These mums are police officers, not paedophiles - for crying out loud...

When our children were young, my wife belonged to a baby-sitting circle.

No money changed hands. Hours were ‘earned’ and ‘spent’ accordingly.

The arrangement worked well and ensured that our bambinos were looked after by mums who had children of their own, and not by hormonal teenage girls likely to invite their unsuitable boyfriends into our homes, with all the horrors that can entail.

Leanne Shepherd and daughter

Leanne Shepherd (pictured with daughter Edie) has been told that she can no longer look after her friend's child as it is seen as an illegal childminding business

Some of the group had part-time jobs and the deal meant that they didn’t have to pay a
childminder or dump their kids in a creche.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the children was murdered or molested.

These days, such a set-up would almost certainly be against the law, as two policewomen from Buckinghamshire have just discovered to their cost.

The Thames Valley detectives, who gave birth within a few months of one another, take care of each other’s daughter two days a week as part of a job share.

But now they have been told that unless the arrangement ends immediately, they will be prosecuted.

Detective Constable Leanne Shepherd received a visit from an inspector working for
the education watchdog Ofsted, who informed her that she was running an illegal childminding business.

Rules state that friends cannot gain ‘reward’ for looking after a child for more than two
hours. In this case, the ‘reward’ was defined as free child care.

If the agreement is to continue, both women must register with Ofsted and abide by the myriad rules, regulations and background checks which apply to professional childminders and kindergartens.

DC Shepherd has received a letter from Ofsted telling her that she would be subject
to ‘random surveillance’ to make sure she was not looking after her colleague’s little

She has had to change her work schedule and fork out £260 a month for nursery
fees — a huge chunk of her £900-a-month salary.


More from Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail...


This ludicrous story is both depressing and disturbing in equal measure. As so often, it’s difficult to know where to start.

The rules governing ‘reward’ are contained in the Childcare Act 2006.

Clearly this legislation went through on the nod, without any proper parliamentary scrutiny.

MPs have simply given up their responsibility to sift through proposed new laws line by line.

A cursory examination of this clause, in particular, would have thrown up the obvious pitfalls.

It should never have made the statute book.

The State has no business interfering in consensual childminding arrangements between private citizens.

The idea that two policewomen should be subjected to criminal records checks before they can babysit each other’s daughters is beyond preposterous, as is the notion that
they should be the target of a sinister surveillance operation carried out by a government agency.

Then there’s the question of who grassed them up to Ofsted in the first place. This vindictive individual must have been aware that the babysitting pact was illegal.

What was his or her motivation? Who benefits from the persecution of these
unfortunate women?

Certainly not their daughters, who are said to love the time they spend together, and
have grown as close as sisters.

It doesn’t do much for the smooth running of the overstretched police force, either.

Because the detectives now have to fit in with regular childminding hours, it has placed an additional burden on their CID colleagues.

Nor does the taxpayer gain from it. Quite the opposite, in fact. DC Shepherd says she intends to apply for child benefits to help meet the nursery fees.

The only winner here is Britain’s burgeoning bureaucracy. Another ‘crime’ solved, another box ticked.

Three-quarters of all child welfare legislation has been passed in the past 12 years and is applied rigorously without any proper sense of proportion.

Most of it is irrelevant and intrusive and serves only to irritate, inconvenience and criminalise decent parents trying to make their way in the world and do the right thing.

Since 1997, Labour has set about nationalising the family and childhood.

With much of the country apparently in an advanced state of paedomania, the politicians and their Guardianista apparatchiks have grasped every opportunity to seize more power.



Should parents who look after friends' children be checked by officials?

Should parents who look after friends' children be checked by officials?

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As the recent furore over criminal checks on volunteers who drive children to football matches and help out at playgroups demonstrates, every parent is considered a potential paedophile, every grandad a leering Gary Glitter, every man who comes into
contact with a young girl a Roman Polanski, every mum a Rose West.

Bearing the brunt of this assault on family life are the law-abiding, taxpaying middle
classes, while the social services continue to indulge unsuitable, slattern mothers and the sort of pervert and sadist who killed Baby P.

What kind of sick country threatens to prosecute two policewomen for the ‘crime’ of looking after each other’s children?

Call Me Dave will have enough on his plate economically when he seizes the short straw next year.

But he should also make it a priority to reverse Labour’s scandalous assault on private family life and get the State out of our babysitting circles.

The 'no-quibble' policy should make a comeback

Marks & Spencer may live to regret the decision to scrap its legendary 90-day ‘no-quibble’ returns policy.

Reducing the time limit by two-thirds won’t do much for the bottom line, but it could test
customer loyalty.

Anyway, I doubt whether many people wait the best part of three months before taking
something back if it doesn’t fit.

So why court controversy?

The company has had to fight hard to regain consumer trust, after a disastrous period in the late Eighties and early Nineties.

The ‘no-quibble’ guarantee has always been a major part of Marks’s image, even though some people admittedly take unfair advantage.

My mum swore by Marks & Sparks, largely because she could buy a frock on Friday,
wear it to a dinner-dance on Saturday and take it back on Monday morning, no questions asked.

The money she spent elsewhere in the store more than made up for her free dress hire.

The management should leave the returns policy well alone. It has serious symbolic
value, even if some people do use Marks like a buckshee branch of Moss Bros.

Money can never make up for the loss of Rachel

Rachel Nickell

Tragedy: Rachel Nickell was found murdered on Wimbledon Common

Back in 1994, I conducted the first television interview with Colin Stagg after he was acquitted of the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common.

I interviewed him twice more over the next couple of years and became convinced of his innocence.

He certainly wasn’t a sympathetic character, which is why he was put in the frame for the killing.

The police arrested the local weirdo and fitted him up. Even after he was found not guilty, the Old Bill were still hinting they’d got the right man. His life was ruined.

While I’ve never been a fan of the com-pen-say-shun culture, it was difficult to argue with the £706,000 damages Stagg was awarded.

By comparison, Miss Nickell’s son, Alex, who was with his mother when she was killed, received a criminal injuries payout of just £90,000.

Now his father, Andre Hanscombe, is planning to sue the police over the catalogue of blunders which characterised the case.

It has emerged that several opportunities were missed to detain the real killer, Robert Napper, before he murdered Rachel.

We can only hope that the police have learned some important lessons from their conduct of this investigation.

The Rachel Nickell case was not their finest hour, but most of the key players have now gone.

None of us can fully comprehend what Mr Hanscombe and his son have been through. 

But if this lawsuit succeeds it would set a daunting and costly precedent.

Andre and Alex have rebuilt their lives as best they can. They deserve our deepest sympathy and understanding, but no useful purpose can be served by reopening this shocking tragedy.

Money will not bring Rachel back.

Terrorist with a blue rosette

Further evidence of my contention that if you give anyone any power, especially if it comes with a uniform attached, they will always, always abuse it.

English passengers arriving at Scottish airports on internal flights are being ordered to produce passports. This came to light after a party of Tory MPs was stopped at Glasgow’s Prestwick airport.

Strathclyde Police say they are entitled to do this under the Terrorism Act.

I know they don’t come across many Tories in Glasgow, but if they can’t tell the difference between a Conservative MP and an Al Qaeda suicide bomber, then we’re all in more trouble than we’d thought.

Does my bum look big in this, Sarge?

Anti-just-about-everything protesters arrested at April’s G20 summit in London have been charged with impersonating police officers.

One woman is pictured in a black bra, another wearing red stockings and suspenders and a riot helmet. The case has already cost tens of thousands of pounds and is being pursued zealously by DPP and euthanasia enthusiast Keir Starmer.

These ragbag anarchists are a damn nuisance, but how can someone wearing red stockings and suspenders be accused of impersonating a police officer?

Though given the rise of the Transgendered Police Association and the recent advertisement for trans-sexuals to join the royal protection squad at Buckingham Palace, you can’t be too sure. Mind how you go.

Gordon Brown has denied that he is taking antidepressants. I don’t know about Gordon, but after watching Peter Mandelson’s performance yesterday, I’m the one who needs the antidepressants.