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'Abuse' parents should flee UK
7:59am Monday 13th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
An MP is urging parents suspected of child abuse to flee the country rather than face justice in the Family Courts "because you can't rely on the evidence being fair".
John Hemming MP, chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, said he has been contacted by hundreds of parents who claim they have been unfairly targeted by social services.
He tells tonight's Panorama that he believes parents cannot expect a fair hearing when the Family Courts decide whether their children should be taken into care.
"All the cards are held by the local authority. It has large resources to fight the cases, it does all the assessments," the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley said.
"My advice to people if they can afford it is just to go abroad. You can't get a fair trial here, because you can't rely on the evidence being fair. It's best simply to go if you can, at the right time, lawfully."
The BBC1 programme says that last year local authorities made a record 10,000 applications to take children away from their parents and into care, leading to claims that social workers may be overreacting in the wake of cases such as that of Baby P.
But the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service ( Cafcass) , which looks after the interests of children in family proceedings, said more youngsters are being protected.
"We can't play poker with children's safety, we've got to have a system that plays it safe to begin with," chief executive Anthony Douglas said.
"I do think we have a responsibility to make our family courts better, to make them more transparent, to build public confidence in them. To advocate leaving altogether doesn't solve the problem for the vast majority of children and parents who need our courts to be as good as they possibly can be."
In Panorama I Want My Baby Back, reporter John Sweeney investigates four cases where parents say their babies have been unfairly taken away by the Family Courts.
They all took their children to hospital for treatment and were suspected of abuse when doctors spotted tiny fractures on their x-rays.
Unexplained fractures of this type have been taken as evidence of abuse, but that medical certainty is now being challenged with some experts believing that the fractures could be caused by bone abnormalities resulting from a shortage of vitamin D.
One mother who had her young son Harrison taken away when she took him to hospital was Amy Howell. X-rays showed multiple fractures, which were believed to be evidence of abuse, but were later found to be caused by a genetic bone disorder.
Speaking of her ordeal, Ms Howell told the programme: "It's something that stays with you and niggles away at you even when it's finished.
"It will be over when they stop doing this to other people, when I can say that now people have learnt this is happening and they're not going to carry on accusing innocent parents."
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Charity Family Rights Group, slammed Mr Hemming's comments.
"This is crass, ignorant and potentially dangerous advice," she said.
"It could seriously backfire on any parent who follows it. It could put a child at risk in serious danger.
"There is plenty of evidence that the most important factor in safeguarding a child who is deemed at risk, is an open working relationship between the family and social workers.
"Lack of co-operation is likely to result in the local authority seeking to apply for a care order. Parents need to understand their rights, have access to specialist expert advice and the ability to constructively challenge social workers. John Hemmings's encouragement of them to flee is the antithesis of helpful advice to parents in such circumstances."