The purpose of this update is to correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, to explain and comment on published Judgments of family cases and to highlight other transparency news.
Media Reports of Family Courts Case and Family Justice Issues
- The Telegraph reported with Millionaire wife challenges divorce settlement, which gave ex-husband half of £5.45m fortune, triggering a swift twitter response here
— Brian Sloan (@briandsloan) February 28, 2017
(See also the Financial Times report here on the same case: Divorce case seeks to overturn asset-sharing principle – Paywall) And John Bolch’s analysis at Marilyn Stowe How long must a marriage be before equal sharing applies
Blog to follow on this and a new Telegraph report: men ‘bullied; out of generous divorce settlements by bread-winning wives
- The Daily Mail reported the Grandmother, 53, who refused to help social workers find her three-year-old grandchild is held in prison for two days after council bosses said she was in contempt of court
The application seems to have related to proceedings in respect of three 3 year old child whose parents fled abroad with her/him, with the child’s grandmother having watched a TV programme in which families being investigated by social workers were advised to flee abroad.
We will comment on the apparent decision of Jackson J not to commit her if the judgment is published. (Paragraph 13 of the March 2015 Practice Direction: Committal for Contempt of Court – Open Court says judgments should be prepared and expedited in respect of ‘all decisions on committal’. We think this is ambiguous and could mean either all decisions about committal or to commit).
- Most media outlets reported publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission report on failures in the Police investigation of Poppi Worthington’s death
The report (Operation Lavender) was published with a short addendum (undated) almost 2 years after it was completed on 13 March 2015 and sent to the Chief Constable of Cumbria on 26 March 2015. No report we saw linked to the IPCC report. We last wrote about this here after a re hearing in the family court at which the original findings that Poppi’s father had sexually assaulted her were upheld. We will update our post to include the reports in due course.
- The Times (in the Brief) reported the unusual practice of a family court Judge writing to a child to explain her decision Judge wins plaudits after writing to 12-year-old reported recorder Lorraine Morgan in the family court writing to the boy to explain why she hadn’t followed his wishes in a case about contact with his mother. Mrs Justice Roberts heard and dismissed the fathers appeal last week and commended the letter in doing so. We’ve not seen a published judgment of this appeal hearing heard in public.
- Research published by the Child Welfare Inequalities Project called Identifying and understanding inequalities in child welfare intervention rates was reported in some of the broadsheets and much of the legal pressReports we saw included:
- The Guardian with Children in UK’s poorest areas 10 times more likely to go into care
- BBC Online with Children in deprived areas more likely to go into care
- Community Care with Children in poorest areas more likely to enter care
- Children and Young People News with Children in poorest postcodes ’10 times more likely to end up in care
See also twitter comment reminding of the need to also go beyond the headlines to the nuances of the research reports on co-relation and the complexity of cause and effect:
https://t.co/5OTZQtA635 Research, & the researchers, far more nuanced than the headline. Important to understand interplay of all factors
— Andy Elvin (@Millinerstale1) February 28, 2017
Media reports we found notably balanced, accurate or otherwise helpful to transparency this week
- The Guardian and BBC Online reports (above) (as well as the community care report) helpfully linked readers to the Nuffield Foundation site where links to the research report and the Deprivation and Children’s Services Outcomes Mapping Study it built on were to be found. This is particularly important where headlines can’t capture the full nuances of the research itself.
And in case you missed these…
- English mother to be reunited with child in Dubai…
- High Court to decide future of very ill baby
- The PSA – nothing to see here!
Newly Published Cases for Explanation or Comment
- Judge encourages social workers and Guardians to use Facebook to trace families for service where traditional routes fail. See T (A Child)  EWFC 19 (14 February 2017) for the published judgment explaining Holman J’s decision to briefly adjourn the hearing of an adoption order application for proper service of the birth mother in the Manchester family court. Holman J was critical of court staff failures and challenged the assumption that Cafcass policy prevented use of facebook to trace relatives in this case.
- A and B (Findings against social worker) (Rev 1)  EWFC 68 This is the published judgment explaining the decision in the family court upon a social workers application for permission to appeal against a finding that she had falsified records. Permission was denied. (The Chair of the Transparency Project, Lucy Reed was counsel for the mother.) Blog to follow. In the meantime see Community Care here.
And in case you missed these…
- Mrs Norman and the indigestible cherry
- What’s going on with damages claims under the Human Rights Act?
- Public confidence in the social work regulator: Where next? (Twitter conversations via Storify)
In other Transparency News
- Tickets for Child Protection 2017, supported by the Transparency Project, went on sale at Eventbrite. This 3rd multi disciplinary conference takes place Friday 9th June 2017 at UWE. Details and booking at Eventbrite here:
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 3, 2017
- The Transparency Project published their response to the IPSO consultation on the Editors Handbook (also known as ‘the Code’) here
See also Sir Harold Evans on ‘disgraceful’ Google and Facebook and his support for Section 40/Impress in the Press Gazette last week. Sir Harold Evens is a former Sunday Times Editor.
- New research was published (with an event advertised) on the impact of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulatory process on Social Workers
The research set out to ‘hear and report on the lived experience of those going through the investigatory process’ by capturing themes from semi-structured interviews with a small sample of eight social workers. The researchers says three main themes emerged: organisational issues, representation and cost and emotional toll.
It’s published at the British Journal of Social Work so not publicly available. But the event in Sheffield to launch and build on the findings accessibly offers free places, albeit limited to 40 people, with emphasis on encouraging social workers with personal experience of HCPC regulation to attend.
See also Community Care HCPC investigations causing social workers ‘considerable’ stress
- Community Care reported Government to tackle legal aid gap for parents challenging adoptions: Children’s minister says change needed as current rules leave a small group of parents without access to support. See also blog here on the further amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill sought by Family Rights Group (Your Family Your Voice Alliance) for a right to ‘counselling’ for care leavers who have a child removed:
- Resolution responded to the new Prison and Courts Bill with the suggestion that an immediate “quick win” for the government to support victims of domestic abuse would be to widen the gateway to private family legal aid so that fewer parties are left unrepresented; and crack on with the review of LASPO
- See also The Laws Disgrace, an opinion piece by Adrian Zuckermann at the UK Constitutional Law website on why legal aid, as opposed to affordability of legal services may not be the real solution.
- Behind Closed Doors: Diluting the Guardian’s Independence, Circumventing the Role of the Court: The Association of Lawyers for Children published a robust response to the joint Cafcass/ADCS Agreement published (without consultation) recently on how local authorities and Cafcass should work together effectively in care proceedings and pre-court proceedings in future in the English Family Court. The response is published in full at Family Law Week here and includes:
Deep concern that Cafcass is losing sight of the importance of the independent role of the Children’s Guardian in public law proceedings and that the agreement flies in the face of transparency and public accountability for actions and decision making by the state where children are likely to be removed from their birth families.
- The Solicitors Regulation Authority published a research report called Experiences of consumers who may be vulnerable in family law
The report, described as ‘critical’ of family law services at the Brief here highlighted difficulties divorcing couples face including cost of legal services, debt arising; and the difficulty of assessing value for money.
(On the subject of delivering family law services differently, see also the newly launched Family Law Cafe who promise a totally new and refreshing approach to family law [including we assume as to costs in light of the delivery model].
- The legal ombudsman are reported to have said that information they hold on complaints about legal services is likely to be made available to the public including through price comparison websites as early as next year: See the Times report in The Brief Ombudsman pushes for public naming and shaming of lawyers which doesn’t explain what the source is.
- The Ministry of Justice announced a new court specialism in all aspects of media law including breaches of duty under the Data Protection Act.
- BASW advertised a free lecture by Dr Sharon Shoesmith: Social work in the age of social media and post truth
— Stephen Jones (@Steve_JKPbooks) March 3, 2017
And in case you missed it
Feature image courtesy of Flickr with thanks to Lauri Heikkinen
This post originally appeared on the Transparency Project blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.