A father’s nightmare

A bizarre episode involving a father’s separation from his children shows up our farcical law, says Christopher Booker.

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal Photo: ALAMY
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker

7:00PM BST 02 Jul 2011

Last month, a French-Italian language teacher, who had been happily bringing up his two daughters “somewhere in southern England” since their mother walked out on them seven years ago, was plunged into an inexplicable nightmare. It seemed one of his girls had been overheard by a teacher telling a friend that she had been “fighting” with her father. The girls were taken by social workers to hospital, where neither showed any marks or sign of injury – hardly surprising, since the girl and her father had merely been having an argument.

The girls were taken into care; the father was arrested by the police and allowed home on bail, although no charges have been brought. The girls attempted to smuggle notes to their father via a school friend, to say that they loved him and wanted to come home. A teacher discovered one of these notes, prompting a search of the bags of all the pupils for others.

The father was presented by a social worker with a scrawled “agreement”, laying down the strict conditions on which he could have brief “supervised contact” with his daughters once a week, any breach of which would lead to the contact being instantly terminated (such conditions being routinely imposed on parents whose children have been snatched).

One condition was that he and the children “will only speak English to each other during contact”, although they normally talk to each other in a mixture of French and Italian. The father said he was unable to sign such a document. Even though the emergency order under which the children were seized expired last Monday, the judge adjourned hearing the council’s application for an interim care order until next week. This means there is no order in force allowing the council to keep the children.

The father is utterly bemused that such “Kafka-esque events” could happen in Britain. His surprise is understandable. There is not another country in Europe where the law would allow such a bizarre episode to take place. Here, alas, the courts and our MPs have allowed it to become commonplace.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/861...

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