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Old April 24th, 2013 #1
Bev
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Default Secret Court of Protection - jailed in secret for trying to help her dad and other scandals

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A woman was jailed ‘in secret’ for trying to remove her father from a care home where his family thought he was in danger of dying.

Wanda Maddocks, 50, is the first person known to be imprisoned by the Court of Protection, which settles the affairs of people too ill to make their own decisions.

A judge ruled that she should go to prison for five months for contempt of court even though she was not present or represented by a lawyer.

Details of the case were made public for the first time yesterday and provoked a fresh row over behind-closed-doors justice.




Secret 'justice': Wanda Maddocks, left, was jailed for taking her father John, right, out of his care home against the instructions of a court order that he should not be moved

Miss Maddocks, who served six weeks of her sentence, was jailed because she ignored the court’s orders not to try to remove her father John from Park Hall care home in Bentilee, a suburb of Stoke on Trent.

She was condemned for incidents including taking the 80-year-old dementia sufferer to a court hearing and to see a solicitor.

She was also censured for producing a leaflet to try to publicise details of the case and giving her father a wooden cross ‘to ward off evil’ in the care home.



Her family said Mr Maddocks, a retired painter and decorator from Stoke-on-Trent, had been held ‘like a prisoner’ on the orders of a local council.

Miss Maddocks was initially not allowed to be named after the hearing and was identified only by her initials WM.

And the court’s ruling containing details of her sentence was not published.

The Court of Protection is a branch of the High Court and its hearings are always conducted in private.

Judge Martin Cardinal merely went through the motions of observing open justice when he handed down his sentence.

He ordered the doors of his courtroom in Birmingham to be unlocked and told ushers to announce in the corridor that members of the public were free to come in.

But there was no wider announcement of the judgment and no-one who was not directly involved is thought to have attended.

The ban on naming Miss Maddocks was lifted because there was no reason for it to remain in place after her release. Mr Maddocks has since died.



He separated from wife June more than 30 years ago. She remarried but now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.

The extraordinary case began when the grandfather-of-one was found collapsed at his own home last year.

He was placed in a care home and the local authority applied for a legal order which said he must stay there.

These are introduced when officials believe someone could be at risk of harm, and put the Official Solicitor in charge of their affairs.

After a few months Miss Maddocks’ brother Ivan took him out of the care home for lunch.

Miss Maddocks was alerted and flew her father to Turkey, where she owns a number of properties.

They stayed for 13 weeks before returning to Britain, and her father went to a different care home.

Mr Maddocks said: ‘Wanda was certain she could care for him herself but the social services said he had to be put in the home. Wanda was very angry that they were taking Dad away from us.’

Miss Maddocks, a former buy-to-let landlord, was jailed on September 11 last year after the sentencing in her absence by the Court of Protection in Birmingham.

She was freed from Foston Hall prison in Derby on November 1 after returning to the court to purge her contempt by apologising to the judge.


WHAT THE READERS HAVE TO SAY

More than 800 people shared their views on this story on Mail Online. Here are a selection of our readers' comments:

Secret justice is no justice, Justice has to be seen to be done. COMMON PURPOSE loves secret justice, because their activities cannot stand up to public scrutiny.
Paul of England, Margate

If Justice is not seen to be done then that is not Justice, These Star Chambers were done away with because Brave men gave their lives for open Justice.
Hermes, Southampton

Where do I live Syria? China? North Korea? No the UK! How disgraceful....
'Holographic Universe', Manchester

Jailed for being a caring daughter. This should worry all of us. Pity they don't seem to be able to find prison places for the thugs and thieves.
Au Contraire , UK

Free her now,and get rid of this Secret Court.
Tones, Wannanup West Australia

This is not justice nor can it be sen to be justice. This is akin to the practices in Russia and pre-war Germany, and those setting up the system and the Judges should be held to account immediately.
Richard J Williams, Chesham

There is 'contempt of court' recognized in this country. But there is no definition of 'contempt of citizen' by the court. Then there are 'human rights'. Hmm. Something wrong here?
JRM, Weybridge

Like something out of KafKa. Absolutely horrifying.
Liz , London

Orwell must be smiling in his grave. It's all come true.
Ward William , Porto Alegre Brazil

This isn't justice. This is contempt for this lady's human rights. Why?
Nini, London

Judge Cardinal said in his ruling that ‘there is a history of the family being difficult with the local authority’ and that Miss Maddocks knew she had been ordered not to interfere with her father.

He said she had done so on a number of occasions. On one she took him from his care home to attend a court hearing. On another she took him to Birmingham to talk to a solicitor.

The judge recorded that she also gave her father a wooden cross ‘to prevent the evil in the home from hurting him’.

Miss Maddocks also ‘produced and distributed a leaflet prior to and during the final hearing giving details of the case, containing a photograph of her father and other information so as to identify him and that is in breach of Court of Protection rules.’

Miss Maddocks was said to have left a long and abusive message on a social worker’s voicemail describing ‘you in your tarty little stuck up voice’ and to have called council staff names including ‘arrogant little cunning b*******’.

In one message she said: ‘I hope you all end up where my Dad is and I hope you all end up cursed.’
Judge Cardinal said she had ‘the attitude of someone who is simply not going to obey court orders’.

He said Miss Maddocks was causing her father ‘very considerable grief’ and ‘it seems to be only right she should go to prison’.

But the whistleblowing MP who first learned of the case, Lib Dem John Hemming, said: ‘The jailing of people in secret for contempt is not supposed to happen.

‘No records have been collected. I believe the judges have broken the rules of their own courts, but nobody is doing anything about it.’

‘One of the charges against the woman was that she took her father from his care home to see a solicitor. We now live in a country where ordinary people get locked up for taking their father to see a lawyer. Even in Iran they do not jail people for taking legal advice.’

Councillor Gwen Hassall, Stoke-on-Trent city council cabinet member for social services, said: ‘This is clearly an extreme case, but one that the Court of Protection supported the council on. It was the court’s decision to issue a custodial sentence to Wanda Maddocks.

‘Our chief concern was always centred around the welfare of her father, who was suffering from a deteriorating condition and required 24-hour supervision in a stable environment.

‘This was a decision reached by medical consultants, geriatricians, social workers, community psychiatric nurses, dieticians, consultant health and nursing professionals and others who were involved in assessing his needs.’

She added: ‘This decision was also ratified by the Court of Protection, which carried out its own independent assessment of his needs.

‘Unfortunately safeguards had to be put in place to ensure he had the support of a stable environment because there were no signs that this could be provided otherwise.

'Safeguards also had to be put in place to protect the care professionals who looked after Mr Maddocks.’




The sinister spread of justice behind closed doors, writes Christopher Brooker


Today’s revelations in the Mail about Wanda Maddocks, the woman imprisoned by a judge for trying to remove her 80-year-old father from a care home where he was being held against his family’s wishes, are truly shocking.

Most disturbing of all is that it is only thanks to persistent inquiries by the Mail that we know of her fate at all — for the court heard the case in secret and chose not to publish the ruling containing details of her sentence.

The court that conducted itself in this manner is the mysterious and secretive Court of Protection, set up in 2005 under the Labour government’s Mental Capacity Act to give state officials quite extraordinary powers over the lives of people who are deemed no longer fit to handle their own affairs.

Miss Maddocks was found guilty of contempt because she ignored the Court of Protection’s orders not to interfere with her father’s life in the care home.


What angered the judge and the council involved, Stoke-on-Trent, was not just that she took her father away but that she desperately tried to publicise what was happening to him by writing a leaflet about it.

Of course, the case is complicated and highly emotive — one in which family members concerned for their ailing, elderly father are pitted against professionals and state employees who insist they know better.

But it is also part of a deeply worrying trend of secret justice taking hold across Britain, where journalists, the public and even defendants are barred from hearing evidence, while those in the dock often have no legal representation.

The Court of Protection is making huge numbers of judgments in secret which devastate families such as that of Wanda Maddocks.



Only this week, there was the tragic case of a 64-year-old mother from a working-class family who left her husband and ran off with her neighbour to the Midlands, without an explanation.

The family spent months trying to track her down, and finally found her in a nursing home after she had suffered a massive stroke that left her needing 24-hour care. When they called to see her, the nursing home — claiming she had written letters saying she wanted to break off contact with them — called the police.

After hearing the evidence in secret, the judge decided the family should no longer have contact with their mother — even though an American forensic expert who used computer analysis on handwriting testified that he was ‘99.9 per cent’ certain the letters were written by the man she ran off with.

For months I have been following a terrifying case involving a council which cannot be named, and which has similarly been hidden away from public view by another judge of the same Court of Protection.

The story would make your hair curl. But because it is under the aegis of the Court of Protection, I am forbidden from reporting on it at all. None of its details can be made public.

Local press that did cover the story so irked the council and the judge that other media were told that any further reporting of the case would be a contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment.

Like the case of Miss Maddocks, it highlights a tendency to allow Britain’s courts to hide their workings from public view behind a wall of secrecy.

The Mail mounted a hard-hitting campaign for open justice after the Government proposed last year that judges could be allowed to hold secret hearings in terrorist cases, on the grounds that allowing these to be reported might be damaging to ‘national security’.

Similar concerns have been expressed over the fear that the Leveson inquiry might trigger a massive extension in the powers of judges to throw up a blanket of secrecy around other types of cases they are hearing, such as those involving celebrities keen to preserve their reputation.

But the terrifying fact is that we already have a whole swathe of secret courts in this country, where judges are allowed to exclude the public and the Press, and to issue draconian gagging orders to prevent anything being reported of what goes on.

Any breach of those orders can be ruled a contempt of court, punishable not just by imprisonment but by the confiscation of an offender’s possessions.

One of the most glaring examples of justice behind closed doors is to be found in the extraordinary goings on of our so-called ‘child protection’ system, where social workers using family courts can too often tear families apart for the flimsiest and most dubious of reasons,

In such cases, all the normal principles of British justice can be turned on their heads. The rules, which in criminal courts require evidence to be put to a proper test, can be routinely ignored.

Social workers and lawyers can trot out hearsay allegations which are accepted by the court as if they were proven fact, ‘expert psychologists’ are paid thousands of pounds to come up with patently ridiculous reports, which parents fearful that they may lose their children for ever are not permitted to question.


What is so shocking to parents who fall foul of this system — as I have learned from talking to scores of them over the years — is how they can find themselves being treated, without any need for proof, as criminals, having to listen to any kind of allegation being made against them without being given a right of reply.

The point is that none of these abuses could take place if the judges had not been allowed to hide away the workings of these courts behind a far greater wall of secrecy than anything intended by the politicians who passed the supposedly well-meaning Acts of Parliament which gave them their powers in the first place.

The overwhelming moral of all this is that wherever courts are allowed to operate in secret, the system is likely to be corrupted.

Few things are more sinister in Britain today than all those pressures to extend even further that suffocating blanket of secrecy, for we can already see — as in the frightening case of Miss Maddocks and the Court of Protection — how easily it can lead to any sense of justice being thrown out of the window.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ieved-die.html


I am truly shocked by this - we've all heard about the Liverpool Care Pathway and if this woman thought her father was at risk of dying, was she wrong to try and get him out? I don't think so, especially since she took him to see a solicitor and so appeared to go about it by reasonable channels.
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Last edited by Bev; April 29th, 2013 at 05:11 AM.
 
Old April 27th, 2013 #2
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Ten years ago, Wanda Maddocks had a fleeting conversation with her father, John, who was then 70, fit and sprightly. At the time, she didn’t think much of it. Today, she can’t get his words out of her mind.

‘He said his idea of hell would be to end up in a home, and he made me and my brothers promise we wouldn’t put him in one,’ she says.

‘I remember him saying: “If it ever comes to that — give me a gun and I’ll shoot myself.”


At that, the 50-year-old businesswoman starts to cry. A decade on, with her father sadly dead after spending his last years in a succession of care homes — each, claims his daughter, more dismal than the last — Wanda feels she failed him.

In fact, she fought for him like a tigress — and paid an extraordinary price for doing so.

For this week, it emerged that Wanda was the first person in Britain to be secretly jailed by the Court of Protection, which settles the affairs of those deemed too ill to make their own decisions.



Her crime? Officially, contempt of court, for repeatedly breaking orders not to interfere with her father’s life at his care home.

She describes it as being incarcerated for an act of compassion towards the father she loved. She was, she says, simply trying to keep a solemn promise to him to keep him out of the care homes which so terrified him.

Her reward? She was subjected to a gruelling, secret legal battle, at the end of which she was thrown into a prison van, forbidden from speaking to a solicitor and sent to Foston Hall women’s prison in Derby — which once housed Maxine Carr, girlfriend of Soham killer, Ian Huntley.

For six terrifying weeks she found herself locked up alongside murderers and drug addicts.

‘Most of the inmates were serial offenders. Most were on drugs. They’d queue up for their methadone every day. I was a fish out of water, to say the least,’ she says.

‘I got myself into trouble when I said to one of the inmates: “I’m so glad I don’t have to share a room with anyone. Imagine if you ended up sharing with a murderer.” She replied: “I am a murderer”.’

In the bitterest irony of all, Wanda believes her incarceration was all for nothing and that her father’s worst fears came true. She claims he was so neglected by care home staff that he died of starvation within weeks of moving into one residence. ‘He died in their care. As far as I’m concerned, they killed him. The word they used on his death certificate was “inanition”. I had to look it up, but it basically means starvation,’ she says.

She also says her father’s body was covered in bruise-like marks, which the coroner failed to explain at the inquest.


Wanda is telling her story from a beautiful rooftop terrace in the town of Fethiye in southern Turkey, where she used to live and still visits regularly.

She says the battle over her father’s care started innocuously enough in 2009, when Mr Maddocks, who had worked as a decorator in Stoke, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

While Wanda was living in Turkey and running a property business, her three brothers, Ivan, 55, Wayne, 54, and Eden, 49, lived near their father and visited regularly.

When the family was told their father was going to get some help from social services — who were already delivering meals on wheels to the house where he lived alone — they welcomed the news.

It was only when she travelled to the UK that Wanda realised that social services were not providing the basic level of care she says any elderly person should have the right to expect.

‘I opened Dad’s cupboards and there was nothing there. It turned out that social services were bringing him only frozen meals. But he didn’t even have a freezer, so they were still in a little container inside ice-packs.

‘He had a microwave, but never turned it on — he had developed a phobia about things like that, part of the OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] that went with his Alzheimer’s. ‘I asked: “Dad, can you show me how you heat these things up?” And he couldn’t. To this day, I don’t know if he was eating them frozen. Or just not eating them.’

Furious, she contacted social services to complain.

‘My issue was that he was paying for this “care”. The bill was £1,700 for four months of meals he couldn’t eat. It was a lot of money — it’s not as if they bathed him or helped him at home. Some days they didn’t come at all.’

Confident her complaint would improve the standard of her father’s care, Wanda returned to Turkey. But within weeks, her father was struck down by a bout of TB.

As a result, Mr Maddocks spent several months in hospital. He could not return home, so was discharged into his first care home nearby.

‘He was sent there to recuperate,’ says Wanda. ‘It was sold to us as a temporary solution — to prevent him from taking up a hospital bed.’

For her part, Wanda was terrified the authorities — who’d failed even to feed her father properly — were now wholly responsible for all his care.

While she acknowledged that the care she and her brothers provided for their father wasn’t perfect — her brothers lived busy lives and couldn’t devote as much time to their ailing father as he needed, while she was often away in Turkey — she was convinced that he would be happier and healthier in his own house than in a care home.


‘Dad told us later that he thought about killing himself in there. It was an awful place for him to be.

‘His Alzheimer’s wasn’t too bad at that stage, but the place was full of people who were much further down the road. There were old people in cots, curled up in the foetal position.’

So two months later, Mr Maddocks was moved to another residential home close by. It was a privately-run home, but again, he was miserable and repeatedly tried to escape, getting on a bus and even changing his clothes in order to disguise himself.

‘They said he was aggressive, which is just not true. My dad was the meekest, most passive person ever.

‘They claim he put his fists up when they were trying to stop him escaping. That, apparently, made him a threat to himself, and others.’

Wanda was desperate to bring her father home, where she hoped to look after him herself, with the help of a full-time carer paid for privately. But she found she couldn’t have any influence over her father’s care without getting power of attorney over his affairs. This, however, proved easier said than done. ‘I spoke to endless lawyers. Some said it was too specialised for them. One guy wanted £15,000 in fees. We were on our own.’

Yet another transfer, to another local care home, followed in November 2010. It had a ‘fancy cinema’, but Mr Maddocks hated it just as much as the other homes.

‘He was depressed there. He wouldn’t eat,’ says Wanda.

Desperate to help him build up his strength, Wanda brought him some vitamin B complex tablets, which she had read were helpful for Alzheimer’s sufferers. This, she says, sparked ‘another battle in the war’.

‘I was made to feel like I’d “sneaked” drugs into my father. I would never do that. I gave them to the nurse and it was all above board. But that was it. After that I couldn’t be with my father unsupervised.’

Wanda says the breaking point came when she visited her father on Christmas Day but was allowed only one hour with him, supervised by staff.

‘Dad begged: “Can I not have some time alone with my daughter?” But they wouldn’t allow it.

‘I went home and cried, and called my brothers. They were furious.’

The family began to hatch a plan to get their father away. On Boxing Day, Wanda’s brothers went to the home, got him out of the fire door, took him for a meal, then called Wanda.

‘I told them to bring him to me and I would take him to Turkey.’

Despite the awful chain of events this action sparked, Wanda says she has no regrets. She claims her father’s health flourished during this time and he — ‘the man the authorities seemed to think was some sort of vegetable’ — was walking miles every day and eating hearty meals.

‘It was proof to me that his medical condition wasn’t as acute as they claimed. They had him down as some sort of vegetable. That simply wasn’t the case.

‘When we visited him in care, he was lethargic and depressed. I’m sure he was drugged up for a lot of it. But here, he was free, he was Dad again.’


Indeed, if Wanda has any regrets, it was that she took him back to the UK again 13 weeks later, in order to access his pension. ‘Maybe I was naïve, but he was doing so well then that he wanted to move to Turkey for good. But to do that he would need money. He’d need to sell the house. I was supporting him, but it was unsustainable.

‘He was receiving a pension of £250 a week, which we tried to access from Turkey but couldn’t. We flew back to sort it out — on Valentine’s Day in 2011 — only to find his money had been frozen. Then the whole Court of Protection thing started. It just all went . . . wrong.’

The controversial Court was set up to safeguard vulnerable individuals. Here, Wanda says, it was blatantly misused to bully her family.

‘We were basically told that if we did not adhere to whatever decisions the Court made, we could be jailed and our assets seized.’

With terrible timing, Wanda herself then fell ill with bronchitis and couldn’t look after her father alone.

‘I buckled, and phoned social services and asked for him to go into care, just for a few weeks, to help me get things organised.

‘They said they would help us. They did not. They used the situation against us,’ says Wanda, weeping.

So in March 2011, Mr Maddocks ended up in his third local care home. ‘He went in for two weeks and was still there two years later,’ Wanda says, bitterly. ‘They went back on everything they said.’

This was the beginning of an incredible secret legal battle, which saw Wanda attend more than 20 court hearings and be subjected to various psychiatric evaluations.

While we can’t report any of the details of these proceedings, Wanda’s experiences outside the courtroom make for compelling reading.

‘Some of it was farcical. During one of my own meetings with the psychiatrist, I’d had a chocolate bar and a pie, and I was made to feel I wasn’t capable of cooking healthy foods,’ she says.

‘Were they kidding? The pie was lunch — grabbed because I only had a few minutes to dash to the nearest place that sold food.’


Wanda and her siblings became increasingly convinced that, for the authorities, this was an open-and-shut case — their father would remain in care, no matter how hard they fought.

‘I was made to feel like I didn’t understand how ill my father was. My brother was hauled over the coals for trying to get Dad into court so the judge could see for himself that he was lucid. They kept depicting him as this vegetable.’

‘All we ever wanted was to care for Dad. They told us we couldn’t and threw me in jail for trying.’

When Wanda was ordered to appear for one court session, she simply didn’t turn up, sending a sick note.

That did not impress the judge, who ordered a custodial sentence after hearing that she had repeatedly broken orders not to interfere with her father’s care at the home.

Her brother, Ivan, was also sentenced for defying the Court of Protection, although his two-month sentence was suspended.

The next time she went to visit her father was September 11, the anniversary of the collapse of the Twin Towers. ‘My whole world came down on that day, too,’ she says.

‘The police came in a van and said they had to take me there and then. I wondered if I was in a dream because, surely, these things don’t happen to people like me, not in real life.’

She’s right. They don’t. The reaction of the first prison officer Wanda encountered was proof of that.

‘She looked through the paperwork and the first thing she said was: “There is something wrong here”.

‘She kept saying that I couldn’t have just been put in prison, I’d have had to come here from court. She also couldn’t believe that I’d been imprisoned without having a solicitor.’

Yet she could, and was. The ramifications are staggering.

‘The other inmates just didn’t believe me. They thought I was a fantasist, or that I’d done something so awful I was lying about it.’

For a middle-class businesswoman, who had never been in trouble with the law, prison was a terrible shock. Far worse was the fact that the case was conducted in such extreme secrecy.

‘I wanted to go to the press and say: “Look at what is happening here. Look at what they can do.” But I couldn’t.’

She says she was treated more harshly than violent prisoners.

‘All the others got to go to classes and other recreational events. Instead, they put me in a cell with one of those slits where the metal slides over the door hatch.’

No one told John Maddocks that his daughter — who had always phoned him twice a week in recent years — was in jail.

‘He would have been so confused. I did phone him from prison once, to try to explain, but to be honest I don’t think he took it in.

‘When I got out and went to see him, I’ll never forget what he said: “You don’t bother about me for weeks, then you just turn up . . .” and he walked out of the room.

‘I could see the hurt in his eyes. I tried to explain, saying: “Dad, I’ve been in prison.” But I was told that I couldn’t talk about that.’ John Maddocks died on January 8, 2013, just weeks after being moved to yet another residential home in December 2012.

While authorities insist that he was well cared for and saw a GP and other medical professionals on five separate occasions in the weeks leading up to his death, nothing will convince his daughter that his death was unavoidable.

Wanda sighs. ‘I can’t help but think that if I’d kept him here, he would still be alive today.’

She watches an old woman on the steps below. ‘Do you know, in Turkey, they don’t even know what a care plan is. I tried to tell a friend here about getting power of attorney over my Dad and they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

Here, they don’t have care homes. Old folk move in with their children, and stay there until they die. I can’t help but think they have got the right idea, but it is too late.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...g-neglect.html
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Old April 27th, 2013 #3
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That is a shocking and heart wrenching story. Poor woman! and I feel so utterly heartbroken for her father who must have felt so trapped and imprisoned those last few years of his life. How horrific that this man had a loving caring daughter who only wanted to help her father but was denied that by a bunch of fucking bureaucrats and uncaring bastards eventually leading him to a horrible death without the comfort of being with his family. I'm mortified by this story in every way.

I knew years ago an elderly man who would have moments of clarity in amongst thinking it was during the war and he needed to escape the pow camp. I felt so horrible for him and his family treated him like he wasn't there or like a child. It was horrible to watch. Talking about him like he wasn't in the room and i could see in his face that he had moment of knowing what was happening.

That father in this story probably had the same. I feel so sad and angry for the entire family.
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Old April 29th, 2013 #4
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A secret court is controlling £2billion of assets of thousands of elderly and mentally impaired people and paying them a paltry rate of interest, the Mail reveals today. The controversial actions of the Court of Protection, which one MP has criticised as 'bordering on malpractice', are supposed to uphold the interests of 16,000 vulnerable people - but many claim they destroy the value of savings. Here SUE REID tells the story of Neil Barker, a successful businessman whose finances have been at the mercy of the court since he was injured in a horrific accident.

Neil Barker is, in many ways, a lucky man. At 36, he has a loving girlfriend, Valeria, a five-bedroom house overlooking the park in a smart West London suburb — and he’s made a dramatic recovery from a motorbike crash ten years ago which left him with brain injuries.

All he wants to do is to get on with his life as a successful computer consultant and property restorer — without interference from the State.

But a huge sum of his money is lying in a State bank account controlled by a hidden corner of the legal system: the astonishingly powerful Court of Protection, which has decreed that Neil’s accident means he lacks the mental capacity to handle his own financial affairs.




Neil, who is chatty and clearly lucid, told me last week: ‘It is very stressful to be told by the State that I am not able to make decisions about my own money or investments, especially when that is untrue and I have recovered my health.

‘I was given £1.8 million in compensation by the insurance company after my accident. A lot of that has been frittered away over time by the Court of Protection and I am powerless to do anything to stop it.’

His story is shocking. But Neil is just one of thousands of people whose financial assets are being managed by the Court of Protection (CoP), which was set up by New Labour’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act to make decisions for ill, confused or elderly people deemed to lack the ability to do so for themselves.

The CoP has draconian and sweeping powers. Judges, sitting alone and in secrecy, deal with thousands of cases a year, making far-reaching rulings about almost every aspect of citizens’ lives — and often those of their relatives, too.

They can compel people to undergo surgery, use contraception or have abortions.

They can decide if a life-support system is switched off, where a person lives and with whom — even if their marriage should be annulled and whether their last will and testament is torn up.

Equally controversially, the CoP judges can authorise what are called Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS), which allow council or NHS officials to restrain someone in a hospital, care home or re-training facility for as long as the State deems it to be ‘in their best interests’.

The Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who is campaigning for more openness in the CoP, estimates that there are hundreds of these ‘secret prisoners’ across the country.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...end-money.html


Quote:
A secret court is controlling £2billion of assets of thousands of elderly and mentally impaired people and paying them a paltry rate of interest.

The controversial actions of the Court of Protection were criticised by an MP last night as ‘bordering on malpractice’.

The interest rate – currently much less than they would receive in an ordinary bank account – means that the value of the financial estates are falling rapidly because the rate of inflation is 2.8 per cent.

An investigation by the Daily Mail has uncovered a litany of other complaints about the court, which came under fire last week after it emerged it had jailed a woman for defying its orders over the fate of her elderly father in a care home.

The allegations include claims that:

The court’s officials frittered away people’s money by charging exorbitant fees;
Officials have raided homes in search of documents and read private emails;
The billions controlled by the court are being used to offset the national debt through an arm of the Treasury.

The court sits in private and deals with up to 23,000 cases a year.

It was set up in 2007 by Labour to act in the interests of those deemed incapable of running their own financial affairs because of ill health or old age.

It takes over when an individual suffers sudden mental impairment and has not already handed over power of attorney to a trusted friend or relative.



It now controls huge sums of money for 16,000 vulnerable people.

The money is not at any risk.

However, many families say the low interest rate – equivalent to the Bank of England base rate of 0.5 per cent – produces an income that it is impossible for their loved ones to live on.

Lib Dem MP John Hemming said: ‘The money should be well-managed and pay a decent rate of interest or it borders on malpractice.

'The current rate is risible and losing these 16,000 people, who desperately need a proper income, tens of millions of pounds a year in total.’

The Ministry of Justice said: ‘These accounts are designed to protect funds awarded by the courts with a 100 per cent government-backed guarantee and at zero risk to the individual.

'These are not supposed to be an investment fund.’

Last year Wanda Maddocks, 50, was jailed for moving her father John from a care home against the instructions of the court.

She was held to be in contempt and served six weeks of a five-month term.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...-interest.html
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Old May 2nd, 2013 #5
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Chris Grayling has ordered an urgent review of a controversial court that has the power to make life-or-death decisions – and even send people to jail – in secret.

The Justice Secretary last night asked one of the country’s most senior judges to consider steps to increase the transparency of the shadowy Court of Protection.

Set up in 2007 under Labour’s Mental Capacity Act, it gave the state draconian powers to intervene in the lives of those deemed unfit to look after their own affairs.

Controversy increased when the Daily Mail revealed last month that a woman had been jailed in secret after trying to remove her father from a care home where his family thought he was in danger of dying.

A judge ruled Wanda Maddocks, 50, should go to prison for five months for contempt of court even though she was not present or represented by a lawyer.

She is the first person known to have been imprisoned by the Court of Protection.

Several senior MPs expressed alarm at the case and suggested the Government should review its procedures.

Now the Justice Secretary has written to Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, asking him to expand an existing review of the family courts to consider the use of secret hearings in the Court of Protection.



‘We have already agreed there is a need for greater openness in the family courts, with the intention that we make progress on this as soon as possible in order to ensure public confidence . . .’ he wrote in a letter seen by the Daily Mail.

‘As you will be aware, the issue of transparency in the Court of Protection has also recently attracted media attention.


'While we want to ensure that we balance the interests of safeguarding vulnerable adults with those of increasing the transparency of proceedings, I would welcome your views on how we might best achieve this.

‘Therefore I would like to invite you to consider if you might extend the scope of your work on transparency in the family courts to include arrangements for the Court of Protection.’

Ministers are expected to hold a meeting in the next few weeks with Sir James on how the review will proceed.


A Ministry of Justice source said Mr Grayling had been ‘deeply concerned’ by the idea of people being jailed in their absence and without any public scrutiny and believed reforms must be considered.

MP John Hemming, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and the Court of Protection, said: ‘At last the Government has stopped being complacent and pretending there is no problem.

‘They have been ignoring this issue for years. The Wanda Maddocks case was one where she was imprisoned for taking her father to a solicitor to get legal advice to prove that the courts were wrong.

'That can’t be right. There is a general problem of secrecy right across the family courts. If the legal system won’t stand up to public scrutiny there is something wrong with the legal system – not with public scrutiny.’

Former Liberal Democrat care minister Paul Burstow, who has been critical of the court, welcomed the move.

‘I think a review is timely and should allow us to ensure justice is being seen to be done. We need to bring this more into the light so people understand how this court does its job.

‘It’s also vital that where decisions are being made that have a very direct and considerable impact on families’ lives, that every effort is made to ensure that they actually know what is going on.’

Miss Maddocks was jailed for taking her father John out of his care home against the instructions of a court order that he should not be moved.

She served six weeks of her sentence. A judge ruled Miss Maddocks was causing her father ‘very considerable grief’ and ‘it seems to be only right she should go to prison’.


The Court of Protection, which handles 24,540 cases a year of which 2,700 involve the Official Solicitor, is increasingly being asked to sanction key medical decisions that will either prolong a patient’s life or allow death to take its course.

It also intervenes in other business involving property, financial affairs, divorce and other civil disputes when a person is deemed unable to make decisions.

Set up by the last government, the court was given powers to sit in secret. In practice, it has never opened to the public and only its final judgments are occasionally made available beyond the courtroom.

Niri Shan, a contempt expert with the law firm Taylor Wessing, said: ‘This is in every practical way a secret court. This is troubling. Five months is a long sentence. It is rare that a court will sentence someone to five months for contempt.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...rotection.html
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Old May 3rd, 2013 #6
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Senior judges are to ban the secret jailing of defendants for contempt of court, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The decision comes after emergency talks over the way a woman was given a prison sentence for trying to take her father out of a care home.

Wanda Maddocks, 50, was handed a five-month jail term by the Court of Protection in her absence – and without being represented by a lawyer.


New instructions for judges will lay down that no one should be sentenced to prison for contempt of court behind closed doors.

A judge ruled that Miss Maddocks’ efforts to remove her 80-year-old father from the care home where she believed his life was in danger amounted to wilful defiance of the court.

The sentence was imposed by Judge Martin Cardinal at the Court of Protection in Birmingham without naming any of those involved.


No record of his ruling was published, and secrecy rules forbade anyone to name Miss Maddocks, her father, the local council that asked for her to be imprisoned or the social worker who gave evidence against her.

Judge Cardinal opened his court to the public for the sentencing, but the unlocking of the courtroom doors was announced only to passers-by who happened to be in the corridor outside.

The Mail’s report of the Maddocks case provoked a major row over the Court of Protection, which decides on the affairs of individuals too ill to make decisions for themselves. The Court habitually sits in secret and few of its hearings have ever been subjected to public scrutiny.

The depth of political concern became clear yesterday when it emerged that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wrote to Sir James Munby, the judge in charge of family justice, to ask him to include the Court of Protection in a review currently under way into the workings of the family courts.

The family courts – which handle cases of divorce and child custody, and which rule when children are taken into care or put up for adoption – are rarely open to the public and usually publish only anonymous details of judgements. Sir James is currently exploring ways to make them more open.

The talks on the Maddocks case and secret imprisonment involved both Sir James, who is head of the Family Division of the High Court, and Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, who is the head of the judiciary.

Their decision to ban secret sentencing for contempt was taken before Sir James received the Grayling letter.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...g-scandal.html


Never mind just banning secret jailings - ALL of it should be up for public or at least independent scrutiny.
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Old June 1st, 2013 #7
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A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday.

Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him.

In a case which is certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s shadowy network of secret courts, a judge sent the former music executive to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court hearing in Essex at the beginning of last month.

He was not arrested by police or even represented by a lawyer.

The order silencing Mr Johnson – which follows an acrimonious divorce eight years ago – means he cannot mention either of his boys, 21-year-old Sam and Adam, 18, in public, even by congratulating them in a local newspaper announcement when they get engaged, married or have children in the future.

The extraordinary gag is set to last until the end of his life, although his boys are now adults. Last night they condemned their father’s jailing as ‘cruel and ludicrous’.

After their parents’ divorce, the two boys chose to live with their father, following a series of rows with their mother over her new boyfriend.

But within a year of the divorce, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife made allegations to Essex social workers that he was neglecting the children and not feeding them properly at his smart family home.

An investigation by social workers cleared him of any wrongdoing and said the boys were fine.

A year later, in 2006, she made further allegations to social workers that he was mentally unfit to care for the boys.

Medical documents shown to the Mail by Sam and Adam reveal that Mr Johnson was examined three times by a local psychiatrist hired by social workers. The doctor wrote to social workers saying:



‘There is no evidence of mental illness. I cannot understand why there are concerns about Mr Johnson’s mental health.’

Social services refused, as a result, to get involved.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...aming-him.html
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Old September 9th, 2013 #8
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One of Britain’s most senior judges vowed yesterday to expose family courts to ‘the glare of publicity’ after decades of obsessive secrecy.

In a landmark ruling, Sir James Munby said parents of children taken into care must no longer be gagged by the courts and the public should be told what social workers are up to.

Sir James, who is president of the Family Division of the High Court, said the removal of children from their families had become the most drastic matter judges dealt with now there was no death penalty. He said the rulings could affect mothers for ‘upwards of 60 or even 70 years’ and children for even longer.

There was a ‘pressing need’ for the workings of the family courts to be opened to public view and the arguments for scrutiny and public accountability were compelling.

Parents must be given the freedom to criticise judges, the courts and social workers, and the Press must be free to report what has happened without the interference of judges, Sir James added. The break-up of families by the state must no longer happen in secret, on the pretext of protecting the children involved.

The Mail has reported numerous cases where the names of social workers, experts who advise the courts and even the names of councils have been kept under legal wraps. The voices of those whose families are split up by social workers and kept apart on the orders of family court judges have been routinely silenced.

But Sir James’s unprecedented ruling is likely to punch a hole through this curtain of secrecy.

His judgement came in the case of parents whose four children have been taken into state care. The father made a video of the seizure in April of the couple’s newborn by social workers and police. The film was posted widely over the internet.

Sir James rejected a sweeping injunction designed to effectively prevent anyone in the world from seeing the film, knowing the names of the social workers involved, or even discovering the name of the local authority that applied for the order, Staffordshire County Council.



The order means the video, which includes pictures of the baby, can be more widely distributed and watched by anyone.

The submission by Staffordshire that naming the authority or its social workers would lead to identification of the baby was ‘merely fanciful’, the judge said.


However Sir James said the names of the parents and the baby must stay secret in order to protect the child from any harm publicity might bring.

The parents of the baby, known only as J, have never been accused of harming their children, the father said yesterday. Instead social workers decided that his wife was incapable of bringing them up because of her learning disability, he claimed.

‘Freedom of speech is not something to be awarded to those who are thought deserving and denied to those who are thought undeserving’, Sir James Munby

‘They were taken away as a preventative or precautionary measure,’ he said.

Sir James said the case raised ‘important questions about the extent to which the public should be able to read and see what disgruntled parents say when they speak out about apparent deficiencies in the family justice system’.

He added: ‘It must never be forgotten that, with the state’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which family judges are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make.

‘When a family judge makes a placement order or an adoption order in relation to a 20-year-old mother’s baby, the mother will have to live with the consequences of that decision for what may be upwards of 60 or even 70 years, and the baby for what may be upwards of 80 or even 90 years.’

The ruling in the case of child J promises to end years of gagging of parents, who have found themselves threatened with legal sanctions and imprisonment if they try to talk about what has happened when their children are taken into care or adopted.

Newspapers and broadcasters trying to investigate the behaviour of social workers have found themselves prevented by law from speaking to parents or publishing any details of what has happened to them.

The system has ensured that the stories of how more than 60,000 youngsters who live in children’s homes or with foster parents in the care system cannot be known.

Sir James, who took over as head of the family court system in January, set down new guidance for the courts in July that called for much greater transparency. He said the public had the right to read judgements now rarely published.

The guidance also applies to the Court of Protection, the secretive system which decides the affairs of people too ill to make their own decisions.

Earlier this year Sir James and Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge ordered the family courts and the Court of Protection to stop imposing in secret jail sentences for contempt of court.

This followed the disclosure by the Daily Mail that a Court of Protection judge secretly imprisoned 50-year-old Wanda Maddocks for disobeying its instructions and trying to remove her father from a care home his family disliked.

John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP who has been pressing for more openness in the family courts, said: ‘People have been going to jail for complaining about what is done to them, and that is wrong. This is a good judgement.

‘I was very pleased when Sir James was appointed as president of the Family Division because I thought he would change the direction of an unaccountable and opaque system to an open system.’
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council said: ‘It is a ground breaking ruling because the court has recognised and clarified the need to protect children’s interests within the electronic world that we now live.

‘Ultimately, this ruling means that websites hosted in England and Wales must not publish information which identifies a child who is being protected by care proceedings. From now on children will have the same protection for privacy in the electronic world as they do in print.’


Sir James Munby struck a blow for free speech yesterday, putting the leading judge on a collision course with fellow lawyers and politicians who are trying to restrict it.

As part of a ruling against secrecy in the family courts, Sir James declared: ‘Freedom of speech is not something to be awarded to those who are thought deserving and denied to those who are thought undeserving’.


He defended the right of the Press to criticise – even in the most ‘robust’ terms – and stressed the importance of its power to expose wrongdoing.

His views clashed starkly with those of other judges who have in recent years developed wide privacy laws that have prevented newspapers and broadcasters from publishing uncomfortable truths about the rich and famous.

It also counters Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the culture, practice and ethics of the Press published last autumn.

Lord Leveson condemned the ‘outrageous’ behaviour of some of the Press and called for a new and tougher regulatory system backed by new laws – effectively state regulation of newspapers.

Sir James, who is president of the Family Division of the High Court, said the Press was necessary to ensure scrutiny of the courts and that occasional bad behaviour by some journalists had to be tolerated.

If Press criticism ‘exceeds what is lawful’ there are already laws to deal with that.

‘It is not the role of the judge to seek to exercise any kind of editorial control over the manner in which the media reports information which it is entitled to publish,’ he said. ‘Comment and criticism may be ill informed and based on misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the facts.

‘The fear of such criticism, however justified the fear may be, is, however, not of itself a justification for prior restraint by injunction.’

He also stood up for the rights of tabloid newspapers to express criticism in ‘intemperate language’.

‘If there is no basis for injuncting a story expressed in the temperate or scholarly language of a legal periodical or the broadsheet press, there can be no basis for injuncting the same story simply because it is expressed in the more robust, colourful or intemperate language of the tabloid press or even in language which is crude, insulting and vulgar.

‘The publicist ... may be an unprincipled charlatan seeking to manipulate public opinion by feeding it tendentious accounts of the proceedings. But freedom of speech is not something to be awarded to those who are thought deserving and denied to those who are thought undeserving.’


‘The law must develop and adapt, as it always has done down the years in response to other revolutionary technologies.’

Privacy law, developed by judges and based on the Human Rights Act, has encouraged increasing numbers of celebrities to apply for injunctions concealing embarrassing stories about themselves.

It led to a controversy in 2011 which led to MPs and peers using parliamentary privilege to name two individuals who had used privacy injunctions to suppress news of extra-marital affairs, ex-Royal Bank of Scotland chief Fred Goodwin and footballer Ryan Giggs.
PUBLIC HAVE RIGHT TO KNOW: EDITED VERSION OF SIR JAMES' RULING

There is a pressing need for more transparency, indeed for much more transparency, in the family justice system.

There are a number of aspects to this. One is the right of the public to know, the need for the public to be confronted with what is being done in its name.

Nowhere is this more necessary than in relation to care and adoption cases. Such cases, by definition, involve interference, intrusion, by the state, by local authorities and by the court, into family life.

In this context the arguments in favour of publicity – in favour of openness, public scrutiny and public accountability – are particularly compelling.

The public generally, and not just the professional readers of law reports or similar publications, have a legitimate, indeed a compelling, interest in knowing how the family courts exercise their care jurisdiction.

I have said this many times in the past but it must never be forgotten that, with the state’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which family judges are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make.

When a family judge makes a placement order or an adoption order in relation to a 20-year-old mother’s baby, the mother will have to live with the consequences of that decision for what may be upwards of 60 or even 70 years, and the baby for what may be upwards of 80 or even 90 years. We must be vigilant to guard against the risks.

We must have the humility to recognise – and to acknowledge – that public debate, and the jealous vigilance of an informed media, have an important role to play in exposing past miscarriages of justice and in preventing possible future miscarriages of justice.

The compelling need for transparency in the family justice system is demanded as a matter of both principle and pragmatism.

It is vital that public confidence in the family justice system is maintained or, if eroded, restored. There is a clear and obvious public interest in maintaining the confidence of the public at large in the courts.

It is vitally important, if the administration of justice is to be promoted and public confidence in the courts maintained, that justice be administered in public – or at least in a manner which enables its workings to be properly scrutinised – so that the judges and other participants in the process remain visible and amenable to comment and criticism.

The family lawyer’s reaction to complaints of “secret justice” tends to be that the charge is unfair, that it confuses a system which is private with one which is secret. This semantic point is, I fear, more attractive to lawyers than to others.

The remedy, even if it is probably doomed to only partial success, is – it must be – more transparency; putting it bluntly, letting the glare of publicity into the family courts.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...publicity.html

video can be seen here, along with details of other children taken and forcibly adopted for no reason. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...-services.html
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Old May 18th, 2014 #9
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A judge has slammed a council for removing an elderly woman from her home while the son who cared for her was out.

It took the son 19 days to get the council to tell him where they had taken his mother, and only after he resorted to legal threats.

District Judge Paul Mort described Milton Keynes Council’s treatment of the 81-year-old woman, a former magistrate with severe dementia, as ‘woefully inadequate’.

The council’s social services staff removed the woman and put her in a care home as they thought she may have been abused by her son, who lived with her. But their own inquiries and a subsequent police investigation found no evidence.

Judge Mort said the manner in which the social services removed the woman without getting the correct court orders violated her human rights, and described it as ‘unlawful detainment’.

He also said she now has little prospect of being able to return to her home.



The council has since agreed to apologise to the woman and her son for its ‘failings’.

The details emerged in a ruling made by the judge at the Court of Protection, which deals with cases involving sick and vulnerable people.

He ordered that the woman and her son could not be identified. The woman, a magistrate for 20 years, was described as ‘very independent’. She went to church every Sunday as well as to Bible classes.

The judge said the woman had lived at her house for 32 years and was rooted in her local community. Her son sold his business abroad so he and his partner, along with a care worker he employed, could look after her.

The judge said that in September 2012 the manager of a care centre the woman attended had raised concerns about bruises and scratches on her face and legs. A month later, a visiting student social worker saw more injuries and alerted her bosses.


The same day, the social worker and a colleague visited again while only the care worker was there and removed the woman. The son found out where his mother was after his solicitor wrote to Milton Keynes Council threatening legal action.

The son described to The Mail on Sunday yesterday how he returned home to find his mother gone. He said: ‘The care worker said to me, “The council have taken her to a place of safety.”

‘I thought you need a warrant to enter someone’s house, but they just came and took her away.’

He said it was possible that because the care worker was foreign, she did not understand the sort of rights Britons might expect. He also said he was eventually given access to his mother at the care home, but under severe restrictions. ‘I was only allowed to visit her in the afternoons, and a staff member sat with us,’ he said.

Judge Mort lifted council restrictions that prevented the son from seeing his mother without being monitored by social workers. He can now see her as many times as he likes and take her out.

The ruling also gives the son grounds to make further appeals to bring his mother home. Milton Keynes Council could not be contacted for comment.
ht tp://ww w.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2631432/Judges-fury-social-workers-grab-pensioner-house-son-out.html
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