About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Christmas Miscellany

If you are reading this blog on Christmas Day I would say shame on you & get a life but a) I am writing it and b) from the news it seems as if many of us are doing everything but spending quality time with our loved ones and even if we do there are dire consequences.

The Guardian says that more than 5 million people are expected to log onto the internet to search for shopping bargains.

The Times says that 3 out of every 4 UK Blackberry users admit that they will be checking their emails before opening their Christmas presents.

The Guardian predicts that couples are expected to succumb to the double whammy of the credit crush and the usual pressures of Christmas according to the Local Goovernment Association.

You're not even safe if you are at home in the bosom of your family from the hazards of candles, Christmas trees & decorations and so on so the DfCS has produced
Tis the Season to be Careful - an advisory booklet on how to avoid the dangers of the festive season at home.


Here at least is an example of someone with the right Christmas spirit approach to the credit crunch from the marvellous Post Secret



Maybe we should stick to celebrating the Winter Solstice !

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Damages for child abuse allegation

Local authorities and their insurers clearly have a difficult tightrope to walk. In an earlier post I referred to the successful litigation against a local authority for failing to protect a child from abuse by removing him from home. In this Times article a local authority has agreed to settle a claim arising from false allegations of abusive behaviour on the part of parents. As Masterman J said in the case: “It is undoubtedly true that social services departments have in recent years operated with inadequate resources and under immense stress and run the risk of attracting equal criticism whether they remove a child or whether they do not.”

Forced Marriage Act & Dr Abedin

The BBC reports that now Dr Abedin is back in the UK (having been assisted to return by cooperation between the UK courts & the Bangladeshi courts courtesy of the Forced Marriage Act, she will apply for an annulment of her marriage.

Open courts: DJ Gerlis comments

Readers may be interested in these, as usual, intelligent comments by DJ Gerlis on the question of media access to the courts.

A modern day abduction

Reporting restrictions were lifted by the President to allow a gay father to give publicity to his search for the son he had with a lesbian woman whom he fears may now be in Australia (Times) .

Suzanne Holdsworth acquitted

One person with a Christmas to look forward to is babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth who was cleared of the murder of Kyle Fisher after a retrial in which medical experts gave evidence about the child having a highly unusual brain. See the
Times , Telegraph , Daily Mail & the BBC whose Newsnight programme ran a supportive campaign.

The local Gazette focuses on the evidence she gave at the second trial regretting a lie she had told at the first trial.

Suzanne was originally convicted of murder in 2005. She spent nearly three years in prison before the Court of Appeal granted her appeal in May 2008 and ordered the retrial. Cleveland police, however, declined to offer an apology and said it would not be re-opening its investigation into the two year old's death.

Vulnerable adults

Vulnerable adults who lack mental capacity will benefit from a joined-up approach in responding to concerns about those taking decisions on their behalf and the way they are protected from abuse, according to guidelines published by the Office of the Public Guardian on 17th December (see the MoJ press release . The policy documents and guidance itself is on the website of the Office of the Public Guardian here .

Negligent local authorities

Christmas it may be but the family law news shows no signs of abating.

From the Times comes this piece about local authorities being sued for negligence for failing to protect children from abuse (by removing them into care) with more details here .

Monday, 22 December 2008

Pensions

John Bolch of Family Lore and soon to be as well known no doubt for Family Lore Focus (family law news and comment) has a couple of interesting posts recently on money matters. First is this one on discounting pensions and second this one on Macleod v Macleod on post-nups .

The Ancillary Actuary Blog has posted three articles on Why Women Lose Out? in relation to pension distribution - Part 1 , Part 2 & Part 3 , followed by an online debate .

Civil partnerships not quite all the ticket?

The Guardian reports on the government's attempts to support Austria in declining recognition of civil partnerships . The government backed down following a debate in the Lords but continues to argue that the court should not require pan-European recognition of same sex marriages (civil partnerships come close but are not quite the same, apparently).

In the name of the father

I was curious to read in the Telegraph the other day of the Government's plans to force mother's to name father's on the birth certificate, with a view to ensuring that they can be pursued for maintenance. Curious for two reasons: firstly because I understood that one of the 'reforms' resulting from the establishment of CMEC was to do away with the compulsion for fathers to be pursued for maintenance when mothers were on benefit because the CSA had not been able to cope with it (and no doubt it netted little for the public coffers and was certainly of no direct benefit to the mothers or their children). Secondly, this would have the effect of making it compulsory to give unmarried fathers parental responsibility. Why not just give them PR in any event?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Finally openness about opening up the family courts

You will surely not have missed the government's announcement this week about opening up the family justice system to media access. Access will be subject to court's powers to restrict or extend the media's ability to report! Other steps being taken include piloting the publication of judgments & relaxing the rules on disclosure.

The Ministerial statement

Responses to consultation

The President's Response to the announcement

The Telegraph

The Independent

Comment by Yvonne Roberts in the Guardian

The Times claims all the credit for this policy development:

The main announcement

What has changed on the long walk to freedom?

How the Times helped to right a wrong

Family courts: case studies

A nose bleed, then children in care

Nothing to do with Baby P then? Or with a cynical attempt to cut costs by putting people off going to court?

Social Services roundup

A number of stories about social services:

Ed Balls announced that six councils will pilot the contracting out social work services for looked-after children to "independent practices" from 2009-11 . I don't know where the independent sector is likely to find social workers from. Even before baby P LGA was finding two thirds of councils were struggling to recruit . Post Baby P, unsurprisingly, morale at Haringey is severely damaged . Surely the proposed new ad hoc visits from Ofsted so that they can voice their concerns will do wonders for the attractiveness of the profession? Not to mention the knowledge that expert teams are being sent into 9 authorities who are deemed below par: see the Telegraph , Daily Mail , & the Times .

Let loose the dogs of war


Back to the serious papers, the Times reports on custody battles over dogs . I would find it hard to believe but for a story I heard in the West Country the other die about parents being asked to choose between the dogs and the children - they chose the dogs and the children ended up in care. When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem.

Baby A

Yet another case where social services are said to have failed a child has been identified in Doncaster which has published a serious case review about child A (pdf file) . The concerns are summarised in Community Care . In common with the Baby p case, Doncaster social services seem to have taken information from a family at face value. For less sympathetic coverage, see the the Mirror (which tells us that the Baby A case is one of three cases subject to the serious case review procedure in Doncaster. The Doncaster Free Press announced more recently that there are 5 such enquiries underway. The Daily Mail this weekend highlights that the SCR itself concludes that the Doncaster SSD was inadequate, chaotic & dangerous.

Community Care also covers the Manchester murder case in which the young mum accused of killing her children was also known to SSD as does the Daily Mail . Both the police and social services are reviewing their response to this case in which the mother called for police help an hour before the children were killed and social services had closed the file. Yet the Manchester Evening News reports that the annual Ofsted review found the social services department to be adequate (the same as last year).

Another Manchester case is the subject of a serious case following a couple being jailed over a baby's death (see also the BBC coverage . The child had not been the subject of a child protection plan. The baby died of pneumonia, was severely underweight and at post-mortem was found to have sustained rib fractures.

Children's Plan review

The Government has announced a new £200 million co-location fund to bring health, education & social care services together. The announcement comes one year after the children's plan was implemented & the government has announced a raft of other measures including a new social work taskforce & 3000 children's centres. Could this soon mean really only one department dealing with children and only one website to search for government policy & publications on children? I am not holding my breath. See here for the Children's Plan one year on & progress reports & here for Community Care's coverage

Missing children

Not content with being responsible for hundreds of deaths each year and the general misery of UK children, Community Care reports that local authorities have lost another 400 a year . These are children who are supposed to be looked after. To cap it all it seems that half of all trafficked children have gone missing from care.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Can Cafcass cope?

Not with the post-Baby P spike according to Anthony Douglas talking to Community Care .

ADCS on safeguarding inspections

The Association of Directors of Children's Services has criticised plans for unannounced annual safeguarding inspections of councils, despite ministers making them a key plank of their response to the Baby P case, according to Community Care .

Thursday, 18 December 2008

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Community Care reports on the government's commitment to making the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child “a reality in the UK”, a minister said last night. Children’s minister Baroness Delyth Morgan told a meeting in the House of Lords that the government was “no longer afraid” for the convention “to be the basis of all policies”.

Surrogacy & Statelessness

The Times reports on Hedley J's call yesterday for a review of Britain’s surrogacy laws after making a ruling that rescued baby twins from a legal limbo, which had left them “marooned, stateless and parentless” in Ukraine. The children faced being brought up in a state orphanage because conflicting laws prevented their Ukrainian surrogate mother and the British couple who paid her £23,000 from being recognised as their legal parents.

There is further comment on the case here .

The full judgment is on the main Family Law Week site here .

Cut the Cuts?

Desmond Browne QC has highlighted the risk to vulnerable children which will flow from public funding cuts in his inaugural speech as Chairman of the Bar.

Forced Marriage Act & Dr Abedin

Dr Abedin has been freed from Bangladesh following the making of an injunction under the Forced Marriage Act, which whilst not directly applicable in Bangladesh seems to have influenced the authorities there to intervene. The story is also covered by BBC .

Baby P roundup

A final few Baby P stories as the press starts to move on to other scandals?


The Times covers the Baby P petition from the Justice March for Baby P calling for a public enquiry.

The Telegraph picks up on Sharon Shoesmith's claim that child protection services in Haringey should be commended 6 months after Baby P died.

The Times again on the link between Baby P's family through a relative involved in a child sex ring

The Guardian deals with MP Barry Sheerman accusing Ofsted of complacency

The Independent reveals that 3 children a week die from abuse according to Ofsted. See also the Telegraph.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Children & Adoption Act 2006

Today the contact provisions of the Children & Adoption Act 2006 came into force. An article outlining the new provisions is expected on the main Family Law Week site soon. In the meantime here are some helpful resources.

The MoJ announcement

Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No 2) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No 2861

Family Proceedings Court (Children Act 1989) (Amendment) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No 2858

Magistrates Courts (Enforcement of Children Act 1989 Contact Orders) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No. 2859

Revised Children Act forms

Practice Direction: Applications in the Magistrates' Court to Enforce Contact Orders (pdf file)

Lord Chief Justice's Practice Direction on Disclosure of Information to the National Probation Service (pdf file) (applicable to magistrates' courts)

President's Direction: Disclosure of Information to National Probation Service (applicable to County Courts & the High Court)

President's Guidance to Cafcass


Pink Tape's blogpost

Pink Tape's updated blogpost

Times article suggesting the reforms may backfire .

Top tips to eliminate child abuse


This radical 10-step programme to eradicate child abuse by PC Bloggs made my laugh out loud as she often does and I thoroughly recommend her book Diary of an On-Call Girl

Shoesmith sacking now official

ITN reports that Sharon Shoesmith has now been formally dismissed by Haringey Council and she will not receive any compensation package.

Magnanimous in victory

Both sides in the Briscoe libel case have given interviews about their experience with Constance Briscoe admitting in the Times that she would have resigned if she had lost but she will not be hounding her mother out of her home to get the costs back and Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell seemed unrepentant in the story I read earlier in the Independent but it seems to have disappeared from the website. Libellous perhaps?

Websters appeal against adoption

The Daily Mail and the Telegraph report on the Websters have been to the Court of Appeal this week to try to overturn an adoption order (made following care proceedings in which they were accused of breaking their child's leg). All 3 of their children were removed and placed for adoption in January 2005. Judgment has been reserved until January.

Forced Marriage Act

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force in November - see this announcement on the MoJ website . The Act enables courts to prevent forced marriages and order those responsible for forcing another into marriage to change their behaviour or face jail. It also provides recourse for those already forced into marriage.


UK lawyer Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE has leapt straight in and is using the Act to try to prevent the forced marriage of a UK born 33 year old trainee GP in Bangladesh, the Independent reports (and Sky News and the Daily Mail . The Act is not directly enforceable in Bangladesh but orders issued in the UK have been reflected in orders in Bangladesh requiring the family to produce the doctor to the courts. Unfortunately so far they have not complied.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Social services scandals & the case for reform

A couple of interesting contributions to the debate on what lies at the bottom of the recent child protection scandals.

One in the Times comes in the form of a letter from Martha Cover of Coram Chambers in which she makes a identifies a number of problem areas: targets set to lower the number of children on the CPR and in care, the lack of legal planning meetings, the lack of heed paid to the warnings of the Commission for Social Care Inspection that family support was inadequate and SSD thresholds too high. She also links up earlier research into care proceedings (they are not brought without good reason) to the care fees hike in arguing that one fairly obvious way forward is to encourage a climate where care proceedings are issued once again so that a forensic enquiry can determine the right balance between risk and the advantages of family life.

In the Telegraph Alisdair Palmer argues that the system is undermined by a lack of a clear definition of the meaning of risk & "significant harm", particularly with regard to emotional harm. This he suggests is what squares the damned if you do, damned if you don't circle. Social workers spend too much time investigating cases where there is no real risk because they don't know what risk means and too little time investigating cases of real risk for the same reason. This in turn means that inspections and reviews are fairly useless because inspectors too are caught in the same trap. A glance at the comments below from readers is rather startling. Views on the source of the problems range from social workers being stupid, sick twisted individuals or pseudo-qualified box tickers only interested in snooping and ensuring babies are vaccinated to Karen Matthews only getting pregnant so she can claim benefits to emigration resulting in the UK losing its most intelligent minds (leaving behind only half wits, bedwetters & X factor contestants!). I fear we are a long way from an intelligent debate.

Naturally the government's answer seems to tend towards a the establishment of a task force to look at every aspect of social services .

For some reason this passage from Yes Minister sprang to mind.....
'If only you'd had we'd have a departmental enquiry,' he complained, 'then we could have made it last eighteen months, and finally said that it revealed a certain number of anomalies which have now been rectified but that there was no evidence of any intention to mislead. Something like that.' I allowed myself to be diverted for a moment. 'But there was an intention to mislead.' I pointed out. 'I never said there wasn't,' Sir Humphrey replied impatiently. 'I merely said there was no evidence of it.' I think I was looking blank. He explained. 'The job of a professionally conducted internal enquiry is to unearth a great mass of no evidence. If you say there was no intention, you can be proved wrong. But if you say the enquiry found no evidence of an intention, you can't be proved wrong.' (The Complete Yes Minister, pp. 178-9)

The Matthews Case: the theories

Martin Wainwright's comment in the Guardian suggests that we have not been able to get a balanced picture of life in the Matthews family home, because Shannon herself was not called to give evidence by the CPS. I can't say I quite understood his point in relation to the particular case. The details of Shannon's life at home may be interesting and particularly so in the light of an investigation into how many clues there were for social services to pick up but I cannot see their relevance to the criminal trial. I would have also thought that the last thing Shannon herself would have benefited on was more publicity involving journalists poring over her every word. There are one or two details of the 'kidnap' plot which might have been clarified (was she tethered by a leash?) but I wonder how much we would have learnt of any real value. I can see that there are other cases where the legal system is rather knee jerk about children giving evidence. Of course, Shannon could have been called by her own mother. Assuming that the evidence she might have given would have assisted her mother in any way, perhaps we should rather conclude that the only decent think Karen did was not to call her.

You might find it interesting to compare and contrast this early piece by
Beatrix Campbell just after Shannon was found with this piece about we shy away from early intervention at a cost to children. She herself was not able to pierce the veil of deception (I don't mean to get at her - she was hardly alone) despite the quantity of statistics over the years demonstrating the prevalence of child abuse, which interestingly she dates back to Cleveland: I would suggest for the very same reasons that case gave rise to such a scandal. We simply do not want to consider the possibility that it happens, it happens a lot and it is quite often (but importantly not always) the carers who are responsible. Or as Lord Laming would say: respectful uncertainty is a useful tool.

The impact of child protection targets on the case are examined in the Telegraph which suggests that Shannon was taken off the register because of pressure to reduce the number of children on the CPR and that a social worker wanted her to remain on the register but she was overruled. The role of targets is also picked up in the Mail by Steve Doughty who looks at a slightly wider range of targets, and the knock on effect on the pay scale and careers of those who achieve them.

Sonia Sodha in the Guardian suggests that we could learn a lot from the
Finnish approach to the role of teachers in child protection cases and introduce a proper welfare service into schools. I couldn't agree more. There has been a great deal of interest in allocating police officers to our schools. We might have more effective identification of child abuse concerns and plug the gap identified in many of the cases by Ed Balls et al (that abused children are not listened to) if there was someone on hand to do so who was seen as sympathetic rather than likely to arrest.


Barbara Ellen's comment in the Guardian tries to decode how Karen offended the middle classes who did not dare to question her guilt. I would venture to suggest that this is more true for journalists than the rest of us. I don't very often say I told you so but I'm afraid I knew pretty much straight away that something did not add up. However, I do think this kind of comment helps to explain why people are so very angry about this case and politicians are now baying for the blood of all apparently feckless single mothers on benefits.

I found the analysis of Tim Adams in the Guardian extremely thorough and considered. One of his points is that Karen Matthews herself played on the comparison with the McCann case and enrolled the media in covering her story by guilt tripping them about the temptation not to present Shannon's disappearance as sympathetically as Madeleine's. He also makes the very good point that the same people who have been baying for the blood of social workers in Haringey who fell for the lies of Baby P's mother, fell themselves for the lies of Karen Matthews because it is very difficult to recognise when someone is willing to tell such a wicked big outrageos lie or tissue of lies.

The Mirror interviews the mother of Karen Matthews whose own theory is that the kidnap is the best thing to have happened to Shannon because now she is out of her mother's care for good. The article records "Shannon's grandparents told how the police ransacked their house and even accused them of hiding Shannon's body. Gordon, 67, said: "We were treated like suspects, her own grandparents. It was disgusting." Still missing the point that in this situation it is only right for the police to consider everyone as suspects (whilst being respectful in their uncertainty) because look who it turned out to be.

The Matthews Case in a nutshell

Following the conviction of Karen Matthews & Michael Donovan for the kidnap of Shannon, naturally there turns out to be a social services failing behind the Shannon Matthews case in that a psychological report in 2003 apparently concluded that Karen Matthews was unable to prioritise her children's needs above her own. See
Community Care on the council's decision to conduct a serious case review , the Daily Telegraph on Shannon being taken off the Child Protection Register , and on the amount of social services contact with the family. The Times also picks up on a second case in Kirklees in which a child was killed by a violent father, despite his teenage daughters trying to raise the alarm. Channel 4 draws all the strands together in a video clip and you can watch the Panorama documentary again on BBC iplayer .

The Guardian's coverage of the SCR announcement points out that Kirklees Council has a 4 star rating (the highest) as a local authority for efficiency.

Serious Case Review with Baby P overtones

The Guardian reports that a second child death case in Durham has raised similar concerns as that of Baby P - numerous social work referrals, hospital admissions, breathing difficulties, mystery bruising, failure to thrive ending with the child being shaken to death. See the Guardian here and here and in the Telegraph .

Second Haringey case under investigation

Some papers suggested a few days ago that there was a second Haringey case and now the Times has published more details about the case which is to be investigated by the police and the NSPCC with allegations being made that child protection concerns have been ignored. The case is further complicated by the fact that it seems to concern one of the so-called miracle babies, an allegation of inappropriate removal from one foster care and the carer about whom concerns have been raised is the adopter.

NAPO vs OFSTED: seconds away

An heated debate has broken out between Napo & Ofsted about inspections of Cafcass according to Community Care with both sides seeming to say to the other: you just don't understand me. Napo makes the very good point that user satisfaction should not be a pivotal part of a judgment about the success of Cafcass, with Ofsted responding that it is not just the users' perception of the service it inspects, but the quality of the service provided looked at objectively.

Mea maxima culpa?

The post Baby P pendulum seems to have swung full circle with Ofsted's admission that it too played a part in Haringey's failures over Baby P because the Ofsted assessment system is open to manipulation . A rather mealy mouthed admission of guilt some might think - it's our fault but it's their fault really. Also rather ironic since one of the things that school governing bodies are regularly criticised for is not asking the right questions and being too much of a friend to be critical. Just how little effort it might take even for Ofsted to spot a lie dressed up as a statistic is revealed by the Head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert's further admission that the flaws in the original Ofsted assessment of Haringey in 2007 were revealed by the 2nd day of this one. A rather drastic reform to Ofsted practices was suggested by the Head of Kidscape in the Telegraph a few days ago: Ofsted Inspectors should actually go out on home visits and meet children at risk of abuse. Their own proposal is to carry out annual and ad hoc inspections of all children services' departments: of course, unless they sort out how they are going to do an inspection so they don't get 'fooled' by statistics, this will just mean that they paper over the cracks more often at great expense to the public purse. I've also got to wonder whether the great idea of combining responsibility for education and social work into one service (and subsequently having it inspected by a system developed primarily for education) was such a great one after all.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Child Maltreatment: the Lancet

The Lancet (in conjunction with the RCPCH) has published a series of papers about Child Maltreatment . Key findings include: a far greater incidence of child maltreatment than official statistics suggest; substantial under-reporting of child maltreatment by schools and physicians to child-support agencies; the need for multidisciplinary teams for effective maltreatment prevention; and acceptance of child welfare as a human right. You have to subscribe to see the full text of the articles. A print / online subscription costs £139 pa and online only is £113.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Child protection needs protection?

The post Baby P fallout continues (and looks set to continue for some months given that there is to be a further report in March) with reports of crackdown on children's services in the Independent, which talks of Ofsted's conclusions on the inadequacy of Serious Case Reviews in 28 local authorities.

The Independent also picks up again on the care fees hike and the disincentive on local authorities to issue proceedings.

For an interesting take on the Baby P case (albeit written before the Government commissioned review see this post on the Liberal Conspiracy blog . The main piece argues that it is not such a remarkable story and the comments debate the ways in which it is said the case has been hijacked by those from different parts of the political spectrum.

Another thoughtful comment in the Guardian is that of Andrew Cooper, Professor of Social Work which is a robust defence of social work practitioners. Also in the Guardian, the analysis by Liz Davies (Senior Lecturer in Children & Families Social Work) of the adverse impact of the Laming reforms and John Dixon (President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) comments on the pressures on social workers & how they might be relieved.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The social work viewpoint

Just reading this Guardian comment on the day in the life of a social worker made me feel tired.

Baby P: the Netherlands version

Just in case you had begun to believe that it could only happen in England, the Guardian carries this very interesting story about a Dutch child protection scandal in which a Guardian appointed for the child ended up being prosecuted in the criminal courts (but acquitted).

Consultation on new Family Procedure Rules

The long-awaited draft of the proposed new Family Procedure Rules has been published and are out for consultation on the Ministry of Justice website . The deadline for responses is 27 February 2009.

Constance Briscoe wins libel case

Constance Briscoe's mother has lost her libel action against her daughter, a criminal barrister & part-time Judge and author of Ugly & Beyond Ugly , reports the Times . The books (or at least the first one) are part of the new genre - misery lit - I have read both - I could not really use the word 'enjoy' about them - but they are an intelligent and insightful contribution to the genre.

The heads are rolling

Following the news reported on the main site about the unfavourable review of the serious case review, Sharon "I certainly won't be resigning" Shoesmith has finally been suspended from LB Haringey, along with two other people from children's services according to the BBC . Councillor George Meehan & Liz Santry have resigned.

The Paediatrician who examined the child shortly before his death has now been fully suspended (as opposed to being restricted in the work she could do) ( (BBC) .

Meanwhile the inarguably real villains of the piece, the mother / boyfriend / lodger will not be sentenced for at least three months (BBC again) .

See the text of Ed Balls full speech in the Guardian. See the full Joint Area Review on the DCSF website. Damning is not the word, and unsurprisingly it does not approve of the fact that the LCSB SCR was carried out under the chairmanship of ... Sharon Shoesmith. There is not one single aspect of the organisation of SSD within Haringey which is referred to as being acceptable across the board. There remain persistent complaints about the failure to maintain accurate case records and to keep running chronologies etc. In fact it is so damning it is almost hard to believe and one wonders whether there was any effort made to identify any good practice.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Baby P effect

The Daily Mail is already getting outraged at the burden on the tax payer - not of the promised tax increases - but of the alleged millions the lawyers will earn from applying to keep the identity of Baby P's mother a secret (the outrage is shared by the Times ).

The Sunday Telegraph speculates on the likely prison sentence the mother will receive (4 years seems to be the general consensus).

The Independent reports on the increase in care proceedings being issued as a result of the "Baby P" effect (a 27% rise in a 10 day period in November compared with the previous year) (this story is also picked up by the Times & the BBC (care cases 'soaring').

Friday, 21 November 2008

MPW's case Withers on the vine

Celebrity divorce Marco Pierre White has lost his claim against Withers who he claimed had encouraged his ex-wife to take private documents.

Mucca is back

By contrast, Heather Mills keeps us all entertained by complaining to the PCC about harassment, invasion of privacy and inaccurate reporting of her high profile humiliation in the divorce courts.

Peace breaks out for Madonna?

Good job not all divorcing couples behave like Madonna & Guy Ritchie who have deprived us all of an entertaining public spat by coming to an agreement not only about the money but also about the children.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Media interest continues on Baby P

The Guardian reports on the Government's refusal to publish the complete SCR into the Baby P case and also on Ofsted's first annual report on child protection and local authorities and on Government plans to make changes to the law .

The Telegraph reports that research shows that only 33 out of 189 children whose death has been the subject of an LA SCR were on the CPR . There is further coverage of the text message identifying the mother & her partner and includes something of the Commons debate on the topic. Another piece concerns the reaction of the sacked Paediatrician .

The text message disclosures have given rise to a police investigation according to the BBC.

Panorama's programme on Monday took a rather sympathetic line on social workers and said that a witch hunt was not was needed. You can watch the programme again on , BBC iplayer .


The Independent covers the fall in the number of care proceedings being issued & the fee hike .

The Standard also reports on the Government's refusal to publish the full SCR .

And the Times has Camilla Cavendish's take .

Monday, 17 November 2008

OJC to investigate President

The Guardian reports that the Office of Judicial Complaints is to re-open its investigation into the conduct of Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, in providing a character reference for Bruce Hyman.

Fees for care cases

The papers have now turned their attention back to the care fees hike, raising concerns that it is putting local authorities off issuing proceedings.

See the Guardian , the
Independent and the Sunday Times .

The Telegraph raises questions about the promotion of Haringey's Head of Legal Services. It transpires that LB Haringey had been given a badge of quality by the Law Society three days before the death of Baby P.

There will be a programme on Panorama tonight at 8.30 pm on BBC One on What Happened to Baby P?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The price for blowing the whistle

I am not usually a Daily Mail reader but I have to acknowledge their excellent coverage of the Baby P case. This article by Eileen Fairweather concerns the story behind the whistle blowing social worker and how quick Haringey were to launch an investigation against her after she raised concerns about another case. There are links within the story to a number of other thoughtful pieces about the case.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The wrong attitude to corporal punishment

The Daily Mail follows up on the story of the refusal to approve adopters who smacked a child by LB Newham, who have apparently once again turned the couple down for reasons which have already been described as unreasonable by Bennett J. See earlier post here .

Till virtual reality or mothers in law do us part ...

As if the divorce rate isn't bad enough as a result of adulterous misdemeanours with real people, a couple in America (where else?) have got divorced when the wife discovered that her husband's online character in Second Life was having an affair with another online character: see the Independent .

And from the Times, the story of an Italian man getting a divorce on account of his mother-in-law making life hell . Call me old fashioned but I thought that was what they were for!

Who Me?

The Baby P coverage continues apace with a veritable feeding frenzy searching for SOMEONE TO BLAME


The Times and the Independent suggest that the Government was warned 6 months by a former Haringey social worker before the child's death about failures to follow child protection procedures.

Haringey apologies according to the Guardian.

Lynne Featherstone MP calls for someone (anyone) to resign . She has a little list and is not impressed with the parachuting in of the man from Hampshire as mentor.

A comment worth reading is from Simon Jenkins who begins
Surprise, surprise. How we all hate the nanny state - until nanny takes a day off. Then we want nannies galore. We want nannies with whips, nannies with locks, keys and public inquiries. Labour, Liberal or Tory nannies are suddenly the order of the day.


The Telegraph reports on the Daily Mail's reports that Baby P's mother has had another child while in custody and according to the Guardian LB Haringey tried to prevent the child being removed from her until, apparently, they were overruled by the police???

The Press Association reveal that Ofsted & the Social Care Inspectorate identified 'issues for improvement' at LB Haringey months ago.

Sky News reports that Gordon Brown will do something to make sure it never happens again .

This is Life says that there have been 115 complaints to the ombudsman about LB Haringey since the death of Victoria Climbie . Right at the end of the article it is revealed that in only one case was there a finding of maladministration.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Déjà vu?

I can barely keep up with the avalanche of press interest in child protection following the revelation of social services involvement in the Baby P case. It seems the press is now back to damning social services because they don't, rather than because they do and I notice a deafening silence from some of the usual critics of the system. Looking at the information which is already in the public domain, including that there were some two visits a week from social services in the several months before the child's death. The serious case review does not suggest any great systematic failing on the part of LB Haringey. It seems to come down to the fact that a quantity of people were simply not doing their jobs to a good enough standard. The serious case review was however prepared by the Local Children's Safeguarding Board, chaired by, you've guessed it, the Director of Children's Services for LB Haringey. I would have thought the conflict of interest was obvious and even if not obvious was decried even by the DfCS some 18 months ago. I note too that the legal team advised at one point that there were insufficient grounds to issue care proceedings: I wonder if this isn't yet another example of a local authority failing to distinguish between cases where the evidence justifies issuing proceedings and those in which an immediate removal is supported by the evidence. Public interest in the case seems set to be maintained with yet another enquiry being commissioned from Lord Laming together with an independent review of children's services.

In the meantime ...

Be warned that some of the newspaper reports contain detailed accounts of the child's injuries, including body maps and computer generated images,


LB Haringey's own statement

The Serious Case Review Executive Summary (pdf file)

The Telegraph's overview of the criminal case with video summary

The Telegraph's time line

The Times: heads not likely to roll

The Telegraph: call for heads to roll

Community Care on Ed Balls' commissioning of a joint area review by Ofsted

Community Care: Director of the Climbie Foundation says the case is worse than the Climbie case

Community Care on the review of progress by Lord Laming


The Daily Mail on the Brown / Cameron Commons Clash - this article also provides an excellent overview of the whole case and the main protagonists (but watch out for the disturbing images).

Sky News

BBC coverage

Times: Baby P's mother thinks she will be home for Christmas

The Guardian : BASW Head defends social workers

Camilla Cavendish: why first impressions are dangerous

Beatrix Campbell comments in the Independent

The Guardian rounds up expert reaction to the case :comments from, Sharon Shoesmith, Beverley Hughes, Ian Johnston, Harry Ferguson, Dr Hamilton, Tim Loughton, Eileen Munro, Wes Cuell & David Bellotti.

Reuters reports that the General Social Care Council is to look at the social work practice in the case

Friday, 7 November 2008

PRFD Practice Direction re bundles, orders & listing

New PRFD Practice Direction issued by HHJ Altman, DFJ for London which came into effect from 15th October 2008

Bundles must be removed immediately after the end of a hearing. Judges will not allow them to be left inside or outside the court for collection the following day.

A. Bundles and case management documents.
1. Supplementary Direction

The President’s Practice Direction (Family Proceedings: Court Bundles) (universal practice to be applied in all Courts other than the Family proceedings court) [2006] 2 FLR 199

This direction is made pursuant to paragraph [2.5] of the above stated Practice Direction. ‘Hearings’ within the provisions of the Practice Direction will include the following so that the requirements as to bundles and the other provisions will apply

a) Public Law Children’s Hearings
All hearings of whatever length.
b) Private Law Children’s Hearings
Save as below, all hearings of whatever length:
• For hearings of less than one hour a bundle is not required (unless circumstances make this appropriate) but other case management papers under paragraph 3 must be filed.
• The Practice Direction does not apply to Conciliation Hearings.

PLEASE NOTE THAT AS FROM the 15th October 2008 this will be strictly applied. Late or non-filing of bundles and Case Management documents under the President’s direction are likely to result in adjournment at the expense of the defaulting party.

2. Witness Bundles.
a) These MUST not be filed before all directions and other hearings unless witnesses will be required to give evidence, and then only relevant bundle extracts should be filed.
b) Where practicable witness bundles should NOT be filed before the hearing, but should be brought to court for use at the hearing itself


3. Content of bundles
Parties are asked to ensure that the content of bundles is kept to the minimum required to deal with the relevant issues.

4. Bundles after a hearing
The PRFD has no facility either for the storage of bundles or to dispose of them without substantial cost, as they are confidential. Accordingly all bundles must be removed immediately after the end of a hearing.

B. FAXES.
Faxing of documents will not be accepted except in exceptional circumstances and only where the document is short. Late faxing of documents will not be accepted as a means of delivery to the court. Confidential documents such as statements and reports must not be sent by fax. Sending long documents by fax is not permitted save by prior arrangement.

C. E-MAILS.
Whilst email is useful for ancillary documents such as position statements and other practice direction documents it should not be used for evidence or other evidential material because of length and lack of confidentiality. The Court Service is reviewing the issue of confidentiality.

D. COURT ORDERS.
1. The Clerk assigned to a particular Court has the overall responsibility to oversee and facilitate the production of the Order. Where there is no clerk in court practitioners should enquire as to which clerk will be responsible for the production of the order for the particular court.

2. Where counsel or solicitor agrees to draft the order, this must be e-mailed by no later than 4.00 pm on the working day following the day of the hearing. Any delay beyond that period may make it necessary to re-list the case so as to finalise the order with a potential liability for wasted costs. In all circumstances the proposed order must be sent by email to the clerk responsible for the court at the time, and to the generic email address (prfd.familycourtorders@hmcourts-service.gsi.gov.uk). This applies even to those cases where arrangements are made to email the order to the Judge as well, and in such circumstances it would be helpful to remind the clerk that the order has also been sent to the judge for checking.

3. In Public Family Law cases, all CMCs will be listed at 10.00 am. Any hearing dates in an order should provide for and specify judicial reading time

E. URGENT LISTING OF CASES, ESPECIALLY BEFORE THE DISTRICT JUDGE OF THE DAY.
Any urgent case for the ‘DJD’ will not be accepted unless issued at the counter by 3.15pm. Any cases issued later in the day will be listed for the next available day, unless permission is obtained in cases of genuine emergency to issue late.

In all cases where appropriate, and particularly in Family Law Act applications the applicant must complete a draft of the pro-forma order to hand to the judge at the outset of the hearing.

Any listing for a hearing of a public family law case, whether urgent or otherwise, will be listed, if possible, before the judge assigned to that case and not in the DJD list and practitioners are asked to co-operate in this arrangement when requesting a listing.

F. ADJOURNMENT OF PUBLIC LAW HEARINGS
There is a continuing problem in the adjournment of hearings in public law, especially of final hearings, and practitioners are asked to co-operate in avoiding these particularly by timely communication between themselves and the court about the progress of a cases so as to anticipate difficulties at the earliest opportunity.

Barack Obama & family law

From the official Obama website comes Barack Obama's commitments on family issues including:

Strengthen fatherhood and families:
Obama and Biden will work to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, fund support services for fathers and their families, and support domestic violence prevention efforts.


No doubt the clinching policy which explains his election victory!

LSC to axe 600 jobs

When I first read this story ( LSC to axe 600 jobs ) a small but very mean part of me was tempted to think something small and mean and not very sympathetic. And then I thought - if there is only half a budget to administer they won't need so many people to administer it and clearly nothing is sacred. And to add insult to injury the half a budget that is left will just take even longer to get to the lucky ones who remain in work. These are indeed dark days.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Care fees not irrational

Community care reports that four councils' application for Judicial Review of the care fees hike has been unsuccessful. The full judgment from Bailii is here . Dyson LJ in the lead had no trouble dismissing each and every argument put forward by the local authorities. Bennett J (who has been having a busy time of it!) saw much force in the arguments advanced by the Law Society and NSPCC but ultimately felt compelled to agree with the lead judgment.

Supporting Disabled Parents & SCIE

Community Care has a useful roundup on supporting disabled parents here which has reminded me about the SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence website which is well .. er.. excellent and packed with resource guides and research summaries on aspects of social work practice.

Adoption Week

Community Care comments on gay couples still being overlooked as potential adopters in the run up to National Adoption Week beginning Monday November 11th.

DV statistics

The Guardian summarises recently released information on DV prosecutions : the number of people prosecuted for domestic violence increased by 11% last year and the number of those convicted of such crimes rose by 5%, a Home Office report revealed yesterday.

Click here for the full report: the National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan (opens a pdf file).

Doing Porridge does not mean you can't read them the story of Goldilocks

The Dartmoor based Storybook Dads' contact scheme is featured in the Guardian. See here for the Storybook Dads Storybook Dad website . The scheme now extends to other fathers apart from their children such as army dads. Worth bearing in mind and including specifically in a court order for contact if father is in custody.

On and on and on and on

Mr Justice Bennett, despite his uncharacteristic descent into plain speaking, clearly failed to put an end to hostilities between two warring parents when he said to them in 2004 :"I hope that this hearing really will represent the final round of hostilities....The mother and father have a lovely daughter who brings them much happiness and to whom they are both devoted.... If I may put it colloquially and bluntly: for her sake, give her a break." The mother has just attempted to appeal the financial settlement (BBC report) but is still vowing to take the case to Europe over 4 years later. Thanks to John Bolch for the link to the Bailii judgment and for his interesting post on the subject on Family Lore . As he says hats off to the lawyers who must have assisted the court and were acting pro bono but when a court says about our skeleton argument: "it contains a great deal of learning. In my judgment, however, it does not advance Mr or Ms X's case" we should perhaps take the hint that we may have lost sight of the wood for the trees.

No Smoking!

Smokers in LB Redbridge are to be banned from fostering according to the BBC from 2012 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Drugs: the wider impact

The Observer carried an interesting feature on the impact of drug addiction on kinship carers in advance of a documentary shown on Channel 4's Dispatches on November 3rd : Mum Loves Drugs, Not Me which you can watch again by following the link.

The dreaded referral to social services

An interesting insight into the investigation of a child protection referral is provided by the only single mum in the village in the Guardian.

Camilla returns to the fray

Camilla Cavendish is back with another attack on the family justice system , this time suggesting that victims of domestic violence may be being doubly abused, first by the perpetrator of physical violence and then by the court or state who may place reliance on the perpetrator's allegations against the mother. Incidentally she begins her piece by saying that her original instruction from the editor was to write about family justice until we're sick of it. I don't really need to comment do I? Fortunately Pink Tape has taken up the cudgels on this article.

No crackdown on smacking

A couple have been allowed a rehearing in relation to their application to adopt a second child, sibling to their first adopted child, despite social work concerns about their attitude to smacking according to this Daily Mail story . The relevant local authority are rethinking their position which Mr Justice Bennett appears to have described as unreasonable, bordering on the bizarre and in dangerous territory.

CSA / CMEC: plus ca change?

The Independent raises questions about whether CMEC will represent any improvement over the CSA , particularly in terms of compensation payments.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

News Roundup

The Audit Commission has concluded that children's trusts are not making the contribution to child protection that was hoped for them when they were set up post the Climbie enquiry, according to the Guardian .

Community Care carries a piece on the view of Foster Care Link that it may be more important for Muslim children to be placed with Muslim foster carers than for ethnic matching to be prioritised.

Frances Gibb in the Times considers the possibility of seeking court approval for decisions ratified by Sharia courts.

Family Bubble is getting off the ground with a new section in the library with links to articles of interest to Family Lawyers on other websites including articles on adoption versus special guardianship, Barder, children & financial applications, shared residence, overturning settlements etc. Family Bubble also has a feed of the new articles on Family Law Week.

Rather ironically, adoption figures have fallen by 16% in the last 3 years as Children & Young People Now reports (you have to register to read the full article but registration is free.


The same publication reports that over a 1000 children went missing from care last year, an increase of 110 from the previous year: see this article .

The Family Justice Council hosted a debate on the participation of children in family proceedings as reported here . A summary of the debate and accompanying podcast will be published on the site soon.


And finally I am sure no one will want to miss one of today's statutory instruments: The Cat & Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export & Placing on the Market Regulations) 2008 . Raining cats and dogs will clearly now be a criminal offence.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

In the news

The Daily Mail runs a piece on the difficulties facing grandparents in getting contact after parents split up.

In the same paper an article about a perhaps surprisingly compassionate approach to a mother who threw her baby out of a window.


The Times has a feature on CMEC and the seven year timetable for cases to be transferred to the new agency from the CSA. The same topic was covered in a piece on Woman's Hour (you can listen to this piece online). It was emphasised that parents on benefits will no longer be forced to go via the CSA. No comment was made about the fact that one of the main intentions of the CSA was to make the non-resident parent contribute to the upkeep of their children or that the problem with this was that the resident parent on benefits rarely received any additional money as a result since it was all about recouping the money to the public purse. See also John Bolch's comment on CMEC and links on Family Lore .

This BBC feature covers the first celebrity civil partnership split up and Anne Kay of Boodle Hatfield summarises the legal approach to civil partnership dissolution.

The Guardian comments on the House of Lords comments in the case of EM (Lebanon) to the effect that Sharia law is incompatible with human rights legislation. Their Lordships were particularly concerned that in the Lebanon, according to Sharia law, the mother's 7 year old child would be placed in the custody of his father automatically without any consideration of the interests of the child or without her even having a right to contact (do parents have one here? Discuss).

The Guardian also suggests that more parents are using lawyers to secure their children places in schools here .

Community Care assesses recent research on the link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to children. The research concluded that though there seems to be a link between domestic violence and cruelty to animals the link to cruelty to children is not well evidenced.


Community Care also reports on
* Beverley Hughes' concerns about the impact of the credit crunch on children's services ;
* children still being placed in multiple care placements ; and
* the Fostering Network's concerns about lack of support for foster carers' natural children .

Raina Sheridan comments in the Guardian about the negative impact of children being forced out of foster homes when they reach 18.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

News roundup

Woman's Hour on Thursday featured a discussion about reforming the family courts by opening them up to media scrutiny, involving interviews with Camilla Cavendish and Ian Johnson of BASW. You can listen again here . John Hemmings celebrates the impending open access according to the Birmingham Post

On Wednesday Channel 4 News showed a piece on cost cutting and the family justice system which you can watch again here

The Law Society has written to Jack Straw about the court service budget cuts - see the Law Society Gazette and the full letter here as a pdf file.

Even the President, Sir Mark Potter, is worried about cost cutting and its impact on the family justice system according to the Times

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Adapting adoption procedures

I am grateful to Stuart Fuller, my colleague in Chambers, for the following:

The President has at long last issued guidance as to how to deal with the dogs' breakfast served up by Rule 31 FP(A)Rules 2005 (which requires all parties to be given notice of the "final hearing" in adoption proceedings). The problem was of course as follows.

In the good old days one could have a "dispensing hearing" to deal with parental consent and then, preferably after the appeal period had expired, a "final hearing" at which applicants and child would attend, order would be made and late and much lamented Bracewell J would give the child a teddy bear dressed in judicial garb. Notice of that hearing would not be given to the birth parents. Under the new Rules, however, that second hearing has become the "final hearing" and the birth parents have to be notified.

Different courts have come up with different ways of resolving the situation. We now have the official solution as set out in the attached President's Guidance - we will henceforth have a dispensing hearing, then presumably a final hearing at which the order will be made (or maybe that can now be done at the conclusion of the dispensing hearing, with the child's attendance being dispensed with?) and then, yippee, a "celebratory event." Is this the first time the President has given guidance about a celebratory event?

Trouble is, it's unlikely we'll now get to take the photos any more.
Does the President realise he's depriving the family bar of one of its few opportunities to witness a happy event in court?

Ah well, back to the coalface.

The text of the Practice Directions is available on the main FLW site

More haste less speed?

Mr Justice 'global warming' Coleridge announced to the Central London Collaborative Law Forum that the PRFD would offer access to the urgent without notice applications list for litigants wanting approval for consent orders according to the Solicitors Journal . He added that the new procedure was subject to the consent of the urgent application judge, and could only be used where every aspect of the documentation was agreed, the hearing was not expected to last for more than ten minutes and documents were with the judge the night before the hearing. The rroposal found favour with the collaborative lawyers. I don't wish to pour cold water on the idea but I wonder just how much time it will save to hang around waiting for the Judge of the Day rather than waiting patiently for the post to arrive?

Shameless plug: but it is for charity

Following on our success in the British 10K, 4 Brick Court has put together a running team to take part in the Great South Run (10 miles in Portsmouth on 26th October) on behalf of a favourite charity and your support would be greatly appreciated by the many children who have come to depend on VOICE. VOICE is a charity entirely dedicated to giving support advice and assistance to the 60,000 children in care in the UK at any one time.

The team from chambers includes myself, Louise MacLynn, Francis Cassidy, Lee Pearman and Paul Carver. We are being joined by my husband, John Sullivan, his friend David Parkinson and my lovely friends Carolyn & Tim Cobbold.

You can log on to our Just Giving website and translate our pounding the pavements of Portsmouth in to pounds for this charity.

Alternatively we will be happy to receive cheques made out to Voice at 4 Brick Court (Temple London EC4Y 9AD)

Click to find out more about
VOICE

Monday, 20 October 2008

Open sesame

Frances Gibb today reports the apparent plans of Jack Straw to open up the family courts in the Times and again here in a slightly longer piece. No details on what this might actually mean!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

News roundup

Bit of a Madonna fest this week with endless speculation about the reasons for their divorcing ranging from no sex, gym before sex life, third parties, her involvement with Kaballah, Guy not being able to cope with Mrs Madonna bla bla bla.

Helen Ward for Guy Ritchie goes into battle against Fiona Shackleton for Madonna according to the Lawyer .

The Sunday Times reports on the plea by the natural father of her adopted child that his son should not be brought up by a single mother.

The Times puts the likely settlement on Guy Ritchie at £60 million.

The Independent's estimate was £100 million.

The Mirror says that Guy will do a deal at £15 million to avoid any imitation of the Macca / Mucca scenario.

That's enough Madonna stories, ed ...

The BBC reports that a child rescued from a burning home will stay in care whilst investigations are completed.

The Times covers a 'leaked' document from the MoJ about the slashing of the justice system budget (do I see a kite flying past).

Blog roundup

At the cutting edge of technology as usual is John Bolch who has recorded a video blog piece on recent cases . Other interesting posts on Family Lore cover the Madonna / Ritchie breakup, his regular answers to questions suggested by those searching for his blog, and a comment on Whithouse v Piper .

Pink Tape has covered the Law Society Press Release on advocacy rates in family cases and splitting child benefit.

Marilyn Stowe has written about gigolos and her very personal take on families and forgiveness (not in the same blogpost as the one about gigolos!), the credit crunch divorce and why clients seek second opinions.

The Benussi Blog deals with chance encounters with your ex and adultery (it's not good for you).

Laws of Love finds an interesting action against God in ... America, where else, and comments on the leak about public funding cuts and why that would be a bad thing.

Family Bubble (formerly the Editorial) has started up again with an interesting mission statement and a blog about Nick Holmes' Free Legal Web project.

Judith's Divorce Blog blogs about the credit crunch and the likely impact on divorce (up) and Soul Mating, a useful resource site for those going through divorce.

McKenzie Friends: Revised Guidance

In light of a recent case of Munby J's the President has issue revised guidance on the use of McKenzie friends. The complete guidance is here (as a pdf file) .

The amended paragraph is as follows:

While the court should be slow to grant any application under s.27 or s.28 of the Act from a MF, it should be prepared to do so for good reason bearing in mind the general objective set out in section 17(1) and the general principle set out in section 17(3) of the Act and all the circumstances of the case. Such circumstances are likely to vary greatly: see paragraphs 40-42 of the judgment of Munby J. in Re N (A child) (McKenzie Friend: Rights of Audience)[2008]EWHC 2042(Fam) .

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Public Funding

Responses to the proposals to amend the public funding scheme for barristers are published by the MoJ here .


Some particularly interesting analysis of the same subject and the apparent fallout between the Law Society on the Bar Council from Pink Tape .

Monday, 6 October 2008

Sexual abuse: physical findings

Recent research reported in the Archive of Disease in Childhood 2008 93 851-856 by Professor Watkeys concludes:

Pubertal and post-pubertal girls are more likely to have significant genital signs if they are examined within 7 days of the last episode of sexual abuse. Our findings suggest that abnormal anal signs are more likely to be present in the acute phase. This study indicates that children should be examined as soon as possible following a referral. This will have implications for clinical practice. Regardless of the lack of accurate history it will always be important to examine the child as soon as possible after disclosure.

Thanks to the NSPCC for alerting me to this research.

The ARchive of Disease in Childhood is a BMJ publication and as the name suggests publishes a number of articles which may be helpful to family lawyers.

The no-compensation culture?

The Guardian investigates some recent cases involving claims for past childhood sexual abuse which seem to have been handled with a lack of sensitivity by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The article features an interview with the Treasurer to the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) .

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Contact does work after all?

There have been a host of stories and web pieces about the research by the Oxford Centre for Family Law & Policy which apparently concluded that most court disputes over contact result in contact being secured (only 14% of case resulting in no contact).

See:

Ministry of Justice announcement

Download the full study results from this page

Frances Gibb in the Times when the research results were first announced

Frances Gibb reporting the fathers' groups reactions


John Bolch's take in Family Lore

Rather to my surprise (not) there is not much comment on the web within the fathers' group communities as John Bolch's earlier post predicted given its apparent conclusions.

Footnote: see this interesting post on Pink Tape