Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Norfolk’

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART THREE: RETRIBUTION

September 8, 2018

 

Norfolk_series_head_03
WHEN THE TIMES and its chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk decided to intervene in a sensitive family care case last August, they did not realise the judiciary would not allow them to peddle a false narrative.

In August 2017 Norfolk wrote a sensational front page story carrying the headline “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”. 

It soon became clear the story was a complete fabrication.

Norfolk purged his narrative of the central fact that the mother of the child is the daughter of practising Turkish Muslims.

In February this year the court ruled the mother was unfit to look after her daughter and gave the grandmother permanent custody of the little girl.

Both are now in Turkey.

The judgment in the case — finally obtained by Press Gang early yesterday — destroys any lingering credibility in Andrew Norfolk’s story.

The judgment justifies the first two parts of our series The Shame of Andrew Norfolk: Crusade and  Hallelujah!

Press Gang was unable to write the story up yesterday.

We passed the judgment to Brian Cathcart, a founder of Hacked Off, who published a summary yesterday: ‘Muslim Fostering’ Times Journalism Utterly Discredited.

Now Press Gang examines some of the key points of the judgment.

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THE DECISION  to place the little girl with her grandmother was made on February 16 this year.

Judge Khatun Sapnara made the order in the East London Family Court following a 10 day hearing involving 15 witnesses. 

Andrew Norfolk, despite his intimate knowledge of the case, was absent throughout.

We emailed Norfolk this afternoon and asked him why he did not attend.

We asked if the reason he wasn’t in court was because he knew the hearing would destroy his story.

He had not replied by the time this article went to press.

No other journalist was in court — it was not until this week that the court finally released its judgment.

The court ordered that the little girl, who is now six, should live with her grandmother in her country of origin.

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INVASION OF PRIVACY
THE JUDGMENT is damning about the fact that the press were present when the little girl left her second Muslim foster carer in August 2017. The judge noted “very sadly, this had to be undertaken with police presence and assistance, because of the numbers of press in attendance at the foster carer’s address. The child did not have the opportunity to have a proper goodbye with her carers. It would have been entirely in her best interests to do so.” Press Gang understands that the only journalist who knew the address of the foster carer was Andrew Norfolk. Today we asked Andrew Norfolk if he and a Times photographer were present. We also asked for a comment about the judge’s criticism. There was no reply by the time this article went to press.  

Press Gang has previously revealed the grandmother is Turkish — the judgment merely says she is from a mainly Muslim country.

Both the little girl and her mother have dual British and Turkish passports. 

The court added that the mother’s physical contact with her daughter should be restricted to four times a year.

She is not allowed to stay overnight.

The father, a Russian national, is forbidden to have any face to face contact with the child.

He is allowed to talk to her on Skype. 

The judgment is silent about what happened to the mother’s older child who has also been the subject of family court proceedings.

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THE PICTURE of the mother that emerges from the judgment is bleak and disturbing.

Judge Sapnara “had no doubt that the mother had taken the course she had in these proceedings, driven by the natural desire to be reunited with her daughter.”

“On a subjective analysis she genuinely believes that the child will be better off in her care.”

“Sadly, in the court’s judgement that motivation was also tinged with a degree of wounded pride.”

The judge revealed that the 2017 incident that led to the child being taken into care was not the first incident where concerns had been raised.

In September 2012 the Foreign Office was contacted by the duty manager of a hotel in Bulgaria who was concerned about the mother and the little girl.

The judgment notes that “he suspected that the mother may be on drugs or alcohol and that the hotel room was not particularly fit for a young child.”

The mother has two convictions for drinking driving which “indicates that she makes poor decisions when she consumes alcohol.”

Tests revealed that the mother often drinks the equivalent of a bottle of wine a day.

Tests also revealed she was taking cocaine. 

The judge was stark: 

“The mother’s chronic and problematic use of alcohol coupled with her minimisation of such concerns gives rise to a risk of emotional harm by reason of the child being exposed to the mother’s alcohol use.”

“It also gives rise to risks of domestic violence which seem to be linked to the mother’s drinking.”

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THE JUDGMENT also makes it clear that an unnamed Russian national played a significant part in this story.

The Russian is said to be the father of the child.

His name is not on the child’s birth certificate and he did not take part in the proceedings.

He appears to have remained in Russia throughout the ten day hearing. 

The mother claimed:

“she had not had any contact with the … father since 2013 and she said that she had been unable to provide any contact details for him.”

But the judgement later adds

“The mother and the … father appeared to remain in an enmeshed relationship which appears to include a degree of financial control of the mother by [the] father.” 

The mother was legally aided throughout the care proceedings. 

The relationship between the mother and the father was turbulent.

The judge noted that it “had been characterised by incidents of domestic violence (some very serious) over a number of years …”

The decision to place the child was partly motivated because she might be present when the mother and father were together.

In these circumstances, the judge added:

” … there would be a real risk that the child may get caught up in the domestic violence and might be at risk of suffering physical and emotional harm which might be significant in its nature.”

It’s also clear she didn’t believe the mother’s claim not to have had any contact with the father since 2013:

” … the court was satisfied that it was quite apparent that he was aware of the proceedings and that he had been a significant presence on the periphery of the case.”

The judge added
 
“ …  he was concerned about the child with regard to her religious needs when she was in foster care.”

Press Gang today asked if this Russian had been one of Andrew Norfolk’s sources.  

There was no response by the time we went to press.  

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THIS SCANDAL is far from over.

Press Gang has asked IPSO, the press watchdog partly funded by The Times, to reopen our complaint against Andrew Norfolk.

This complaint is the only one out of more than 150 which claims that all of Norfolk’s articles on this issue were inaccurate.

Our complaint was rejected — even though part of it is identical to the complaint made by Tower Hamlets and upheld by IPSO.

We believe that the judgment released yesterday now places new information in the public domain that IPSO must consider.

There remain other issues which have yet to be resolved: 

— although the judgment makes it clear that the mother was unfit to look after her daughter, it is silent about the care provided by the two Muslim foster carers at the heart of the story.

It seems clear that the foster carers — despite the claims published by The Times — provided exemplary and loving care. 

The grandmother, who the court found to be an impressive witness, thanked them for the quality of their care.

— the judgment is also silent about Press Gang allegations that Andrew Norfolk doctored his account of an earlier court hearing which took place on 29 August 2017.

Norfolk claimed that the reason he and The Times did not disclose the Muslim background of the grandmother was due to their wish to protect the identity of the child. 

Norfolk claims he told the court he was not going to disclose the grandmother’s religious background.

We’re trying to get to the bottom of this.

Press Gang has also asked Norfolk if he distorted the judge’s words in this earlier hearing.

She made it clear that the court’s decision to place the child in the temporary care of her grandmother was based on the application of the law and “not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.” 

Norfolk, in his article, says she used the phrase “as a result of undue media involvement.” 

We’ve already put these points to Norfolk.

He did not reply.

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NOTES

1
The original title of this series — The Fall Of Andrew Norfolk — was changed on 24 September 2018.

2.
The full summary of Judge Sapnara’s judgment can be found below.

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APPENDIX

Summary of the Judgment of Her Honour Judge Sapnara on 16th February 2018.

Background

The court gave judgment on 16th February 2018 following a 10 day final hearing in care proceedings instituted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (‘the local authority’) pursuant to s.31 of the Children Act 1989 and in respect of the subject child AB (‘the child’) who was aged 6 at the time of the final hearing. The Court read extensive bundles of written material/evidence and also heard the oral evidence of fifteen live witnesses which included expert, professional (social workers and police) and lay witnesses. The child’s mother is CD (‘the mother’). She had the benefit of leading and junior counsel representation at this hearing. The child’s putative father is believed to be GH (‘the putative father’). He was not named on the child’s birth certificate and he had never been married to the mother. Therefore he did not have parental responsibility for the child. 

The child spent time in the care of two different foster carers before moving to live with her maternal grandmother (‘the maternal grandmother’), with the support of her maternal aunt (‘the maternal aunt’), towards the end of the summer of 2017. The child remained there at the time of the final hearing under an interim care order. Therefore, the local authority continued to share parental responsibility with the mother. The grandmother, the child and the maternal aunt lived together in the mother’s flat in London which the mother vacated to enable them all to live there. This had been the child’s home prior to removal and it was obviously therefore an environment with which the child was familiar. There was no dispute in this case that the child had a very warm and loving relationship with the maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt and that she was very familiar with them.

The putative father is a Russian national. He did not play any part in the proceedings. The mother in her oral evidence, towards the end of the hearing, maintained that she had not had any contact with the putative father since 2013 and she said that she had been unable to provide any contact details for him. Therefore, he was not formally served with notice of the proceedings. He did not attend any hearing and was not represented. He did not seek to make any application to be joined to the proceedings or to be assessed as a carer for the child, nor to have any contact with the child. He filed no evidence. He remained in Russia as far as the court could ascertain. Whilst he had played no formal role the court was satisfied that it was quite apparent that he was aware of the proceedings and that he had been a significant presence on the periphery of the case. 

The local authority’s care plan recommended the placement of the child with the maternal grandmother under a legal framework which is the nearest equivalent to a special guardianship order as exists in the maternal grandmother’s country of origin which is a Muslim majority country. The local authority proposed in its care plan that there  should be direct contact between the mother and the child four times a year, following the recommendations of the court appointed Children’s Guardian. It also proposed that there be Skype contact between the child and the father.

The local authority’s position was supported by the court appointed Children’s Guardian. The maternal grandmother was not represented in the proceedings but her position was advanced by the local authority with whom she was ad idem.

The local authority invited the court to find that the threshold for the making of final orders was crossed as at the relevant date of 2nd March 2017. The local authority  asserted that as at that date the child had suffered, and was likely to suffer, significant harm and that such harm was attributable to the care given to the child, or likely to be given to her, if an order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect her parents to give her. The broad areas of the local authority’s concerns were the mother’s excessive consumption of alcohol, neglect of the child’s needs and the child suffering emotional harm due to her mother’s drug use and excessive use of alcohol. 

The mother opposed the local authority’s applications. She did not accept that the threshold criteria had been crossed on the facts of the case and disputed all the findings sought by the local authority. She sought the immediate return of the child to her care. Initially her position had been that she wanted the maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt to support her caring for the child in the UK. The maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt did not wish to do that and sought to return to their country of origin with the child as quickly as possible. By the time the mother came to give her oral evidence, she clarified that she was not opposed to a placement with the maternal grandmother in her country of origin in principle but only in the event that the child was not returned to her care. The mother was born and brought up in that country. Both the mother and the child have previously resided there and they each hold dual nationality passports for that country and also for the UK. 

The mother contended that the child had not suffered, nor was she at risk of suffering, significant harm owing to the care she had received from the mother. She stated that she had addressed her alcohol and drug misuse and believed that the child’s welfare would be best met by a return to the mother’s care and that the mother would be marginalised in her child’s life to the child’s detriment if the child went to live with the maternal grandmother in her country of origin. Therefore, the mother sought the immediate return of the child to her care. 

The mother’s case was that her relationship with her daughter was good whilst the child was in foster care and that in fact there was only a negative change when the child went to live with maternal grandmother. It formed no part of the mother’s case that the child would not be loved and well cared for by the maternal grandmother, nor that the child’s needs would not be met by the maternal grandmother. 

The maternal grandparents are Muslim. The maternal family members are educated and of a relatively affluent professional background.  The maternal grandmother chose to take an oath on the Qur’an before giving oral evidence. The grandparents say that they do not attend Mosque but they do pray at home. No issue has been raised about the grandmother’s ability to meet the child’s religious needs. The mother’s primary concern is that if the child were to live with the grandparents, her contact with the child would be at risk. The mother identifies as Christian. There is some evidence that the putative father is also of Christian belief and that he was concerned about the child with regard to her religious needs when she was in foster care.

The child was born in the UK but had also spent a lot of time with her maternal grandparents in their country of origin. Prior to coming to the UK in January 2017 the mother and child had been involved in extensive international travels and spent time in various countries. However the chronology of the movement of the mother and child across international borders and the reasons for doing so and the times that they did so was complicated and difficult for the court to establish. The local authority contends that between 2013 and 2017 the child spent significant periods of time travelling abroad with the mother and was cared for at other times by the maternal grandparents. The mother disputed some of the details in relation to this and maintained that at all times she was the child’s primary carer. 

In January 2017 the mother travelled to the UK with the child. On the morning of 2nd March 2017 the child was removed from the mother’s care under a police protection order following the mother’s arrest for being drunk in charge of a child in a bar in a hotel near the mother’s home. As a consequence, the local authority was required to find an emergency foster placement for the child. The child was made subject to an emergency protection order on 3rd March 2017. An interim care order was made on 10th March 2017 by a judge of the East London Family Court. 

Once removed from the mother’s care the child was place in a foster placement by the local authority. That decision, together with the second move of placement to another foster care placement, has been the subject of intense media coverage and there has been a significant media presence at various hearings of this matter. The nature of those placements and the child’s experiences and treatment within them together with the circumstances of the mother’s arrest have generated significant press interest in, and reporting of, the case. Both foster carers were Muslim. Some of the concerns about the foster carers and their ability to meet the child’s religious, cultural and linguistic needs, as reported in the press, had been either raised by the mother prior to the media reports or otherwise later adopted by her. The mother, her friends and a contact supervisor have been identified in the press as the source of the media reports. On the Guardian’s behalf, in particular, concern was expressed about the mother’s insight into the child’s needs in engaging in this conduct. There has been some evidence at this hearing that the concerns about those needs being met by the foster carers may have come from the father also. 

The court made a case management order at an earlier stage of the proceedings allowing the local authority to release an alternative narrative to the matters that had been reported in the press and to place those in the public domain by 1st November 2017. There had been an internal inquiry by the local authority on the issues raised in the press and it was the local authority’s conclusion that much of that reporting particularly as to the issues arising from the child’s foster placements, had been inaccurate, distorted and unfair. 

At the hearing on 2nd October 2017, as at previous hearings, journalists from a number of news outlets were present; their presence was not opposed by any party. The Times Newspaper Ltd was present and represented by counsel. At that hearing, and each subsequent hearing, the court’s case management orders recorded as follows:

AND UPON the Court reaffirming the importance of the press reporting in accordance with the established guidance and to do so with skill and proper judgment so as not to undermine the welfare of the child, either through direct identification or jigsaw identification.

No accredited member of the press attended at the final hearing. The court indicated that it had been informed by the Child’s Guardian that when the child was moved from her second foster placement to be placed in the care of the maternal grandmother at the end of August 2017 that, very sadly, this had to be undertaken with police presence and assistance, because of the numbers of press in attendance at the foster carer’s address. The child did not have the opportunity to have a proper goodbye with her carers. It would have been entirely in her best interests to do so. If all that is correct, and the court had no reason to conclude otherwise, the court could not see how such circumstances could be regarded as being in the child’s best interests. As observed by the Child’s Guardian, most unfortunately and through no fault or choice of her own, details of the child’s private life are in the public domain and will continue to exist online well into the future. 

In August 2013 the mother pleaded guilty to an earlier offence of battery against a security officer at a London casino after she had been drinking. 

In July 2017, the mother was convicted at a Magistrates’ Court of being drunk in charge of a child on 2nd March 2017. However, in October 2017 the mother’s appeal against such conviction was allowed at the Crown Court. 

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The court’s threshold findings

The court found that at the relevant date of 2nd March 2017 (being the day the child was removed by the police using their protection powers), pursuant to s.31(2) of the children Act 1989, the child had suffered and was likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm suffered or likely to be suffered is attributable to the care given her or likely to be given to her if an order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect her parents to give to her.

The court made the following specific findings as sought by the local authority: 

1

On 2.03.2017 the child was at risk of suffering the neglect of her basic care needs and emotional harm due to her mother’s excessive consumption of alcohol for the following reasons:

2

On the morning of 02.03.2017 the mother had been drinking with a male friend throughout the night since 01.03.2017 in the bar of a hotel whilst the child was in the mother’s care. Furthermore, the court found that the mother had knowingly presented misleading evidence, including the evidence of an expert toxicologist, in support of her appeal in the Crown Court. This expert reported without knowledge of the results of the mother’s hair strand tests which showed positive for cocaine and chronic and excessive use of alcohol by the mother for the highly relevant period of September 2016- May 2017

3

The hotel staff called the police because they were concerned about the mother’s behaviour.

4

The police attended the hotel bar and observed that the mother and her friend were both highly intoxicated.

5

The mother’s friend was so intoxicated that, when he was asked to stand up by the police, he fell over.

6

The child was removed by the police using their powers of protection.

7

The mother was arrested and released the following day on 03.03.2017.

8

On 03.03.2017 the mother attended the local authority’s offices to meet with members of the social work team and smelt strongly of alcohol.

9

The mother’s intoxicated state impaired her ability to safeguard and meet the child’s care needs, placing the child at risk of neglect and physical harm. 

10

It would also have been emotionally troubling for the child to witness this intoxicated behaviour of her mother and the mother’s friend.

11

The child was at risk of suffering the further neglect of her basic care needs and emotional harm due to her mother’s drug use and excessive consumption of alcohol for the following reasons:

— the incident on 02.03.2017 is the second time such an incident has been reported. On 24.09.2012 the Foreign Office received a referral from the duty manager of a hotel in Bulgaria expressing concerns about the mother’s wellbeing. The duty manager reported that he suspected that the mother may be on drugs or alcohol and that the hotel room was not particularly fit for a young child.

— the mother has pleaded guilty to the charge of driving a motor vehicle with excessive alcohol on 2 separate occasions; 16.03.08 and 24.04.09. This indicates that she makes poor decisions when she consumes alcohol.

— the mother tested positive for cocaethylene, a cocaine metabolite that was detected during the period from September 2016 to March 2017. The presence of the metabolite indicates the combined use of cocaine with alcohol. 

— hair strand test results dated 07.04.2017 shows the mother engaged in the excessive chronic consumption of alcohol equivalent to a bottle of wine per day.

— liver Function and CDT Blood Tests carried out in respect of the mother on 13.04.2017 indicated a “recent excessive alcohol intake”.

— a SCRAM bracelet detected the consumption of alcohol between the 13.05.2017 to14.05.2017, within 3 days of the bracelet being fitted.

12

The mother’s chronic and problematic use of alcohol coupled with her minimisation of such concerns gives rise to a risk of emotional harm by reason of the child being exposed to the mother’s alcohol use. It also gives rise to risks of domestic violence which seem to be linked to the mother’s drinking.

13

The mother’s use of alcohol amounted to a sustained pattern of problematic drinking rather than a one off incident of such problematic drinking on 1st – 2nd March 2017.

14

The mother and the putative father appeared to remain in an enmeshed relationship which appears to include a degree of financial control of the mother by putative father. 

15

The relationship between the mother and putative father had been characterised by incidents of domestic violence (some very serious) over a number of years such that if she and the putative father were together and the child were to be present there would be a real risk that the child may get caught up in the domestic violence and might be at risk of suffering physical and emotional harm which might be significant in its nature. 

16

That in the period between April 2012 and December 2016, while the child was primarily cared for by the maternal grandmother, she also spent significant periods of time with her mother and that during those periods of time the child and the mother visited the father on a number of occasions and the child was otherwise exposed to disruption arising out of the mother’s lifestyle which included changes of carers, different partners with whom the mother formed intense  relationships very quickly and other changes in her life. Were the child to be returned to the care of the mother there would be a risk that such pattern would continue.

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The court’s welfare findings.

The court had no doubt that the mother had taken the course she had in these proceedings, driven by the natural desire to be reunited with her daughter. On a subjective analysis she genuinely believes that the child will be better off in her care. Sadly, in the court’s judgement that motivation was also tinged with a degree of wounded pride. The mother’s position was not borne out on an objective assessment of the evidence and in light of the court’s threshold findings. 

The court concluded that the grandmother loves her daughter and is committed to her. It is likely that the maternal family have felt frustrated, disappointed and saddened by the mother’s conduct at times in the past, but the court was struck by what it perceived to be a depth of love for the mother and the child and a commitment to them by the grandmother and maternal family over the years despite the cost to them at times. 

The child had experienced the grandmother as primary carer on many occasions and for lengthy periods. It is clear that the grandmother understands the importance of the mother to the child and the court was satisfied that the grandmother was not seeking to supplant the mother as the child calls her own mother ‘mummy’. The court could see no basis for concluding that the grandmother would deny contact or excise the mother or the putative father from the child’s life. The court was further satisfied that the maternal aunt would protect the child’s interests. 

A placement away from the mother would significantly reduce the current levels of contact between the child and her mother. The child may well suffer emotional harm as a result, but the court was satisfied that this was likely to be in the short term and would be ameliorated by the quality of the care she would receive form the grandmother and the ongoing contact she would have with the mother. 

Addressing the welfare checklist in s.1 of the Children Act 1989 the court concluded that the mother’s capacity to provide adequate and appropriate care for the child long term is severely compromised and the child would be placed at risk of significant harm if returned to her care. The child’s welfare requires that the court override the fact that the mother did not consent to the orders proposed by the local authority. The court further concluded that there was no level of realistic support which could be put in place continuously to manage the risks identified by the court. 

The court was satisfied that the child’s global needs would be met by the maternal grandparents. The child loved her grandmother and was well attached to her. The child would be returning to a familiar carer and a familiar environment. 

Orders. 

The court approved the placement of the child with the maternal grandparents pursuant to a Special Guardianship Order made in the UK on 16th February 2018. The court directed that the maternal family should obtain from the family court in their country of origin, orders mirroring the orders of the UK courts.

The court further directed that:

— neither the mother nor the putative father (who the mother has stated is the father of the child) should remove the child from the care and control of the maternal grandparents.

— the putative father shall not have any face to face contact with child (save through Skype calls involving his own mother which are to be supervised by the maternal grandmother).

— the mother’s contact to the child shall be supervised by the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather, shall take place only at the home of the maternal grandparents 4 times per year (for 2 or 3 consecutive days on each occasion of contact) and shall not include the mother staying overnight with the child.

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THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK: JUDGMENT

September 7, 2018
Andrew Norfolk

JUDGED
ANDREW NORFOLK, chief investigative reporter for The Times, published a story so one-sided Press Gang condemns it as rogue journalism. His narrative is comprehensively destroyed in the court ruling released today. 
Photo: Graham Turner fro The Guardian

EARLIER TODAY Press Gang obtained the final judgment in the case involving the little girl at the centre of Andrew Norfolk’s article in The Times headed “Christian child forced to live with Muslim foster carers”.

Judge Khatun Sapnara delivered an explosive judgment which fatally undermines the narrative advanced by Norfolk, the paper’s chief investigative reporter, and approved by editor John Witherow.

The judgment justifies the first two parts of our series The Shame of Andrew Norfolk: Crusade and  Hallelujah!

The summary deserves to be read in full and Press Gang makes it available here in full. 

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Summary of the Judgment of Her Honour Judge Sapnara on 16th February 2018.

Background

The court gave judgment on 16th February 2018 following a 10 day final hearing in care proceedings instituted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (‘the local authority’) pursuant to s.31 of the Children Act 1989 and in respect of the subject child AB (‘the child’) who was aged 6 at the time of the final hearing. The Court read extensive bundles of written material/evidence and also heard the oral evidence of fifteen live witnesses which included expert, professional (social workers and police) and lay witnesses. The child’s mother is CD (‘the mother’). She had the benefit of leading and junior counsel representation at this hearing. The child’s putative father is believed to be GH (‘the putative father’). He was not named on the child’s birth certificate and he had never been married to the mother. Therefore he did not have parental responsibility for the child. 

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JUDGE KHATUN SAPNARA
THE EAST LONDON Family Court judge has made sure that the false narrative spun by Andrew Norfolk and The Times was challenged. 

The child spent time in the care of two different foster carers before moving to live with her maternal grandmother (‘the maternal grandmother’), with the support of her maternal aunt (‘the maternal aunt’), towards the end of the summer of 2017. The child remained there at the time of the final hearing under an interim care order. Therefore, the local authority continued to share parental responsibility with the mother. The grandmother, the child and the maternal aunt lived together in the mother’s flat in London which the mother vacated to enable them all to live there. This had been the child’s home prior to removal and it was obviously therefore an environment with which the child was familiar. There was no dispute in this case that the child had a very warm and loving relationship with the maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt and that she was very familiar with them.

The putative father is a Russian national. He did not play any part in the proceedings. The mother in her oral evidence, towards the end of the hearing, maintained that she had not had any contact with the putative father since 2013 and she said that she had been unable to provide any contact details for him. Therefore, he was not formally served with notice of the proceedings. He did not attend any hearing and was not represented. He did not seek to make any application to be joined to the proceedings or to be assessed as a carer for the child, nor to have any contact with the child. He filed no evidence. He remained in Russia as far as the court could ascertain. Whilst he had played no formal role the court was satisfied that it was quite apparent that he was aware of the proceedings and that he had been a significant presence on the periphery of the case. 

The local authority’s care plan recommended the placement of the child with the maternal grandmother under a legal framework which is the nearest equivalent to a special guardianship order as exists in the maternal grandmother’s country of origin which is a Muslim majority country. The local authority proposed in its care plan that there  should be direct contact between the mother and the child four times a year, following the recommendations of the court appointed Children’s Guardian. It also proposed that there be Skype contact between the child and the father.

The local authority’s position was supported by the court appointed Children’s Guardian. The maternal grandmother was not represented in the proceedings but her position was advanced by the local authority with whom she was ad idem.

The local authority invited the court to find that the threshold for the making of final orders was crossed as at the relevant date of 2nd March 2017. The local authority  asserted that as at that date the child had suffered, and was likely to suffer, significant harm and that such harm was attributable to the care given to the child, or likely to be given to her, if an order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect her parents to give her. The broad areas of the local authority’s concerns were the mother’s excessive consumption of alcohol, neglect of the child’s needs and the child suffering emotional harm due to her mother’s drug use and excessive use of alcohol. 

The mother opposed the local authority’s applications. She did not accept that the threshold criteria had been crossed on the facts of the case and disputed all the findings sought by the local authority. She sought the immediate return of the child to her care. Initially her position had been that she wanted the maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt to support her caring for the child in the UK. The maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt did not wish to do that and sought to return to their country of origin with the child as quickly as possible. By the time the mother came to give her oral evidence, she clarified that she was not opposed to a placement with the maternal grandmother in her country of origin in principle but only in the event that the child was not returned to her care. The mother was born and brought up in that country. Both the mother and the child have previously resided there and they each hold dual nationality passports for that country and also for the UK. 

The mother contended that the child had not suffered, nor was she at risk of suffering, significant harm owing to the care she had received from the mother. She stated that she had addressed her alcohol and drug misuse and believed that the child’s welfare would be best met by a return to the mother’s care and that the mother would be marginalised in her child’s life to the child’s detriment if the child went to live with the maternal grandmother in her country of origin. Therefore, the mother sought the immediate return of the child to her care. 

The mother’s case was that her relationship with her daughter was good whilst the child was in foster care and that in fact there was only a negative change when the child went to live with maternal grandmother. It formed no part of the mother’s case that the child would not be loved and well cared for by the maternal grandmother, nor that the child’s needs would not be met by the maternal grandmother. 

The maternal grandparents are Muslim. The maternal family members are educated and of a relatively affluent professional background.  The maternal grandmother chose to take an oath on the Qur’an before giving oral evidence. The grandparents say that they do not attend Mosque but they do pray at home. No issue has been raised about the grandmother’s ability to meet the child’s religious needs. The mother’s primary concern is that if the child were to live with the grandparents, her contact with the child would be at risk. The mother identifies as Christian. There is some evidence that the putative father is also of Christian belief and that he was concerned about the child with regard to her religious needs when she was in foster care.

The child was born in the UK but had also spent a lot of time with her maternal grandparents in their country of origin. Prior to coming to the UK in January 2017 the mother and child had been involved in extensive international travels and spent time in various countries. However the chronology of the movement of the mother and child across international borders and the reasons for doing so and the times that they did so was complicated and difficult for the court to establish. The local authority contends that between 2013 and 2017 the child spent significant periods of time travelling abroad with the mother and was cared for at other times by the maternal grandparents. The mother disputed some of the details in relation to this and maintained that at all times she was the child’s primary carer. 

In January 2017 the mother travelled to the UK with the child. On the morning of 2nd March 2017 the child was removed from the mother’s care under a police protection order following the mother’s arrest for being drunk in charge of a child in a bar in a hotel near the mother’s home. As a consequence, the local authority was required to find an emergency foster placement for the child. The child was made subject to an emergency protection order on 3rd March 2017. An interim care order was made on 10th March 2017 by a judge of the East London Family Court. 

Once removed from the mother’s care the child was place in a foster placement by the local authority. That decision, together with the second move of placement to another foster care placement, has been the subject of intense media coverage and there has been a significant media presence at various hearings of this matter. The nature of those placements and the child’s experiences and treatment within them together with the circumstances of the mother’s arrest have generated significant press interest in, and reporting of, the case. Both foster carers were Muslim. Some of the concerns about the foster carers and their ability to meet the child’s religious, cultural and linguistic needs, as reported in the press, had been either raised by the mother prior to the media reports or otherwise later adopted by her. The mother, her friends and a contact supervisor have been identified in the press as the source of the media reports. On the Guardian’s behalf, in particular, concern was expressed about the mother’s insight into the child’s needs in engaging in this conduct. There has been some evidence at this hearing that the concerns about those needs being met by the foster carers may have come from the father also. 

The court made a case management order at an earlier stage of the proceedings allowing the local authority to release an alternative narrative to the matters that had been reported in the press and to place those in the public domain by 1st November 2017. There had been an internal inquiry by the local authority on the issues raised in the press and it was the local authority’s conclusion that much of that reporting particularly as to the issues arising from the child’s foster placements, had been inaccurate, distorted and unfair. 

At the hearing on 2nd October 2017, as at previous hearings, journalists from a number of news outlets were present; their presence was not opposed by any party. The Times Newspaper Ltd was present and represented by counsel. At that hearing, and each subsequent hearing, the court’s case management orders recorded as follows:

AND UPON the Court reaffirming the importance of the press reporting in accordance with the established guidance and to do so with skill and proper judgment so as not to undermine the welfare of the child, either through direct identification or jigsaw identification.

No accredited member of the press attended at the final hearing. The court indicated that it had been informed by the Child’s Guardian that when the child was moved from her second foster placement to be placed in the care of the maternal grandmother at the end of August 2017 that, very sadly, this had to be undertaken with police presence and assistance, because of the numbers of press in attendance at the foster carer’s address. The child did not have the opportunity to have a proper goodbye with her carers. It would have been entirely in her best interests to do so. If all that is correct, and the court had no reason to conclude otherwise, the court could not see how such circumstances could be regarded as being in the child’s best interests. As observed by the Child’s Guardian, most unfortunately and through no fault or choice of her own, details of the child’s private life are in the public domain and will continue to exist online well into the future. 

In August 2013 the mother pleaded guilty to an earlier offence of battery against a security officer at a London casino after she had been drinking. 

In July 2017, the mother was convicted at a Magistrates’ Court of being drunk in charge of a child on 2nd March 2017. However, in October 2017 the mother’s appeal against such conviction was allowed at the Crown Court. 

♦♦♦

The court’s threshold findings

The court found that at the relevant date of 2nd March 2017 (being the day the child was removed by the police using their protection powers), pursuant to s.31(2) of the children Act 1989, the child had suffered and was likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm suffered or likely to be suffered is attributable to the care given her or likely to be given to her if an order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect her parents to give to her.

The court made the following specific findings as sought by the local authority: 

1

On 2.03.2017 the child was at risk of suffering the neglect of her basic care needs and emotional harm due to her mother’s excessive consumption of alcohol for the following reasons:

2

On the morning of 02.03.2017 the mother had been drinking with a male friend throughout the night since 01.03.2017 in the bar of a hotel whilst the child was in the mother’s care. Furthermore, the court found that the mother had knowingly presented misleading evidence, including the evidence of an expert toxicologist, in support of her appeal in the Crown Court. This expert reported without knowledge of the results of the mother’s hair strand tests which showed positive for cocaine and chronic and excessive use of alcohol by the mother for the highly relevant period of September 2016- May 2017

3

The hotel staff called the police because they were concerned about the mother’s behaviour.

4

The police attended the hotel bar and observed that the mother and her friend were both highly intoxicated.

5

The mother’s friend was so intoxicated that, when he was asked to stand up by the police, he fell over.

6

The child was removed by the police using their powers of protection.

7

The mother was arrested and released the following day on 03.03.2017.

8

On 03.03.2017 the mother attended the local authority’s offices to meet with members of the social work team and smelt strongly of alcohol.

9

The mother’s intoxicated state impaired her ability to safeguard and meet the child’s care needs, placing the child at risk of neglect and physical harm.

10

It would also have been emotionally troubling for the child to witness this intoxicated behaviour of her mother and the mother’s friend.

11

The child was at risk of suffering the further neglect of her basic care needs and emotional harm due to her mother’s drug use and excessive consumption of alcohol for the following reasons:

— the incident on 02.03.2017 is the second time such an incident has been reported. On 24.09.2012 the Foreign Office received a referral from the duty manager of a hotel in Bulgaria expressing concerns about the mother’s wellbeing. The duty manager reported that he suspected that the mother may be on drugs or alcohol and that the hotel room was not particularly fit for a young child.

— the mother has pleaded guilty to the charge of driving a motor vehicle with excessive alcohol on 2 separate occasions; 16.03.08 and 24.04.09. This indicates that she makes poor decisions when she consumes alcohol.

— the mother tested positive for cocaethylene, a cocaine metabolite that was detected during the period from September 2016 to March 2017. The presence of the metabolite indicates the combined use of cocaine with alcohol. 

— hair strand test results dated 07.04.2017 shows the mother engaged in the excessive chronic consumption of alcohol equivalent to a bottle of wine per day.

— liver Function and CDT Blood Tests carried out in respect of the mother on 13.04.2017 indicated a “recent excessive alcohol intake”.

— a SCRAM bracelet detected the consumption of alcohol between the 13.05.2017 to14.05.2017, within 3 days of the bracelet being fitted.

12

The mother’s chronic and problematic use of alcohol coupled with her minimisation of such concerns gives rise to a risk of emotional harm by reason of the child being exposed to the mother’s alcohol use. It also gives rise to risks of domestic violence which seem to be linked to the mother’s drinking.

13

The mother’s use of alcohol amounted to a sustained pattern of problematic drinking rather than a one off incident of such problematic drinking on 1st – 2nd March 2017.

14

The mother and the putative father appeared to remain in an enmeshed relationship which appears to include a degree of financial control of the mother by putative father.

15

The relationship between the mother and putative father had been characterised by incidents of domestic violence (some very serious) over a number of years such that if she and the putative father were together and the child were to be present there would be a real risk that the child may get caught up in the domestic violence and might be at risk of suffering physical and emotional harm which might be significant in its nature.

16

That in the period between April 2012 and December 2016, while the child was primarily cared for by the maternal grandmother, she also spent significant periods of time with her mother and that during those periods of time the child and the mother visited the father on a number of occasions and the child was otherwise exposed to disruption arising out of the mother’s lifestyle which included changes of carers, different partners with whom the mother formed intense  relationships very quickly and other changes in her life. Were the child to be returned to the care of the mother there would be a risk that such pattern would continue.

♦♦♦

The court’s welfare findings.

The court had no doubt that the mother had taken the course she had in these proceedings, driven by the natural desire to be reunited with her daughter. On a subjective analysis she genuinely believes that the child will be better off in her care. Sadly, in the court’s judgement that motivation was also tinged with a degree of wounded pride. The mother’s position was not borne out on an objective assessment of the evidence and in light of the court’s threshold findings. 

The court concluded that the grandmother loves her daughter and is committed to her. It is likely that the maternal family have felt frustrated, disappointed and saddened by the mother’s conduct at times in the past, but the court was struck by what it perceived to be a depth of love for the mother and the child and a commitment to them by the grandmother and maternal family over the years despite the cost to them at times. 

The child had experienced the grandmother as primary carer on many occasions and for lengthy periods. It is clear that the grandmother understands the importance of the mother to the child and the court was satisfied that the grandmother was not seeking to supplant the mother as the child calls her own mother ‘mummy’. The court could see no basis for concluding that the grandmother would deny contact or excise the mother or the putative father from the child’s life. The court was further satisfied that the maternal aunt would protect the child’s interests. 

A placement away from the mother would significantly reduce the current levels of contact between the child and her mother. The child may well suffer emotional harm as a result, but the court was satisfied that this was likely to be in the short term and would be ameliorated by the quality of the care she would receive form the grandmother and the ongoing contact she would have with the mother. 

Addressing the welfare checklist in s.1 of the Children Act 1989 the court concluded that the mother’s capacity to provide adequate and appropriate care for the child long term is severely compromised and the child would be placed at risk of significant harm if returned to her care. The child’s welfare requires that the court override the fact that the mother did not consent to the orders proposed by the local authority. The court further concluded that there was no level of realistic support which could be put in place continuously to manage the risks identified by the court. 

The court was satisfied that the child’s global needs would be met by the maternal grandparents. The child loved her grandmother and was well attached to her. The child would be returning to a familiar carer and a familiar environment. 

Orders. 

The court approved the placement of the child with the maternal grandparents pursuant to a Special Guardianship Order made in the UK on 16th February 2018. The court directed that the maternal family should obtain from the family court in their country of origin, orders mirroring the orders of the UK courts.

The court further directed that:

— neither the mother nor the putative father (who the mother has stated is the father of the child) should remove the child from the care and control of the maternal grandparents.

— the putative father shall not have any face to face contact with child (save through Skype calls involving his own mother which are to be supervised by the maternal grandmother).

— the mother’s contact to the child shall be supervised by the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather, shall take place only at the home of the maternal grandparents 4 times per year (for 2 or 3 consecutive days on each occasion of contact) and shall not include the mother staying overnight with the child.

♦♦♦

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THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART TWO: HALLELUJAH!

August 30, 2018

 

Norfolk_series_head_02
A YEAR ago today The Times declared victory in its battle to save a Christian child from Muslim foster carers.

It triumphantly reported the decision of the family court to return the child to her grandmother.

The paper boasted:

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

But storm clouds were brewing.

image

EXCLUSIVE
CHILD GOES TO TURKISH GRANDMOTHER
Press Gang can today reveal that the child at the centre of The Times crusade has gone to live with her Muslim grandmother in Turkey on a permanent basis. The grandmother’s Muslim background failed to make its way into any of reporter Andrew Norfolk’s articles. The decision of the East London Family Court to grant long-term custody is believed to be against the wishes of the mother. This means the mother’s attempt to use Andrew Norfolk and The Times to force the court to give her child back to her has failed.

The court was about to publish its own version of events.

In a devastating statement, the court demolished Andrew Norfolk’s story — and showed his narrative to be little more than a crude anti-Muslim smear.

♦♦♦

WHEN THE TIMES published its dramatic “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” story on 28 August 2017, its chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk knew he was on dangerous ground.

The only way he could justify the piece was to present a grossly distorted version of events.

His story left out the fact that there would be a court hearing the next day — and that the Muslim foster care would come to an end.

Andrew Norfolk

ANDREW NORFOLK 
THE CHIEF investigative reporter for The Times, Andrew Norfolk reported that a Tower Hamlets social services supervisor said the little girl “begged” not to be returned to her foster carer because “they don’t speak English”. Norfolk also reported allegations that foster carers had tried to subvert the child’s Christian faith. It wasn’t until the East London Family Court intervened that the real story emerged …
Photo: Graham Turner / The Guardian

He also left out the fact that the mother is the daughter of Muslim parents.

At this point he was banking on two factors to keep his narrative on track.

The first was that he was almost certain to be the only reporter present at the hearing on August 29.

This would allow him to publish a sanitised version of the proceedings — and allow The Times to claim his crusading reporting had saved the child. 

Secondly, he was expecting the court to order that the child should live with her grandmother — and say little more than that.

These were to prove disastrous miscalculations.

Norfolk didn’t realise the court had already decided to take on The Times … 

♦♦♦

AUGUST 29 could not have started better for Norfolk.

When he arrived at the East London Family Court security staff dramatically refused him entry.

It took the intervention of Judge Khatun Sapnara to allow him to enter the courtroom. 

Norfolk was able to report the next day:

Security staff at the court, where a case hearing took place yesterday morning, ordered a Times journalist to leave the building and threatened an escorted removal by security guards unless the reporter left voluntarily.

When Judge Sapnara was informed of the newspaper’s wish to attend the hearing, the reporter was readmitted.

Norfolk was the only reporter who filed a report on the proceedings. 

Norfolk’s article, published the next day (August 30), was headed:

Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home

In fact, the foster care was due to end anyway.

All parties had already agreed that the child should go to live with her grandmother. 

But it was the sub-head that mattered:

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

The Times wanted readers to be in no doubt that the verdict was a triumph for the crusading journalism of Andrew Norfolk. 

The first three paragraphs continued the narrative of the native English-speaking child forced to live with Muslim foster carers:

A girl at the centre of a care dispute was removed from her Muslim foster parents yesterday and reunited with her family as a judge urged councils to seek “culturally matched placements” for vulnerable children.

The five-year-old, a native English speaker from a Christian family, was taken to her grandmother’s home after a court ruled that she should not remain in the placement organised by the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Judge Khatun Sapnara, a practising Muslim, said it was in the girl’s best interests to live with a family member who could keep her safe, promote her welfare and meet her needs “in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion”. The judge ordered the council to conduct an urgent investigation into issues reported by The Times, saying that the newspaper had acted responsibly in raising “very concerning” matters of “legitimate public interest”.

But once again, Andrew Norfolk was using the purge-and-deceive device he’d applied to his earlier articles.

During the proceedings, it was made clear that the grandmother, although non-practising, was from a Muslim background.

It was also clear that she was a foreign national and that her English was so poor that documents had to be translated into her mother tongue.

(Today, Press Gang also reveals the grandmother is actually from Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country.)

Norfolk didn’t report these sensational revelations.

He had to purge them or risk fatally undermining his narrative.

Remarkably, he and The Times later tried to explain away their decision not to mention the grandmother’s Muslim background.

In a submission to the press watchdog IPSO, The Times said that its approach to this article:

“was governed by its obligation not to publish any details which might identify the child.”

It claimed that Andrew Norfolk told the court that The Times:

“would not be publishing details of the grandmother’s religious and ethnic heritage, so as to avoid any risk of identification.”

DIRBYN_XoAALCx8

HYPOCRISY
ANDREW NORFOLK and The Times claimed that the reason the paper did not report the Muslim background of the grandmother was its concern not to publish anything which would reveal the child’s identity. Yet the paper had already published an actual picture of the little girl.

The submission said that “neither the judge nor [Tower Hamlets] demurred at that proposal”.

The paper added that the court later:

“put into the public domain some information about the family background which it had not expected to have been able to publish.”

Norfolk also deceived readers when he added the comment, buried deep in his article:

Judge Sapnara said her decision to order the child’s removal from foster care was not taken “as a result of undue media involvement”. “It is taken because of the evidence available to the court today, that the grandmother is an appropriate carer for the child,” she said.

What he didn’t know was that Judge Sapnara — perhaps expecting Norfolk to present a distorted version of the proceedings — had decided to make an unusual and decisive intervention.

If Norfolk and The Times would not tell readers the real background to the case, then the court would.

The next day a dramatic eight page statement was released.

It is highly unusual for a judge to order such a comprehensive statement to be published — and with such speed.

It meant that, as people were reading Andrew Norfolk’s distorted report of the hearing, they would be able to compare it to the court’s version of events. 

The statement — its full title is Case Management Order No 7 — noted:

“the court have given permission for an anonymised version of this order to be published”.

The order stated:

“Documents including the assessment of the maternal grandparents state that they are of a Muslim background but are non-practising.”

The order stated bluntly:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court makes it clear that the decision to approve the new care arrangements for the child to live with the grandmother under an interim care order is as a result of the application of the relevant law to the evidence now available to the court and not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.”

Careful readers will notice there’s a significant difference between the court’s version of what happened and Andrew Norfolk’s

In his report, Norfolk added the word “undue”.

The addition of “undue” implies that his reporting had some influence when Judge Sapnara’s statement makes it clear there was none. 

Last night Press Gang asked Andrew Norfolk and The Times about this discrepancy.

We also asked them about the failure to mention the Muslim background of the grandmother. 

They did not reply.

♦♦♦

The intervention of the court was a disaster for Andrew Norfolk and The Times.

The Case Management Order, which confirmed that the child would go to live with her grandmother, hammered Norfolk’s narrative.

It stated:

— the child’s court appointed guardian had “no concerns as to the child’s welfare and she reports that the child is settled and well cared for by the foster carer”

—  Tower Hamlets proposed that the child “remains in the care of the grandmother long term. The mother opposes this.”

5fc99c58-8ce9-11e7-a5d5-0066a735a5c3

JUDGE KHATUN SAPNARA
THE TIMES reported that the Bangladeshi-born judge had “praised” Andrew Norfolk for “exposing” Tower Hamlets’ “failure”. The press watchdog IPSO later ruled that this was “inaccurate”. The judge did no such thing … 

The Case Management Order continued:

— “the mother has confirmed that she did not disclose documents, confidential to this case, to the press”

— the mother must reveal “the documents from the private law proceedings relating to her older child … from Guildford Family Court”

— the mother’s solicitors are permitted to submit “segmented hair strand test results, to test for cocaine covering the last three months …”

—  the mother’s solicitors are also permitted to submit “segmented hair strand and liver function test results, in respect of alcohol, covering the last six months …”

The court also ordered Tower Hamlets to prepare a statement about the allegations made by the mother against the foster carers.

This statement, published two months later, was to inflict further damage on Andrew Norfolk’s narrative.

As Press Gang has already reported in The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: Crusade, this document was agreed between the legal teams of Tower Hamlets and the mother.

It recorded that the grandmother:

 “… has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies.”

These allegations were, of course, the ones made by her daughter and reported by Andrew Norfolk.

The statement added that the grandmother:

“has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child.”

The child told the grandmother that she:

“is missing the foster carer and has asked … if she can have contact with the family.”

♦♦♦

THE INTERVENTION by the court was highly damaging to the reputation of Andrew Norfolk.

Despite these developments, The Times continued to defend his reporting and did not apologise for its articles.

But another problem was brewing.

More than 150 complaints had been made about Andrew Norfolk’s reports to the press watchdog IPSO.

IPSO brushed all of these aside — except for one.

Tower Hamlets complained about The Times headline

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

And IPSO finally ruled that this claim was inaccurate.

The watchdog forced The Times to publish a humiliating ruling — and flag it up on the front page.

The next instalment of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk tells the inside story of the desperate attempts by The Times to ward off  this damning verdict. 

♦♦♦

NOTES

1
The original title of this series — The Fall Of Andrew Norfolk — was changed on 24 September 2018.

2
Andrew Norfolk’s third article is added as an Appendix because The Times operates a paywall. 

♦♦♦

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♦♦♦

APPENDIX

THE TIMES THIRD ARTICLE 
30 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEADLINE

Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home

SUB-HEAD

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

PICTURE CAPTION
In England 84 per cent of foster carers are white, as are 77 per cent of fostered children

A girl at the centre of a care dispute was removed from her Muslim foster parents yesterday and reunited with her family as a judge urged councils to seek “culturally matched placements” for vulnerable children.

The five-year-old, a native English speaker from a Christian family, was taken to her grandmother’s home after a court ruled that she should not remain in the placement organised by the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Judge Khatun Sapnara, a practising Muslim, said it was in the girl’s best interests to live with a family member who could keep her safe, promote her welfare and meet her needs “in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion”. The judge ordered the council to conduct an urgent investigation into issues reported by The Times, saying that the newspaper had acted responsibly in raising “very concerning” matters of “legitimate public interest”.

Friends of the child’s family said that they were hugely relieved by the decision to move her from foster placements where all was “foreign and un- familiar” into surroundings where she would feel “much more at home”.

When The Times told Tower Hamlets last week of its intention to reveal the council’s decision to place a white British child with a family whose culture, faith and primary language were alien, the local authority tried to block the story. It contacted the East London family court, where the girl’s case was the subject of care proceedings, and told Judge Sapnara that confidential court documents had been unlawfully leaked and publication of an article would be an offence.

Security staff at the court, where a case hearing took place yesterday morning, ordered a Times journalist to leave the building and threatened an escorted removal by security guards unless the reporter left voluntarily. When Judge Sapnara was informed of the newspaper’s wish to attend the hearing, the reporter was readmitted.

Earlier this week, the newspaper revealed that the child, who was taken into care in March, initially spent four months in a foster home where, she said, the family often did not speak English at home and encouraged her to learn Arabic.

Social services reports noted that she was tearful and distressed when she was returned to the home. For the past two months she has been in the care of a second Muslim couple, where she spoke of regularly eating meals on the floor. In both households, the primary foster carers veiled their face in public.

A council employee heard the child say that the first foster parent, to whose care she was due to have been returned this week, had taken away her necklace, which had a cross. The same family was said to have refused to allow her to eat a carbonara meal because it contained bacon. Any local authority making a foster placement is required by law to give due consideration to the child’s “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”. Addressing lawyers for Tower Hamlets yesterday, Judge Sapnara said that her “overriding concern [was] the welfare of the little girl”.

“You would presumably accept that the priority should be an appropriate, culturally matched placement that meets the needs of the child in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion?” she said. Kevin Gordon, counsel for the local authority, agreed but said that when the girl initially became the council’s responsibility, no white British foster carers were available.

The Fostering Network charity has estimated that 7,600 new foster families need to be recruited in the next year. It said there was a “particular need for foster carers to look after teenagers, disabled children, sibling groups and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children” but identified no shortfall in carers for babies and young children.

A national shortage of ethnic minority foster carers often leads to non-white children being placed with white British carers. In England, 84 per cent of foster carers are white, as are 77 per cent of fostered children.

The court was told yesterday that the family’s wish for the girl to be placed in the temporary care of her grandmother had been under consideration for a number of months. Judge Sapnara said her decision to order the child’s removal from foster care was not taken “as a result of undue media involvement”. “It is taken because of the evidence available to the court today, that the grandmother is an appropriate carer for the child,” she said. All parties, including Tower Hamlets, supported the decision.

Until the child’s future is resolved, at a date yet to be set, she will continue to have regular meetings with her mother, supervised by council staff. To protect the child, The Times is not disclosing the unusual circumstances that led to her being taken into care this year.

The judge said she had not seen reports of meetings in which a council employee observed the child’s distress and unhappiness and asked Tower Hamlets to provide her with copies.

Tower Hamlets council said it had the “welfare of children at the heart of what we do” and would like to give more details about the case to correct “inaccuracies”, but was legally restricted from doing so. “The decision to choose foster carers for a child is based on a number of factors including cultural background and proximity to contact with the child’s family . . . in order to give them as much stability as possible,” a spokesman said. “We have always been working towards the child being looked after by a family member and will continue to do so.”

ENDS

 

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART ONE: CRUSADE

August 28, 2018

 

Norfolk_series_head_01
A YEAR ago today award-winning reporter Andrew Norfolk published a piece of rogue journalism.

In a series of three articles in The Times he accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a 5-year-old Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers.

It was a sensational exposé which made headlines around the world.

But the series was a cynical crusade against Tower Hamlets, its social workers and foster carers.

It’s part of a growing body of anti-Muslim articles in The Times.

A year-long Press Gang investigation shows Norfolk’s series was only made possible because he excluded key material.

He suppressed four important pieces of evidence:

— the mother of the child was born to Muslim parents

—  Tower Hamlets was always in favour of the child being cared for by her grandmother

— the mother has used a British-Pakistani barrister in court proceedings

— foster care experts warned Norfolk the mother’s version of events was likely to be faulty.

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ANATOMY OF A SMEAR
YOU ARE reading the first part of the most comprehensive account of Andrew Norfolk’s rogue journalism. It has taken a year to produce and includes a broad-ranging complaint to the press watchdog IPSO.
Press Gang is an independent investigative website edited by the retired former ITV current affairs producer Paddy French. He is unpaid.
Press Gang played a part in the downfall of former News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood and exposed the unscrupulous career of Piers Morgan.
However, the expense of running the site is significant — the Guardian, for example, charged us £60 for a licence to use the picture of Andrew Norfolk.
If you want to help Press Gang bring rogue journalists to book, you can make a donation, either a small one-off amount or a more useful monthly subscription. You’ll find the Donate button at the end of this article. 

One told him bluntly:

“You shouldn’t go near this story — it just doesn’t ring true.”

Norfolk’s investigation provoked a storm of protest.

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

The press complaints watchdog IPSO, part-funded by The Times, declined to investigate more than 150 complaints.

It wasn’t until Tower Hamlets entered the fray that IPSO ruled Norfolk and The Times had been inaccurate.

IPSO found their coverage “gave the impression that the judge had found the placement was a ‘failure’ by the council …”

‘“This was a distortion.”

In a major humiliation for Norfolk, The Times was forced to publish a highly critical ruling — and flag it up on the front page.

Press Gang can now reveal that Tower Hamlets also made a complaint against The Sun which had followed up Norfolk’s coverage

Sun Editor Tony Gallagher — unlike Times editor John Witherow — surrendered immediately.

The paper wrote to Tower Hamlets, accepting “the article was not accurate”.

Andrew Norfolk, though, remains unrepentant.

“I think we did our job as a newspaper,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 shortly after his series was published.

Until these articles Norfolk, the chief investigative reporter of The Times, was one of Britain’s most respected journalists.

unnamed2-297x300

EXCLUSIVE
THE SUN RECANTS
SUN EDITOR Tony Gallagher (above) initially repeated many of the allegations made by The Times. But the tabloid threw in the towel as soon as Tower Hamlets complained. In December 2017 the paper wrote to the council accepting that these allegations were “inaccurate”. On newspaper databases which still make the article available, the paper added that “future reporting of claims made that the child was forced to speak Arabic, had a gold cross removed, was banned from eating carbonara because of the pork content and ate meals off the floor should not be reported as fact. A court appointed independent guardian visited the foster carer and interviewed the child alone and found there to be no issues with care and care to be of a good standard.”
Photo: News UK

His work in exposing the sexual grooming of  vulnerable young girls, starting in 2011, is widely regarded as a classic piece of investigative reporting.

It won Norfolk many awards.

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

Press Gang investigates the shame of Andrew Norfolk.

♦♦♦

IN March last year, police were called to a building in East London.

Officers found a young woman and her 5-year-old daughter.

Because the law protects the identity of the child, Press Gang can only reveal part of what happened.

Police decided that the circumstances in which they found the child required them to exercise their “powers of protection”.

They removed the child from her mother.

Because the incident took place in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, it was the council’s social workers who took charge of the little girl.

Social services now had to find emergency foster care while the courts decided what should happen to the child.

The 5-year-old has an unusual background.

Her mother comes from a relatively humble Muslim background in a predominantly Muslim country.

The mother tongue of both the child’s mother and her grandmother is not English.

The child knows her grandmother well.

She has her own room in her grandparents’ home.

The child’s mother insists her upbringing was Christian.

She says her daughter is also Christian.

Andrew Norfolk

CRUSADER
ANDREW NORFOLK made his name with his 2011 series about mainly British-Pakistani men sexually grooming and sexually abusing young girls in Rotherham. It led to several awards including the Orwell Prize and Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He was named Journalist of the Year at the 2014 British Press Awards. When he first heard about the grooming allegations his immediate thought was “this is a dream story for the far right.”  
Photo: Graham Turner for The Guardian

The child’s biological father does not appear to play a significant role in her upbringing.

Social workers now had to decide where the child should go.

They chose a foster carer who was an English-speaking Muslim whose first language is Arabic.

Their own children speak English as their main language — and English is the language used in the home.

At a court hearing in March, the mother asked that her daughter be placed in the care of her grandmother.

Tower Hamlets was in favour if the grandmother passed the necessary assessment process.

The process was delayed partly because the grandmother’s main residence was in a foreign country and because official documents had to be translated into her mother tongue.

When the first foster carers went on an extended holiday in June, a second Muslim family took over.

In the summer of 2017 “friends” of the child’s mother contacted Andrew Norfolk and told him they were concerned about the foster carers.

They provided reports from a social services supervisor which stated:

— the child was sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster home because “they don’t speak English”

— the child claimed that the carer removed her necklace which had a Christian cross and

— the child claimed the carer suggested she should learn Arabic.

Family “friends” also told Norfolk:

— the carer refused to allow the child to eat her favourite Italian food, carbonara, because it contained bacon

— the first foster carer wore a niqab while the second foster carer wore a burqa.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK now began to examine the evidence.

He contacted experts in fostering.

One of these was Andy Elvin, chief executive of The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT).

Elvin said that, in emergency placements like this one, the number of available foster carers would be limited.

Social workers would take into account the nature of the foster carer’s home situation and their ability to give the little girl a stable home environment.

Norfolk told Elvin about the allegation that the foster carers didn’t speak English.

Elvin told him this was nonsense: all foster carers went through a lengthy assessment to make sure they were fluent in both spoken and written English.

Norfolk also asked about the removal of personal effects.

Elvin said there were likely to be sound reasons for taking this course of action.

He added:

“Norfolk also appeared to be totally unaware of basic family court proceedings.”

“This included the fact that the court appoints a guardian, independent of both the parent and the foster carer / local authority, to make sure the child is properly cared for.”

Norfolk said his sources included council reports and concerns raised by “friends” of the mother.

Elvin said he didn’t think this was good enough.

DSC_5262still life160408

IGNORED
ANDY ELVIN (above) is the chief executive of the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity. He warned Andrew Norfolk that there were problems with the narrative he was exploring. The reporter ignored him …  
Photo: TACT

He told him:

“You shouldn’t go near this story —it just doesn’t ring true.”

At this point, Elvin says, Norfolk accused him of being “defensive”.

Norfolk also spoke to a journalist who is a foster carer.

This individual doesn’t want to be identified.

Norfolk gave him much more background information about the case.

The journalist told Press Gang:

“He knew that the child’s heritage was complex and that she was the daughter of migrants on both sides.”

“He had enough information to work out that some members of the family may also be Muslim”.

“He knew that the maternal grandmother had applied for custody and was being viewed favourably by social services.”

“As a foster carer, I challenged many of the claims made about the foster carers in Tower Hamlets.”

“I questioned the reasons why the crucifix might have been removed: we probably would have done the same, mainly for the child’s safety given her age.”

“I explained that birth families routinely — and understandably, perhaps — find fault in foster carers or make false allegations.”

“I also explained that family contact sessions are often difficult, and generally don’t reflect the quality of the placement.”

“I told him he should be very careful.”

These warnings should have been enough for Norfolk to dig deeper into the mother’s tale.

Was she telling the whole truth about her daughter’s placement?

Norfolk was also uniquely placed to investigate the mother’s background.

The Times’ news desk — like those of all national newspapers — was well aware of the circumstances in which the child came to be taken into care.

But Norfolk also had access to the mother — either directly (which he has never confirmed) or through “friends”.

He should have asked for documentary evidence of the mother’s Christianity and for the certificate showing where and when the little girl was baptised.

It would also have been easy for him (as it was for Press Gang) to establish that

— the mother has had relationships with men from several different countries

— this wasn’t the first time she’d been involved with the police

— she appeared to have issues with both alcohol and drugs

— she has an older child who has been the subject of proceedings in the family court.

If Andrew Norfolk made these inquiries, he decided not to share the results with readers of The Times.

Towards the end of August last year Norfolk and senior figures at the paper decided on the editorial line they were going to take.

The paper would publish the mother’s version of events.

The paper also decided that the story would feature on the front page on Monday, August 28.

The date was significant because there was a long-arranged hearing of the family scheduled for the next day.

And, a fortnight earlier, Tower Hamlets had informed the family court that the assessment of the grandmother had finally been completed.

It was positive.

This meant that the court was almost certain to end the foster care and place the child in the care of her grandmother.

Family court experts say that the mother’s legal team would have also have been informed of these developments.

Press Gang asked Andrew Norfolk and The Times if this was the reason why August 28 was chosen.

After that date, the child would no longer have been in the care of Muslim foster carers but have moved to be with her Muslim grandmother.

Neither Norfolk nor The Times answered the question.

♦♦♦

THE TIMES front page headline on August 28 could not have been starker:

Christian child forced into Muslim foster care

The sub-head read:

Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic’

The first six paragraphs of the main story set out Andrew Norfolk’s thesis:

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

DIRBYN_XoAALCx8

In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

The article was illustrated by two photographs, taken from behind, which showed the second of the child’s foster carers wearing a burqa.

The child was shown wearing European clothing.

Her long hair was slightly pixellated.

The captions included the text:

“The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.”

The article added that Tower Hamlets was a “scandal-ridden” council, citing the removal of mayor Lutfer Rahman in 2015 for corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

It also noted an Ofsted report in April 2017 which found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, Ofsted condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The next day Norfolk published a second story with the headline:

Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother

The article continued:

A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

♦♦♦

THE story was picked up by media in both Britain and abroad.

The credibility of The Times combined with Andrew Norfolk’s reputation persuaded many journalists and commentators to accept the paper’s narrative as fact.

Two examples show how toxic some of the coverage became.

Journalist Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph a few days later, wrote:

It’s like something from a dark, dystopian drama.

She added

The authorities note that the child sobs and begs not to be sent back to the foster home “because they don’t speak English”. Her alarmed mother reports that her daughter says “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that European women are “alcoholic”.

Incredibly, this is not science fiction.It’s happening right now, in Tower Hamlets, a scandal-ridden London borough, where the five-year-old has spent the past six months in the care of two different Muslim households.

The Sun published a column by Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, which carried the headline:

The decision to put a five-year-old Christian girl into Muslim foster care is like child abuse and the council must pay.

Phillips took The Times narrative as gospel.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK could only publish his story by purging it of inconvenient facts and deceiving his readers about key evidence.

NATIONALITY

Norfolk bent the narrative to leave readers with the impression that the little girl was English.

Norfolk purged anything that might suggest the girl’s parents were foreign-born migrants.

He also purged the fact that the grandmother was foreign-born.

He deceived readers by describing the little girl as being a “native English” speaker. 

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
EVER SINCE he took over the editor’s chair at The Times in 2013, John Witherow has been under fire for his coverage of issues involving Britain’s Muslim population. In 2015 the press watchdog IPSO ruled that a Times story headed “One in five British Muslims has sympathy for Isis” was inaccurate. The paper had twisted a survey in which respondents weren’t even asked about the terrorist group. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood, gaoled in 2016 for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover “associate” of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

He deceived readers by publishing a photo in which the little girl looked just like any ordinary English child.

MUSLIM BACKGROUND

Norfolk twisted his story to suggest the little girl was an English Christian trapped in families from an alien religious background.

To do this he had to purge the fact that the mother was from a Muslim background.

A court-approved document later made it clear her parents are Muslim.

The same document record the mother’s insistence that they are Christian.

This fundamental conflict was of no interest to Andrew Norfolk.

Norfolk also purged his narrative of the comments made by the experts he talked to.

They told him there might be innocent explanations for the removal of a necklace carrying a cross such as concerns for the little girl’s safety.

These warnings did not suit Norfolk’s chosen narrative so he simply ignored them.

LANGUAGE

In order to emphasise the horror of an apparently English-speaking girl under pressure to speak Arabic, Norfolk purged the complex linguistic heritage of the child, the mother and the grandmother.

It’s clear the child speaks at least English and the foreign language spoken by her grandmother.

The mother is multi-lingual.

The grandmother speaks English poorly at best.

TOWER HAMLETS

For Andrew Norfolk, the villain of the piece was Tower Hamlets council.

To do this he had to purge the fact that social workers had always approved the grandmother as a carer provided an assessment was positive.

Norfolk deceived his readers by using emotive language like the mother “begging” the council to allow the child to go to her grandmother.

And by stating that the council “blocked” the mother’s wish for the child to go to her grandmother.

In his first article he purged the fact that the social services supervisor’s report — the only documentary evidence he had — concerned highly charged contact sessions with the mother.

He deceived readers by leaving out the fact that the child had a court-appointed guardian who was independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets. 

He also purged his account of the critical Ofsted report of comments which praised parts of the fostering service:

“Most children in care live in good foster homes …”

“Children living with family members and foster carers are generally settled.”

“The fostering service is actively recruiting new carers, and it supports carers well. Care proceedings are effective for most children in progressing plans for permanence.”

♦♦♦

IT WAS after Andrew Norfolk had published his first two articles that the East London Family Court sat to decide the fate of the little girl.

Judge Khatun Sapnara heard the assessment of the grandmother was positive.

Both the mother and Tower Hamlets were in favour of the child going to live with her.

The judge agreed.

Andrew Norfolk and The Times reported the hearing in a front page story the next day which included the sub-head: 

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

But the judiciary were already moving to place a completely different narrative into the public domain.

Judge Sapnara ordered a summary of the court proceedings to be published.

It was blunt:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court makes it clear that the decision to approve the new care arrangements for the child to live with the grandmother under an interim care order is as a result of the application of the relevant law to the evidence now available to the court and not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.”

The summary noted that the child’s “biological father has not been located.”

It stated that the mother’s legal representation was paid for out of public funds.

It also stated that the child’s guardian — appointed through the court and independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets — “has no concerns as to the child’s welfare and she reports that the child is settled and well cared for by the foster carer.”

The court also ordered that legal representatives for the mother and Tower Hamlets produce an agreed statement.

Both parties accepted that the first foster carer wore a hajib [the headscarf] and not the niqab Andrew Norfolk had stated as fact in the opening paragraph of his first article. 

This statement recorded the views of the grandmother.

She “… has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies.”

These allegations were made by the mother and reported by Andrew Norfolk.

The grandmother “has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child.”

The child told the grandmother that she “is missing the foster carer and has asked … if she can have contact with the family.”

♦♦♦

NEXT
HALLELUJAH!

THE INSIDE story of the dramatic court hearing that began to unravel Andrew Norfolk’s narrative. The judge breaks with tradition and publishes a highly revealing summary of proceedings. Noting the disagreements between the mother and the foster carers, she orders a report to be prepared that both Tower Hamlets and the mother must agree. When it’s published, it does even more damage to Andrew Norfolk’s version of events.

♦♦♦

NOTES

1
The original title of this series — The Fall Of Andrew Norfolk — was changed on 24 September 2018.

2
The full text of Andrew Norfolk’s first two articles can be found at the end of this article. Press Gang is adding them because The Times operates a pay wall. 

3
Tower Hamlets’ statement of 1 November 2017 is included as Appendix 2. This was added on 26 February 2019. 

♦♦♦

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APPENDIX 1

FIRST TIMES ARTICLE
28 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEAD

“Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”

SUB-HEAD

“Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic”

PICTURE CAPTION 1 

The girl with one of the two Muslim carers appointed by Tower Hamlets

PICTURE CAPTION  2

The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

In any decision regarding a foster placement, local authorities are required to give due consideration to the child’s “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets refused to respond to requests to explain why it had chosen to place a white, English-speaking Christian child with Muslim foster carers, including one household where she was unable to understand the language spoken by the family.

Her first carer, with whom the girl lived for four months, is believed to have worn a niqab outside the family home. The carer at her present foster placement wears a burka, fully concealing her face, when she accompanies the child in public.

The wearing of a niqab or burka generally indicates adherence to a conservative, Salafi-influenced interpretation of Islam that is often contemptuous of liberal western values.

To protect the child, The Times has chosen not to identify her or the unusual circumstances that led to her being taken into care earlier this year.

The girl’s mother is said by friends to have been horrified by the alien cultural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.

“This is a five-year-old white girl. She was born in this country, speaks English as her first language, loves football, holds a British passport and was christened in a church,” said a friend.

“She’s already suffered the huge trauma of being forcibly separated from her family. She needs surroundings in which she’ll feel secure and loved. Instead, she’s trapped in a world where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar. That’s really scary for a young child.”

In some areas of the country, a longstanding shortage of foster carers from ethnic-minority backgrounds frequently leads to non-white children being, of necessity, placed with white British foster parents. It is far less common for the reverse to take place.

Published fostering statistics for England show that of the 51,800 children who were in foster placements last year, 39,900 (77 per cent) were white, as were 52,500 (84 per cent) of the 62,400 approved foster carers.

The 2011 national census found that 80 per cent of England’s population was white British, falling to 45 per cent in London and 31 per cent in inner-city Tower Hamlets.

Across the capital last year, 39 per cent of fostered children and 42 per cent of foster carers were white. In Tower Hamlets, only 24 per cent of looked-after children were white.

No figures were published nationally or at local authority level to show how many children were placed with foster carers of a different ethnicity.

Tower Hamlets declined to reveal how many cross-cultural foster placements it was overseeing. The council also refused to say whether it had a shortage of white British foster carers. It cited confidentiality obligations and accused The Times of putting at risk the stability of a vulnerable child’s foster placement and schooling.

Ten years ago a council report warned of a need to “recruit foster carers from a range of backgrounds” in Tower Hamlets to enable it “to match carers and children, taking into account a number of factors including ethnicity, religion, language, culture and location”.

The under-represented communities that it sought to target in 2008 in adverts for new foster carers were “Caribbean, African, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi (for older children) and white”.

More recently the council has earned public notoriety. In 2015 it was stripped by the government of many of its powers after its former mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

In April this year an Ofsted inspection of the council found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, it condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The Department for Education said it was unable to comment on cases but a spokesman stressed that “when placing a child in a foster home, the local authority must ensure that the placement is the most appropriate way to safeguard the child and support their welfare. A child’s background is an important consideration in this decision.”


SECOND TIMES ARTICLE
29 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEAD

“Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother”

PICTURE CAPTION Tower Hamlets has placed a young Christian girl into foster care with two Muslim families in turn. For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a foster carer who wears a burka
A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

Instead, she initially spent four months with a carer whose family often spoke Arabic when she was with them, leading the girl to complain that she was unable to understand what they were saying.

A Tower Hamlets employee who supervised regular meetings between the child and her family recorded the child’s distress, at the conclusion of each meeting, when she was handed over to the carer.

In a written report of one meeting, the contact supervisor described the girl as “very emotional and tearful”.

“She said they don’t speak English at the home, she doesn’t understand the Arabic words where she is. [The girl] said she wants to go back home to her [mother].”

The social services employee heard the child whispering Arabic words to her mother that she was allegedly told must be said aloud to ensure that “when you die you go to heaven”.

Her reports also describe the child’s account of her necklace, which carried a Christian cross, having been removed, and not returned, by the first foster carer.

After another supervised meeting, the council worker heard the child explaining to her mother that the foster carer “said she needs to ask [her social worker] if she can learn Arabic”.

At the end of the meeting, the girl “started crying and saying that she doesn’t want to go back”.

For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a second foster carer. Both women concealed their faces when they were with the girl in public, the first by wearing a niqab and the second with a burka.

It is understood that the five-year-old has also spoken of the first foster carer having refused to let her eat a meal of carbonara because it had bacon in it.

Friends of the family said she had also told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid”.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that any state agency considering a foster placement must pay due regard to “the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets has refused to respond to requests from The Times to explain why it has twice chosen to place the girl in an environment that is wholly alien to her heritage and upbringing.

A council spokesman said yesterday that its fostering service “provides a loving, stable home for hundreds of children every year”. All its foster carers received training and support to ensure they were “fully qualified to meet the needs of the children in their care”.

“In every case, we give absolute consideration to our children’s background and their cultural identity.”

A national shortage of foster carers from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly in rural areas, often leads to a non-white child being placed with white British foster carers. It is far more unusual for a white child to be placed in a non-white foster home.

According to published fostering statistics for England in 2016, 84 per cent of approved foster carers were white, as were 77 per cent of fostered children.

APPENDIX 2

Tower Hamlets, 1 November 2017
Foster carer story statement

The outcome of the investigation below relates to the fostering case that was covered heavily in the media from late August, 2017. See our statement at the time.

  1. This information is from an investigation undertaken by a senior social worker from Tower Hamlets council. It forms part of the evidence filed on behalf of the local authority in two sworn statements before the Court in the public law care proceedings. This document is agreed between all parties and approved by the Court.

  2. The mother raised concern about the cultural appropriateness of the placement directly with the social work team and formally via solicitors and in a statement dated 20 March 2017 in court proceedings. The only allegation referred to in that statement was that the child’s cross had been removed from her. It was explained to her by the social workers that, as the child was placed in an emergency situation following concerns she was at risk, this was the urgent placement available. 

  3. Following earlier hearings, the case was listed before HHJ Sapnara for the first time on 31 March 2017. There was no application on behalf of any party for an order which would involve a change of foster carer. Nor was there such an application at a further hearing on 9 May 2017.

  4. At a hearing on 19 April 2017 Directions were given by the court to commence an assessment of the maternal grandmother. This assessment was delayed as a result of complexities relating to legal procedures, and international protocols required to be followed, as the grandmother was living in her country of origin at the time.

  5. In June 2017, the original foster carer was going on an extended holiday overseas so a planned move to a respite placement was required.  The mother applied to Court to on 23 June 2017 to have the child moved to her maternal grandmother (MGM) to avoid another foster placement and one which was not a cultural match.  At a hearing on 27 June 2017, that application was dismissed because the outcome of the MGM’s full assessment was not – at that time – known.   In those circumstances mother did not pursue a case (for a discharge of the interim care order) so that the foster care placement could be changed and instead awaited the completion of the assessment of her mother as a carer for the child. However, the position statement filed on behalf of the mother at the hearing on 27 June 2017 raised further allegations – in addition to the issue about the cross – as to whether the placement was culturally appropriate. These allegations related to the foster carer wearing burka; rejection of food cooked by the mother for the child and the child suggesting to her mother that she wants to be Muslim.

  6. Throughout the child’s stay in foster care she had frequent direct and indirect contact with her mother, MGM and maternal aunt as well as professionals. All contact has been formally supervised. The child was visited in both placements by the independent Children’s Guardian who raised no concerns as to the care being provided to the child. The child was visited in the second placement after two days due to reports at contact that she was distressed and the social worker saw her happily playing and settled.

  7. In response to the mother’s application in June 2017 and ongoing concerns raised by her, on 27 June 2017 the court directed the local authority to file a statement dealing with these issues raised by the mother as to the cultural appropriateness of the foster placements and the steps taken to address those concerns.  An initial enquiry took place in July 2017, which consisted of an interview with the mother and a discussion with the first social worker. Following further allegations published in the media August 2017, the mother adopted those concerns at the hearing on 29 August 2017. The Court directed a further statement to address those concerns. A further enquiry took place in which both foster carers and MGM were interviewed across August and September 2017.

  8. Age appropriate conversations were had with the child as part of the Local Authority’s statutory duties. The child also wrote a letter to the Judge in August being supported by the Children’s Guardian to do so, wherein she expressed always being happy in the placement.

  9. The child’s original foster carer is Muslim and wears a hijab not a niqab or a burka. The child’s respite foster carer is also Muslim and wears a burqa in public but not in her home.  The respite foster carer’s husband is White British Muslim.

  10. The Mother initially raised concerns about the child’s crucifix going missing. the child is recorded  to have stated on 2 occasions that the foster carer has removed the crucifix. The July investigation found that  the child had not gone to the first placement with that crucifix. This investigation found that the child had most likely lost her crucifix before she was placed. 

  11. Tower Hamlets subsequent investigation found in accordance with MGM’s report, that the child has two crucifixes. The MGM states that she had one of the child’s crucifixes in the child’s bedroom in the MGM’s country of origin and that this had been given to her by the child’s mother in March 2017. The other is a large gold piece of jewellery that belonged to the child’s great grandmother, and was given to the child by her mother during proceedings but considered by the second foster carer to be inappropriate in size and value for a small child as it might be lost or broken. It is now in the possession of the MGM, who is in the UK; which confirms the second foster carer’s account about what she did with the second crucifix. The gold second crucifix has been seen by the social worker in the MGM’s home.

  12. With regard to the allegation that the child was unable to eat pork / ham, Tower Hamlets found that there had been no rejection of food brought for the child by the mother for religious reasons. The foster carer stated that on one occasion the food was not put into a secure container so it spilled onto the buggy.

  13. The allegation that the child was distressed as the foster carer spoke only in Arabic was found by Tower Hamlets not to be correct.  It is recorded that the child stated during a contact session that the foster carers don’t speak English in the home and she was distressed prior to her return there.  The foster carer’s first language is Arabic but her husband is White British born in the UK.  The foster carer’s children’s first language is English and that is the language of the home. The child had greeted the carer with a traditional greeting which she may have heard the carer say on the telephone to her relatives as a normal greeting. When spoken to by the social worker during Tower Hamlet’s enquiry, the child said they only spoke English at home and outside the home.

  14. The allegation that the foster carer had made derogatory statements about European women to the child was not substantiated. Conversations between the social worker the child found that the child does not know what Europe is.  The MGM is clear that this is not something this child could or would have said.

  15. In respect of the allegation that the child said “Christmas and Easter are stupid”; the social worker has talked to the child about the festivals and she expressed excitement and described having an Easter egg hunt at the foster carer’s home and receiving an Easter egg from the carer. She brought an Easter egg to contact to share with her mother. She expressed no negative views about Christmas, Easter or any religious festival to the social worker. The mother proposed that the child be taken to a Christian church but this was too far from the placement.

  16. The allegations that the child was made to sit on the floor and eat has been explained; the child said she sometimes ate apples on the floor whilst sitting with the foster carer’s child. She also sometimes ate on the sofa and at the table. There was no question that this was not a matter of choice or that this was a cultural imperative.

  17. The MGM has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies. She has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child. The child has told the MGM that she is missing the foster carer and has asked the MGM if she can have contact with the family.

  18. Although the mother disputes the findings, the Local Authority is satisfied that at all times the foster carers provided warm and appropriate care to the child. The Local Authority has been impressed with the care and commitment shown by the carers to the child.  This is reflected in the child’s description and reaction to the carers and the MGM’s positive relationship with them.

  19. The Local Authority remains concerned that the mother and contact workers were questioning the child repeatedly during contact about her foster carers. Enquiries into this are taking place.

  20. The Local Authority does not accept the allegations as made in the National press for the reasons set out above.
Posted on Wednesday 1st November 2017
ENDS

EXCLUSIVE: THE WATCHDOG STIRS

January 19, 2018

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THE TIMES is under investigation for a controversial series of articles which claimed a five-year-old Christian child was forced by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to live with Muslim foster parents. 

The three articles, written by award-winning Chief Investigative Reporter Andrew Norfolk and published in August last year, resulted in a barrage of complaints to the watchdog IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Critics claimed the series was inaccurate and amounted to a racist smear against Britain’s Muslim community. 

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

IPSO — funded and controlled by newspapers including The Times — rejected 254 complaints.

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GOSPEL
THE FIRST of The Times articles, published on August 28 last year, attracted 251 complaints — all of them rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

It ruled that only people directly affected could complain about discrimination.

And it claimed it was unable to investigate allegations of inaccuracy “without the involvement of an individual in the position to know the facts of this case … “

But Press Gang has learned that everything has dramatically changed.

A “party directly involved” has recently come forward.

An IPSO spokeswoman confirmed that this person has submitted a complaint — number 255 — and that it is being investigated.

The complaint alleges that one of the articles in the series was inaccurate — and also breached the section of IPSO Editors’ Code which protects children.

The new complaint is a major blow to The Times.

The paper — and its editor John Witherow — had hoped the “Childgate” affair had blown over.

This morning Press Gang told the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) about the new development.  

Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said he is now “looking to re-submit his complaint.”

He had previously condemned IPSO’s failure to investigate as an “appalling dereliction of duty”.  

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times’ editor John Witherow has come under the Press Gang microscope. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

Andrew Norfolk, who won the Paul Foot award for his investigative reporting of the grooming of teenage girls in the north of England, has defended his articles.

He told the BBC Today programme last October:  

“My job as a reporter, when matters on the face of it raise serious concerns are brought to our attention, my job is to investigate them.”

He added:

“And when you discover issues that you believe are in the public interest to explore and expose … I think we did our job as a newspaper.”

IPSO is also considering whether to accept another complaint: number 256.

On Wednesday, Press Gang submitted a 13 page complaint — the most comprehensive IPSO has received on the issue of accuracy.

Yesterday, a copy of the complaint was sent to Andrew Norfolk and John Witherow, editor of The Times.

We asked for a comment by 2pm this afternoon.

There was no response from either. 

The Press Gang investigation continues.

Anyone who has any further information can contact via Twitter @pguk10

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CORRECTION
This article was amended on January 21. The original headline — “A Watchdog Stirs? — was amended to “A Watchdog Stirs”. The second paragraph originally said there were three front page articles: in fact there were only two. Apologies for the mistake. 

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