Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming tells parents suspected of child abuse to flee because they ‘can’t get a fair trial’

Chairman of the Justice for Families group says the legal system is stacked heavily against individuals and in favour of local authorities

An MP has advised parents suspected of abusing or neglecting their children to leave the country if they fear being denied a fair hearing in the family courts.

Liberal Democrat John Hemming, chairman of the Justice for Families group, said the legal system was stacked heavily against individuals and in favour of local authorities. He said he had been contacted by hundreds of parents who claimed they were being unfairly targeted by social services.

“All the cards are held by the local authority. It has large resources to fight the cases, it does all the assessments,” he told tonight’s BBC Panorama.  “My advice to people, if they can afford it, is just to go abroad. You can’t get a fair trial here, because you can’t rely on the evidence being fair. It’s best simply to go if you can, at the right time, lawfully.”

Mr Hemming cited the case of a young woman with mild learning difficulties who fled to Spain to prevent her baby being taken off her by Suffolk social services which had flagged up concerns over her ability to look after the child when she became pregnant  in 2009. The woman eventually returned to the UK when her parents were granted a court order giving them shared responsibility and guaranteeing she could keep the child, who is now thriving.

Local authorities made 10,000 applications to take children away from their parents and into care last year, the highest number on record. Some campaigners claim social workers are over-reacting following the public outcry over the Baby P case and other high-profile incidents of child abuse and neglect.

But the Children and Family Court Advisors and Support Service (Cafcass), which looks after the interests of children in the family courts, said the figures demonstrated  that more children were  being protected.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas criticised Mr Hemming’s call for parents to flee Britain, saying it would not help improve the system.

“To advocate leaving altogether doesn’t solve the problem for the vast majority of children and parents who need our courts to be as good as they possibly can be,” he said.

Mr Hemming was at the centre of a controversy earlier this month when it emerged he had been suspended from using the social-networking site Mumsnet after breaching rules safeguarding the anonymity of users taking part in online debates.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley had earlier accidentally breached UK reporting restrictions when he posted a transcript of Italian court proceedings which identified some of the protagonists in the case of an Italian woman who was forced to undergo a Caesarean and whose child was taken into care by Essex County Council. The post was deleted.

Mr Hemming told The Independent: “The authorities abroad know things are a bit silly in England.” He added: “It’s awful, the whole thing is awful. They leave children to die from child abuse and neglect whilst going after unborn babies and parents who have not had a chance to prove themselves.”

He also called on family courts to be made more transparent to journalists seeking to report their proceedings. At present private hearings in family courts and the Court of Protection are listed by case number or letters to protect the identity of children and vulnerable people involved.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable