Call for public inquiry over church-led adoptions that coerced young single mothers into giving up their babies
Pressure is mounting for a public inquiry into the adoption of hundreds of thousands of babies born to unmarried women over a 30-year period amid claims from some mothers who say they were coerced into handing over their children.
A letter will be sent to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, next week from solicitors at two eminent law firms calling on her to convene a public inquiry into historical adoption practices in the UK. The solicitors say an inquiry would uncover the truth about the practices – stretching over three decades after the end of the second world war – and hold agencies to account.
Meanwhile more women have come forward to tell their stories of being pressured into having their babies adopted.
The call for an inquiry will be sent to Rudd on Thursday, the day after the broadcast of a television documentary relating the stories of several women. That film has prompted an apology from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, and a statement expressing regret from the Church of England. Religious institutions and agencies handled most adoptions until 1976, after which the process became the responsibility of local authorities.
Carolynn Gallwey, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, and Karon Monaghan, of Matrix Chambers, are demanding an inquiry to acknowledge the trauma suffered by young vulnerable mothers and the impact on their lives. On a practical level, they say an inquiry could lead to records being made available and professional counselling offered.
“It is the only way to get a proper understanding of what happened and identify any systemic issues which amounted to coercion, whether there were policies – formal or informal – which discouraged young women from keeping their babies,” said Gallwey.
About half a million babies, most born to unmarried women, were adopted in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when the Catholic church, Church of England and the Salvation Army ran “mother and baby homes” and adoption agencies in the UK. Adoption reached a peak in 1968, when more than 16,000 babies born to unmarried mothers were handed over to new families.
In recent years, some women have publicly said they feel they were effectively forced to hand over their babies. Now mostly in their 60s and 70s, they say that as vulnerable young women they were made to feel shame and guilt, and were told that adoption was in the best interests of themselves and their babies.
“There is a very compelling set of facts from a recent period of our history which is still having an impact now,” said Gallwey. An inquiry, she added, could “correct the myth that these women gave away their babies voluntarily”.
She added: “All the women I’ve spoken to say that [the women acted voluntarily] could not be further from the truth. The saddest thing is the number of women who say, ‘no one told me there was another way’. It’s still very raw even after so long.”
The call for a public inquiry was backed by Graham Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North, who sponsored a parliamentary motion last year calling on the government to apologise for “unacceptable adoption and care practices of the past”.
He said an inquiry “would draw a line for everyone”, adding: “No monetary amount could compensate for what these people have been through, but it could be cathartic and cleansing.”
Veronica Smith, co-founder of the Movement for an Adoption Apology, also backed the call. “We’ve been trying to get something done for years. We want acknowledgement of bad practice – the coercion of often teenage girls into losing their children,” she said.
Now 75, Smith gave birth to a daughter in 1964 who was, she says, taken from her for adoption. “It has coloured the whole of my life,” she said.
She would be willing to testify to an inquiry. “But there are lots of women who can’t even verbalise what happened to them. They are screwed up with pain and shame and guilt. There are thousands who have never come forward, but every time there is publicity on this people make contact wanting to tell their story, often for the first time.”
Among the mothers and adopted children who responded to a Guardian appeal on Thursday was “Linda”, who became pregnant aged 15 in the early 1970s. “It was the ultimate sin. I was so scared that I didn’t tell my parents until it was too late to ‘do’ anything about it, by which time I was about seven months. I had been wearing girdles and starving myself so it wouldn’t show,” she said.
Linda’s parents arranged through a Catholic adoption agency for her to go to a mother and baby home. She said: “A nun came and told me she was just taking my baby [aged about three weeks] to weigh him. That was the last time I saw him. I was absolutely devastated. Within the family we agreed not to ever talk about it and to pretend it never happened … Every baby I saw on the streets made me want to steal it. I was seriously angry all the time but couldn’t talk about it.”
She added: “It’s my dirty little secret and I admit it has probably poisoned me a bit over the years. I think of it as the punishment that keeps on giving for doing what I did.”
Another woman, “Sandra”, lost her baby to adoption when she was 15, in the early 1970s. She said: “Physical and emotional consequences led me to be sterilised at age 25. I was far too traumatised to face another pregnancy and did not receive adequate health care after the birth, leading to a great deal of pain. I still suffer from PTSD. I grieve for my lost child every day and will do so until I die.”
“Janet” said that her husband had been adopted in 1963 through a Church of England agency. “He was subject to the most awful neglect and abuse mainly at [the adoptive mother’s] hands. There is a lot of emphasis put on the way the [birth] mothers were treated but little said about the fate of those babies that the church felt justified in giving to so-called Christian families,” she said.
Duncan Roy said he had been born in a Catholic mother and baby home in Kent when his mother was 16. “To do penance for the sin of getting pregnant out of wedlock she had to scrub floors every day she was there until I was born. She was verbally and physically abused by the nuns in the home,” the 56-year-old said. “When I was born I was taken away from her, but because I was half-Iranian and a dark baby they couldn’t find anyone to adopt me. Eventually my grandmother decided to take me back and raise me as hers. The whole experience had a huge effect on my mother’s life. She was very badly traumatised by her experiences at the home.”
Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Wednesday 9 November
Simmons Hanly Conroy Ranked Nationally and in St. Louis, San Francisco and New York by 2017 U.S. News-Best Lawyers 'Best Law Firms'
ALTON, Ill., Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, is pleased to announce the firm has been ranked nationally and in the St. Louis, San Francisco and New York metropolitan areas in the 2017 edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms.”
The firm was ranked nationally in Tier 1, the highest possible rating, for Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs. The firm also was ranked in the same category in the San Francisco (Tier 1) and New York metro areas. In the St. Louis metro area, the firm earned a Tier 1 ranking for Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs and Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs. The firm is based in Alton, Ill., which is near St Louis, and also has an office in San Francisco and New York.
“We are grateful for this recognition of our national law firm from ‘Best Law Firms,'” said John Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy. “This ranking is acknowledgement of all the hard work and commitment from our attorneys and staff who help people injured and harmed by dangerous drugs, exposure to asbestos and corporate wrongdoing.”
Now in its seventh year, “Best Law Firms” is a collaboration between U.S. News & World Report and the prestigious “Best Lawyers” peer review guide. U.S. law firms are ranked nationally in 74 major legal practice areas and in 187 metro areas across 122 practice areas. Firms earn rankings in the “Best Law Firms” guide based on recommendations from leading lawyers and clients in their ranked practice areas, as well as review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the submission process. Firms are evaluated on attributes including expertise, professionalism and responsiveness. To be eligible for a ranking in a particular practice area and metro area, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in the annual “Best Lawyers” guide in the same practice area and metro area.
The 2017 “Best Law Firms” rankings are published on the U.S. News & World Report website at http://BestLawFirms.USNews.com.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.
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North west law firm, The Jackson Canter Group, is doubling its employment law team and rolling out a new HR package as SMEs look to bolster their HR expertise with external legal help.
The firm said Britain’s decision to leave the EU has caused unrest amongst small and medium sized businesses in the region.
Firms are concerned about how employers’ responsibilities will change once Britain leaves the EU, as well as uncertainty around the status of migrant workers.
The firm’s newly launched subscription package aims to take the stress out of employment law and HR for businesses, and is headed by rising legal star Sarah Nolan.
With a number of complex and high-value commercial and employment disputes under her belt, Sarah will be supported by HR expert-turned-solicitor David Watson; Andrea Furmedge, a chartered legal executive with 20 years experience; and Philip Loftus who due to qualify as a solicitor later this year.
Sarah, who is head of commercial and employment,said: “Britain’s vote to leave the EU has certainly thrown up a lot of questions for employers in the region.
“There is a huge amount of uncertainty around how leaving the European Union will affect local businesses, in particular smaller, independent firms which don’t have in-house human resource departments.
“We’ve decided to bolster our employment law team and broaden our services to include bespoke HR packages. With a combined experience of more than 30 years across employment law and HR, we felt that the time was right to extend our offering and help our clients even further.
“We relish working with businesses of all sizes, and I can’t wait to kick start this new chapter with our team.”
Jackson Canter’s new HR subscription package provides clients with a designated employment lawyer who will review, analyse, advise on, and execute HR practices, from contracts of employment and absence management, to discrimination and redundancy.
According to the law approved by the Chinese legislature, authorities will confiscate illegal earnings by film distributors and theaters with fines exceeding 50,000 yuan (about $7,380) for data found to be falsified.
In case the illegal income exceeds 500,000 yuan, the fine will be up to five times the amount falsified, state-owned news agency Xinhua reported.
In more serious cases, firms will be suspended and even have their licenses cancelled.
The law, which will regulate what is the worlds second largest movie market, was approved in the bi-monthly session of the Permanent Committee of the National Peoples Congress after a third reading.
Chinese box office earnings reached 38 billion yuan until October this year, and is expected to overtake the North American box office in 2017 as the worlds largest.
China has approved a cybersecurity law that many foreign companies have opposed
The most disturbing thing for foreign businesses facing China’s new cybersecurity law may just be how vague and broad it is.
Under the new law, adopted on Monday and taking effect next June, it’s possible that any major company working in the country might be subject to “security reviews” from the Chinese government.
Any company involved in telecommunications, information services, finance or any sector “where the loss of data can harm the country’s security” is subject to a possible review. But what these security reviews actually entail isn’t clear in the law.
That vagueness has foreign companies worried. Many have opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would limit their ability to do business in the country.
“We believe this is a step backwards for innovation in China that won’t do much to improve security,” said James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, in a statement on Monday.
Fears of Chinese protectionism are nothing new. The country historically has tried to support domestic businesses over foreign ones. But China has been taking a stronger stance on cybersecurity since the 2013 revelations by noted leaked Edward Snowden about secret U.S. surveillance programs.
One of those programs allegedly spied on the Chinese government and companies including networking equipment provider Huawei Technologies.
On Monday, Chinese state media touted the new law as necessary to protect the country’s critical infrastructure and its citizens’ personal data. “Without internet security, there is no security for the nation,” said the Xinhua News Agency.
However, the new law has drawn complaints from more than 40 foreign business associations. A key concern is with the Chinese government-mandated security reviews and whether foreign tech companies will need to hand over sensitive intellectual property, such as a product’s source code.
“The law doesn’t say you must reveal the source code,” said an industry source at one lobbying group. “However, we are concerned that this could end up being the result.”
Although the law is meant to promote cybersecurity, it’s also designed to favor Chinese businesses, he said.
“We think there will be less of a level playing field for foreign companies — that’s the fear,” the industry source said. “I would say the level of concern is quite high.”
China has already shown interest in gaining access to source code from foreign companies. Earlier this year, a lawyer for Apple said the government had asked for such access but the company refused.
China also recently considered regulations for banking providers that would have required they hand over source code and encryption keys. However, it later halted implemention of the rules.
The law announced Monday may be vague, but that’s usually the case with Chinese regulations, said Adam Segal, an expert on China with the Council on Foreign Relations. “Ministries and provinces in the country will interpret the laws differently, until they’re called out by the central government,” he said.
Segal doesn’t expect any foreign businesses to leave China because of the new law. But any demand to see a company’s source code or encryption keys would force that company to make a hard choice.
“A lot of firms are really starting to draw a line and would be unwilling to share that,” he said. “But if other companies do, and there are defections, then that will make the pressure to share more intense.”
China already has some of the strictest online censorship policies in the world, but the country has just passed a new cybersecurity law that will see its control over the internet tighten even further.
Authorities say the law, which is set to come into effect in June next year, has been brought in to tackle growing threats such as terrorism and hacking, as well as preventing activity aimed at “overthrowing the socialist system.”
The regulation would mean that internet companies, including instant messaging services, will have to collect users’ real names and details. “Critical information infrastructure operators,” meanwhile, must store their data on servers located within China’s borders. They will also be subjected to regular government reviews and be required to provide “technical support” to security agencies.
International firms have expressed concerns that the new law will mean China could force them to implement back doors or other vulnerabilities into their products. It also has implications for China’s already shaky stance on human rights.
“Despite widespread international concern from corporations and rights advocates for more than a year, Chinese authorities pressed ahead with this restrictive law without making meaningful changes,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
The law also prohibits the posting of certain online content. Not only will users face jail for criticizing the government, but they will also be restricted from “fabricating or spreading false information to disturb economic order,” and “incit[ing] separatism or damag[ing] national unity.”
A coalition of business groups wrote to the Chinese government last August to protest the new law. The letter stated that the requirements “would weaken technical security measures and expose systems and citizens’ personal information to malicious actors,” something the country’s authorities deny.
China already blocks services such as Facebook and Twitter. Once the new law comes into effect, the country will have even greater control over what its citizens read and post online.
Despite President Duterte earlier announcing an economic “separation” of the Philippines from the United States, American investors in the country are supporting the administration’s peace-and-order thrust and socioeconomic agenda aimed at reducing poverty.
During their hour-long meeting last Saturday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) that the Duterte administration’s policy of “economic diversification” was aimed at “opening more markets for Philippine products overseas, encouraging more investments in the country and creating better-paying jobs for Filipinos.”
The government, added, would continue to make the Philippines an attractive place for investments by encouraging a competitive environment to level the playing field for business.
“As far as business is concerned, President Duterte wants to have more competition and more innovation,” Dominguez said, adding that the administration would make certain that the business environment was such that it encouraged people to stay on.
In response, AmCham executive director Ebb Hinchliffe said the group was backing up “100 percent” the Duterte administration’s 10-point agenda.
“From AmCham’s standpoint, we want this administration to be successful. Can you imagine what a wonderful place this would be if we could get rid of crime, corruption and drugs? It will be an even better investment environment,” Hinchliffe added.
The DOF said AmCham nonetheless “mentioned President Duterte’s statements on Philippine-US relations, but informed Dominguez of their hopes for continued investment here.”
To allay American investors’ concerns, Dominguez said: “I have listened very carefully and we will make certain that the business environment is such that it encourages people to stay on. We encourage competition and we encourage obedience to the law.”
Dominguez also urged AmCham to continue helping generate more jobs in the country. “Can we focus on creating more employment? How do we translate that into an action plan? How do we create jobs and make sure they are good jobs and that people can rely on them, because jobs provide dignity to people,” the finance chief told the American businessmen at the meeting.
The AmCham members who met with Dominguez included investors in the agriculture, business process outsourcing (BPO), construction, electronics, food processing, information technology, manufacturing, mining and power sectors. AmCham groups more than 700 American-led firms operating in the Philippines.
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The Akwa Ibom State Local Content Compliance Monitoring Committee (LCCMC), has alleged that more than 1,000 companies operating in the state failed to comply with the Local Content Act 2010.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr Samuel Afobi, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Uyo.
Afobi noted that many companies operating in the state had violated the law six years after it was enacted.
He said that many companies operating in the state did not employ the indigenes or engaged local contractors as provided by the law.
”The state government has frowned at the lukewarm attitude of these companies towards compliance with the provisions of the Local Content Act.
”These companies do not carry out community development projects and have not shown evidence of engaging in their Corporate Social Responsibility.
”The LCCMC is poised to ensure that the multinational oil companies as well as the indigenous ones and their contractors fully comply with the law,” Afobi said.
He said that the committee in July wrote to the companies, especially those operating in Eket-Ibeno industrial axis, on the need for compliance.
The chairman however said that the committee would commence the enforcement of the law this week.
”It is unacceptable that the companies have failed to comply with Sections 25, 26, 27 and 28 (1&2) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010.
”Some of these companies have also violated the Oil Companies and Vessels Regulation of Business, Registration and Plying Levy Law 2006 of Akwa Ibom State,” he added.
Afobi explained that sections 25, 26 and 27 of Nigerian Local Content Act 2010, provided for location of office in and engagement of personnel from the project area.