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CCTV 'could stop parents' abuse'

An eight-year-old girl suggested fitting her house with CCTV so that social workers could monitor her mother and father's abusive behaviour, a family court judge has heard.

The youngster said social workers "should watch Mummy and Daddy", Judge Heather Swindells was told.

She said cameras were needed in every downstairs room "because they hit us downstairs".

Detail of her suggestions has emerged in a written ruling on the case by Judge Swindells, who sits in Lincoln.

The girl was speaking to social services staff after she and her seven-year-old brother were taken into temporary care when concerns were raised.

Staff had asked what decisions she thought a judge should make about their long-term futures - after she said she had "loads of worries" about what was happening.

"They hurt us, they smack us, they argue and they lock us in the bedroom and they starve us," said the girl.

"The judge should decide that we can't go home yet until Mummy and Daddy change."

She said her parents, both in their 40s, "could do a calendar" and "if they don't hurt us, they can tick a box".

Judge Swindells granted an application by social workers and ruled that the girl and her brother should go into long-term foster care.

The judge highlighted the couple's "punitive parenting style" and their "use of unreasonable chastisement", and said they had "no real insight into the devastating impact of their abusive parenting".

She said no one involved could be identified.

But she named the local authority with responsibility for the children as Lincolnshire County Council.

"(The girl was) consistently clear to the social worker, the teachers and the foster carer that the reason she was not with Mummy and Daddy was because 'they hurt us, they smack us, they argue and they lock us in the bedroom and they starve us'," said Judge Swindells.

"In the light of these risks, the local authority's proposal was for a placement outside the family in long-term foster care. During a pastoral session (the girl) said that she had loads of worries about what's happening this month.

"She was asked 'What did she think the judge should decide?' and she said 'That's a difficult question. The judge should decide that we can't go home yet until Mummy and Daddy change... the social workers should watch Mummy and Daddy. They need to put cameras in every room; not upstairs - downstairs, because they hit us downstairs... They (Mum and Dad) could do a calendar and, if they don't hurt us, they can tick a box'."

The judge contrasted the girl's "poignant remarks" to the views of her parents.

"When the father had been asked what his understanding of the concerns were, he had been flippant in his responses, did not acknowledge the concerns and blamed his daughter, (the girl), whom he referred to as 'a right little arse' due to her attention-seeking behaviour," said Judge Swindells.

"The mother was also dismissive of the concerns stating that the children were currently residing in foster care 'because the children have told pork pies and they have been believed'."

She added: "The mother refused to accept that (the girl) had expressed the need for 24-hour CCTV surveillance before she could feel safe with her parents. She said that (the girl) was 'light-fingered' and so would not want CCTV cameras. She went on to suggest that the family support worker must have put words into her mouth."

Judge Swindells said social workers began an investigation after a bruise and scratches were spotted on the boy. He had been questioned at school and had said: "My mummy strangled me and my daddy hit me."

The girl had said her mother had dragged her brother by his ear, put him over her knee and "smacked him with a slipper". She said her father had "dragged him upstairs" and "smacked him with his hand '12 of the best' and mum strangled him as well".

She had said: "'Six of the best' is when you've been naughty and you get loads of smacks on the backside by Mum and Dad. It leaves red marks and is painful. He kept smacking me once around my backside and it really did hurt a lot."

Judge Swindells said the father had initially told police that neither he nor the mother had smacked the little boy.

"During the police interview, however, the father went on to say, 'we used to give him, about six months ago, six of the best with a little slipper on his arse if he misbehaved but that didn't work'," said the judge.

"In cross examination he conceded that the mother did place the children across her knees, whilst sitting upon the arm of the sofa in the dining room, and use the purple slipper a couple of times. His reason for not conceding this before was that 'no-one would like to admit it as I wouldn't like people to think I beat my children'."

The judge said a member of social services staff had noted the father as admitting to smacking the girl "on occasion" though "not hard". He had also been recorded as feeling that: "Children nowadays are out of control because you can't smack them."

Judge Swindells said the couple had "undeniable love" for their children but said there were serious negative aspects to their parenting style.

"During their evidence both parents reverted at times, when faced with difficult questions, to blaming the children and branding the children as liars," said the judge.

"The emotional toll on the children, which this emotionally abusive behaviour produces, is exemplified by ... (the girl's) poignant remarks."

She added: "Due to their long-standing exposure to their parents' punitive parenting style, there has been a breakdown of trust between the children and their parents, which will require urgent highly specialist assistance to avoid the damage to the well-being of the children becoming entrenched. The parents have no real insight into the devastating impact of their abusive parenting."

Judge Swindells said "intensive work" had been carried out with the couple to try to "effect changes in their parenting" - but to no avail.

"They, sadly remain blinkered in their view of themselves as the perfect parents," the judge added.

"This is no basis for building up the children's trust and can only drive me to the conclusion that the prognosis for the parents' effecting real changes to their parenting style, so as to ensure their children's safety, is poor."

She went on: "Is there a possibility that the parents may develop their understanding of their shortcomings so as to guarantee the future physical and emotional safety of the children? Very sadly I have to conclude that they cannot."


From Belfast Telegraph