Should We Be Surprised at Karen Matthews Behaviour?

December 5, 2008

Karen Matthews was rightly described as pure evil after being convicted for her shocking role in the kidnap of her daughter. Here was a mother of seven children by five different partners concocting a plan to have her daughter drugged and kidnapped so that she could gain financially. Obviously finding a job and working like most people didn’t cross her mind, but a scheme so devious in nature that it is incomprehensible did. Even among cases where family breakdown and social deprivation is prevalent, this surely takes the biscuit.

However, even when Karen Matthews was giving her Oscar winning performances in front of the cameras and pleading in her very thick Yorkshire accent to Shannon to ‘coome hoame’ there were many including myself who weren’t convinced that Karen Matthews was being totally honest. And when I learnt that Karen and her partner were more interested in watching television and bickering over which channels to watch during a visit by an official to talk about Shannon’s disappearance, I was even more convinced that something wasn’t right. Naturally when Karen Matthews was arrested and charged, this did not come as a big surprise.

My reason for this suspicion was not simply a hunch but from having seen at first hand even in the short time I was a councillor, the way dysfunctional families lived and their detachment from reality. In one case where a constituent came for help because her children had been taken away, the version of events according to her and from the limited information I could glean from social services due obviously to legal reasons were so far apart that it was beyond belief. The mother portraying herself as a complete innocent having done nothing wrong and blaming the Local Authority for inexplicably taking away her children but on the other hand very serious allegations of drug taking and child neglect being made against her. So when we learnt at the outset of the number of partners and children Karen Matthews had and her socio-economic background, it was inevitable that people were suspicious.

But when anyone dared to raise concerns about the way Karen Matthews lived, they were accused of being a snob and of being judgmental. One person who I had a conversation with while Shannon was missing blamed the Local Authority, the Government and Society for not doing enough to help people like Karen escape from her lifestyle – exactly the self pity defence that she put forward. Individual responsibility never once cropped up and the fact that people have to in the end make decisions for themselves was almost irrelevant. It was indicative of her lifestyle and priorities when Karen was offered two trolleys of food free from a local supermarket that one was filled to the top with alcohol.

But while there is no excuse or reason to justify Karen Matthews’ behaviour, it can be argued that all the living conditions were in place similar those of the mother of Baby P for an unsavoury incident involving any one of her children to take place – and which eventually did. There was complete family breakdown, multiple partners moving in and out of the home, no stability in the home, high dependency on welfare benefits, poverty of aspiration, no morality in the home and no guidance from elsewhere and little or no pride in the area where they lived or any desire to improve civic society.

If people choose to live such depressingly dysfunctional lives and are allowed to do so, we should not be surprised when they engage in depraved and repugnant behaviour. When I read of the drawing by Shannon showing an explicit sexual scene with ‘Mummy and Mick’ as a caption, it made me and no doubt everyone else who read it gasp at what a child was being exposed to and how that would affect her during adulthood.

When there are no boundaries to appallingly bad behaviour should we be surprised when we see someone like Karen Matthews drug and kidnap her daughter and play out a game with the Police and the whole country where she is a distraught mother searching for her child which she has kidnapped?

Shannon Matthews’ Mum Guilty

December 4, 2008

Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan have been found guilty of kidnap, the false imprisonment of Shannon Matthews and perverting the course of justice.

As I mentioned here, the evidence seemed overwhelming which has sadly turned out to be the case. Another dark day for Dewsbury. More on this later.

Broken Britain II

November 17, 2008

In September 2008, a poll showed that 63% of all those questioned agreed that British Society is broken. Two recent cases shed light on what is happening in parts of the country and how dysfunctional families are living. The first is the trial of Karen Mathews who is charged with kidnapping her own daughter and lying to the Police about it, and the second is the case of Baby P’s guardians who await sentencing for neglecting a child who subsequently died.

Within both families like many others, there was no stability in the home, with a constant stream of partners moving in and out of the family home. Children unfortunate enough to be caught up in this cycle have a biological father who is often absent and several non biological ‘fathers’ who they presumably call by their first names unable to develop any sort of parental relationship. There is often a dependency on drugs and alcohol by the adults and the needs of the children aren’t even recognised, let alone fulfilled.  This inevitably leads to children being neglected and in worst case scenarios abused. The Government is left to pick up the pieces by finding foster homes and dealing with children with psychological problems which remain well until adulthood. Children’s educational attainment suffers and they are unable to break away from the cycle of state dependency and benefits which means that one generation after the next remain in this culture of broken homes and families. There are no aspirations and there is nothing except despondency and despair.

But is there any way out of this? The Government has been fiddling about with tax credits and schemes such as Sure Start with little success despite its claim to the contrary.

The answer according to Iain Duncan Smith MP is straightforward: If you want to save the child, you must save the family – strengthen the family unit and the child’s chances in life increase dramatically.

The Centre for Social Justice which Iain Duncan Smith set up has produced an interim report on changing Family Law aimed at strengthening marriage and reducing family breakdown. This comes behind a stream of other policy initiatives from the Centre for Social Justice, many of which have already been adopted as policy by David Cameron. Iain Duncan Smith argues that:

Today 25 per cent of children in this country live in single parent families and this trend is set to accelerate. These children are three to six times more likely to experience abuse. A recent US study found that children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents.”

And the Report notes

“This review is working from an underlying assumption that marriage should be supported both in government policy and in the law and that, related to this, fatherlessness (or motherlessness), far more likely when relationships are informal, should be avoided…”

“Marriage also acts as a stabiliser and a signal. Married couples are far less likely to break up than couples who live together without getting married. This is true even when allowance is made for the influence of such factors as income, age and education. The correlation between stability and marriage is strong and widely acknowledged amongst experts.”

Encourage and support marriage, and stabilise the home and family. It’s a simple and effective message that the Government should heed when implementing policies.

Broken Britain

November 12, 2008

Mother has seven children with five different fathers and lives in a Council home. Mother has no job and lives on benefits with partner. One evening while returning from school, one of mother’s children goes missing without any trace and without any obvious reason. Mother is in a panic and calls the Police reporting her daughter missing. The police immediately set up a search team and a huge operation is under way to find missing child.

Mother is distraught, in tears and appears devastated. She makes appeals on TV holding the child’s favourite teddy bear for the safe return of her child and pleads with her kidnapper for her release, the local community rallies to support mother and offer their support, a huge reward is put up by national newspaper for anyone able to locate the child, an appeal fund is set up by the family and hundreds of police and volunteers from the local communities take part in search for missing child. The press and media descend on mother’s home and keep country up to date with what is happening in the ongoing search for the child. The Local Authority also tidies up mother’s garden so it looks good for the cameras.

Nevertheless, some people suspect foul play, and whispers are heard about mother and family but these are dismissed and cast aside as the work of the middle class snobs looking down on mother – missing child is primary concern, class war can wait .

Against all odds and after worried filled 24 days fearing the worst, the child is found safe with a relative of mother who is immediately arrested and charged with kidnap and who later attempts suicide while in custody. The mother, her family, the neighbourhood, town and whole country breath a collective sigh of relief that child is found unharmed. Wild celebrations ensue and the millions of pounds spent in the search is regarded as money well spent by the Police who are congratulated for having done an amazing job.

Mother is overwhelmed at meeting child but the child is not returned to mother, initially to give authorities time to question the child but later because this is in the best interests of the child. The remaining children living with mother are taken away as mother’s partner is charged and later convicted of downloading child pornography on his home computer. Later mother is questioned about missing child, arrested and charged.

The neighbours, local community and the people of the town are at a loss as to what has gone on, their emotions moving from despair at the kidnap to elation at the discovery of the child to shock at the arrest and role of mother. They wait with bated breath for the outcome of the trial.

This unfortunately isn’t a well crafted storyline from a dodgy soap but a real story from the broken society of modern day Britain. The trial of kidnapped Dewsbury school girl Shanon Mathews’ mother Karen, and Michael Donovan has got under way at Leeds Crown Court. They are charged with kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. The evidence looks overwhelming but both deny all charges.