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Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television


Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television
10/10/10 - 500 parents in legal action to win back 'stolen' children taken into care (Sunday Mirror)

____________________________________________________________________________15/09/10 - Parents of forcibly adopted baby condemn 100 per cent success record of Enfield’s social workers (The Enfield Advertiser)___________________________________________________________________________
17/02/09 - 
Social Workers Who Snatched Four Day-Old Baby (ITV London Tonight)
24/05/07The rank hypocrisy of family court judges (The Times)
21/12/06Family courts are the B-side of the law (The Times)

09/06/06The scandal of the baby snatchers (Daily Mail)
(Before Gagging Order!)

Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television

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Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television

500 parents in legal action to win back 'stolen' children taken into care
(By Martyn Halle)

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Hundreds of heartbroken parents who claim social services "stole" their children have launched a legal bid to win them back.
The 500 mums and dads say it is impossible to get justice in the UK and have turned to an international court.
Families argue they are the victims of social workers who are over-zealous after cases such as Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter and a process in family courts which is excessively secretive.
They also say that the courts rely too heavily on the opinions of experts or social workers and that it is wrong that there is no right of appeal. The UK now has 64,000 children in care...a 6pc rise since 2006.
If the Court of Human Rights in The Hague backs the new case, it could let parents bring proceedings against councils - and get their children back.
One dad told the Sunday Mirror last year he had lost his daughter to adoption days after her birth.
Crystal Walton, with her birth parents Ian & Sarah Walton"Crystal" was taken because of an unproven allegation that Alan (Ian Walton is his real name) had harmed his son from a previous marriage.

Alan, 44, who is campaigning for a change in the law, found that over five years his local authority, Enfield in North London, had succeeded in all 43 cases where it wanted to take a child into care. He said: "It's hard to believe they right every time.
In my case there was no evidence our girl would be harmed by me or my wife. Yet she was 'snatched' without warning."
And another dad in Nottingham whose three boys were taken after a tip-off said he and his wife were never told the allegation against them. Sam Hallimond, of pressure group Freedom Advocacy and Law, organising the court action, said: "Families are fighting injustices, with children being taken on vague allegations."
Mr Hallimond, who had his daughter taken for adoption in Suffolk, added: "If the court agree our rights have been breached, we could bring prosecutions against councils and possibly get our children back."
Lib Dem MP John Hemming, backing the legal action, said: "We are challenging a system where simply believing a child is at risk can see them taken into care - or being adopted and lost for ever."

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Parents of forcibly adopted baby condemn 100 per cent success record of Enfield’s social workers
(By Nick Tarver)

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I Crystal Walton was Stolen By Enfield Social Services, from my Mum & Dad! (Sarah & Ian Walton)
Questions have been raised after 100 per cent of applications by Enfield’s social workers to forcibly remove children from their families were approved by the courts in the past four years.
Figures obtained by the Advertiser under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the past four years, every single one of the 43 placement orders Enfield Council has applied for has been granted by the courts.
A placement order authorises a local authority to place a child for adoption where there is no parental consent, or where consent should be dispensed with.
The controversial power of forced adoption is intended to safeguard children from parental abuse or neglect, but serious concerns have been raised over its widespread use and lack of transparency.
The 100 per cent success rate in Enfield cases has led to fears the courts are just rubber-stamping forced adoptions rather than going against the recommendations made by social workers.
In June 2009 a little girl from Enfield – who along with her parents cannot be named for legal reasons – was forcibly adopted after her father was accused of hurting his child from a previous marriage, although he was never charged, let alone convicted.
He has strenuously denied the accusation and is still allowed full and unsupervised access to the child he was accused of hurting. But his daughter, who is now five years old and living permanently with a new family, was taken by social workers when she was just a few days old on the grounds that she could have suffered “potential future harm”.
The evidence against the father was so flimsy that the judge who eventually ordered the adoption, Mr Justice Mark Hedley, even said: “The father has never been prosecuted for any offence, nor have I seen evidence on which a jury could be sure of guilt of any offence.”
Despite this, the judge was still loath to go against advice from social workers and previous judicial decisions and the little girl was forcibly adopted, to the despair of her parents. Speaking to the Advertiser, the father said: “I don’t think the public have a clue how much of this goes on behind the scenes.
“Knowing that 100 per cent of these applications are getting the go-ahead is staggering. You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that this should be impossible.
“In criminal cases, if every single person who was charged with a crime got convicted in court you would have serious concerns over the justice system. This is exactly the same situation.”
The father said he believes the decisions in these important cases should be carried out by a jury and not rest solely on the shoulders of a judge, who often does not wish to overturn decisions made by his or her peers.
“My personal feeling is that the judges are just under too much pressure to go along with the recommendation,” he said. “There should be a jury system in these cases, where 12 normal people weigh up the evidence.
“One person shouldn’t have that complete power over a child’s wellbeing.
“If a child is suspected of being abused then he or she should be taken out of the home immediately, but this should be temporary until the accusation is proved. The problem at the moment is that once the child is taken away it’s like a rollercoaster – once the process starts it goes right through to the end.”
The parents of the adopted little girl are still together but the mother was told that as long as she stays married to the father she cannot keep any future children they may have together.
“There’s something missing from our lives now,” the father said. “It’s hard because you have to get on with your life. I have two other children who I still look after, so that helps take some of the pain away, but it’s much harder for my wife as she doesn’t have the privilege of ever seeing her own child.”
A council spokeswoman said that in four of the 43 cases where a placement order was granted, the parents eventually consented to give up their rights to the child. “Decisions about child adoptions are not taken lightly – and only cases where there are serious concerns go to court,” she said.
“The outcome of cases is based on evidence presented before a judge. Not all placement orders are forced adoptions, since in some cases parents wish to give up their parental rights. These cases are also included in the figure given.
“Our concern is to ensure the safety of children in this borough and we will not flinch from taking the necessary action to see that this happens.”

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Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television

Video Television News Item! 

Social workers who snatched four-day-old baby (ITV London Tonight)

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Crystal who was snatched four-day-old baby (ITV London Tonight)
Enfield Social workers who snatched four-day-old baby;
Social workers who snatched four-day-old Crystal Walton and put her up for adoption over unproven abuse claim, Mum’s heartbreaking fight to get her daughter back.
This is a small part of my Mummy and Daddy's fight to get me back!

 Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television
Crystal Walton; Me and the Media, Newspapers and Television

My self Crystal with my parents Ian and Sarah WaltonSocial workers who snatched four-day-old baby put her up for adoption over unproven abuse claim
Mum’s heartbreaking fight to get her daughter back.
A mum and dad have been told they will never see their young daughter again… after she was snatched away at only four days old.
Tiny Baby A was taken from her mum by social workers who claimed the tot, who we will call Emily, was at risk in the family home.
Not because of the mum’s failure to care for her – but because of a six-year-old unproven claim that her husband had injured his son from a previous marriage.
Yet, although interviewed by police, he never faced a criminal court over that allegation. And he has even been allowed unsupervised access to watch his boy grow up.
Now the High Court, in a devastating civil court ruling, has decided that a decision to forcibly adopt Emily – now aged four – away from her parents (who we are calling Tania and Stephen) must stand.
Revealing her agony for the first time, mum Tania said: “I had my beautiful baby girl snatched from me at just four days old. Only a mother could understand the horror of that.
“My only crime is that I love and trust my husband. I don’t believe he could ever harm a child, and the courts have been unable to prove it. I have already missed years of Emily’s childhood.”
Stephen, in his 40s, married Tania, in her mid-20s, in 2003. Almost a year after their wedding Tania gave birth to Emily in hospital and they were overjoyed to take her home two days later. But they were to enjoy just two days alone with their little girl before she was taken from them. Social workers claimed there was a danger her dad would hurt her because of the case six years earlier.
Stephen had been married before and has a 10-year-old son, Jamie. When he was eight weeks old, Jamie was taken to hospital with a suspected brain injury and was found to have suffered bleeding behind his eyes. The episode left him permanently disabled, and he now has cerebral palsy. A medical expert said that he had been shaken viciously.
Stephen, who also has a 12-year-old daughter from the previous marriage, said: “Doctors couldn’t tell for certain what was wrong with Jamie. But one came up with a theory it could be ‘shaken baby syndrome’, even though there was no conclusive evidence.
"My wife and I were told that care proceedings were being started. It was heartbreaking to be accused of harming your own child. I vehemently denied doing anything wrong, but no one listened.”
A whole year later – during which time Jamie stayed with his parents and came to no further harm – the couple were taken to a family court in London, where a judge concluded on the basis of an expert’s opinion that the child’s injuries had been caused by one of his parents.
The possibility that the baby had an inherited condition, provoking the same symptoms, was never explored.
And the theory put forward by the family’s lawyers that he banged his head on a baby bouncer while playing with another child was not accepted.
However, social workers in Enfield, North London, finally allowed Jamie to remain with his birth parents under daily supervision. And seven months later the local authority was impressed enough with their parenting to drop the visits.
And there the story might have ended if Stephen and his wife hadn’t split up at the end of 2000. They were granted, and still enjoy, joint custody of the boy and remain good friends. Stephen, whose first wife also backs his adoption fight, sees Jamie regularly and often spends time with him alone.
It was only when – almost four years later – Stephen remarried and his new wife Tania became pregnant that the social workers reappeared. Stephen, who himself has multiple sclerosis and walks with a stick, said: “Tania has no other children and we were both overjoyed to be having a baby.”
Then, when she was eight months pregnant, Stephen developed a heart problem and had to be rushed to hospital. He says social workers visited him at his bedside and handed him a letter saying they were starting emergency childcare proceedings for their unborn child.
I could barely breathe because of the shock,” he says. “It had been six years since Jamie’s case and I’d had no contact with social workers.”
Emily was born in December 2004. When she was just four days old, social workers burst into their home and took her away.
Tania said: “Stephen’s parents were visiting. We were missing an ingredient for dinner, and Stephen and his dad popped to the shops. While they were out social workers knocked on the door. They walked straight in, picked up Emily in her moses basket and walked out again.
“I was screaming and crying, begging them not to take her, grabbing at their arms.”
Social workers warned Tania she would only stand a chance of getting Emily back if she left her husband.
“We had no choice,” said Tania. “We decided I would go to live with my parents a few miles away and we would fight in court to be reunited as a family.”
Emily was returned to Tania the following day after a court injunction was obtained ordering Stephen to keep away from her.
But social workers were unhappy that Tania and her family remained close to Stephen.
“I often visited Stephen on my own, which was allowed under the injunction,” she said.
“He asked me to text him if Emily ever woke in the night because he wanted to be involved, and I did that.
But for some reason, social workers wanted me to hate him and cut him out of our lives.”
Four months later, in April 2005, Emily was taken from her mother for a second time. Tania had been branded unfit to look after Emily simply because she trusted her husband.
Tania said: “I had taken Emily to visit my grandparents. But while I was there, two police cars turned up with a social worker. They burst into the house and snatched Emily from me again. I was in shock – I couldn’t believe what was happening. They said I had been ‘conspiring’ with Stephen. They thought we were going to kidnap Emily.”
Social workers said Tania was too mild-mannered to be able to protect Emily from Stephen. At that point Emily was put into a foster home, and Stephen and Tania were allowed to visit her once a week for an hour.
“It was so emotional,” said Tania. “I tried my hardest to be happy around Emily. But I cried uncontrollably before and after we saw her.”
The couple have video footage taken on July 18, 2006, of them with Emily, and say they look happy and at ease together. At one point, they say the little girl puts her arms out to her mother, who picks her up and kisses her.
Touchingly, Tania says when she asks Emily where her daddy is, the toddler turns and points at Stephen. But already the clock was ticking towards their daughter’s adoption.
Within a few weeks, the couple were told new parents were being sought for their little girl. And they were horrified when they came across an advert in a glossy magazine offering her up for adoption.
The beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl was smiling at them from the page. The accompanying blurb described her as a bright, happy girl who likes swimming and games.
A phone number was printed alongside for anyone interested in becoming her parents. Tania said: “Our daughter was essentially being put up for sale in a magazine and under her own name. We hadn’t even been warned. It was despicable.”
At the time Enfield officials took Emily away, councils were under pressure to raise the number of children they had adopted by 50 per cent.
Tony Blair had promised millions of pounds to councils that managed to achieve targets. The aim was to get older children in care homes into new families.
But councils found it easier to place babies and cute toddlers such as Emily, and thousands of children under four were removed from their families across the country.
In October 2006 the couple saw Emily for the last time.
Stephen, his eyes filling with tears, said: “We didn’t know that then. We had arranged to see her, but the meeting was suddenly cancelled five minutes beforehand. Presumably a new family had been found. We didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye. It breaks my heart to think she doesn’t know why we aren’t there for her.”
In a desperate bid to beat the system, Stephen and Tania took Enfield Council to the Court of Appeal in March 2007. They asked for a stay of execution on the adoption while their case was heard by the European Court of Human Rights. But it was refused.
The couple did not give up there. Last month they were allowed to challenge the initial accusation against Stephen at the High Court. There they were backed by top europathologist Dr Waney Squier, who believes there is no evidence that the boy’s injuries were caused by her father.
In the three-day hearing, Dr Squier told the court the injuries were not consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. She said that, crucially, he had no other marks or injuries on his body to suggest he had been shaken violently.
She told the court that 85 per cent of autopsies in shaking cases have additional bruising or other injury. And she said the force required to produce bleeding behind the eyes would inevitably cause damage to the neck.
But the local authority’s expert Dr Neil Stoodley disagreed and said the injuries were consistent with SBS.
However the argument was based just on medical notes, because Jamie’s original brain scans had been lost.
The couple lost their final chance of halting the adoption when Mr Justice Mark Hedley, who described the decision as “agonising”, sided with the council and upheld the care order.
In what he described as a “dreadful conundrum”, he said: “Wrongly to find that there has been an NAHI (non-accidental head injury) is to risk tearing apart an innocent family – a shocking thing to happen.
“Likewise, wrongly failing to find NAHI where such in fact occurred is to risk returning a child to a situation of high or even fatal risk, as notorious cases have sadly demonstrated.
“The consequences of a judicial error in these cases are calamitous.”
The judge praised the parents’ persistence, saying: “The father’s belief in his innocence and the injustice done to his family is genuinely held.”
He also said there was not enough evidence for police to bring a trial on the initial child-abuse allegations. But he said there was still no new evidence to undermine the original findings.
The couple have vowed to appeal against the decision, but they are running out of time. Once Emily is officially adopted, it is British law that she can never be returned to her parents – even if they are found innocent.
Clinging on to each other in their living room, with walls covered in photos of Emily, the couple say they cannot bear to have another child.
Stephen said: “My health is getting worse and I do not want to go through the agony of having another baby taken away from us by the state.”
The couple are prepared to go to the European Court of Human Rights if their appeal fails.
But Stephen said: “The European court cannot reunite us with our daughter – all we would get is monetary compensation, which means nothing to us when all we want is our little girl back.”
-For legal reasons, the real names of the people involved have been changed to protect their identities.

'''Although my Dad has identified all of us!'''

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The rank hypocrisy of family court judges
(By Camilla Cavendish)

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I was gratified this week to find that an article I wrote in December has been quoted in full by the Court of Appeal. (I only hope there were no typos.) It is flattering that Mr Justice Munby takes The Times seriously. It is of more import that he decided to publish his judgment on the case that I wrote about six months ago. For it is only when judges make their reasoning public that we can start to debate the grounds on which children should be taken into care.

A few long-suffering readers may remember that this peculiar case concerns a woman whose baby was removed by social workers, not because the child came to any harm but because there was a suspicion that her father might have injured a child from his previous marriage. That suspicion was never proven, no charges were ever brought and the child of the earlier marriage was never removed. But a woman who everyone agrees is blameless has lost her only child – for ever – because she is deemed to be besotted with a man who may pose a danger.

As so often in these situations, there are complex allegations and flawed characters. In my view it is questionable whether the father’s inability to conceal his loathing of social workers makes him unsuitable for parenthood. Mr Justice Munby has decided on several grounds not to grant an appeal. The case may still go to Strasbourg, but it will be too late: the child will have been adopted.

This couple have become a cause célèbre for campaigners who fear that the Government’s drive to get more children adopted is having a perverse effect on some local authorities. For the same local authority to leave a man alone with a child that it thought he had harmed, but to take away another that had not been harmed, does seem bizarre. Until you realise that the child from the first marriage was disabled, and older, and would have been hard to place with an adoptive family. The child from the second marriage was a healthy baby, just the kind of “adoptive commodity” that local authorities find relatively easy to place.

I still believe that ministers were right to want to speed children out of the hell of care. But they have put social services departments in a strange position. We now expect them to combine three contradictory roles: to protect children, to keep families together and to meet adoption targets (which bring financial rewards). Under pressure, in situations that are not clear-cut, those roles are bound to conflict.

What is the evidence? Government figures show a significant jump in the number of babies being taken into care, from 1,600 in 1995 to 2,800 in 2005: a 75 per cent increase in ten years. While there has been an increase across all age groups, it is much, much greater for babies. More 10 to 15-year-olds are removed, but the rate of increase was only 21 per cent.

One possible explanation is that the authorities are now monitoring pregnant women, especially teenagers and substance abusers. But there are also numerous examples of relatives being turned down by local authorities when they offer to take the children of a family member. Some of them may indeed be unsuitable. But the turning-down sometimes seems very peremptory. John Hemming, MP, who follows these issues closely, believes that “the [hard-to-place] children the targets were established to get adopted are not getting adopted; instead a completely new group of children are being taken into care, then adopted”. Ministers should be seriously alarmed if a failure to help difficult candidates find homes were being masked by a zealous pursuit of babies.

This case has also brought something else home to me: our hypocrisy about privacy. It is illegal for me to write about most care cases, or to read court papers, even when the parents involved beg me to. I can generally only write when judges go public. Yet I have discovered that even as I was writing about this case last year, painstakingly omitting much of the detail to ensure that no one could identify the child, her picture, real name and age were being published in a national newspaper. Not by a journalist, who would have been in contempt of court. But by an adoption agency, advertising for adopters.

Agencies have to find good homes for needy children. Many do a great job. But for parents who are routinely told that they will be in contempt if they dare to reveal the legal proceedings to anyone outside the court, or even to talk about the child by name, because his or her privacy is paramount, it is staggering to see their children being advertised like pets.

Contempt of court is a serious matter. Last year Harriet Harman, the Minister for Justice, admitted in Parliament that in 2005 “200 people were sent to prison by the family courts, which happens in complete privacy and secrecy”. Family court judges can send parents to prison for up to six months for contempt. Two hundred people is about four a week. That is far more than the number of suspected terrorists we have locked up without a fair trial. So where are the civil libertarians? One young woman was recently sent to Ashford prison for kidnapping her child back from social workers and trying to flee the country. Others seem to be committed for minor breaches of contact orders. The threat of jail is made time and again, and it is real.

The main justification used for keeping family courts secret is to protect the identities of children. It is the argument used to gag parents and the media. How strange that seems when a little girl, whose family struggled to get the right legal advice to keep her, can be paraded around the country.

Every judge in these adoption cases can decide to make their judgment public. Until they do, the pretence of privacy will be nothing but rank hypocrisy.

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Family courts are the B-side of the law
(By Camilla Cavendish)

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What a strange, fumbling kind of justice system it is that condemns a woman as an unfit mother for the heinous crime of trusting her husband. Yet this is what seems to have happened in a recent case that I feel compelled to write about, even though legal restrictions force me to leave out much of the detail.

The nub of the case is this. A woman, let us call her Janie, gave birth to her first and only child a year ago. That baby was taken away from her and subsequently put up for adoption. Not because of her own failure to care for the baby — her own love and care never seem to have been in question. No. She has lost her baby because of a suspicion that her husband John may have injured another child in his previous marriage almost ten years ago.

The suspicion was no more than that. John was never charged with anything, let alone convicted. Social workers were never sufficiently worried to take that first child into care. Since his divorce John has shared custody of that child perfectly amicably with his ex-wife. Yet the same local authority which left the first child with him has forbidden him to see this new baby. And his new wife, despite having nothing to do with the first case, may never see her baby again.

Unless this case is overruled in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, where it is now heading, it will set a peculiar precedent. For it implies that any British mother could be penalised for choosing a partner to whom the State has taken a dislike: penalised with the loss of the thing that is most precious to her in the world.

It cannot be this simple, you are thinking. Well, not quite. The child of the first marriage is disabled, and did seem to have suffered an injury — I am not permitted to say more. But no one knows how. Both John and his first wife have always protested their innocence. They had a second child who came to no harm. No court will ever truly know whether John was innocent. But the fact is that he was never found guilty. For the local authority to leave him alone with a child that it thought he had harmed, and to take away another that had not been harmed, is utterly hypocritical. No court should be able to punish you for a crime you may commit, when there is no evidence.

It should, surely, be a crime to remove a newborn baby from a mother who has never harmed it.

For that in itself is a form of abuse. Yet the secret State often chooses to abuse the children itself, rather than let them run the risk of staying put. They are at least alive, it calculates, even if it is a diminished kind of alive, deprived of the mother bond. And too often, it strikes the wrong balance. In 2002, the ECHR ruled against the British Government for removing a new baby from its mother in hospital and refusing even to let her cuddle it under supervision, when there was no evidence that the baby faced a serious risk at that time. The judgment came too late, though. The baby had already been adopted.

This is what Janie fears. The ECHR has agreed to hear her appeal and to consider whether the English court ruling breached Janie and John’s right to family life, to freedom of opinion and to freedom of expression. That is quite a ticket. But even if the ECHR finds in Janie’s favour, it may be too late. The local authority is already seeking families to adopt her baby. Her only hope is that prospective adopters will be put off by knowing of her appeal.

Any lawyer will tell you that family courts are the B-side of the legal system. The majority of judgments will never be read outside the courtroom. Perhaps judges fear the consequences if they do not support social services and social services are later proved right. They seem to start from the assumption that children are de facto wards of court who need protection from their parents.

Even then, Janie’s case seems extraordinary. Certainly the parents are not the brightest people in the world. They are not perfect. But the more I learn about it, the more I believe that Janie and John’s biggest mistakes were emotional. Janie seems to have been very co-operative. However, John has been irritable, even aggressive, which would support the view that he has a violent nature. But can you really convict on that basis? Which of us could control our temper if faced with losing a child to a bunch of hypocrites? In a Hollywood movie, anger is a natural reaction to injustice. In an English suburb, defiance makes you guilty. The legal system wants “remorse”. But how can you show remorse for something you haven’t done?

Until this case I had tended to be sceptical about the claims that the Government’s targets for adoption were leading to miscarriages of justice. I still feel that ministers were right to want to speed up adoption and to release more children more quickly from the hell of care. But I have now started to take more seriously the argument that these targets have created a perverse incentive for local authorities to take more babies into care. Babies are, after all, more attractive to prospective adopters than older children and therefore an easy way to reach those targets. In Janie and John’s case, you do have to wonder why the authorities have rushed to take away a healthy baby, when they did not take away a disabled one.

Janie’s case seems to me to make a strong argument for introducing juries. Why is a burglar facing six months in jail allowed to ask for a jury trial, but a mother facing the irretrievable loss of her only child is not? Mistakes will always be made when the ordinary, imperfect citizen is judged by the imperfect and powerful. Personally, I would rather face 12 men good and true.

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The Scandal Of The Baby Snatchers
(By Sue Reid)

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Double Page from The Daily Mail
Daily Mail, This is Crystal Walton, one of a growing legion of babies snatched by the state.

Two-year-old Crystal Walton smiles at the camera, her blonde hair blowing in the wind.
Crystal Walton; A pawn in a shameful adoption systemThe photograph of the enchanting little girl looks as though it should have pride of place in a treasured family album. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
This picture was used to advertise Crystal's availability for adoption - appearing in a tabloid national newspaper with an accompanying blurb describing her as a "clever, lively, cheerful toddler" who likes puzzles and swimming.
A phone number was printed alongside for anyone interested in becoming her new parents.
Perhaps a million people saw the heart-breaking advert which had been placed by a London council, and streams of callers offered to take care of her.
Yet that is not the whole story. The truth is that Crystal had become a pawn in an adoption system that should shame
In 2000, Tony Blair set new targets to raise the number of children being adopted by 50 per cent - to a total of 5,400 every year.
He promised millions of pounds to councils that managed to achieve the targets. Some have already received more than £20million for successfully pushing up the number of adoptions.
This sweeping shake-up in social policy was designed for all the right reasons: to get older children languishing in care homes into happy new families with parents.
But the reforms didn't work. Encouraged by the promise of extra cash, councils began to earmark those children who were most easy to place in adoptive homes - babies and cute toddlers such as Crystal.
The resulting nightmare is that thousands of children of under four have since been removed from their birth families and adopted. Seventy per cent of all adoptions are now in this age group.
These cases often involve mothers and fathers who may have been in previous contact with social services over alleged incidents such as being accused - though not convicted - of maltreating their children.
More chillingly, others have been told by social workers they must lose their children because, at some time in the future, they might abuse them.
One mother's son was adopted on the grounds that there was a chance she might shout at him when he was older. It was, said social workers, emotional abuse.
New figures revealed to the Mail this week show that 1,300 babies were taken from their families in England last year and sent to new homes - a 300 per cent rise in less than a decade.
More than 900 were newborn or less than a week old. The rest were aged under a month.
The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has become so concerned about the increase and the way that the adoption system is being run that he has asked the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner to investigate the 'systematic abuses'.
He wants to know why so many tiny children are being 'snatched' needlessly from their families in what he calls a 'national scandal'.
In his formal submission to the commissioner, he said: "Children are being removed from families merely to satisfy government targets for the right numbers of children adopted."
He later explained to the Mail: "I have evidence that 1,000 children are wrongly being seized from their birth parents each year - even though they have not been harmed in any way.
"The targets are dangerous and lead to social workers being over-eager and making mistakes."
The MP's concerns have been supported by the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services, an independent body which advises new mothers about how to care for their babies.
Its spokeswoman, Beverley Beech, said: "Babies are being removed from their mothers by social workers using any excuse whatsoever.
"We strongly suspect this is because newborns and toddlers are more easily found homes than older children. The younger ones are, in other words, a marketable commodity.
"I know of social workers making up stories about blameless mothers simply to ensure that their babies are forcibly taken and put up for adoption.
"One baby was removed in the maternity ward by social workers before the mother had even finished the birth process and produced the placenta.
"Suitable babies are even being earmarked for adoption when they are still in the womb."
Of course, everyone knows there are some parents who do terrible things to their sons and daughters - and social workers are often vilified for not intervening soon enough to protect vulnerable children.
But can so many more mothers and fathers - in such a small space of time - really be abusing their own babies?
One thing is certain: it is impossible to overstate the emotional damage done to families whose babies have been forcibly removed from them on what can be the flimsiest of grounds.
In Europe, only a handful of children every year are forcibly taken from their mothers to be adopted.
In Scotland, where there are no official targets, adoptions are a fraction of the number south of the border - even allowing for the smaller population.
Yet in England, the annual total for adoptions for children under 17 went up by nearly 40 per cent in four years - from 2,700 in 2000 to 3,700 in 2004.
You only have to listen to the story of Crystal Walton and her parents, Ian and Sarah, to realise that something may be going terribly wrong.
At a few days old, she was taken away by social workers. Her bereft parents were left protesting their innocence.
They have never been charged with, or found guilty of, any offence against Crystal or any other child and are now taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights because they have run out of legal avenues in Britain.
Whatever the judgment in Strasbourg, it will almost certainly be too late for them to get their daughter back. "One day, she will know that we tried our very best to bring her home," says 28-year-old Sarah.
The Waltons' story is deeply disturbing. Ian, a 42-year-old construction worker, and Sarah, an office administrator, married in 2003.
Almost a year after their wedding, Sarah gave birth to Crystal in hospital and soon afterwards carried her joyously back to their house in Enfield, North London.
But just two days later, social workers visited - without any warning - and took their new daughter away.
They claimed Ian might hurt his baby daughter. He had been married before and has an eight-year-old son, whom the Mail has chosen not to identify but whom we will call Terry.
Five years earlier, when just eight weeks old, Terry was rushed to hospital with a suspected brain injury. He had bleeding behind his eyes.
A medical expert said that Terry had been shaken viciously. A year later, Ian and Terry's mother were taken to the family court in London where a judge concluded - on the basis of the expert's opinion - that the child's injuries had been caused by one of his parents.
The possibility that the baby had an inherited condition, provoking exactly the same symptoms, was never explored.
The theory - put forward by the family's lawyers - that he had banged his head in his baby bouncer while playing with another child in the house was ignored.
The ensuing legal battle was lengthy but Enfield social workers finally allowed Terry to remain with his birth parents - Ian and his first wife - who were granted, and still have, joint custody of the boy.
Ian sees him regularly and often spends time with him alone. The police were never involved in the case and the couple simply got on with their lives.
It was only when Ian remarried and Crystal was born that the social workers reappeared.
Ian explains: "Everything was normal. Sarah and I were delighted to be having a baby. When Sarah was eight months pregnant, Enfield social workers called us in for what they called a 'pre-birth planning meeting'. We still never suspected anything."
What happened next is hard to believe in a civilised society. But Ian insists it is true. His family have confirmed the account.
He says: "After bringing Crystal home from the hospital, we were cooking a meal for my parents. While my father and I were out shopping for something we'd forgotten, the social workers visited.
"They just came straight in, walked past Sarah and my mother, and picked up Crystal from her cot and walked out again."
In other words, Sarah had her first and only child wrenched from her because the social workers had suspicions - of course unproven - about the behaviour of her husband nearly ten years before.
Nevertheless, Ian and Sarah were allowed to visit Crystal at a foster home. Indeed, on a website Ian has created as a tribute to his lost child, there is a video showing footage of the couple with Crystal, happy and at ease together.
At one point, the little girl puts out her arms to her mother, who picks her up and kisses her.
And, touchingly, when she asks Crystal where her daddy is, the toddler turns and points at Ian. It was filmed on July 18 last year. But already the clock was ticking towards their daughter's adoption.
Within a few weeks of that video being filmed, the couple were told by social services that new parents were being sought for their daughter.
Not surprisingly, Ian and Sarah were anxious to tell people what was happening. They wanted to fight in public.
But they were warned by social workers that if they defied the authorities and told anyone of what was happening, they would be in contempt of court and might even end up in prison.
In particular, they were not to complain to the Press or let anyone know the name of Crystal in order to protect her identity as a minor.
So you can imagine their horror when, last August, they first saw the advert in which she had been put up for adoption.
Ian says: "Suddenly, we saw a picture of Crystal. Sarah burst out crying. Our daughter had effectively been put up for sale - and under her own name."
In October, Ian and Sarah were told they could see Crystal for the last time. At a tense and emotional meeting, they said goodbye and then went home alone. But they had not given up the battle.
In a desperate bid to outmanoeuvre the system, Ian and Sarah went to the Court of Appeal in London in March.
They asked for a stay of execution on the adoption while their case was heard by the European Court of Human Rights. This was refused. Now they have few places left to turn.
In a separate development, Ian's son, Terry, is about to undergo a test for a rare and often inherited neurological disease.
If he is proved to be a sufferer, it will mean the disease (glutaric aciduria) is the likely cause of bleeding behind his eyes and that he never suffered the injuries as a result of being shaken.
Parents of other child sufferers of the disease have also been wrongly accused of shaking them as babies.
Indeed, there are many who now question if shaken baby syndrome (SBS) even exists.
Significantly, in 2005, Dr Jennian Geddes, a neuropathologist at the Royal London Hospital, became troubled by the number of such cases in which there was no sign of any other physical damage to the children's fragile bodies.
She demanded to know how could a parent shake a small baby so violently - those who believe in SBS say this can be done with the same force as that of a 70mph car crash - and yet there be no bruising to the upper arms or body?
There was another mystery. DrGeddes knew that when a baby is in a fatal car crash, it suffers traumatic damage to nerves in the brain, provoked by the effects of whiplash.
So she did something no one had done before - comparing the brains of 53 babies and children whose deaths had been attributed to violent shaking with those of youngsters who had been killed in car crashes.
Her findings were revealing: 50 out of the 53 brains of the so-called shaken babies showed no damage to the brain nerves.
There was no whiplash effect, an indication that the babies could not have been shaken to death. Dr Geddes, who up to this point believed that SBS did exist, concluded that even a trivial household accident, such as a child rolling off a sofa, or banging itself in a baby bouncer - perhaps, like Ian's son, Terry - can prompt retinal bleeding and other symptoms blamed on the 'killer parents'.
Another turning point came in 2005. In a ground-breaking case, the Appeal Court quashed the convictions of two people who were separately accused of killing their babies by shaking them to death.
The court ruled that the medical experts' evidence that had convicted them was unreliable.
The judge accepted that retinal bleeding in babies, could be caused by minor falls, difficult births or genetic conditions.
All this evidence could now be used by parents fighting social workers in the battle to win back their children. Yet in the tragic case of Ian and Sarah Walton, the only winner is Enfield Council.
It has already received £1 million from the Government to help it reach targets on adoptions and other services. Another adopted child, another wodge of money.
In the past two years, the council has succeeded in getting 29 children adopted. This year, who knows? Any day now, Crystal could be placed in a new home and learning to call another couple 'Mummy and Daddy'.
Needless to say, that would break the hearts of Ian and Sarah, who, like so many hundreds of other parents in the same position, suspect that without Tony Blair's adoption targets they would still be with their beloved child.
Clinging to each other this week, they said they had no idea what the future held. Ian said: "We are scared of having another child in case the social workers come calling again. We could not face going through the nightmare of having a second baby taken by the state."

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