First the state took their kids away, and then it silenced them

Russell McCarthy

Topics Free Speech

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This week, an injunction has been lifted which means we can view a video taken by a man as social services and police took away his six-hour-old child. The footage, which was secretly filmed on a webcam at the man’s home in April 2013, shows social services accompanied by at least one police officer violently wrenching the child from its distressed and screaming mother. You can hear one social-service worker telling the mother: ‘We are going to have to take [baby J]. I don’t want to have to get physical.’ The father of the child responds: ‘We have complete parental responsibility, we’re married. How the fuck did you lot get that parental responsibility? Who gave the judge that responsibility?’

In June, Staffordshire County Council applied for a contra mundum injunction to prevent the dissemination of the video which, by that time, had been shared widely on Facebook and other social media. Another video of an hour-long interview that the couple did with a current-affairs website, the UK Column, has also been removed from the internet.

Not only did the order prevent the viewing of the video, but it also prevented anyone, including the parents of the child, from discussing the video with any person, any news outlet reporting on its existence, and any identification of the parents or the social workers or the council that had applied for the injunction. This was allegedly intended to protect the identity of the child and would be in place until 2031 when J turns 18.

Many of the facts of the case are still unclear, but it seems that this is the fourth child to have been taken from the couple over the past four years. The children were removed on the grounds that their mother has a learning disability and social services believe the couple’s relationship is ‘volatile’. There is no indication, however, that the couple’s relationship is violent or that they had ever harmed their children.

This is not the first time the man has had such an injunction taken against him. Last year, another child (baby W) was taken from the family shortly after birth. On that occasion, the man took photographs of the social-services worker holding his child in the hospital and subsequently posted them on Facebook with captions identifying the social worker and calling her ‘wicked’. When he refused to cooperate in taking the images off the internet, the man was sentenced to six weeks in prison. The sentence was suspended on the condition that he cooperate with authorities to remove the images.

Claiming that the injunctions are in the children’s interests is disingenuous. The only possible motivation behind issuing them is that Staffordshire County Council and social services want to save face. The video lays bare the brutal and draconian way in which social services conduct their duties, and this is clearly something they would like to keep quiet. Any limitation of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to protest is always worrying and these injunctions violate all three. In this case, it is not an extremist group or a tabloid being gagged, but a mother and father campaigning to get their children back from the state.

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Topics Free Speech


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