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Court prevented father from speaking to MP

Date:23 MAR 2011

By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor

ParliamentIn a House of Commons debate last week, John Hemming, MP for Yardley in Birmingham, highlighted a case in which a father was prevented by a court order from speaking to the MP about his care proceedings case.

Speaking in the debate (see Hansard report) about the father's case, John Hemming said: "I have some of the documentation with me, including a county court order for proceedings that have now completely ended, so it is a public document, and there is no issue of privilege. The document is there in the courts. In the recitals, it states: 'upon the first and second Respondents agreeing that they will make no further disclosure in respect of this matter to any third party, including in particular the media and John Hemmings MP.'"

The case involved a man who was wrongly imprisoned for rape. The man won his criminal appeal but complained about a social worker in the process. The man alleges that as a result the local authority initiated care proceedings for his daughter.

The MP continued: "Luckily, an excellent judge junked it in the bin, because it was transparently such nonsense, and everything ran smoothly for the family. However, my constituent was under no illusion that had he not agreed to those recitals in the court order, the council would have taken action - he was told - which would have been to apply for a care order taking his four-year-old daughter into care."

In 2008 Mr Hemming was criticised by Lord Justice Wall for his conduct while acting as a McKenzie Friend in a Court of Appeal case for a woman whose child was taken into care. The court ruled that that the local authority was right to take the girl into care.

In his judgment, Lord Justice Wall said: "As to Mr Hemming, my judgment is that his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system is gravely damaged.

"Speaking for myself I will not be persuaded to take seriously any criticism made by him in the future unless it is corroborated by reliable, independent evidence".

Lord Justice Wall's comments seem have led to the father's barrister advising her client not to speak to the MP. Mr Hemming revealed that a note from the father's barrister said: "All the advocates stressed to me the danger of father having any contact with John Hemmings MP [...] and had been heavily criticised by the Court of Appeal about his involvement in cases. The collective view was that he would do more harm than good."

The barrister's note added: "I explained to father to think carefully about his actions especially the impact on the child".

Mr Hemming claims that the court's actions are a contempt of Parliament and has called on Parliament to take action to deal with it.

The MP's latest disclosures follow him using the protection of parliamentary privilege ealier this month to reveal that former RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin had obtained a super-injunction banning media from publishing certain information about him.