Forced adoption: another win for the child snatchers
The case of Tony and Debbie Sims illustrates the cruelty of our child protection system, says Christopher Booker.
Seventy-four court hearings : Tony and Debbie Sims
By Christopher Booker 9:00PM GMT 20 Nov 2010
In 43 years of medical practice, said the family’s GP, he had “never encountered a case of such appalling injustice”. To their neighbours, it was so shocking that up to 100 of them were ready to stage a public protest, until being banned from doing so by social workers and the police.
This was the case of Tony and Debbie Sims, which I first reported in July 2009 under the headline “ 'Evil destruction’ of a happy family”, and whom I can now name because their daughter, torn from them for no good reason, has finally, after three years of misery in foster care and 74 court hearings, been adopted.
The story of Mr and Mrs Sims was my first introduction to that Kafka-esque world of state child-snatching which I have so often reported on since. It illustrates so many of the reasons why, hidden behind its self-protective wall of secrecy, this ruthless and corrupt system has become a major national scandal.
Until April 2007, Mr Sims, a professional dog breeder, and his wife, then a branch vice-chairman of the local Conservative Party, were a respectable middle-class couple living happily with their five-year-old daughter, who was the apple of their eye. Shortly after Mr Sims was interviewed by the RSPCA over his unwitting infringement of a new law banning the tail-docking of puppies, their home was invaded by two RSPCA officials and 18 policemen, who had been given a wholly erroneous tip-off that there were guns on the premises.
When the dogs were released from their kennels and rampaged through the house, ripping apart his daughter’s pet boxer, Mr Sims strongly protested – verbally but not physically. He and his wife were arrested and taken away, leaving their little girl, aged five, screaming amid the chaos. Social workers were called and the child was removed into foster care. While Mrs Sims was being held for several hours in a police cell, she had a miscarriage. She returned home that night to find her daughter gone.
When the couple next saw their child – months later, at a “contact” – she said she had been told they were dead and had gone to heaven. For three years they tried to get her back through those 74 court hearings. The social workers claimed the child had been maltreated, because her home was an unholy mess. But this was only because of the police raid and the dogs – a WPC who had visited the house a month earlier on other business reported that it had been “neat and tidy”.
The child could not understand why she was not allowed to go back home with her parents. The courts were unable to consider a report by an experienced independent social worker which the couple were told described them as responsible and loving parents. The only evidence the court heard was that from the social workers and their own “experts”.
When the couple were eventually told that their child would be adopted, they appealed. In a judgment last year, which the media were permitted to report, Mr Justice Boden ruled that because the parents had not shown sufficient co operation with the authorities (after four psychiatric assessments of the couple, the father refused to submit to a fifth), the adoption had to go ahead.
One of the first people to contact the parents when this was made public was that independent social worker, who expressed astonishment, saying he had assumed that, because the social workers’ case seemed so flimsy, the family would have long since been reunited. Last week, however, Mr and Mrs Sims had a two-sentence note to say their daughter has now been adopted.
Since I first wrote about this case in 2009, I have come to recognise many of its features in dozens of others I have followed: the mob-handed involvement of the police; the seizing of children for no good reason; the inability of social workers to admit they have made a mistake; the way lawyers supposedly acting for the parents seem to be on the other side; the refusal of judges to look objectively at all the evidence, and their willingness to accept nonsense if told to them by social workers and their “experts”. Too often, these proceedings get away with standing every honourable principle of British justice on its head.
Such is the Frankenstein’s monster created by Parliament in the 1989 Children Act. Yet apart from the tireless John Hemming, and a handful of other MPs shocked into awareness by individual cases in their constituencies, the majority seem wholly unconcerned. So what do we pay them for?