Abduction


There is a story that has been concerning me over the weekend. It was reported by The Daily Telegraph and while the details of the story are troubling taken prima facie, I can’t help thinking there is a lot that we aren’t being told.

Under the inflammatory ‘Is the state guilty of child kidnap?’ headline, Christopher Booker details the situation where a man was reported by the headteacher of his children’s school to social services because he showed concern about the safety of his children (seems a bit unusual to say the least). The social worker then turns up with the police to take Mr Jones (pseudonym) under a section 136 to a hospital where he was assessed and admitted under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

Mr and Mr Jones, accompanied by their younger son, arrived at school to pick up their daughter, they were met by a group of strangers, one as it turned out a female social worker

OK, why is the gender of the social worker remotely relevant? There is no mention of the gender of any other professional in this article, including police officers, so why mention that the social worker was female? It would probably be more unusual if the social worker were male but then, I think the so-called ‘journalism’ compiled from the files of one family who clearly may have a reason to be angry with social services, is intended to outrage rather than inform.

Back to the story, the Jones children were taken into local authority care.

Mr Jones was discharged from hospital by a Tribunal two weeks later. The children remain in care. His wife was at home while this happened. He contacted various members of the legislature, one of whom contacted the newspaper.

Obviously it is a shocking story, but there is a hunch, just a hunch, mind, that there is an awful lot that isn’t being reported here.

The language of the article is almost sneering in its tone. Of course, I wouldn’t expect balanced reporting as the information source is barely balanced. I doubt the reporter has access to full medical records and to be discharged by a Tribunal is not an indication that no mental health issues ever existed. It could be that either it was not sufficient to warrant admission at that time or that the need for the admission had served its purpose.

I can’t imagine why a local authority would benefit from keeping his children away from him unless they had good reason.

Of course, all the blame in the system lies with social workers – particularly the social worker who turned up at school who

..asked, without explaining why or who she was, whether he was Mr Jones. When she three times refused to show him any ID, he was seized from behind by two policemen, handcuffed and put under arrest

I have to say, personally, I’ve never refused a request to see my ID, in fact, we encourage people to ask us but we don’t have any idea of the circumstances and possibly a speedy exit from the school grounds (where this happened) was seen as the most appropriate action. He was not arrested. He was taken under section 136 which says

The police officer must find the person in “a place to which the public have access” and:

  • the person must appear (to the police officer) to have a mental disorder and to be in “immediate need of care or control”; and
  • the police officer must think it necessary to take the person to a Place of Safety, in the interests of the person her/himself or for the protection of others.

So as would usually happen, he was assessed under Section 2 – this would happen with an AMHP and two doctors present. Apparently, according to the article, his wife was taken as well although she was released within the 72 hour limit.
Of course, we’ll never know what actually happened although it is stated initially that questions were raised due to him claiming to be related to various members of different European Royal Families and has connections which mean that his children require additional security measures be taken at school. The reason offered in the ‘documents’ held by the reporter is that Mr Jones suffers from some kind of ‘delusional belief system’.
The tone being that all the claims made by Mr Jones are true. I wonder though if the children had been attending the same school for a while, that the headteacher would have been suddenly concerned enough to call for social services and that there would have been sufficient grounds to at least, admit him to hospital. My own experience suggests that if anything can be done to keep someone out of hospital, it will be, not least on the brutal issue of the cost of a hospital bed.
Whatever happens, we’ll only ever hear one side of this story but some of the vitriol in the comments following the Daily Telegraph article make you wonder at the levels of hate and disgust with social workers in general.
Regardless of this incident, and there may well have been poor practice involved (which I would never condone), the rage of those members of the public who see fit to comment on newspaper articles never ceases to amaze me.. nor the willingness to believe without question a source which can only ever be one-sided.

13 thoughts on “Abduction

  1. Really good analysis of the Telegraph piece – which is an opinion column dressed up as news. You can find out all you need to know about the article by reading the first sentence

    • That’s true. I went back and read that first sentence again and then again because I couldn’t quite believe it. I was going to write to the Telegraph and complain but then when I saw the comments, I wondered at the point of it..

  2. I rarely read a piece about a child being removed from a parent’s care without thinking about how much is MISSING from the story – because in my experience, the intricacies of child welfare are vast and impossible to recount in a way that others, who were not there, would understand.

    • So very true! It’s the same when they cover people being taken into hospital without consent and this story combines them both. But details make for less ‘exciting’ stories. It just angers me at the levels of plain falsehoods in the stories and it does put people off the joining the profession which I’m more concerned about than what people actually think of me!

  3. Not a comment on the article, but noted BBC’ The One Show’ had a piece about social workers this evening. Not all bad and did give a voice to the profession.Unfortunately it focussed on children’s services and I think it would have proven more beneficial to show other departments.

    • I didn’t see it unfortunately and turned on late to see the baby hedgehogs! I’ll try and catch it on the iPlayer though..

  4. Whether or not there is more to this story in the Telegraph (and I’m sure there is), there is a truth that the State does have frightening power over individuals in our society, particularly when it comes to the Mental Health Act. As a social Worker I see my duty as protecting vulnerable people from abuse (including abuse from the State) and in empowering people to take control of their lives, now known as Personalisation, not to be an agent of social control.

  5. If it’s any consolation, there have been quite a few professionals on the comments section of this story, giving the other side of the equation. Journalists are lazy sometimes frankly, and if something is complex it just gets skimmed over and distorted. It’s the same in health. You just have to keep replying and hope that something gets through.

    • I gave up on the comments after a while but am heartened that some got through. I left one myself actually but haven’t seen it appear!

  6. Great post, CB! I totally agree that there must be something more going on…and often times, when I have to make a call to get Child Welfare involved in my day to day work, I learn that is absolutely the case. The parents are not sharing the full details of their situation and the waters are much deeper and much murkier than they appear.

  7. Your definition of Mental Disorder is incorrect. This is the definition as outlined in the Mental Health Act 2007 There is now a single definition “Any disorder or disability of the mind.” The new definition is no wider than the current one, except that mental disorders considered to be “sexual deviancy” will no longer be excluded. Alcohol and drug dependence will continue to be excluded. In addition, the Act will no longer distinguish between different categories of mental disorder, so the same criteria apply regardless of diagnosis and no-one fails to get the treatment they need because they do not happen to fall within one of these categories. But the limitations on when certain powers can be used solely in respect of learning disability will be kept.

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