury.”
Ministers in the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice, who share responsibility for this area, are now so worried about the scale of and variation in the rates of children going into care that they are putting in place an emergency action plan to tackle it.
I visited Nadhim Zahawi, the children’s minister responsible, and he was surprisingly frank about the problems of the numbers of children going into care – and the variation in the system. “Clearly, the children social care system is under pressure,” he says. “Now, the pressures are varied, but essentially you’ve got the toxic trio: so you’ve got mental health, domestic abuse, and alcohol and drug addiction.”
He describes how some local authorities are risk averse and will take legal action, instead of taking a calculated risk to support the family to stay together, and he says there’s too much variation in how people are applying the law.
“Because ultimately, if you go back to the Children Act 1989, 30 years on, the principle [is] to at least attempt before you take a child away from their family, to help the family and the child remain as a unit,” he says.
“One of the concerns we have … is unexplained variation, where we’re seeing decisions in the family court that aren’t particularly consistent. So I’m working with the president of the family court Sir Andrew McFarlane and, of course, the Family Justice Board, to make sure that we have greater consistency in decision-making.”
Zahawi’s admission that some local authorities have drifted from the 30-year-old law that says the state should try to keep families together before they are separated is made in passing, but was startling. Are we taking too many kids away in some areas, I asked?
“I am concerned about the variation, which is why we’re working with the local Family Justice Board to look at that. There are local authorities, as you can see on the map behind me, that are outstanding; there are local authorities that are good; there are local authorities that require improvement; there are those that are inadequate. I want to have no inadequate local authorities … the way we get there is by sharing best practice.”
Zahawi has identified three areas of such best practice – Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire. He wants to spread the way they work and announced funding last month for 20 more authorities to copy their methods, which include giving families greater involvement in the process, and placing more emphasis on support rather than separation. Zahawi recalls a conversation with social workers in one best-practice authority, in which they described in detail how they work to keep families together, where others might “knee-jerk, or pull the lever” to remove the child.
“I just need to make sure the whole of England does that,” he says. It’s another admission, from the government minister responsible, that in some areas of the country, children are being removed from their families when they shouldn’t be.
“In the most extreme cases where it’s clear that that adult is a risk to the child, then, of course, no, you take a different decision,” Zahawi says. “Where it just happens to be, whether it’s issues around deprivation or issues around drug and alcohol abuse that can be fixed, then we should be doing our absolute best to fix those.”
Photographs by Getty Images and Eyevine
This is the third part in a series of reports on family separation. We have spoken to dozens of people with intimate knowledge of how the system works: parents who have been through it, the social workers who work to support them and recommend interventions, lawyers who fight their cases, the policymakers, politicians and academics who think about the system and the judges who make the final call. We sat in court for a week, watching the ebb and flow of everyday, heartbreaking cases. We examined the data that points to some alarming discrepancies over decisions to remove children from their families. And we invited the people at the heart of the system into our newsroom to tell us what is happening.
We have more pieces planned and we will be holding a ThinkIn in Sunderland on 22 May at 11am.
Get in touch: email@example.com
Here is the text of a speech by the president of the family division Sir Andrew McFarlane, exploring the pressures on family courts around the country
This speech by children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi explores the pressures on the social work system around the country
Nearly 1,500 accusations made against officers in England and Wales over six years!
A police passing out ceremony in London. There were 63 dismissals, retirements or resignations after complaints of sexual misconduct against the Metropolitan Police from 2012-18. Photograph: Rex Features
Nearly 1,500 accusations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation of crime victims and child abuse, have been made against police officers in England and Wales over six years, the Observer can reveal.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that 1,491 complaints were filed against police officers, special constables and police community support officers (PCSOs) across 33 forces in England and Wales between 2012 and 2017, or 2018 in the case of the Metropolitan Police in London, which took a year to respond to the FOI request by the Observer.
Of these cases, 371 were upheld, resulting in the sacking or resignation of 197 officers, special constables and PCSOs. Ten police forces did not provide data.
Derrick Campbell, regional director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, told the Observer in a statement: “Police personnel who abuse their position for sexual purpose have no place in policing, and we are aware from our own research that this is one of the top areas of police conduct that concerns the general public.
“We are working hard to ensure police forces refer all allegations of abuse of position for sexual purpose to us, and we will continue to provide guidance and knowledge to help identify this abuse of trust as early as possible.”
The “upheld” cases are those where the investigating force has decided based on the evidence that there is a case to answer. It does not automatically mean that the accusation has been proved in its entirety – but only a handful of such cases end without disciplinary action or the accused resigning from the force.
The largest force, the Met, accounts for 594 complaints, of which 119 were upheld, leading to 63 dismissals, retirements and resignations. Greater Manchester Police received 97 complaints, of which 16 were upheld, triggering seven departures from the force. Devon and Cornwall Police upheld 26 of 77 complaints, with 14 defendants leaving the force as a result.
Many police forces have been forced to take action against officers accused of abusing their power to develop sexual relationships with vulnerable people and victims of crime. The Observer has identified such cases at Greater Manchester, Gwent, West Mercia, Durham, and Devon and Cornwall forces, as well as the Met.
An officer in Durham resigned after being accused of abusing his position when attending incidents to try to develop intimate relationships with vulnerable members of the public, while a Devon and Cornwall officer was dismissed following accusations he attended a victim’s address, stripped off uninvited, and joined the victim in the shower.
A Met officer was dismissed after a rape victim complained that the appointed investigating officer in her case “took advantage of her vulnerability and had sex with her on two occasions and sexual contact on others, while still the officer in the case”. Another Met officer was dismissed following allegations of a sexual relationship with a resident of a women’s refuge.
Special constables resigned in both Northumbria and Greater Manchester over allegations of child abuse, while a Greater Manchester officer was dismissed over an “alleged physical relationship with a young person”.
In the Met, 27 officers, special constables and PCSOs had cases upheld against them relating to allegations of downloading indecent images of children, online grooming, and rape of under-16s. All resigned, retired or were dismissed.
The figures also show evidence of a sexist culture among some officers, with numerous complaints by colleagues of sexual harassment and sexual assault. One Met officer resigned after being accused of sexually assaulting two female colleagues at a work-related function. The description of another case affecting the Met states: “It is alleged that the officer stated to a colleague he has had a cast made of his penis and that multiple dildos have been made from the cast. He is alleged to have asked the officer if she would like one herself.” The accused officer quit the force.
Another Met officer was dismissed after putting his tongue in the ear of two females on the civilian police staff. A survey published last year of nearly 1,800 Unison members working as civilian police staff found that 12% had witnessed or been the subject of unwelcome touching, kissing or hugging.
A Unison spokesman said: “Employees who witness or experience this behaviour need reassurance they will be listened to, and believed, and effective action will be taken to end the harassment.”
The Observer’s data covers two kinds of complaints procedure – public complaints and internal conduct matters. Internal conduct matters are those raised by members of the police against their colleagues.
Internal conduct matters relating to forms of sexual misconduct are much likelier to be upheld than public complaints. Of 663 public complaints relating to sexual misconduct, only 62 were upheld. By contrast, 310 of the 829 internal conduct matters were upheld – nearly 40%.
This may be because police complainants understand the process and required evidence better than public complainants, as well as the chance of vexatious or malicious public complaints being filed – although officials insist all complaints are investigated thoroughly.
However, once upheld, public complaints are likelier than internal conduct matters to result in the departure of the accused police officer – be it through dismissal, resignation or retirement. Two-thirds of upheld public complaints resulted in the officer’s departure, compared with half of upheld internal conduct matters.
Rule changes in December 2017 mean that officers can now be found guilty of misconduct even if they resign or retire first, ensuring they can be added to the official Barred List to prevent their re-employment by the police.
A National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) spokesman said: “When police officers or staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose, such behaviour represents a fundamental betrayal of the public and our code of ethics Sexual harassment in the workplace is similarly corrosive.”
In 2017 all police forces signed up to a plan to clamp down on police officers and staff abusing their power for sexual purposes, and this year the NPCC will release a plan focused on sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Met said: “Sexual misconduct and abuse of authority for sexual purpose will not be tolerated in the Metropolitan Police service, and its prevention and reduction are priorities for us. Expectations, advice and guidance have been, and continue to be, publicised within the service and victims are encouraged to come forward.”
* Of 1,491 complaints only 371 were upheld.
* Shamefully, ten forces withheld data on such prosecutions.
* Hence, the Police are much less likely to prosecute officers accused of sexual crimes than civilians.
United Nations Committee against Torture recommends the UK government conduct an independent judge-led inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition post 9/11.
Today, we and the other below signed organisations, welcome the recommendation by the UN Committee against Torture for an independent judge-led inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition post 9/11. The government must finally take the necessary actions to get to the bottom of this shameful period in UK history, having for so long and repeatedly refused to do so.
In June 2018, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) published two damning reports into UK involvement in detainee mistreatment and rendition.
The shocking findings may, however, only be the tip of the iceberg. The ISC was unable to access key evidence for its investigation as Downing Street refused to provide access to witnesses from UK intelligence agencies who observed what went on or did not allow ISC members to interview any of the personnel involved in making the relevant decisions at the time. As the ISC itself made clear, the government’s restrictions on its investigations meant the report could only ever be seen as “provisional”, and “is not, and must not be taken to be, a definitive account”. This is, in short, unfinished business.
Instead of facing up to the need for transparency and accountability, the UK government has repeatedly broken its own deadlines for making an announcement on a torture inquiry.
Instead of facing up to the need for transparency and accountability, the UK government has repeatedly broken its own deadlines for making an announcement on a torture inquiry. Despite promising parliament on 2 July 2018 that it would “update the House within 60 days” on whether or not it would call such an inquiry, these 60 days came and went, and we are now at 320 days and counting.
As recently as last month, the government said it “continues to give serious consideration” to the need for an inquiry, without offering any concrete details on whether and when it expects to make a decision.
The prime minister appears to believe that if she simply continues stalling, the problem will eventually go away. On the contrary, the refusal to provide transparency on past complicity in torture becomes more alarming with each month that goes by.
The government must acknowledge the importance of this issue, and fulfil the promise of an independent inquiry originally made by then-prime minister David Cameron, when he said in 2010 that he was “determined to get to the bottom of what happened”. A previous inquiry, led by former judge Sir Peter Gibson, was shut down early, with many questions remaining unanswered.
The time has come for the government to finally do what is right, and what its international obligations require.
The UN Committee Against Torture, which plays a key role in confronting torture worldwide, said today in its concluding observations following a review of the UK that it regrets the UK’s failure to establish an independent judge-led inquiry “despite previous assurances to this Committee”. It insisted that the UK should “establish without further delay an inquiry on alleged acts of torture and other ill treatment of detainees held overseas committed by, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of British officials”. Such an inquiry should, the Committee said, be “fully compliant” with the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture. .
The former Conservative Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who has spoken of his “regret” over his decision while in office to postpone a full judge-led inquiry, has argued that: “A full independent judge-led inquiry is the only way that the full truth of Britain’s involvement in extraordinary rendition and torture will be revealed. Announcing such an inquiry would be a mark of this government’s commitment to holding Britain to the highest ethical standards, maintaining our reputation as a beacon of justice, fairness and the rule of law.”
Failure to account for the past opens the way to a recurrence of some of the worst possible crimes in the future. The UK needs to live up to the reputation it sets itself as a global leader in the fight against torture and other ill-treatment, and make clear that torture will never again be tolerated.