Around 12.30 am on 6.3.11, Marion, her young baby son, Harley and Marion's stepfather, John set out to travel from Marion's mother's home in Builth Wells to their own home in Swansea, by car. I followed in my car accompanied by Robin who is Marion's partner and Harley's father.
After a few minutes Robin and I noticed a car which appeared to be following us and we soon discovered it was was a police car when it switched on it's flashing blue light and forced my car to stop.
I wound down my window to ask what the problem was and one of the two policemen reached in to my car and pulled my keys out of the ignition, confiscating them. He then came straight back with a bright torch and shone it into my car obviously looking for something.
He said “I was expecting to find a a baby in this car. Where is the baby?”
I told him that the baby was in the car in front and I heard him telling the other officer that they had stopped the wrong car and they dashed off quickly to chase after the car Marion, Harley and John were in, quickly giving me my keys back.
I followed as fast as I could and was no more than a minute or two behind, but by the time we arrived on the scene, 5 police vehicles, all with their blue lights strobing and hazards flashing, had surrounded, Marion, Harley and John.
Robin and I quickly got out to speak to the police and try to protect Marion and Harley, but it was difficult at first to get anywhere near because of so many police milling about. The strobing lights had a really unpleasant and disorientating effect and were almost blinding, so it must have been terrifying and intimidating for Marion and Harley. Marion was obviously refusing to get out of the car and John was arguing strongly with the police and demanding to see their documentation.
I went over to a small group of police who were standing to the side and introduced Robin as Marion's partner and the baby's father and myself as Robin's common law advocate. I also explained that in the absence of Marion's common law advocate I was speaking for her as well. The officer I was mainly speaking to asked me to clarify if Robin was the “paternal father” and Marion was the “paternal mother” (quote)This was number 610.
I asked them what this was all about and I was told that they had been ordered to take mother and baby to Ammanford police station where a social worker was on the way. I asked them what authority they had to behave in this way and did they have a court order?
They admitted they didn't have a court order. I then told them that they would be acting illegally if they hadn't got a properly signed and sealed order, but they said that wasn't true. We argued this point a bit and I was told “there must be one, or social services wouldn't have instructed us to do this.”
I got the numbers of 4 of the police. These were, 1032, 1176, 1167, and 610- Jones. The whole scene was chaotic and intimidating. One policeman had no number visible, so I had to ask him for it. I'm not sure though which one it was. I tried to speak to Marion but couldn't get near her and John was arguing about how Marion and John would travel to the police station. The police were insisting that they had to travel in the police car whilst Marion and John wanted to be escorted there in their own car. Marion was insisting that Harley had to travel in a proper car seat and they told her the car seat he was already in must be strapped into the police car. After a good few minutes of wrangling,Marion took Harley out of the seat and it was moved into the back of a police car. Marion was very concerned that the seat wasn't secured properly as it was moving about, but the driver said “it's fine because I'm a safe driver.” I considered this a dangerous reply, which put the baby at risk of injury in the event of an accident or collision.
Marion, Robin and I and I kept insisting that mother and baby mustn't be separated because of Harley's serious cow's milk allergy. To reassure us all, Police Officer 610, Jones told Marion that where Harley was going, she was going, but he later denied saying it.
Gradually the police cars that weren't needed drove away. Robin and I told the police that we were going to the station too, but that we didn't know where it was. Robin said he thought there was a new police station. He knew where the old one was, but not where the new one was. The driver said that the new one was right by the old one and we couldn't miss it and that anyway we could just follow him, but when he set off he drove very fast indeed, breaking the speed limit and we just couldn't keep up.
John didn't accompany us to the station, because he had heard from Marion's Mum that she was very upset as she'd had a visit from police just after we'd left, so he went back home.
Marion told me that she asked the driver to slow down on at least 4 occasions on the way to the station, because he shouldn't have been driving so fast with a young baby on board in a baby seat that was not properly secured. Her pleas were ignored however.
When Robin and I arrived in Ammanford we couldn't find the station and it certainly didn't seem to be near the old one.
Eventually we found it and saw that Marion was sitting in the grim waiting room all on her own. There were large glass doors and we could clearly see her, but couldn't get in as the doors were locked. To the left of the doors was an intercom system. I asked to be let in and explained who we were, but the person on the other end asked which police station we were standing outside. I told him Ammanford and he said he would call them and ask someone to let us in and after what seemed like a long time we were admitted. Marion was being very brave, but was obviously finding the whole thing extremely harrowing and so was Robin. It was about 1.30am when were let in.
More discussion followed about the lack of a properly signed and sealed court order. I asked 610 Jones if he was there to uphold the law, to which he agreed he was. I then asked him if he would protect Marion and Harley if the social worker couldn't produce the proper documentation, a signed and sealed court order.
In response, 610 Jones insisted it was quite normal not to have documentation, that Social services could be trusted as professionals and that the police would always carry out social services instructions. He refused to accept that it would be illegal to take Harley into care without one.
The social worker duly arrived carrying a car seat that had seen better days. He announced very casually as he came in that he had come to collect the baby, and appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the baby's parents might not be too happy about that. He strolled over to look at Harley, then remarked to Jones that “it's a beautiful baby”. This was said with a callous sort of indifference to the fact that there were 2 distraught parents he was about to take this “beautiful baby” away from.
The social worker told me his name was David Davis. I checked his ID, as did Marion. I asked him what level of social worker he was and he answered that “I'm Dave Davies, the out of hours manager based at Morriston.” I said “but what grade or level are you”? but he wouldn't or couldn't answer.
He announced he was there to carry out a “recovery”. I asked how he could “recover” a child who had never been in social services care before, and his response was that the order was called a “Recovery Order”. We of course asked to see this order, but he hadn't got one. He admitted he hadn't even set eyes on this order, but had just been given his instructions. I asked him if we could see his instructions in that case, but he wouldn't show them. He read out what was handwritten on a bit of paper and it just instructed him to pick up Harley and deliver him to a foster placement. He wouldn't say where. He claimed to have been told nothing about Harley being breastfed or about his cows milk allergy. Marion was adamant that she and Harley must not be separated and Robin and I kept insisting on that too.
Davies just assumed initially, when we explained about the milk problem, that Harley must be lactose intolerant and that a lactose free formula could therefore be substituted and it took some time to convince him that would not do. Eventually he went to use his phone and get advice, which he claimed was from a consultant at Morriston hospital, who said a formula milk called Nutrimagen would be perfectly suitable. We were not satisfied with this because the person giving the advice had no knowledge of Harley, so we didn't think it could be relied on. Nor was the Social Worker medically qualified to enable him to form a safe judgement on Harley's condition or what he had been told on the telephone.
Marion was pleading to be allowed to accompany Harley, so as to continue to feed him herself. We cited Harley's human rights, but the police man dismissed this saying “human rights, but he's only 3 months old”. I was shocked at his lack of understanding of the human rights of a child.
Davies told us he hadn't got anywhere he could put mother and baby together, so we continued to explain to the policeman and Davies, that the breastfeeding issue was of paramount importance for Harley's health and wellbeing. We suggested he contact the health visitor and/or the hospital where Harley had been taken when he had suffered a severe allergic previously when fed formula on the Health Visitor's advice.
Marion was resolute in not just handing her infant son over, despite all the pressure and bullying she was being subjected to. They also tried to pressurise both Robin and me into bullying Marion to comply with their demands, but we wouldn't.
Eventually in desperation the police man, Jones, who was looking increasingly uncomfortable and worried agreed to get a copy of the order faxed to the station and we settled down to wait for it. While waiting we kept telling the social worker and Jones about the circumstances of the case. Davies the social worker appeared very puzzled when we explained we had been in court on Thursday,only some 60 hours or so previously and no court order had been served.
“But you must have had a care order” he said a couple of times. No we told him, no order of any description has been received by the parents since the recent hearing. He seemed confused by the fact that the hearing had taken place so recently.
Marion told him she knew quite a number of social workers who she had had dealings with and she mentioned several names, including the name Dermot Jones. Davies responded that he knew Dermot Jones and smiled approvingly when his name was mentioned. Marion then said, “so you would know that he was sacked then and what he did that caused him to be investigated.”
Davies just acknowledged that he was aware. (Marion then reminded me that Jones had been one of her other son's social workers).
All this time Harley was in his mother's arms, either sleeping or feeding. Marion believed that they wouldn't attempt to snatch him out of her arms in case he was harmed. I wasn't sure but hoped that was true.
We told Davies of the previous recommendation that mother and baby should be placed together and demanded he find a placement for both of them, but he insisted there was no such place available. We kept on telling him about the dangers of feeding Harley formula, but he insisted the formula he was going to be given was perfectly suitable.
Marion said she could not agree to her son being experimented on and demanded that if they insisted on feeding him formula, it should be in a hospital environment and in her presence so that Harley could be monitored for adverse reactions. This was coldly dismissed by the social worker.
PC Jones and Davies went on a couple of occasions into the corridor to talk out of earshot and so I followed them and joined in. They didn't quite seem to know what to do with me. Whatever they were talking about before I joined in, I don't know, but I asked the first time whether an assessment centre for the whole family could be arranged and I was told, no. The second occasion I tried getting some compassion out of them for the terrible pressure they were putting this family under and in particular Marion. She was looking more and more alarmed and distressed and I didn't know just how much more she could take. They said they sympathised but they had their jobs to do. They wanted me to persuade her. PC Jones told me several times hat he was a family man himself and was finding this distressing. PC Jones was alternately trying to bully her and persuade her more gently.
When the fax arrived we saw that the order had no signature or stamp and we pointed this out. Both men insisted it was still legal and Jones said this was splitting hairs or words to that effect. He accused us of constantly finding excuses and moving the goal posts. He again accused us of that when we informed them that Harley has a condition known as a tongue tie which makes it difficult for him to suck from a bottle. Jones dismissed this although he was clearly not medically qualified to do so.
Davies the social worker was getting impatient and formally asked the police officer, present to implement “S.46”
I asked for an explanation of what S 46 entailed and was told that it gave them the power to forcefully separate Marion from her baby and to arrest her and put her in the cells. The Chief Inspector who joined us told us he wasn't going to authorise S. 46 but that Marion must hand Harley over or he would be taken from her. They seemed to be waiting for a police woman to come and do that. We had seen her looking at us through a window.
When she eventually appeared she was out of uniform. She moved close to Marion, carefully watching whether Harley was sucking or not and telling the others. Marion told her about the tongue tie and the milk problem. As far as the tongue tie was concerned, she disregarded it as a problem, because she had seen him sucking his dummy. Marion explained that this was different than the taking in of milk and that anyway his dummy kept falling out of his mouth too. Eventually the WPC was told to get on with it, and she stepped forward and forcibly pulled Harley off Marion's breast.
The effect on Marion and Robin was heart-rending as they were overwhelmed by grief. Even though I am no more than a friend of the family,I found myself distressed beyond words. I can only imagine how unbearable it must have been for them and yet neither of them lashed out or behaved in any way other than with great dignity.
Marion complained about the state of the car seat they were about to strap Harley into and we insisted they use his own seat,and cover him with his own blanket.
The police inspector asked Marion and Robin how they were going to get home. I told him I was taking them and at approximately 0430 we left the police station.
Marion and Robin were inconsolable at being so brutally separated from their baby son, but the look on the faces of the police and Davies was one of strained relief. I was afraid that Marion might collapse, but no help was offered us.
Marion and Robin had no way of knowing whether they would ever see their baby again, where he was being taken or who would be looking after him.
I was, and remain, shocked and appalled at the behaviour of the police in collusion with the Social Worker, particularly their arrogance, disregard for the law, their willingness to put the life of the baby at risk by dangerous driving and due to the absence of properly qualified medical advice. I was extremely shocked to hear a policeman say that the baby had no human rights, and since the police were acting without the necessary legal documents.
It is my opinion that the police officers and Social Worker concerned have willingly and knowingly partaken in the cold, calculating and brutal kidnap of Harley. Their actions were inhuman and unlawful.
Pat Johnston 6/3/2011