Epic Safeguarding Fail – Why Lynda Bull Should be Sacked

Milton Keynes Council Fail

Milton Keynes’ new Safeguarding Policy does almost nothing to prevent a repeat of its recent court humiliation. Picture licensed via Dreamstime.

The Witchfinder points out some truths that liberals find inconvenient. The hysteria underlying witch hunts has a kernel of truth and they often serve a useful purpose when the institutions governing our society are not functioning to protect it. Turning to the recent scandal involving the unlawful detention of an old woman by Milton Keynes Council your humble inquisitor sets out the case for Director Lynda Bull’s career in social care to come to an end.

This site first learned of the case of Milton Keynes Council v RR & Ors [2014] EWCOP B19 on the website of the beautiful and eternally well-informed Dr Lucy Series. It seemed an all too familiar story. An elderly woman was removed from her home and detained unlawfully. The woman’s son objected and was investigated over ‘safeguarding’ allegations. After 16 months the council abandoned the allegations. It was a horrifying abuse of an elderly woman by a local authority.

In several cases where the Witchfinder has been McKenzie Friend, local authorities have retaliated against the family members of service users by bringing long and drawn out investigations and making questionable findings. Councils do have a legitimate role in safeguarding – the hallmarks of an improper investigation are an extremely long period of investigation (itself potentially harmful to the service user) and no interest in procedural safeguards.

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The One Woman Judge Cardinal Will Not Jail

Hammer of Justice

The British Family Courts are quick to reach for the hammer. Why not use it to protect the right to full disclosure of evidence? Picture via Dreamstime

The Witchfinder examines another disturbing case in which hated circuit Judge, ‘His Honour’ Judge Cardinal withheld vital evidence from a woman desperate to be re-united with her disabled daughter, only to be overturned once again by a higher court.

In Christopher Bond’s well known stage version of Sweeney Todd, there is a character called Judge Turpin. One of the play’s best known scenes has Turpin passing sentence of death on a criminal for repeated crimes. Only once sentence has passed is the identity of the miscreant revealed (in the movie, by a dramatic camera pan). It is a frightened, crying, cowering child.

Of course all fictional characters have a basis in reality and, but for accident of timing, Turpin could have been inspired by the jurisprudence of Birmingham Judge HHJ Cardinal. Regular readers of the Witchfinder will recall Cardinal’s previous works –

  1. sentencing a woman called Wanda Maddocks to prison for (amongst other things) taking her father to see a lawyer, and gagging her (gagging overturned, condemned in Parliament and excoriated in the Daily Mail)
  2. making a wasted costs order against a solicitor acting pro-bono for a vulnerable destitute woman (overturned by the Court of Appeal)

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One of the Best Court Judgements Ever Written Ever

Veronica Chapman Lookalike

Would you take legal advice from a person who looks like this? (Picture licensed from Dreamstime).

The Witchfinder praises the courageous Canadian Judge J. D. Rooke for his judgement in Meads v Meads and calls for the enactment of new laws allowing for control of the so-called Freemen on the Land Movement (FMOTL) and  the immediate fining and imprisonment of its ‘gurus’ who give fallacious advice, such as Veronica Chapman. Where vulnerable people are described, aspects such as the name and gender have been fictionalised.

To those who have not encountered it, it may initially be hard to understand why the transatlantic FMOTL movement inspires so much hatred amongst lawyers and members of the judiciary, even normally cuddly members of the Human Rights crowd. Allow me to use an analogy.

Imagine for a moment that there is a book on electrical wiring – ‘Wiring Is More Than Just A Word’. You can buy it from reputable bookshops like Amazon. Imagine that this book is glossy and professional looking, the book uses all the right words and is written in a persuasive and apparently erudite way. The book is bought mainly by the vulnerable and desperate who have electrical problems and sit at home in the cold and the dark. Imagine its author is trusted, respected and looked up to by the poor souls who read her work.

Now consider what would happen if the instructions in the book were utterly, totally and horribly wrong. Picture a situation where the words are all correct but the explanation of their meaning is all wrong. “Voltage is very important. You must wire as much voltage as possible directly to your genitals in order to protect yourself from the Ohm conspiracy. Under no circumstances must you listen to any electricians. All electricians are evil and in league with Ohms. And bankers. Whatever you do, never, EVER wire up the earth wire as this may allow your voltage to be stolen by amperes. Instead you should attach the wire marked LIVE to the BATHTUB.”

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A River of Tears

The Witchfinder summarises the evidence from the recent House of Lords Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and points the finger at the Labour politicians responsible for this travesty.

Bleeding Rose

Labour must take responsibility for the immense human suffering caused by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Picture licensed from Dreamstime)

The Witchfinder, under another name, was one of many individuals, professionals and organisations that gave evidence to the ongoing investigation. The evidence has now been published and your humble inquisitor has decided to summarise.

Anyone wishing to read it for themselves can find volumes 1 and 2 on the parliament website –

Volume 1
Volume 2

What is striking is just how loud the chorus of complaints are. Chris Booker of the Telegraph, for example, would be delighted to discover just how many social workers are in total agreement with him about the Act’s inadequacies.

The problem with dry text is the inability to fully convey the human suffering represented by the endless storm of criticism. I quote (for example) Kate Beynon, a social worker in Northamptonshire, “I was involved in a recent CoP case and am very worried that one of the parties was not able to access legal aid, she was in debt and could not afford repayments and yet we were removing her adult son from her care.”

Beynon is quite right – a lot of the Witchfinder’s charity work exists solely because there is negligible legal aid available to families when social services take away adult relatives.

She goes on to mirror the Witchfinder’s suggestion that there be local Mental Capacity tribunals instead of the current Court of Protection, “Why can we not have local Tribunals similar to Mental Health Tribunals?”

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HMCTS Decide Court of Protection Just Not Kafkaesque Enough

A man behind bars in a balaclava

Bob really should have thought more carefully before being rude to his social worker

Astonishingly, the Court of Protection is considering formally giving social workers the power to declare someone lacking Mental Capacity without pesky doctors getting involved.

It has been a bad few weeks for the Court of Protection. Back in February this blog revealed the sinister jailing of Wanda Maddocks for taking her disabled father to see a lawyer and being rude to social workers. Because of course the most serious threat to the vulnerable today is family members trying to assert their Article 6 Rights and improve their care.

If she had instead groomed him or raped him for years as happened to vulnerable children in Oxford then presumably social services would have turned a blind eye.

The utter head-in-sand-unreasonable refusal of the system to recognise its failings has gone on for years. This blog is largely concerned with the rights of the vulnerable and of course the iniquities of Labour’s outrageous legislation so I was delighted to see recently that Chris Grayling had asked for a review of the powers of the Court of Protection.

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2000+ Unlawfully Detained. Families of Abuse Victims Condemn Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt. Secretary of State for Health. Image licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0. This permits adaptation. However, the Witchfinder has resisted the temptation to scrawl the obvious four letter word across his forehead.

Catastrophically failing Care Quality Commission admits that thousands of people have been deprived of their liberty in the UK without proper notification – but they do not know who, where, or how many.

CQC admits that at least 7,238 criminal registration offences against vulnerable people have not been prosecuted putting the United Kingdom apparently in violation of the United Nations Optional Convention Against Torture.

CQC Whistleblower Kay Sheldon claims that David Prior, new Chief Executive, told her that she would not be re-appointed. CQC office asked to put allegation to Mr Prior and responds refusing to ‘confirm or deny’ allegation. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has failed to clearly back Mrs Sheldon.

Yvonne Goder of charity FACT, which campaigns for victims against abuse of people without capacity describes Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and responsible for the CQC as ‘morally no different from the abusers at Winterbourne View’ and calls for his immediate sacking from government. Mark Neary, father of Steven Neary agrees with the comparison.

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Rest in Peace Margaret Thatcher

The Witchfinder praises Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, especially her less well known work helping the vulnerable.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (image via Wikimedia Commons)

It feels slightly strange, writing a eulogy for Baroness Thatcher. Until I left Labour in 2008, it was inconceivable. My family are three generations Labour – I am a lone blue rose amongst crimson thorns. At university I was a Labour student, inculcated in their doctrines of hate towards anyone, even within the same party, who disagreed with their views.

I also initially felt under-qualified to comment being only a newcomer to the Conservative Party as of 2009. However there is one area for which Mrs Thatcher deserves praise but has received relatively little and of which I have specialist knowledge. As a law student one of my specialist interests is assisting those alleged to lack mental capacity, or their families. I have assisted people in the High Court and been allowed occasionally to exercise rights of audience as a McKenzie Friend.

The Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. It comes to mind because its effectiveness as kind but pragmatic legislation is highlighted in comparison to Labour’s cack-handed car-crash of a law, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) introduced by Tony Blair’s government. Both do the same job, essentially dealing with compulsory intervention in the lives of people with mental illness or disability.

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Some Cuts are Long Overdue

In the last year the UK Family Courts have been criticised by British MPs and the governments of foreign countries such as Slovakia. The Norgrove Report described it as “a system that is not a system, characterised by mutual distrust and a lack of leadership, by incoherence and without solid evidence based knowledge about how it really works”. Now the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services has joined in the chorus of complaints. The Witchfinder calls for change.

The Government has no money. Thanks to the reckless mismanagement of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair’s discredited government the incoming coalition have been forced to make cut after cut against services that many rely on. Curiously however there is one black pit of government waste that has escaped almost unscathed.

I refer of course to the Family Courts. The existence of such an institution in some form is a necessary evil. As a law student I am often asked for my help and sadly, about 75% of the time on looking at the case I would be driven to make the same decision as the social workers or the judge. The problem is that with the other 25% where the decision was wrong or arguable the system makes it hard to challenge social services or Court decisions. In nearly 100% of the cases it is too slow and vastly too expensive for public and parent alike.

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The Inadequate Act

The Witchfinder notes recent criticisms of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 by the judiciary.

Burning Money.

Imagine lots and lots of money, burning. This is functionally indistinguishable from imagining a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards case in the Court of Protection.

I like Mr Justice Mostyn – he is one of my favourite judges. This article is about a recent public judgement in which – like many others – he has felt the need to comment about the lack of protections for those subject to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA). The Witchfinder includes no information not in the public judgement.

The case concerns the safeguards that should be made available to a mentally incapable man. The nature of the man’s incapacity is not really important. What is important is the way this judgement further throws into sharp relief the inadequacy of the safeguards under the MCA.

In order to make the judgement less dehumanising, Mostyn refers to the man as ‘George’. George is not his real name. Unfortunately it appears that George is a sexual deviant who needs to be confined, strip searched and to have his phone-calls and correspondence monitored for the safety of others.

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Sent To Prison for Talking to a Lawyer

An article about a terrifying judgement of the Court of Protection in which a man’s daughter was imprisoned for contempt for taking him to see a lawyer to challenge his placement in a care home by the local authority. And for witchcraft. Yes really, witchcraft.

If your local council places you in a care home and you or your family object can you talk to them about it? Can you talk to a lawyer? Or would that be contempt of Court punishable by imprisonment? What if your family helps you? Would they be in contempt?

Most reasonable people would say a resounding “No” to the question of Contempt. Step forward HHJ Cardinal – the circuit judge with the courage to say “Yes!”

The case of SCC v JM, and ors is reported on Mental Health Law Online and is an anonymised public judgement. The Witchfinder publishes no information other than what is already in the public domain. The document has been missed by the national media so far, which is a shame as it is a horrifying and clear cut scandal. The case concerns an elderly man, JM, who suffers from Alzheimer’s syndrome and has been placed in a care home. There is apparently some form of dispute about his residence, which has led to litigation in the Court of Protection.

JM has three children who disagree with the local authority. This is not uncommon. Your humble correspondent the Witchfinder is a law student who often advises such people pro-bono. About 75-90% of the time the local authority is right. Roughly 25-10% of the time there is something to be said for the other side. About 10-5% of the time it is a horror story.

The disturbing thing about this case is that, according to the judgement, an order was made by Judge Owen on 19/05/2012 that prohibited the respondents (the old man’s children) from helping the vulnerable elderly man challenge the placement – “the respondents should not encourage JM to leave or to ask to leave his placement, or discuss with him the possibility of moving back home, or remove him from the jurisdiction of the court.”

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