Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

A major injustice

Avatar

Published

on

Lady Butler-Sloss: Judges decision should have set alarm bells ringing.

Lady Butler-Sloss: Judges decision should have set alarm bells ringing.

A COURT case involving parents of a severely disabled adult is still ongoing despite the Council’s conduct, and that of an expert witness it instructed, being the subject of fi erce criticism by the Ombudsman and the GMC. In order to preserve the identity of the disabled adult concerned and their parents, The Herald will adopt the Ombudsman’s approach to anonymity. In 2010, carers from Perthyn Care were assigned to assist in the care of H, the 18 years-old autistic daughter of Mr & Mrs G. Mr & Mrs G became concerned that despite being provided with £10 to buy lunch for H, the carers failed to provide receipts for the expenditure. Mrs G, in particular, became concerned that the money was being pocketed and decided to end the arrangement with the carers and told them that their services were no longer required. The same day as they were told their services were not required, the carers prevailed upon Mrs G to allow them to take H swimming.

She agreed. Mr & Mrs G did not see their daughter for six months. The carers reported that H, by means of a controversial communication method called ‘facilitated communication’ had made serious allegations of sexual abuse against her parents, including an allegation that Mr & Mrs G had prostituted her to men. Facilitated Communication is a system whereby it is claimed a disabled person, through the use of a letter board and simple vocabulary, is able to express themselves. They can do this themselves or with assistance. Signifi cantly, the allegations of abuse were made when H was ‘assisted’ by the carers who had been dismissed by Mr & Mrs G. H was removed to Ty Hendy by the local authority, a police investigation was launched, and the council planned – at a later stage – to foster H out of the County and beyond her parents’ reach. In order to buttress its position, the Council instructed Dr Rowan Wilson to pen a report determining H’s ability and – particularly – her mental capacity. Dr Wilson, through the use of what can be deduced to be facilitated communication assisted by a third party, possibly one of the carers who had transmitted the allegations, determined that H had a relatively sophisticated vocabulary and understanding and was mentally competent.

He concluded that H understood what it was claimed she had alleged against her parents. The specialist appointed by the Council to advise it was not expert in the use of facilitated communication and The Herald’s enquiries have revealed that he generally specialises in dementia care. Dr Wilson admitted to a GMC disciplinary meeting convened over his conduct in the matter that he had no experience of the use of facilitated communication either to gather evidence or to assess mental competence. Dr Wilson was found guilty of serious misconduct by the GMC. In mitigation, Dr Wilson’s lawyer told the GMC hearing that the doctor had acted in good faith but had been misled by a care worker, engaged by Carmarthenshire Council, acting on a ‘very signifi cant element of malice’. For the avoidance of doubt, that care worker was one of those dismissed by Mrs G in October 2010. The question of facilitated communication’s use should not, however, have arisen. In 2000, Lady Butler-Sloss, President of the High Court Family Division, had given a stern direction about facilitated communication, declaring that it was a dangerous, unverifi ed technique that should never be used again in any British court to support sexual abuse charges. Indeed, an expert witness at the GMC hearing into Dr Wilson’s conduct told that tribunal that one phone call (or a Google search for that matter) would have alerted Dr Wilson to the unreliability of Facilitated Communication. A 2001 paper that discussed Lady Butler-Sloss’ decision should have sent even more alarm bells ringing. Its author reported: “fathers are being falsely accused of sexually molesting a child because of information a child types with a hand held by a facilitator.”

The Council, even while it prepared to foster H permanently away from her parents, were made aware of Lady Butler-Sloss’ comments by Mr G. Despite being made aware of potential diffi culties in its ‘case’, County Council Social Services delayed instructing a second expert, Professor Patricia Howlin from November 2010 until January 2011. Professor Howlin’s report was as devastating as it was revealing. She concluded that H not only lacked capacity but cast extreme doubt on the way the facilitator, one of the care workers accused of misconduct by Mr & Mrs G, guided H’s answers. Professor Howlin tested H’s responses when guided and when not guided on the same basic questions. One of Prof Howlin’s conclusions is particularly troubling: ‘on tasks involving facilitated communication, H proved very capable of responding correctly to questions when she and the facilitator had access to the same stimuli. However, when the facilitator was not aware of what H was being asked not a single one of her responses was accurate or correct. This marked disparity between her ability to respond under different conditions cannot be explained by the fact that she was “not on top form”.’ If that is worrying, Prof Howlin’s conclusions on Dr Rowan Wilson’s report is shattering.

‘With respect to the report by Dr. Rowan Wilson it should be noted that this constantly makes statements such as “H stated”; “repeatedly stated”; “recalled my name”; “was able accurately to recall a conversation”; “spontaneously mentioned Ty Hendy in one of her answers”; “repeatedly used complex words”; “has excellent language skills”; “clearly stated”; “clearly understood”; “expressed a clear preference for”; “was able to resume communicating a train of thought”; “deliberated upon”; “showed ability to predict potential consequences”; etc., etc. In fact H “stated” nothing during that assessment. She did not speak at all and although this is barely mentioned, apart from a brief note on page 1, (one of the carers subject to a complaint by Mr & Mrs G) helped H communicate her answers”, it is not made at all clear that all H’s communications were made while supported by (the carer).

Although Dr. Wilson concludes that her communication was reliable’. Professor Howlin concluded that: ‘There is no evidence that H does communicate independently and hence it would be entirely inappropriate to accept any allegations of abuse based solely on statements made under facilitated communication. ‘Further, there is no indication that in any domain H is functioning above a fi ve year level, and in areas related to language, understanding and social relationships her ability is particularly poor. Thus, it is my view that she does not have the capacity to understand the repercussions of any allegations made.’ As far as the complaints of abuse went, that should have been the end of the matter. The fl awed premises upon which the Council had based its actions was systematically demolished by Professor Howlin. In the normal course of things, H should have been returned to her parents.

In fact, H did not return home until some three weeks after the Council received Prof Howlin’s report. Mr & Mrs G complained to the Ombudsman. While the Ombudsman was sympathetic to the complexities of the case and the difficult position in which Council staff found themselves, he described the Council’s conduct as perpetrating ‘a major injustice’. But that injustice was compounded by the Council’s knowledge on or by November 22, 2010, that the CPS had concluded there was no evidence upon which to base a prosecution. The Ombudsman went on to severely criticise the Council for claiming to accept the findings of a critical report prepared by Phil Tyrrell of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru. The Ombudsman accused the Council of second-guessing the recommendations of a report it asserted to have accepted. The Herald understands that proceedings brought on behalf of H by a litigation friend, former County Councillor Marie Binney, alleging an unlawful deprivation of liberty, have been settled. Proceedings between Mr & Mrs G and H’s parents remains ongoing. Over four years after the Council returned H to her parents and over three years after a condemnatory Ombudsman’s report, the Council has still failed to reimburse Mr & Mrs G for its embarking upon a course of action which Mr & Mrs G say has ‘ruined their lives’ and caused them financial hardship.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Criminal damage at a caravan park in Kidwelly.

Avatar

Published

on

POLICE are investigating reports of thefts and criminal damage at a caravan park in Kidwelly.

Two reports have been made, with a number of items stolen from two caravans at Tanylan Caravan Park.

The first incident took place between September 23 and October 12.

A number of items – including fishing equipment, computer consoles and £300 cash – were stolen, and an awning window was smashed.

The second report was made on October 13, with the crime taking place sometime after August 25.

Scooters, camping equipment, TVs, DVD players, Amazon fire sticks, a Wii U console, and several other items were taken.

Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to contact PC 810 at Carmarthen Police Station.

You can report information by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Continue Reading

News

Abandoned property fire in Burry Port probed

Avatar

Published

on

POLICE are investigating a fire at an abandoned property in Burry Port.

A call was made at around 1.20am today (Tuesday, November 19) reporting that a detached house in Graig was well alight.

The house is not lived in, and has sustained substantial fire damage.

There were no witnesses to indicate who has started the fire, but two people were seen running away from the scene.

Due to the temperature inside the building remaining high today, it has been unsafe for investigators to enter the building.

Anyone with information, or who saw a person or people acting suspiciously in the area between 12.30am and 1.30am is urged to contact the joint investigation unit at Llanelli Police Station.

You can report information by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Continue Reading

News

Man ‘fit for work’ collapses and dies at job centre

Avatar

Published

on

A 65-YEAR-OLD man has collapsed while waiting for an appointment in a job centre in south Wales. He was found slumped in his chair at 9.30am on Friday in Llanelli.

The DWP said: “Our thoughts and those of the staff at Llanelli Jobcentre are with the family and friends at this time.”

The Llanelli Herald understands that he was waiting for an appointment to discuss Jobseeker’s Allowance after being declared fit for work earlier this year.

Staff and customers rushed to help, but they were unable to get a response so lay him on the floor.

They started CPR and an ambulance was called while the job centre was evacuated, but paramedics declared him dead at the scene. A witness told The Metro newspaper: “I didn’t know him myself, but the man who was sat next to me told me that he had grown up with the guy.

“The man next to me told me that the poor guy had diabetes and had been declared fit for work by the job centre earlier in the year but he was obviously ill.

“The ambulance came but he sadly died and they had to take his body out of the job centre, it was awful.

“We were all very shook up; it was a horrible situation that should have never happened. The job centre is all shut down now.’

The Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed to The Herald: “We were called on Friday November 15 at approximately 9.33am to reports of a person needing urgent medical attention on Stepney Street in central Llanelli. ‘We responded with one rapid response vehicle, one specialised medical vehicle and one emergency ambulance.’

Continue Reading

Trending

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK