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, 26 February 2009

4 Brick Court

I am going to do a little & rather incestuous puff for the website of 4 Brick Court . Quite apart from the fact that it showcases a number of rather brilliant and lovely barristers (admittedly I may be a bit biassed) there are a number of resources on the site that may be of value to family practitioners & their clients.

Firstly, there is an extensive Links library with links to sites arranged under the headings community care, education, family, general legal, human rights, immigration, medical & mental health & miscellaneous. Each of these sections if further subdivided into categories.

One reason I mention the links page is that there is a list of family assessment resources . This is fairly biassed towards London & the South East but has contact information / websites for most of the familiar assessors eg Jamma Umoja, Symbol etc. If anyone knows of any other resources which could be added to the list please email me at jacqui.gilliatt@4bc.co.uk. I would be particularly interested to know if anyone has any information about Coral, a community based assessment resource started up by Helen Watson, ex of Jamma and obviously of resources outside London & the South-East.

The other key resource is the Articles section . Although some of the articles on there are also on the main Family Law Week site, there are other articles you may find useful including a
guide to & draft letter of instructions for experts , jargon buster & medical abbreviations and my case library of removal from the jurisdiction cases (which I am in the process of updating and will be re-posting soon.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Breakup Angels

Natasha Philips has this interview with Jackie Walker on her Divorce Manual blog . Jackie Walker, says Natasha, is one half of a dynamic, pioneering duo which also includes Kirsten Gronning and together they make up the ground-breaking organisation Breakup Angels , which is dedicated to helping people going through divorce emotionally, financially and pragmatically. An interesting collaborative business model and an equally interesting website.

Natasha also interviewed me last year and this year has secured a coup by podcasting an interview with Charon QC.

Protecting children in the classroom

I am staggered to learn from the Telegraph that almost 7,000 people witha criminal record applied for jobs in schools last year and even more staggered by the nature of the offences committed. It makes you wonder what used to happen in the days before CRB checks.

Advocacy Fees

Lucy has a rant about the cake. I agree - not even icing on mud pie.

Autism & MMR

The claimed link between autism and vaccination has been dealt a terminal blow by the US courts writes Michael Fitzpatrick, GP in Community Care .

Lancet Child Maltreatment articles

An analysis of studies into the prevalence of child abuse and neglect, the recognition by professionals, and the role of prevention and treatment by Susannah Bower in Community Care .

Monday, 23 February 2009

Contact: Recitals to orders & contact activities

A colleague has just returned from Wells Street where a District Judge commented in passing that there are those in the Ministry of Justice who are suggesting that a recital to an order which deals with contact might in fact be deemed to be a declaratory order of some kind for the purpose of enforcement / contact activities etc and that it might be treated just as though it were a section 8 order. Has anyone else run into this point?

Some resources on the contact activity provisions are to be found on the Cafcass website including the DCSF briefing, faqa and lists of approved contact activity providers.

Smoking hot

The Guardian reports on research showing that smoking is the second biggest worry for children of smokers after exams . A new addition to the threshold criteria, perhaps?

Social work news

The social workers in the Baby P case have now in fact been suspended since 1 December according to Community Care .

Former MP & former social worker, Hilton Dawson is to head up BASW according to the Guardian .

Friday, 20 February 2009

Child Protection roundup

Lest you thought everyone had forgotten about the Baby P issue ...

Baby P's father plans to sue Haringey according to the Sun.

The family GP has been suspended according to the Sun

The Times reports that hospitals are not routinely checking whether children are on the child protection register

Community Care's Social Work blog suggests a solution : use the computer which the government has spent so much money on!

Birmingham & Black Country Cafcass report does not make for pretty reading according to Community Care and it is the fourth critical report in a row.

The Telegraph carries a story about a shaking baby trial ending in an acquittal. The main point in the case seemed to be that the retinal haemorrages did not appear until after the subdurals etc so that the classic triad was not established. Another interesting point is the reference to a protocol setting out that lumbar punctures should be routinely carried out to see whether there is any infection. See the Foundation for Sudden Infant Death's website and the Royal College of Pathologist site for the Protocol itself.

The story refers to the new research on subdural haemorrages which I posted about recently although I have to say it does not seem that it was particularly relevant in the case. I am pleased to say (and grateful to him) that Professor David has sent me a copy of the research and I will post about it again as soon as I have understood it well enough to say something!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Parting Parents

The Mirror reports on a poll carried out by Gingerbread & Oxford University that suggests that either 1 in 3 parents lose contact with their children after separation (according to resident parents) or 15% (according to non-resident parents). 90% of separating parents did not go to court. A good time for Resolution's Parenting After Parting initiative.

Monday, 16 February 2009

It smacks of a happy ending?

Further to my earlier post on the adoption applicants being blocked for their attitude to smacking , the Telegraph reports that they have now been approved by Newham Council.

Public funding in family cases

I do not yet have time to do an in-depth commentary on the recent public funding consultation & news but here are some links.

Ministry of Justice Legal aid fees paid to family barristers are to be differently allocated to focus help to the most vulnerable families and children, and to combat rises in the family legal aid bill Legal Aid Minister Lord Bach and Legal Services Commission (LSC) Chief Executive Carolyn Regan announced today.
(differently allocated - doncha love it!)

Legal Services Commission on the interim changes due to come onstream in April.

Legal Services Commission main Family Graduated Fees Page

Consultation Paper on the new scheme for Family Advocacy closing date is 18th March 2009.

The Bar Council Government plans to cut legal help for vulnerable families and children have been greeted with concern by family barristers.

Pink Tape's comments on the advocacy proposals

Pay Peanuts Get Monkeys is John Bolch's comment on the proposals.

Truancy: parents are punished

A parent is jailed for their child's truancy once a fortnight every school term in England and Wales, analysis of court statistics shows, the BBC reports .

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Some openness about open justice, please!

DJ Millward the first woman President of the Association of District Judges has spoken in public of her doubts about the desirability of opening up the courts to media scrutiny.

This was quickly followed by an announcement in an interview by Jack Straw confirming that the plan was still to do so by April 2009.

However, the Independent on Sunday raises concerns that the government's plan will in fact result in a ban on identification of adults, reversing the decision in Clayton and and earlier piece on journalism.co.uk points to the lack of certainty about which media representatives will be allowed into court. This was sparked off by an analysis by Joshua Rozenberg when the decisoin was originally annoounced(and commented on in Jon Slattery's blog ).

In a speech by Jack Straw to the Annual Law for Journalists Conference on 11th February he said:

We are changing the rules to allow accredited members of the media to attend family proceedings in all tiers of court – subject to judicial discretion and reporting restrictions. And we will be piloting the provision of written judgments when a final order is made in certain family cases.

It would be quite nice to know what the plans are!

Housing & s 20 duties

Nearly Legal has a post about the case of R (Liverpool CC) v Hillingdon [2009] EWCA Civ 1702 - the gist of which seems to be that local authorities cannot get round their s 20 duties by sending a child off to another part of the country.

Shaking Baby research

John Hemming MP highlights some new shaking baby research following . this story in the Mail also picked up in the Telegraph . The new research is said to cast doubt on the reliability of the conclusions of deliberate shaking in some cases where it is thought that birth trauma haemorrages may persist or re-bleed. I do not think the research is available online yet - it is due to appear in the Pediatric & Developmental Pathology Journal .

Social Services roundup

A series of articles about child deaths, serious case reviews and criticisms of social services.

Community Care and the Telegraph report on the case of Rhys Biggs involving Camden & Newham.

The boyfriend of a mother of a 2 year old inflicted 107 injuries on her and was sentenced to 23 years. The child was not known to Kirklees SSD .

Community Care reports Ofsted's denial that the resignation of the Director of Children's Services has got anything to do with the Haringey inspection .

The Mirror reports on a case in which Hedley J has upheld a care order where a father was deemed to be a risk as a result of an injury to a child of his several years ago and about which at the time there was no judicial determination. The implication of the article is that Hedley J heard evidence from Neil Stoodley versus Wayney Squier and preferred Stoodley. A concern is that the original brain scans have been lost.

The Mail on Sunday has an in-depth piece about the number of child deaths each year, SCRS, whether they should be published in full and research carried out by John Hemming MP .

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Credit Crunch Time for Ex-Husbands

The Times reports a rash of cases of once wealthy husbands applying to vary downwards the maintenance payable to ex-wives, on the basis of the economic downturn and in particular the reduction in big city bonuses. Judgments are expected from the Court of Appeal shortly.

Consultation - Responses Invited

Yes, it's another consultation about cuts / reforms to legal aid. The consultation 'Family Legal Aid Funding From 2010'opened just before Christmas and is running until March 18. The proposals are significant and will have long term consequences for all areas of the legal profession and clients.

The LSC are running a series of consultation meetings for the legal profession to attend - you need to book a place prior to attending. If you cannot go to the meetings you can respond here. Be warned - the consultation document is 90+ pages and there are many annexes to peruse. But it is important that as many responses as possible are received by the close of the consultation period - so get reading!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Lawson-West Solicitors

I was pleased to have my attention drawn to the website of Lawson-West , a firm based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The Family team at the firm have obviously worked very hard on their part of the site and from the testimonials it seems as if they work equally hard and empathetically for their clients. There are sections dealing with many aspects of divorce and separation including pensions, contact for grandparents, cohabitation etc. I was most impressed by the way they have managed to capture the flavour of what happens in a case and express it in plain English without using many words. It is refreshing also to see some public references to how much the whole process is going to cost the client and some emphasis on ways to avoid inflaming a difficult situation. There is a good FAQ section which I think really covers questions we lawyers might from time to time forget that clients don't know the answer to. Obviously this site is aimed at the prospective client facing a divorce or private law dispute but I shall be very happy to quote from and link from it on my Bloody Relations blog and as a marketing model it is hard to fault. The firm's blog, Family Law at Lawson West LLP is of more direct interest to lawyers as it contains short, readable summaries of private law & money cases as well as commentaries on relevant news items and I signed up for an RSS feed subscription straight away.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


Conscious as my last post has made me of the potential impact of speaking in public, I am still pleased to let you know that I have just had the pleasure of being interviewed by John Bolch of the Family Lore Blog and Family Lore Focus for one of his growing libary of podcasts.

Podcast with Jacqui Gilliatt .

You might also notice that he recently interviewed Lucy Reed in a podcast too.

By a strange coincidence CharonQC has also done a podcast with my pupil Ella Shaw on Insite Law.

Well not so strange actually as we met up for a legal bloggers united conference last week and hatched various plots to take over the internet.

Sharon Shoesmith: the interview

The full interview with Sharon Shoesmith was on Weekend Womans Hour and if you missed it you can listen again through BBC iplayer by clicking on the link.

It seems to be being generally written up as her being entirely unrepentant. She makes the point in the interview that she did want to convey how sorry and distressed she and the department were about the death of Baby P but, although she said so at the press conference, this was not reported. Unfortunately she still does not actually say, 'we were sorry' in the interview itself but keeps talking about everyone being distressed. It's a small difference perhaps but it rather sums up the whole interview. If you listen to it from a perspective of knowledge about care cases you will understand the defences she is running but I am not sure it will communicate well to those without such knowledge.

For example, she was asked how it was that the social workers etc did not pick up that an injury was acquired as a result of a beating and was mistaken for a normal toddler type bruising. If it was as simple as that I would be out of a job straight away. She explained that it was a matter for the doctors examining the child to make that sort of decision. Unfortunately I think her answer may come across as her passing the buck to the doctors. She kept referring to social workers being 'concerned' but not being clear what the concerns were. I am sure she is not helped by having to be careful about the details she reveals about the case but it might have been clearer if she had spelled out that you cannot necessarily tell from looking at a bruise on a leg, say, that it was caused by the child being hit as opposed to bumping into a table. She did reveal something I had not picked up from previous reports - the family dug a trench in the garden in which an adult could hide when the professionals were visiting.

She drew an analogy with stabbing cases - we would not expect every head of a police force to resign because they failed to prevent young people in their area from stabbing even though they knew of the problem for a long time. The difficulty with the analogy is that we might indeed expect them or someone to resign if they let the young person they arrested and had found in possession of a knife and making threats etc back onto the streets and then there was a stabbing. In other words if they had knowledge of a specific risk and did not take steps to avoid it. The better point she makes is that 50 children a week are killed within the family and not every other Children Services' Director has to fall on their sword every time (this would mean replacing 1/3 of them every year).

On the whole I came away feeling ambivalent. She has undoubtedly been scapegoated and hounded by the press (what possible justification can there have been for the doorstepping of her 89 year old mother?). She gave me much food for thought about the role of a Director of Children's Services chairing a Serious Case Review (70% of SCRs she says are chaired by the Director and 7/32 in London). She also makes a very good point that the impact of the press reaction on social workers has been disastrous and many good points about the lack of acknowledgement of any positive aspects of social services delivery in Haringey. But I could not avoid having a rather personal reaction to what appears to be an impersonal tone and a lack of plain speaking. She also displayed some rather muddled thinking as to the justification for issuing care proceedings (by suggesting that there were not grounds if the police did not feel able to pursue a prosecution, for example).

I did find the interview very interesting and do want to know more and think more about where it all leads.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Sharon Shoesmith fights back

Extensive coverage in the Guardian of an interview with Sharon Shoesmith in which she criticises Ed Balls' 'reckless' reaction to the baby p situation.

You can listen to parts of the interview online.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Woolley & Co

This is the first in a series of blogposts about family solicitor websites.

In a press release Andrew Woolley, Senior Partner at Woolley & Co, introduces the services of the pioneering UK-wide family law firm which conducts much of its work online and over the phone, said, “Most people think that if you live with your partner for a couple of years you get the same rights as married couples, but this simply isn’t true. Cohabiting couples have very few automatic rights and contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as s common law husband or wife. This is where a Living Together Agreement comes in.”

This is a firm which is using the internet to the max in attracting clients and providing a service. There are good introductory articles about aspects of family law, a jargon buster, a built-in blog and links to resources to support clients to deal with the emotions around family disputes.

Woolley & Co has a main office in Bedfordshire but has solicitors all round the country: a thoroughly modern practice.

If you are a family law solicitor or barrister and would like to suggest a site to be reviewed please email me at jacqui.gilliatt@4bc.co.uk. I am only interested in reviewing sites with added value ie articles and information for clients rather than purely brochure style website.

Publication of SCR

The Tory party are threatening to publish the full text of a serious case review according to the Guardian . I must say I wondered how long it would be before there was an attack on Ed Balls who has so far been fairly unscathed by the post baby B media focus.

ContactPoint database

Good in depth article on Community Care about ContactPoint database

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Madonna & children

The Times reports that Madonna and Guy have reached an agreement which will allow her to take the children back to an American Life .

And lest you wonder what the picture on the left has to do with Madonna it is a picture of a species of water bear (a microscopic, water-dwelling segmented animal with 8 legs) which was named after Madonna in 2006. Surely her greatest accolade to date.

David Frost: eat your heart out

If you want to know more about the new Family Law Week blogger, Lucy Reed, you could do worse than to listen to her in John Bolch's 2nd podcast interview !