By Christopher Booker
Police are strangely compliant helpers when social workers arrive to remove children from their mothers, says Christopher Booker
There have been developments in the shocking story I reported last week of the south London mother who for nine days had been incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital so that her two children could be handed over by social workers her estranged husband. Although they are not divorced, she parted from him some years ago because she thought his promiscuous lifestyle was incompatible with bringing up two young girls.
This bizarre episode began when six policemen, three psychiatric workers and three social workers arrived outside her home, threatening to beat down the door. Inside the house. the mother and her children, aged nine and 11, were terrified, Having sectioned the mother under the Mental Health Act, they removed her to the hospital and handed the children to their father, now a solicitor but formerly himself a social worker, It seemed the accusation against the mother, initiating in letters of complaint she had written about various public authorities after the death of her oldest daughter in a well-known London hosital, was that she was suffering from a â persecution complex’/. When a consultant psychiatrist interviewed her in the hospital, he apparently found her replies so sane that he said â I’ll have to ask the social workers what’s wrong with you’.
Last week the mother asked to appear before a tribunal, which met on Wednesday. Its three members, including a doctor and a solicitor, heard evidence from the psychiatrist, who now seemed to have completely changed his tune, explaining why he thought she was, as the social workers alleged, â delusional’. The tribunal, having heard her own version of the story, found his evidence wholly unconvincing and ordered her release, because nothing was wrong with her, She assumed she would now be able to reclaim her children, but her husband repeatedly put off any meeting, On Thursday, she received anguished calls from her girls on their mobile, begging to be allowed to come home, When later in the day she arrived at their school to pick them up, they flung themselves into her arms, Then her husband arrived and they got into his car, imagining they would be able to return home with their mother. But he drove off with them, saying later that the mother could meet him the following day in the presence of social workers.
Early on Friday morning she reported that the police were again beating on her door. She had also learned that her children’s mobiles had been confiscated, Distraught she managed to contact a solicitor. Later in the day, to her astonishment, she was rung by a social worker to say that arrrangements would be made for the girls to be returned to her, At time of going to press, it therefore seems this murky tale may have a happy ending. But it still raises very serious questions, not least the part played by the police.
In several other stories I have reported recently involving the seizure of children by social workers, the police seem to have played an extraordinarily compliant role, as in the case where six policemen and three social workers burst into a hospital ward at 3 am to wrest a new-born baby from its mother’s arms with considerable force.
Why is that the police seem so ready to act on the instructions of social workers, turning up mob-handed and prepared, as in several cases I have reported, to act with what seems wholly unnecessary aggression against defenceless, loving mothers? Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Commissioner, said last week that â providing cover for social workers and other agencies’ had taken the police â away from their core responsibilities’. As I continue to follow the horrifying disarray of our family protection system, the peculiar part played in it by the police is a theme to which I shall return.