Much heat - and very little light - has been generated during the last few days as a result of another story from the Times’ Andrew Norfolk. Clearly not fazed by the speed at which his “Muslim fostering” story fell apart, Norfolk has once again pointed at the Scary Muslims™ as he presses all the usual hate-generating buttons: grooming gangs, rape, victims, Rotherham Council (in the wrong by default, just like Tower Hamlets).
Andrew Norfolk - another demonising effort gone wrong
But let's hand over to Transparency Project for a moment: as they told yesterday, “Today sees another Andrew Norfolk front page article in The Times about the wrongs committed in the Family Court and by social services. Sadly, just like last time, this is a sensationalised headline and article which ignores some important facts and legal context”. The headline read “Jailed rapist given chance to see his victim’s child”.
As TP notes, “The Times seems barely able to bring itself to say that the rapist was the child’s father - in the absence of that connection being pointed out, any reader of the headline will probably have boggled at what it seemed to suggest, that he would have access to an unrelated child”. Norfolk then makes a significant error.
He claimed “A government spokesman said court rules made it ‘very clear that applicants in care proceedings should only ever notify people who have parental responsibility for the child’”. But TP advises “We suggest that the shadow police and crime minister, the Victims Commissioner, the unnamed MoJ / government sources and Norfolk himself should take a look at Practice Direction 12C to the Family Procedure Rules 2010” (relevant part HERE).
There is more: “[this] makes it mandatory for a local authority applying for care orders (as it appears this local authority was) to formally notify a father of the existence of proceedings”. Even a convicted rapist who is doing a 35 stretch. So did Rotherham Council offer the jailed father access to the child? TP is not so sure about that.
“[This reference] appears that this is actually no more than another reference to the local authority having given the father notice of the court case, through which (if he had chosen to become involved) he could have sought contact or parental responsibility. This is supported by a video that the mother of the child posted online today in which she says that the local authority ‘offered him to apply for parental rights’”.
They conclude “It would have been perfectly legitimate for the mother or for Norfolk (or the various people quoted) to complain that the rule itself is wrong, or that on the facts of this case the local authority should have argued for the rule to be disapplied – but that is not what this article does (and one suspects that would have made a less compelling lead item)”. Although they do cite one successful case where the local authority did not have to notify the father, one wonders how a cash strapped council would approach that.
Then, the child’s mother identified herself, and it was abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse. She is clearly not only concerned, but also Norfolk’s source. This was done just in time for the story to become Open Season on all those rubbish local authorities, and who else should stick his bugle in and declare that he knows more than everyone else put together than former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan.
Morgan, using the bully pulpit given him by ITV’s Good Morning Britain, went off the end of the pier in no style at all. Moreover, his co-host Susanna Reid is not blameless.
Ms Reid read out Rotherham Council’s statement, which pointed out that they had to comply with legal requirements, including Practice Directions (see above). The manner in which she read it out sounded dismissive, and it was clear that neither she, nor Morgan, had been briefed on the legal requirements with which the Council was complying.
Morgan, in fact, then sneered “What a load of crap. Really, Rotherham Council? That's your response, that's your defence, for allowing a serial rapist who impregnated a young girl... what a disgrace”. Rotherham Council aren’t allowing anything. They’re doing what the law tells them to do. Piers Morgan has the responsibility of being knowledgeable, to the extent that he gives viewers the true story, and not misinformed ranting.
He then made matters worse, frothing that there was another statement, but that he wasn’t going to read it. By now, the grandstanding was so bad that Charlotte Hawkins had to try and read the Ministry of Justice’s statement - which had some significant information in it - despite Morgan trying to wave it away. Here’s the relevant MoJ line.
“Local authorities can apply to courts to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings, courts should consider the potential harm to the child and the mother when making this decision”. Rotherham Council’s only mistake was not to request permission not to notify the father. Would that have been for cost reasons, or did someone just foul up? But Morgan wasn’t interested.
“What a load of crap, seriously we should never have read that” he sneered. Wrong, Piers. Not only should you have read it, you owe it to all your viewers to get sufficiently knowledgeable about the subject and explain what happened. Except that isn’t Piers Morgan’s game. His game is a combination of self-aggrandisement and misinformation.
Yes, Ms Woodhouse is absolutely right to be not merely concerned, but even alarmed. Yes, this could have been done differently. But Rotherham Council were doing exactly what the law says they have to do in the circumstances. They don’t make the law. And nor can they amend it - or choose to ignore it. As to whether they considered going to court to apply not to notify the father, it would be interesting to hear their response. But no way should it be done in front of a clown like Piers Morgan.
Piers Morgan ate Andrew Norfolk’s turkey whole. Pity it didn’t choke the SOB.
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