Category Archives: Public Interest Advocacy

FROM BRUSSELS Pilgrimage to McKenzie Crusade: in defence of justice for future generations

The first McKenzie Friend was created out of the need for legal help due to the lack of money to pay professionals in 1970.

In 2009 I began acting as McKenzie Friend and web publisher for Maurice J Kirk BVSc. Since 14 October 2013, he has been held ‘on remand’ in HMP Cardiff and asked me to continue to uphold the level of quality for this ‘brand’.

In June 2011 a number of us, including Belinda McKenzie, met at the Royal Courts of Justice to support the Nigerian Musa couple whose five children had been taken by Haringey Police without paperwork in April 2010. Acknowledged to be the worst of all child snatching cases, McKenzie Friends continue to help them since they were imprisoned for seven years!

For the Musa hearing I had produced T-Shirts for ‘McKenzie Angels‘ as supporters for court hearings - with the aid of the late Paulette Cooper. For judges do notice when public galleries are full and even asked us not to take notes in the criminal court of the Musas! Do they know that justice is far from being delivered in their court rooms? That’s why ‘veteran victims’ Maurice Kirk and Norman Scarth have been behind our petition to Abolish the ban on recording court proceedings. Continue reading

WHEN ASSISTING IMPRISONED and WRONGED PARENTS becomes a Financially Risky Business

12 07 25 AuthorityMark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

The possibility of having to pay ‘costs’ incurred by a private barrister employed by the Treasury Solicitor’s Office had NOT occurred to me when I began visiting Melissa Laird in HMP Holloway and listened to her horrific experiences – thanks to Gloria Musa who had been taken there in December 2011.

At some stage a ‘form of authority’ was required before lawyers would talk to us.

When a barrister brought in by CPT Solicitors who had advised Melissa to plead ‘guilty’ for abducting her own child, I paid the fee to lodge a Judicial Review which, however, was refused.

At that point, the barrister did not want to go any further. I guess he knew about the risk of ‘costs’ which I did not.

The Treasury Solicitors Office supposedly incurred ‘wasted costs’ to defend their reasons for deporting Melissa Laird on 12 September 2013 – without her having had an oral hearing:

  • advised by John Hemming MP, she did not have the opportunity to exercise her rights of appeal, given the appallingly restrictive conditions in HMP Holloway;
  • advised by the Senior Legal Manager Martyn Cowlin in the Administrative Court Office, she needed “the substance of her case” to be heard – in accordance with case law.

‘Costs’ incurred now cover supposedly £4, of which we are ordered to pay £2,000 – only because the Admin Court insisted in antiquated ISDN technology that Melissa couldn’t find in the US to represent herself.

In chronological order:

    • on 29 August 2013 CPT Solicitors who were still ‘on the record’ at the Admin Court received a Notice for Oral Hearing to take place on 05 December 2013;
    • on 12 September 2013 Melissa was deported and dumped in Dulles Airport – without ‘reception’, i.e. no cash as 13 12 12 Orderprisoners should be given and no address as should have been arranged and faithfully promised, especially since she was wheelchair-bound;
    • at the hearing Belinda, myself and another McKenzie Friend were present when I asked for a Skype connection or videolink for Melissa;
    • the Order by an unnamed judge said we must establish the right to defend the Claimant.

Since Melissa not only managed to establish herself in the US but also had studied the Law whilst in prison and since she has had access to the internet, we were neither prepared to represent her nor had the intention.

In view of the hearing Listings Officer Mr Odunlami told me that ISDN is required, whilst Skype is not secure.

However, Melissa told me that she spent $50 driving around trying to find this antiquated technology in the US and thus notified the Court:

I am writing to inform you  and the court that there is no one in a 100 miles of where I reside that has ISDN or one that I can use.  I am greatly upset by the fact that the court wil not allow Skype to be used as the majority of the systems here in America use that today and ISDN is considered out if date and old.

I reiterate that the Association of McKenzie Friends has the authority to represent me at this hearing.  I feel that even though I requested this to be adjourned for 3 months to allow me to appear in person that this seems not to be just cause for the adjournment.

I do feel as justice is again being sidetracked due to the Treasury’s Solicitors. Again under the European Human Rights Article 6 I should have a fair and more importantly honest/just trial.

Following this, we got together and emailed:

Dear Mr Odunlami

I ended up speaking to Melissa Laird on Skype last night. On the occasion of an ad hoc  Committee of the Association of McKenzie Friends, I would like you to act as follows:

A. Ask the judge for an adjournment for the following reasons:

  1. Her right to a fair trial;
  2. Her right for the substance of her case to be heard – which is the basis for our Judicial Review;
  3. She has significant case law to present to the judge that she found herself.

B. Accept SKYPE as the technology to let her represent herself from the US, where technological infrastructure has always been more advanced;

  1. She told me that she spent $50 on petrol driving around to find ISDN.

C. Due to her disability, combined with having been deported without reception, she still has serious problems to get online.

  1. This is the cause for her late response to you.

With many thanks in advance,

Sabine K McNeill

Apparently Mrs Justice Simler was surprised not to see us in Court.

Hence she ‘joined us to the case’ for the purposes of ‘costs’. After all, we needed to establish the ‘right to represent the Claimant’ – which we had not done.

What a way to encourage McKenzie Friends who operate pro bono to help prisoners who can’t find legal representation and thus have to appear as Litigants in Person! After all, the Legal Consumer Panel has just published a report on Fee-charging McKenzie Friends with 15 recommendations. No 4 says:

the Practice Guidance should be reviewed and amended to portray McKenzie Friends in a more positive way.

Why do we have a negative image in the Judiciary while only 6.5% of the general public know what a McKenzie Friend does, as mentioned in the report?

As ‘austerity’ is supposed to rule and legal aid is cut, why do McKenzie Friends get punished for helping as ‘good Samaritains’?

Christopher Booker writes in The Telegraph Shock costs ruling penalises those helping wronged parents.

John Hemming MP published on 16 August 2013: Mother to be deported whilst her child is kept for adoption.

That is not the ‘substance’, but the essence of her case! The rest is up to you to make sense of…

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McKENZIE FRIENDS under the looking glass: a report from the Legal Consumer Services Panel

14 04 18 Fee charging McKenzie FriendsThis report covers four types of McKenzie Friends:

  • one off helpers
  • occasional and regular volunteers
  • fee-charging ‘amateurs’
  • fee-charging ‘professionals’

Struck off lawyers may also turn into McKenzie Friends.

The report aims at balancing between ‘access to justice‘ and ‘consumer protection‘ and makes 15 recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Fee-charging McKenzie Friends should be recognised as a legitimate feature of the evolving legal services market.

Attitudes of judges and lawyers Continue reading

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST regarding care & contact procedures

14 04 15 UK Family Law ReformUK Family Law Reform is a very comprehensive website with a unique ‘megaphone’ to send emails to media, local authorities and MPs.

Here’s what I just sent to all local authorities:

This is to ask for the procedures that are in place:

1. to ensure that COURT ORDERS for CONTACT with children in care are being complied with;

2. to allow parents to enforce orders for contact when they are not being adhered to;

3. to ensure that embassies and consulates are being informed when non-UK children are taken into care;

4. to arrange for Consular visits of non-UK children in care.  Continue reading

NEWS RELEASE: UK Violations of EU Law and Child RIGHTS: naming an Indian Child contrary to Article 10

NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                        04 April 2014

UK VIOLATIONS of EU LAW and CHILD RIGHTS

Naming an Indian Child without Family, Religious Ceremony
and without the Father on its Birth Certificate

VALUES and OBJECTIVES of the UNION[i]

The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values, which are set out in Article I-2, are common to the Member States. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men. These values play an important role, especially in two specific cases:

Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE about the UK Delegation in Brussels to Abolish Adoptions without Parental Consent

THANKS to the ‘megaphone’ of UK Family Law Reform (which can be used for local papers, too!):

UNIQUE FAMILY LAWS in the UK

Un-Believable Facts about Children in Foster ‘Care’ and Forced Adoptions

A UK delegation of parents is visiting the EU Petitions Committee on 19 March 2014, hoping to get their children returned, after they have been forcibly removed from them. Individual petitioners are a German parent, a Latvian mother and daughter, a Lithuanian and a British mother. Speaking on behalf of the thousands of parents effected will be German Sabine K McNeill who publishes petitions online and gathered the support of over 4,000 signatures. Other victims in support are an English greatgrandfather and father, a Welsh father as well as family and McKenzie Friends who have been assisting as lay legal advisors. The text submitted to the Committee in May 2013 is on http://mckenzie-friends.co.uk/petitions/abolish-adoption/ She will be followed by 3 petitioners from the Netherlands who copied the UK system of child ‘protection’[i]. Continue reading

ABOLISH ADOPTIONS without Parental Consent – to be presented in Brussels on 19 March


NEWS RELEASE                                                                                          14 February 2014

ABOLISH ADOPTIONS without PARENTAL CONSENT

Petitions of Latvian, Russian and Lithuanian Mothers and on behalf of thousands of victims in the UK before EU Committee
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/peti/home.html

A court hearing to protest the forced removal of children from their parents by a London Council has been timed to coincide with the presentation of a petition to the European Parliament to seek redress for similar actions by different councils for thousands of families nationwide. The petition has attracted over 2,500 signatures on http://www.change.org/petitions/eu-parliament-abolish-adoptions-without-parental-consent

A special meeting of the EU Petitions Committee will receive also a petition on 19 March from Latvian Laila Brice, whose five year old daughter was taken by Merton Council without a court order and put up for adoption.

On the same day Haringey Council will apply to the British Family court for the adoption of the two youngest of Gloria and Chiwar Musa[i] whose older five children were forcefully removed by police acting for the Council and the parents later jailed for supposedly having abused them.

The Association of McKenzie Friends, a voluntary organisation that supports both families, is campaigning to stop the forced removal of children from their parents and their subsequent fostering or adoption without due process.

The Association also decries the secrecy of family courts[ii], gagging orders with threat of imprisonment, and forced adoptions, which it says are unique in the UK[iii] Writing in The Telegraph, Christopher Booker described the situation as an international scandal[iv].

McKenzie Friends chair Belinda McKenzie believes the timing of the two events is not coincidental. “The courts will have known that we will be in Brussels to hand over the petition. What better time to schedule the Musa adoption hearing?” she said.

McKenzie Friends have documented and published many other cases where the children were forcibly removed from their parents under questionable circumstances.

“These are mostly immigrant families or vulnerable single mothers whom councils should be helping, not terrorising,” McKenzie said.

“The secrecy of the family courts was meant to protect children. Instead it is protecting shameful and unethical behaviour by the authorities.”

ends

For more details, please contact Sabine K McNeill on 07968 039 141 or sabine@3d-metrics.com

Notes and links for editors:

  1. The Association of McKenzie Friends[v] is an unfunded network of individuals. It has come together to help parents whose children were taken and who were then imprisoned, fending for themselves as Litigants in Person[vi]. Their petition Children Placed in Foster Care[vii] was put before the House of Commons on 3 September 2013 without any response so far.
  2. Foreigners among women[viii] whose children are targeted have also been observed by Vicky Haigh[ix]. She was imprisoned for 3 years for supposedly having breached a ‘non-molestation order’ – by saying ‘hello’ when she saw her daughter accidentally at a petrol station. She has not seen her now 10-year old daughter since, after she was given to her abusive father. She was the first victim named by John Hemming MP in Parliament: Gag removed job done[x]. Her ‘non-molestation order’ for no contact has just been renewed for 3 years.
  3. John Hemming is the only MP who reliably stands up for victims of family courts. He is Chairman of Justice for Families[xi] and has organised a meeting for foreign embassies that resulted in the Early Day Motion International Concerns about UK Law[xii].
  4. Christopher Booker’s column in The Telegraph addresses the issue regularly. He wrote 14 articles[xiii] about the Musas and 2 about Melissa Laird[xiv].
  5. The publisher of Forced Adoption as a book and website is Ian Josephs who has a law degree from Oxford and runs a language school in Monaco. He advises up to 10 parents a day by phone and has spent over £30,000 to help families.
  6. Abolish Adoption without Parental Consent[xv] is an online petition before the EU Parliament which is supported by a 12-page Dossier of Online Evidence[xvi].

[i]               http://gloriamusa.wordpress.com/about/
[ii]               http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/the-secrecy-of-the-family-courts-should-be-lifted-now.html
[iii]              http://punishmentwithoutcrime.wordpress.com/about/this-is-the-situation/whats-unique-in-the-uk/
[iv]              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10191983/Our-child-protection-system-is-an-international-scandal.html
[v]               http://mckenzie-friends.co.uk/about/
[vi]              http://bit.ly/1bX2Qub
[vii]             http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhttp://punishmentwithoutcrime.wordpress.com/about/this-is-the-situation/whats-unique-in-the-uk/hansrd/cm130903/petnindx/130903-x.htm
[viii]             http://bit.ly/1027te2
[ix]              http://bit.ly/V7c28P
[x]               http://johnhemming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/gag-removed-job-done.html
[xi]              http://justice-for-families.org.uk/
[xii]             http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/345
[xiii]             http://gloriamusa.wordpress.com/public-support/booker-articles/
[xiv]             http://melissalaird.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/deported-imprisoned-and-beaten-for-being-a-parent/
[xv]             http://www.change.org/petitions/eu-parliament-abolish-adoptions-without-parental-consent
[xvi]             https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NCF_XdMTNhnf947eniZ3SocOWyJ5CI6pramw4iOPY9c/edit?usp=sharing

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CHALLENGES for McKenzie Friends – as Legal Aid is cut and white collar crimes rise

Lawyer

Help4LiPs are invited to discuss Litigants in Person and the challenges for McKenzie Friends with those who could make a difference. Hence we put these recommendations together:

  1. The need for acting as McKenzie Friend arose for many individuals out of very different circumstances, but generally:
    1. Being or having been victim of white collar crimes[1] themselves;
    2. Acting on behalf of victims who suffered from solicitors and / or barristers, on top of whatever damage or crime they had suffered.
    • Corruption in the legal profession and the courts is a real problem.
  2. In our observation, assisting Litigants in Person became necessary for the following reasons:
    1. Ministers and MPs didn’t do anything about fraudulent bankruptcies and home repossessions;
    2. It was impossible to find family lawyers who were acting in the interest of parents whose children were taken into care or forcibly adopted by Social Services;
    3. Prison conditions of Litigants in Person in general and parents of child snatching[2] in particular were so appalling that more help became necessary.
    • Family courts, their secrecy[3] and their supposed legitimacy are an international scandal, as Christopher Booker writes regularly in The Telegraph and as formulated in Early Day Motion 345[4] by John Hemming MP.
    • “There is no accountability”, says John Hemming MP.
  3. As Voluntary Public Interest Advocates, we don’t charge for what we do.

LEARNING by DOING: how to assist Litigants in Person as McKenzie Friend – a lesson for us and the Courts

This is the Practice Guidance that shows that I should NOT have been kicked out of Lincoln County Court yesterday.

Our introduction letters got us in as McKenzie Friends, but we didn’t get ‘right of audience’. As ‘web publisher’, I knew I wouldn’t, for I was told once before that

You don’t understand confidentiality.

But: preparing paperwork is one level of assistance; speaking in court is another one; ‘assisting’ by whispering and passing notes is the third ‘mode of operation’.

When the Pedros submitted our ‘position statement’, Lincolnshire County Court’s barrister alerted the judge to the blog that I had created for the family.

The barrister alerted the judge also to the fact that I am the person associated with the website for Vicky Haigh (set to ‘private’ a long time ago).

Before the Pedros went into court, my Co-McKenzie Friend offered the other side that I’d set the Pedro site to ‘private’.

For this morning’s hearing, they had produced

  • an Order that claims Carla Pedro had breached the gag and should therefore be imprisoned – to Carla responded “no problem”;
  • a printout of Sir James Munby’s judgement that appeals to courts to ‘adapt to the realities of the internet, particularly social media’;
  • a ‘case outline’ which lied about the allegations of the 13- year-old boy who had written letters complaining about social worker Lee Watkinson and his fear of ‘bum rape’.

Yesterday the question about how a Portuguese boy learns about ‘bum rape’ was refused…

More about the case later.

#melissalaird in Court 18 @ the RCJ – on behalf of US mother deported whilst her only child is kept for adoption

20131205_135110[1]The Queen on the application of Melissa 20131205_135206[1]Laird
v. Secretary of State for the Home Department
CO 9385/2013

Application for Judicial Review of Melissa’s deportation to the USA September
Before Anthony Elleray QC sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court
Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court 18, 5 December 2013, 10.30

Prior to Melissa’s case 2 other applications were heard, both for leave to appeal against deportations brought by foreign fathers with children still in UK (the court stenographer said Court 18 was a very sad place…). Melissa’s application only arrived before the judge at 12.50, brought on her behalf by members of the Association of McKenzie Friends (AMF) Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie, assisted by especially by Terence Ewing, but also Meirion Bowen and Caul Grant.

Continue reading