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Friday, 28 February 2014

Can We Trust Scottish State - On Child Guardians?

There are two images which regularly haunt me, one of them since 1993 and the other since 2007. The first is the picture of wee James Bulger, walking through the shopping centre in Bootle, clutching the hand of one of the boys who would eventually kill him. The second is the picture of Baby P, as he gazes with those beautiful eyes, into the camera. The thought of what those bairns must have suffered, the terror they must have experienced before their short lives were ended, has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. At the time James Bulger was abducted and killed, I wrote a twice weekly column for the local newspaper, the Perthshire Advertiser and had to write something about the Bulger case that week. As I sat in front of the computer, I found it impossible to put anything down in writing; my mind was so numb with the horror of what had happened and for a while could not even see the screen. The kind of society we had spawned and the fact that twenty adults admitted seeing James Bulger in tears as he was being led away, and did not intervene, made me want to rage at somebody, anybody - but at whom?

The two cases were profoundly different, with Thompson and Venables, the killers of James Bulger, being little more than bairns themselves. But there was nothing could be said in mitigation for the two despicable creatures who subjected Baby P to months of systematic torture before his tiny frame could take no more. I found myself thinking, nay, hoping they would get sorted out inside. It is at times like that, that I sometimes wonder, even momentarily,  if I am wrong to be opposed to capital punishment. As a father, grandfather and great grandfather, my wife Kay and I have had countless hours of enjoyment with our family when they were children and cannot for the life of me understand the mentality of those who abuse and even kill children. Both cases happened in England but we have had similar cases in Scotland, in Dundee, Inverness and elsewhere.

Fortunately cases like these are very rare in the UK, let alone Scotland, and in the majority of some of the worst cases, it was not that the authorities could have done little or nothing to stop what happened - as in the case of James Bulger - but that the authorities were in regular contact with the family of the child who died - as in the case of Baby P. It is in light of the fact that the authorities carry some responsibility for failing to do their job, that we should view the decision of the Scottish Government to appoint a Guardian for every child and young person in Scotland up to the age of 18 years. Failure to do their job has in most cases, been accompanied by complete denial on the part of the authorities, to take any responsibility, to the point of committing perjury and spending tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers' money in court expenses, attempting to defend the indefensible. Countless families have had their lives destroyed through the NHS, social work departments and the government, using every and all means at their disposal, including court action, to shift the blame on to the individuals and families they have failed.

There has been opposition to the measures being introduced, although despite voicing opposition not a single MSP actually voted against the measure in the Scottish parliament, but no one has even mentioned the problems which will inevitably arise when some "Guardian" somewhere, gets it wrong and makes a false accusation. Any one who thinks it won't happen may want to acquaint themselves with the details of the cases in Orkney, Western Isles, Borders and Ayrshire twice, where several families at the same time, were falsely accused by the authorities. To those cases, all of which had substantial publicity, must be added the individual families who were threatened, had their children taken into care after false allegations and who, for various reasons, did not have their cases highlighted by the media. I can speak from bitter experience, as someone who was falsely accused, whose case had widespread publicity and as a consequence, has been contacted by several of those families over the past fifteen years or so, families who have been desperate for help to fight the injustices heaped on them by the establishment.

I have asked myself countless times, how those adults who saw James Bulger, obviously distressed, but did nothing to intervene. I can only imagine the thoughts that must have gone through their minds since the incident, but it is not difficult to understand why they might have decided not to get involved, particularly if they were men. We have created an environment in our society, as far as children are concerned, which is obsessed with child safety and most men will now think twice before even speaking to a child they don't know, far less approach one who is crying or obviously distressed. The fear of paedophiles lurking around every corner and the "danger stranger" mindset of so many in society, fuelled by a media only too pleased frequently to create totally unjustified suspicion, has fostered the notion that "something" must be done to prevent anything bad happening to any child - ever. We could be forgiven for imagining that child abuse is widespread, that authority must keep an eye on every family in the country, as EVERY child is in danger of being abused - by someone, usually close to them. One so-called "expert" involved in my own case opined on TV, "There is a great deal of abuse out there that has still to be discovered". If it still has to be discovered, how does he know how much abuse is "out there"? Such obvious questions must never be asked in any discussion about abuse because "everybody" knows it is rampant.

So, just how widespread is abuse in Scotland? Between 2001/2 and 2010/11, a ten year period, there were 61 children under the age of 16, who were victims of homicide; of those 20 were aged 1 or less, 15 aged between 1 and 5 and 26 between 5 to 15. The figures also showed that 49% were killed by a member of the family, which was the case in 15 of the deaths of the 20 under 1 year old in that 10 year period. As of June 30th 2010 there were 1,037,839 young people aged 18 or under. In 2012 there were 2,706 children on the child protection register, which means either they had been victims of abuse or neglect or, there was a strong likelihood they would be victims. Although that was an increase of 32% on the figure in the year 2000, it represents 0.026% of young people under the age of 18. One child who is the victim of neglect or abuse is one too many but the figures hardly suggest our young people are under constant threat.

The figures can throw up some contradictory findings. For example, in September 2013, the NSPCC published a report that claimed 9000 Scots children in primary schools were victims of abuse and neglect and if that was true, why were they not the subject of a referral to the child protection register? The answer is that they may well have been because in 2010/11 there were 33,710 referrals to the Children's Reporter on care and protection grounds but just over 2,500 on the child protection register. On the face of it, even now, it would seem there are far more referrals than are justified, in terms of the level of actual abuse and neglect being suffered. When the same legislation was introduced in the Isle of Man, the number of referrals are said to have increased by over 500% and the system imploded. Part of the problem is the definitions of abuse and neglect have changed considerably over time and while smacking one's own children is still legal, it is definitely unacceptable to large sections of society. Physical neglect is classed as abuse, but failure to provide the basics for a child's development can be caused by poverty as can "Non-organic failure to thrive" which is another form of abuse. That is reflected throughout the lives of Scotland's under-privileged as life expectancy figures confirm.

The problems associated with the sheer numbers involved will not be long in coming to the fore and where on earth are they going to find enough Guardians to "guard" over 1 million young people? But my concern is how the establishment will react when they get it wrong. It is a gross insult to every decent family in the country but more than that, it is a massive increase in state centralisation and control and, once it has been established, the state will do whatever it takes to ensure they hold on to it. I found to my cost that the establishment does not like to be challenged and in my case, they were prepared to destroy the lives of 22 people - my immediate family - rather than admit they had made a mistake. Even more sinister, and not widely known in Scotland, is the fact that the authorities have immunity from third party duty of care. In other words, when a social work department, the NHS or any other branch of the government system damages a third party, such as a parent who has been falsely accused, they are immune from being held accountable. I discovered they could trash my name as much as they liked, say whatever they wanted, which they did, and I had no recourse to law although I battled for over a decade to get them into court.

When I challenged the social work department, the NHS and the so-called experts brought in to defend their actions, I was referred by Kenny McAskill to the decision of the House of Lords in 2005, which stated, "Child abuse is a serious social problem and health care professionals (HCPs) play a vital role in combating the risk...it is best attacked by relieving HCPs of legal proceedings...Uncompensated innocent parents pay the price but that is a necessary price.." That atrocious decision allows social workers, psychiatrists, expert witnesses and anyone else involved, which in my case included a Scottish Cabinet Minister, to lie with impunity to defend themselves. They lied from start to finish, destroyed original notes and fabricated others, something I highlighted in my book "Unbreakable Bonds" in which I named every single person involved.

Kenneth Roy reviewed the book in the Scottish Review and he wrote, "The psychiatric treatment of.... is only part of the story. The greater part, which impinges on the wider public interest, is the continuing failure of various publicly accountable bodies to acknowledge that a serious error was made in this case. No one who reads the extracts from official correspondence and records republished in Mr Fairlie's book can fail to be impressed by the closing of ranks and protection of vested interests, month after month, year after year, which would have demoralised most people out of sheer dejection. It is remarkable how few, confronted by such pain, expressed any fellow feeling. The absence of humanity is perhaps the book's most striking feature." I have absolutely no doubt that when the false accusations begin to appear, as inevitably they will, that scenario will be repeated. With the abolition of corroboration it is even more likely. Can we trust the Scottish state? On past experience, I very much doubt it.

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