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26 May 2007

Comments

Nicki

Kate McCann said in the interview "At worst, we were naive".

Uh?! No, at (a very generous)BEST they were naive. At worst they have committed infantcide. More likely, the truth is something between the two, such as abandonment and neglect.

Gerry McCann likened eating out at a tapas bar, described as "a few hundred yards away" (like the timing of checking on the children the distance varies according to who you believe), to "having a meal in the garden".

Uh?! I don't have a garden stretching a few hundred yards and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Of course the tabloids have picked up lines such as "the guilt will be with us for the rest of our lives", rather than the cold and callous statements above, spoken by people who have convinced themselves that they are not to blame and who are asking not only for our belief and sympathy but also our money.

I question the validity of a legal system which permitted Gerry McCann, one of the last people to see this innocent child and who has not even been properly questioned, to enter the country and then leave again! No doubt you will be able to comment on that, Tony.

As for the McCanns running all round the world on money given by people far worse off than themselves, I think it's disgusting. If I had the time, I'd start a campaign to have them extradicted from wherever they may happen to be and brought back to the UK for questioning.

Tony

Nicki,
You ask pertinently:
"I question the validity of a legal system which permitted Gerry McCann, one of the last people to see this innocent child and who has not even been properly questioned, to enter the country and then leave again! No doubt you will be able to comment on that, Tony."
----------------------------------------------------------------------
I suspect you know the answer! Those involved in child abuse/abduction/murder are almost always those who are known to the victim-parents,"uncles" baby sitters. I'm sure the police in Portugal will have questioned the parents and certainly Gerry , who was the last to see the child alive.

Nicki

Tony

You say that you're sure the police in Portugal will have questioned the parents. Perhaps so, but I've not seen that confirmed anywhere. I know that the Portugese legal system requires that some facts are kept quiet, but these parents have been anything other than quiet, and if they'd been questioned I'm sure they would have been moaning about that, as well as all the other accusations and complaints about the authorities.

sophie

You are absolutely correct on the law - s1(1)Childrens and Young Persons Act 1933 would be applicable here.....if Social Services or the NSPCC even cared to investigate this case.
Source: I am studying Law...

The McCanns have also employed the services of a QC from a set of chambers in London who deal specifically in Child Law... why pray would they be doing this unless they anticipated that an action for neglect might be brought against them???

Jacqueline

Could you please sign this petition asking Leicestershire Social Services to investigate the conduct of the McCanns:
http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?June2007

Edward

Leics Social Services have a duty to investigate and this should have begun by now

Remarte

Yes the law in Portugal is similar.
The parents could be prosecuted and that was already mentioned in the media but, was immediately dropped by the authorities.

Priority one: Find the girl;
then, Ask for criminal responsibility (that's how it works)

gwen puxty

An introduction to the child protection system in the UK
by Helen Walters (NSPCC Library and Information Service) January 2007
Child protection in England and Wales is the overall responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills (DfES). The DfES issues both statutory guidance to local authorities (which must be followed) and non-statutory guidance (which the DfES suggests local authorities follow). Local authorities use this guidance to produce their own procedures which should be followed by practitioners and professionals who come into contact with children and their families in that particular local authority area.

A similar system exists in Northern Ireland, where it is the responsibility of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to issue guidance to the four local health and social services boards. In Scotland, it is the Scottish Executive who issues guidance to local authorities. The National Assembly for Wales has recently started producing some guidance of its own for local authorities within Wales.

Although there has been legislation in force since the 1880s to prosecute people accused of child cruelty charges, it has taken a series of high profile child abuse deaths and subsequent inquiries to establish the child protection system we have today. The first formal child death inquiry report was the Curtis Committee Report into the death of Dennis O'Neill in 1945, who was killed at the age of 12 by his foster father. The death of 7-year-old Maria Colwell in 1973 led to the establishment of the modern child protection system, with further changes prompted partly by the inquiries into the deaths of 4-year-old Jasmine Beckford in 1984 and 8-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000.

The legislative framework for today's child protection system in England and Wales is found in The Children Act 1989, in Northern Ireland in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and in Scotland in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. These acts have since been amended by subsequent legislation and the Children Act 2004 introduces a number of changes to the way the child protection system is structured and organised in England and Wales, which are due to come into force between 2006 and 2008.

This briefing outlines how the child protection system currently works in England. The other UK jurisdictions - Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland - have their own systems, legislation and guidance which work in similar ways.

Over recent years the term safeguarding has been introduced. Safeguarding is a wide concept which means promoting children's welfare and putting measures in place to improve children's safety and prevent abuse. Child protection is the part of the safeguarding process where it is necessary to intervene when there is a reasonable belief that a child is at risk of significant harm.

Reporting child protection concerns
A member of the public who has a concern about the welfare of a child should report their concerns to either their local authority child protection team (a telephone number including an out-of-hours contact should be publicly available), the NSPCC helpline (0808 800 5000) or the police.

Most professionals who work with children and families have internal procedures to follow if they have concerns about the welfare of a child. All schools must have a designated child protection teacher, who is approached in the first instance. Health sector organisations similarly have designated nurses and doctors who deal with child protection issues. Other organisations may have their own procedures which involve going through the line-manager channel. There are no mandatory reporting laws in the UK but guidance issued by professional bodies and local safeguarding children boards emphasises the need to make a referral where there is a reasonable belief that a child is at risk of significant harm.

After a referral is made
Referrals made to the NSPCC Helpline and police are passed on to the local authority child protection team. If there is concern that a child may be in immediate danger, the police are also able to take immediate action themselves. This may involve removing the child to a place of safety or preventing their removal from a safe place (eg a hospital). The child may be taken into police protection for a maximum of 72 hours, without first obtaining a court order. This power should only be used in exceptional circumstances. It is usual for the local authority to be involved in making accommodation arrangements for a child who has been taken into police protection.

Once the local authority child protection team receives a referral, it must decide within 24 hours what action to take. The local authority has the duty to investigate concerns about any child who is physically present in their area, even if the child is a resident of a different local authority.

They may decide that the child has not been harmed and is not at risk and no further action is necessary (although the case could be referred to other agencies if appropriate).

If they decide that the child may be at risk, an initial assessment is necessary to gather more information. This initial assessment must be completed within 7 working days of the referral to the child protection team.

If at any point during the assessment process it becomes apparent that the child is in immediate danger, the team can apply for an emergency court order. An emergency protection order allows a child to be removed from home for up to 8 days. Another option is the exclusion order which would ban the alleged abuser from the family home allowing the child to stay with the non-abusive parent.

The NSPCC is named in section 31 of The Children Act 1989 as an authorised person , which means it also has the power to apply directly for a court order if it believes a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.

Initial assessment
The social worker responsible for undertaking the assessment meets with the child and family members and liaises with other professionals who know the family (including teachers, health visitors, police, and doctors) to gather information about the needs of the child, whether the parents can adequately safeguard the child and what action is necessary. The Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (DoH, 2000) sets out how this assessment should be done.

If it is decided that the child is in need of further support from social services, then they are officially designated a child in need (as defined by section 17 of the Children Act 1989). Under this section, local authorities have a duty to provide services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need.

If the child is not deemed to have suffered actual, or be at risk of likely, significant harm , then the social worker will meet the child, family and colleagues to determine and organise appropriate support services. The outcomes will be reviewed and the case closed when appropriate.

Harm is defined in The Children Act 1989 as ill-treatment (including sexual abuse and non-physical forms of ill-treatment) or the impairment of health (physical or mental) or development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural) and amended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to also include "for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another". The court decides whether the harm is significant, by comparing the health and development of a child "with that which could be reasonably expected of a similar child" .

If the child is judged to have suffered, or be at risk of, significant harm, then a strategy discussion is held. Professionals from the relevant agencies will meet to decide whether to initiate a section 47 enquiry .

Section 47 enquiry
Section 47 of The Children Act 1989 lays out the enquiries that the local authority needs to undertake. Following the procedures set out in Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (DoH, 2000), the child protection officer takes the lead on undertaking a core assessment . This will involve gathering more information from the child, parents, family members and other professionals.

If the child is deemed to be at risk of continuing significant harm, the decision is made to hold a child protection conference . The child protection conference must be held within 15 working days of the strategy discussion.

Child protection conference
A child protection conference is attended by the child protection officers (social workers), other relevant professionals who have been involved with the assessment process, and family members. The child may be invited to attend if it is judged they are of sufficient age and understanding. The guidance for holding child protection conferences is contained in Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (DoH, 1999).

The decision whether or not to place a child on the child protection register is taken at this case conference. Each local authority keeps its own child protection register, which is a confidential list of children in its area who are at continued risk of significant harm. If the child is placed on the register, then a review conference must be held after three months, and then every six months, thereafter for as long as the child's name remains on the register. A child protection plan is prepared and a core group is designated to meet regularly to monitor the progress of the outcomes contained in the plan.

The child protection plan contains details of how social services will check on the child's welfare, what changes are needed to reduce the risk to the child and what support will be offered to the family.

Child protection conferences can also take place before the birth of a child. This can happen if, for example, there is a history of child abuse from the parents, or if the mother is substance-dependant or suffering from mental health problems.

Generally the parents are kept informed and involved during the whole assessment process, except where it is considered that this poses too much of a risk to the child. Professionals must ascertain the wishes of the child and if the child is deemed competent, they might also take part in the child protection conference and any later care proceedings.

Placing a child on the child protection register is a mechanism which allows professionals to record and share their concerns, so that the child and family can receive the support and services they need to keep the child safe.

Care proceedings
Following the discussions during the child protection conference, the child protection team may decide that care proceedings are necessary in order to keep the child safe.

Care proceedings are usually held in the Family Proceedings Court, where cases are heard by a bench of three magistrates. This court is also responsible for awarding emergency protection orders. More complex cases may be transferred to the county court or high court, where decisions are made by judges.

The first step is usually to apply to the courts for an interim care order. The local authority has to produce a care plan, detailing where the child shall live and arrangements for attending school and seeing parents. In some cases, the child may continue to live with the parents under specified conditions. If these conditions are not met, then the local authority is able to intervene, without having to obtain a separate court order. An interim care order is awarded for eight weeks in the first instance, and then must be renewed every four weeks.

An interim care order gives the professionals enough time to complete their assessments and collect evidence for the final care order hearing. It also gives them time to work with the family to see if the child can be returned. This is known as twin track planning , as the local authority should be simultaneously looking at rehabilitation and placement.

At the final hearing, the court will decide whether to make a full care order. During care proceedings, the court will appoint a children's guardian (an expert welfare officer), whose job it is to represent the best interests of the child. If a child is judged to be sufficiently mature, they will be allowed to appoint their own solicitor, to represent their own wishes as well.

To make a care order, the court must be convinced that the threshold criteria set out in section 31 of The Children Act 1989 are met (that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm and that the harm is attributable to the parents or carers). The court must also be convinced that making an order is better for the child than making no order at all - this is known as the presumption of no order .

Once a care order is awarded, the care plan for the child will be implemented. Depending on the circumstances of the individual, the child may continue to live at home or be placed in kinship care (with other members of the family), foster care or a children's home. In some cases the care plan may contain plans to return the child to their family, which may or may not result in the care order being discharged.

A care order gives the local authority parental responsibility for a child. In theory, this parental responsibility is shared with the parents, but in practice, the local authority has the power to determine the extent to which a parent or guardian is involved with their child and how far they are allowed to exercise their parental responsibility.

In circumstances where it would be unsafe for the child to return to live with her/his natural parents, the local authority may seek to have the child adopted. An adoption order (which transfers parental responsibility to the adoptive parents) is only made by a court following extensive enquiries. The sole criteria for deciding if the order should be made, is the best interest of the child. At the point of the adoption the care order is discharged and the adoptive parents take over sole parental responsibility. Otherwise, care orders last until the child turns 18, but local authorities have a duty to continue to promote the welfare of care-leavers until the age of 21.

Looked-after children
Children become "looked-after" by local authorities if they are subject to a care order. A child may be "looked-after" by the local authority, but may still be living with their parents (under the terms of the care plan). Children may also be looked-after under section 20 of The Children Act 1989 . This means children are accommodated with the permission of their parents, which may be because the parents are unable to cope, or short-term respite care for children with disabilities or long-term care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Serious case reviews
If a child dies or is seriously injured and abuse or neglect is thought to be a factor, then the local safeguarding children board is required to carry out a serious case review to find out what went wrong, learn lessons and improve interagency working. Procedures for carrying out serious case reviews are contained in Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (DoH, 2006). The local safeguarding children board is an inter-agency forum, set up by the local authority, to agree how different services and professionals groups should co-operate to safeguard children and to ensure arrangements are working to bring about good outcomes for children.

In certain circumstances the government or the local authority may establish an inquiry following the death of a child, such as the Bichard Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells or Lord Laming's inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie.

Every Child Matters programme
Lord Laming's inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie led to the government publishing Every child matters (DfES, 2003), which in turn led to the Children Act 2004. The Children Act 2004 provides the legal framework for the Every Child Matters programme for change, which introduces sweeping changes to the way children's services are structured in England and Wales. On the whole, the Children Act 2004 does not replace The Children Act 1989 , although it does contain a couple of provisions which amend the earlier Act.

The Children Act 2004 focuses on improving the outcomes for all children (not just those in need or at risk of significant harm) by placing a lot of emphasis on more integrated working processes and procedures between all agencies and placing a duty on "relevant partners" to co-operate and share information. The 5 outcomes contained in Every child matters (DfES 2003) and re-iterated in the Children Act 2004 are: be healthy; stay safe; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution; and achieve economic well-being. Agencies also have a duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The Children Act 2004 made a number of changes to the way that children's services are structured and delivered in England and Wales. Local safeguarding children's boards (LSCBs) were put on a statutory footing in England in April 2006 and in Wales in October 2006 and replaced the non-statutory area child protection committees. Each local authority in England (referred to in the Act as children's services authorities) was required to have a children and young people's plan in place by 2006, to give strategic direction for all services to children. It is expected that by 2008 all English children's services authorities will have a children's trust which is responsible for planning, commissioning and ensuring the delivery of these services. By 2008, all local authorities in England will have a children's services director who will be professionally accountable for the delivery of services provided by the children's trust - which includes all education and social services functions for children. There will also be an elected councillor designated as lead member for children's services. The director, lead member and LSCB are the people in each English local authority who are responsible for producing and implementing the child protection procedures and policies for professionals working with children.

It is expected that the Every Child Matters programme will be in place by 2008. Until then, work continues, to produce, amongst other things, a common assessment framework, that can be used by any professional to identify a child's needs at an early stage and an integrated framework for inspection of children's services.

References
The Children Act 1989
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO)

The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
Belfast: Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO)

Children (Scotland) Act 1995
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO)

Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF)
Her Majesty's Government
London: Department for Education and Skills (DfES), 2006

Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (PDF)
Department of Health (DoH); Department for Education and Employment (DfEE); Home Office
London: The Stationery Office (TSO), 2000

Adoption and Children Act 2002
London: The Stationery Office (TSO)

Every child matters. Cm 5860.
Department for Education and Skills (DfES)
London: The Stationery Office (TSO), 2003

Children Act 2004
London: The Stationery Office (TSO)

Further reading
The child in mind: a child protection handbook.
Barker, Judy, and Hodes, Deborah
London: Routledge, 2004
ISBN: 0415321751

Child protection: an introduction.
Beckett, Chris
London: Sage, 2003
ISBN: 0761949569

The child protection system: a guide to the law.
Daly, Christine, and Hamilton, Carolyn
Children's Legal Centre
Colchester, Essex: Children's Legal Centre, 2003

What to do if you're worried a child is being abused
Department of Health (DoH); Home Office; Department for Education and Skills (DfES); Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Lord Chancellor's Department; Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
London: Department of Health (DoH), 2003

Child abuse. 3rd ed.
Lyon, Christina, Cobley, Cathy, Petrie, Stephanie, and Reid, Caroline
Bristol: Family Law, 2003
ISBN: 0853085765.

Child protection. 2nd ed.
Smith, Fergus, and Lyon, Tina
South Croyden, Surrey: Children Act Enterprises, 2004
ISBN: 1899986960

Every Child Matters website
http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/

Other UK jurisdictions
Northern Ireland
Child Care and Protection: Law and Practice in Northern Ireland.
Kerry O'Halloran
Dublin: Round Hall Ltd, 2003
ISBN: 1858003660

Area Child Protection Committees' Regional Policy and Procedures (PDF)
Eastern Health and Social Services Board, Northern Ireland : Area Child Protection Committee
Armagh ; Belfast ; Ballymena ; Londonderry : EHSSB : NHSSB : SHSSB : WHSSB, 2005

Northern Ireland child care law : "the rough guide" (PDF)
Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Belfast : DHSSPS, 2004

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety - child protection
www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/child_protection

Scotland
Child Care Law: Scotland
Plumtree, Alexandra
London: BAAF, 2005
ISBN 1903699746

Scottish Executive website - Support for children and families
www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Young-People/children-families

Wales
All Wales child protection procedures
All Wales Unit 2004

Child care law: England and Wales.
Cullen, Deborah; Lane, Mary
London: British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), 2005

National Assembly for Wales - Children & Young People's Pages
www.wales.gov.uk/subichildren/index.htm


This information briefing is based on a review of research and literature. It reports the findings and views of a range of authors. These views are not necessarily the views of the NSPCC.

Although the websites listed here are checked regularly, the constantly changing nature of the internet means that some sites may alter after we have viewed them. The NSPCC is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, the content of these external websites.

Printable version
If you have a concern about a child please contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000
Registered Charity Number 216401 Terms and Conditions Copyright NSPCC 2002 - 2006

samantha

Tony what do you think abut this blog from Gerry Mccann ?

Day 80 - 22/07/2007

Spent the whole day travelling from the Algarve to Washington where I will be visiting the National and International Centers for Missing and Exploited Children and meeting politicians involved in recent legislation on missing children. The flights for our campaign manager and myself were kindly donated by an airline.

There is a very upsetting story on the front page of a British National Newspaper today. The headline suggests that Kate and I face prosecution for neglecting our children by dining 50 yards away and checking on them regularly. We know that there has been criticism in some quarters of our actions but at the time, we felt our actions were responsible. We were essentially performing our own baby listening service although we have talked of the guilt we felt at now being there at the moment Madeleine was taken.

We have been advised that legally our behaviour was well within the bounds of responsible parenting and subsequently been assured that no action will be taken. These types of criticism, particularly at this stage, as well as being hurtful are extremely unhelpful in the search for Madeleine. From the moment we discovered Madeleine missing Kate and I have done everything in our power to try and help get her back.

Our opinion now is completely clouded by what has happened to us and of course has sent shock waves through thousands of families. The real issue is that we should not have a constant fear of abduction of our children from their bedrooms, gardens or streets for that matter. What Kate and I did was at worst naïve and no one should forget that the real criminal is the predator who has taken a completely innocent child in such a premeditated fashion. It is this act that has wreaked havoc on our family and affected millions of other people

zina

Gerry McCann has just been here to the USA, and again has denied any responsibility for leaving his children alone. Now he is saying they were only 50 yds away, next it will be only 25 yds. I don't care if they are prosecuted or not, but I just wish they would publicly admit that they were at fault in leaving their children unattended in a foreign country and take some responsibility for his daughters disappearance and publicly admit it, right now his self-righteous defensive stance just makes me want to throw up.

Remarte

Police start to suspect that the girl was killed inside the room by accident.
They will now focus in the family and friends.
(Today on the Portuguese newspapers)
it's just news. The value of them...
lets wait

Dora

"Gerry McCann has just been here to the USA, and again has denied any responsibility for leaving his children alone. Now he is saying they were only 50 yds away, next it will be only 25 yds. I don't care if they are prosecuted or not, but I just wish they would publicly admit that they were at fault in leaving their children unattended in a foreign country and take some responsibility for his daughters disappearance and publicly admit it, right now his self-righteous defensive stance just makes me want to throw up."

SECOND THAT.

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