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Laura Dekker

The world record-breaking journey, which had her parents’ approval, would have taken Laura Dekker out of the classroom next week and through some of the world’s most dangerous waters for the next two years.

But judges in Utrecht ordered the state child care authorities to take responsibility for the teenager over the next two months while an independent child psychologist assesses her capacity to undertake the risky voyage.

Is a child psychologist the right person for that job? I would have suggested an experienced yachtsman.

Social workers argued that Miss Dekker was too young to be aware of the dangers of a solo journey and psychologists suggested that two years of isolation on the high seas would damage the young girl’s development.

And being taken into care isn’t damaging? Oh and how old was Nelson when he joined as a midshipman?

It emerged during the legal proceedings that the teenage girl had been placed in foster care by British police after she sailed single-handed from Holland to Britain in May.

Police in Lowestoft and social workers decided that the return journey was too dangerous and placed Miss Dekker in a home until her father came to collect her.

Well she made the outbound trip fine. And the return…

Dick Dekker, Laura’s father, collected her from the home and defied the authorities by letting her make the sea crossing alone.

I despair. I really do. She clearly knows what she is up to at sea. Let her have her great adventure! She’ll probably weep less than Ellen MacArthur on it.

Read the whole thing. It’s dismal and I need to have lunch.


  1. JuliaM says:

    And yet, if her parents decided to let her sleep with her boyfriend, even have a child with him, I presume no-one in Holland would turn a hair. Much less invoke the power of the State.

    Yet, which action has the greater potential to ruin her future?

  2. Ian B says:

    This does tap into the bigger question of the status of children, and what age counts as a child. The people who are the first to complain about the nanny state are also often the first to complain when social workers do not intervene. Is parental negligence a matter for the state? If we demand that the state leave parents alone (perhaps limiting its role to prosecution of murder, assault and rape for instance) we must be prepared to not criticise when children suffer miserable and negligent parenting.

    Libertarian values work very well for competent adults. The status of those considered not competent to make decisions; children, the retarded, the insane, senile etc; is more problematic.

  3. JuliaM says:

    “Is parental negligence a matter for the state? “

    I’d say yes. It’s defining negligence that’s the problem.

    And no matter how tightly you try to define it at first, you always get ‘mission creep’.

  4. Ian B says:

    Hmm. I’d be inclined to say that the problem is the conceptual model of social services, social work etc. If we were to apply British common law principles, we’d abolish all that and say, negligence is a criminal offence- basically definining it as a kind of assualt. Negligent parents may then face criminal charges, a court and a jury, and have the chance to defend themselves, and if they have treated their children badly they may go to prison.

    The system of social services basically makes social workers judge, jury and executioner. Families face sanctions from the State (being forcibly broken up) without any proper justice. That is, rather than trying to manage families as we do now, it should all be a matter for criminal law, and if parents have committed a defined crime against their children, they should go to prison or face other punishment. Parents who are not convicted of a specific crime by a criminal court should be left alone.

  5. El Draque says:

    Wasn’t it in an Arthur Ransome book that someone said – of children sailing – “If they’re idiots they’re better off drowned, if they’re not idiots they won’t drown”?

    Nelson wasn’t sailing solo as a teenager, by the way.

    But – if she couldn’t have a driving licence, why let her sail alone?
    And who pays to rescue her from the forty-foot waves of the Southern Ocean?

    I’m with the Dutch over the round the world trip – it’s incredibly arduous for adults. A 13-year old, however capable, shouldn’t be allowed to take those risks.

  6. Plamus says:

    El Draque:

    “Nelson wasn’t sailing solo as a teenager, by the way.” – He was in a maritime battle at age 16, and passed his lieutenant exam at 18. Even before he took that exam, he was an acting lieutenant on a 64-gun a ship-of-the-line. Yes, 18 is not “almost 14″, but the girl’s “Guppy” is not the HMS Worcester either.

    “But – if she couldn’t have a driving licence, why let her sail alone?” – Erm, because she’s probably more able at sea and less likely to cause an accident (seas being less crowded than roads) than an 80-year old senior behind the wheel of an SUV?

    “And who pays to rescue her from the forty-foot waves of the Southern Ocean?” – The taxpayer does, but that’s not her fault. How about something as radical as letting her (or her father) buy “rescue insurance”?

    “I’m with the Dutch over the round the world trip – it’s incredibly arduous for adults. A 13-year old, however capable, shouldn’t be allowed to take those risks.” – But of course. Risks are horrible, by definition – something bad could happen, you know. Only a government-paid psychologist knows what’s best for her. Not she, not her father. Nanny state is not enough – it has to be a state which is like a nanny who is supervised and regulated by the state.

    Why pray tell, why should she not be allowed to take the risks? The girl had her first boat at the age of six (the horror!).

    “Mr Perham, who set his first world record when he sailed the Atlantic alone, also at the age of 14, told The Daily Telegraph that people should focus on her ability not just her age.

    “If I was asked whether an average 13-year old girl should sail around the world I’d immediately say no. But Laura isn’t average and that’s what I feel has caused this little storm,” he said.”

  7. Nick M says:

    Just to point out the girl was planning to do the trip after her 14th birthday.

  8. SaltedSlug says:

    We were talking about this over at my place and the conversation went the way of: “How reckless with their kids’ safety do parents need to be before the state intervenes?”

    The more I think about it, the more I want her to go.
    Because that would be awesome.

  9. Pogo says:

    “She’ll probably weep less than Ellen MacArthur on it. ”

    If she’s Dutch, by the time she’s 14 she’ll probably be a damned-sight bigger than Dame Ellen as well.

  10. dahuletam says:

    What will happen to scholarship money that is left over from college tuition?

  11. El Draque says:

    Thanks, Plamus, some good points there.
    Pogo – you’re right, they breed them big in Holland.

  12. laura-dekker says:

    [...] Counting Cats in Zanzibar [...]

  13. Plamus says:

    El Draque, I hope I did not sound snide and inflammatory… well, I probably did, but nothing personal. All I am trying to say is that often great, admirable feats are broadly considered stupid before they are accomplished… and then they make the books. I can just picture how, when it’s time to send a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, the government would ban Laura Dekker from boarding…

    Here is an account of the Curies’ experiences with radium (… Quote: “This, I’m sure, is not the first time in history that brilliance shown (sic: shone?) so brightly as to blind common sense.”

  14. NickM says:

    Ever stuck a needle round the back of your eye? Newton did (bodkin actually) but still the sort of thing elfnsafety would have a cow over. Giving birth to a large farm animal – must be dangerous – we must arrest ourselves!

    Or Google Louis Slotkin if you don’t know the story.

    As to the Curies. They had a shed full of radioactive material and would nowadays be in Gitmo.

    In the ’80s my council put up lots of nice shiny signs declaring it a “nuclear free zone” – they depicted a smiley sun!!! Yeah you know that gravitationally controlled thermonuclear explosion in the sky?

    They also banned the local hospital getting it’s first Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Scanner (monies raised by genuine local charities BTW). Well, radiographers aren’t daft and councillors frequently are so they called it a Magnetic Resonance Scanner a bit later and got it through.

    Even though it was the same thing.

  15. BILLY says:

    Child services organisation Netherlands (AMK): A BIG JOKE!!!!
    They use the Laura case as a propaganda-stunt to show off how caring they are.
    Well, they are a bunch of wolves in sheep-clothes with an anti father attitude.
    Thousends of Dutch children never see the father again after a divorce, with painfull psychological effects on the child, beside that, the AMK in many cases did not undertace action in many important cases, sometimes with fatal results.
    These cases show a few Dutch examples how arrogant the child services were with fatal results for the children involved.
    AMK childservices Utrecht: overpayed, unproffesional idiots, with no clue al all about child-abuses.
    Yes, we also have fathers for justice in the Netherlands: DWAZE VADERS.

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