Welcome to this month’s Roundup, where we correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, explain and comment on published family court judgments and highlight other transparency news
MEDIA COVERAGE OF FAMILY COURT MATTERS
The Independent, Daily Mail and others – Reported the latest High Court decision (on appeal) about contact between Andrew Griffiths, former Minister and his child following findings he abused Kate Griffiths MP. See Former Minister Andrew Griffiths cannot see child for time being judge rules, by Brian Farmer in the Independent. (We are puzzled by the reference to Judge Williscroft, who hears cases in Derby and goes by the name Sue, during family court proceedings). See also the Mail’s detailed report – and sections below on earlier stages of this case.
Tortoise (Slows Newscast, 10th January 2022) – In a rare transparency move, the Court of Appeal permitted publication of the written legal arguments (skeleton arguments) from Griffiths v Tickle in the High Court and Court of Appeal. Louise Tickle, freelance journalist and Transparency Project Member (represented by Lucy Reed, barrister and Chair of the Transparency Project) made the application for publication. Tortoise published all the skeleton arguments here, painstakingly redacted to comply with reporting restrictions – alongside Tickle’s interview of Kate Griffiths, A Finding of Rape: How a former government minister abused the secrecy of the family courts in an attempt to hide the truth:
See also the December news flurry, that followed the Court of Appeal permitting publication of the judgment that named Andrew Griffiths as having raped and coercively controlled Kate Griffiths. Tickle (and Brian Farmer, Press Association) had made the application for publication. News reports included Kate Griffiths for the Mail, Tickle at Tortoise, Farmer at the Independent and Charlotte Proudman (barrister for Griffiths) for the Guardian.
Mrs Justice Lieven’s original High Court decision, the Court of Appeal judgment and summary are all here, alongside the ‘findings’ judgment. The (postponed) live stream of the Court of Appeal proceedings is still available.
Lucy Reed offered a legal perspective in Griffiths v Tickle – a lawyer’s view. Lawyers and other family justice professionals commented on twitter here and here. Joshua Rozenberg has commented in the Law Gazette (p.11):
The Times – Lucy Reed tried to make sense of The Times headline Farkhad Akhmedov: Senior judges voice alarm after private deal in oligarch divorce (sorry paywall). See A curious headline: “Senior judges voice alarm after private deal in oligarch divorce” (See also media reports of Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya’s financial settlement on divorce):
The Telegraph and others – Re-hashed the annual round of Divorce D Day ‘stories’. Jo Edwards and Tony Roe dispelled myths and discussed the imminent arrival of ‘no fault’ divorce for families at BBC Sussex (07.25-07.30) and BBC Berkshire (2 hrs 38 mins & 37 secs). See also Tony Roe at the Transparency Project in The perennial pantomime of ‘Divorce D Day’? back in 2019.
The Times and Daily Mail – Reported ‘a postcode lottery’ on the chances of children in care being fostered by relatives rather than strangers, based on new figures we think must have been calculated from a spreadsheet provided in response to Helen Hayes MP’s parliamentary question plus the annual Looked After Children figures. See Thousands of children still denied the chance to be fostered by their grandparents by Emily Dugan and It’s ageist to stop a grandma adopting a grandchild by Jenni Murray. See the Family Right Group website and this twitter thread for context:
BBC News – Reported a couple settling a potential legal claim against Bradford council after a child placed with them for adoption was removed. See Bradford adoption: Couple say troubled council ‘broke our family’. There’s a little more information at Local Government Lawyer but it’s proved impossible to comment in the absence of a published judgment or other primary source material.
The Guardian – (As often now) linked online readers to the published judgments behind their report of findings made in Griffiths v Tickle.
The Independent – Linked online readers to all the judgments published so far when reporting the new court decision on contact from Griffiths v Tickle (before judgment publication).
NEWLY PUBLISHED CASES
W (A Child), Re  EWHC 2844 (Fam) (25 October 2021) – Jack Harrison wrote about the landmark psychologist’s report Mr Justice Hayden flagged before the Christmas break. See Landmark solutions to difficult cases:
A Child (Application of PD12J : No.2 – Findings of Fact)  EWFC 2 (12 January 2022) – Lucy Reed flagged grey areas in definitions of coercive control in response to HHJ Dancey’s newly published judgment. See Defining Controlling or Coercive Behaviour at Pink Tape:
Griffiths v Griffiths (Guidance on Contact Costs)  EWHC 113 (Fam) (20 January 2022) and Griffiths v Griffiths (Decision on Recusal)  EWHC 3600 (Fam) (09 December 2021) – Judgments from Mrs Justice Arbuthnot in the High Court overturning earlier decisions about contact and costs of contact. See reports above for context. We’ll write these up when we can. Louise Tickle who attended has summarised in tweets here and here:
F (A Child) (Care Order : Deprivation of Liberty)  EWHC 3527 (Fam) (09 December 2021) – Notably child-centred judgment in plain english from Mr L Samuels QC which sets out as it means to go on with ‘At the centre of this case is a teenage girl Fiona….’:
M (A Child)  EWHC 3225 (Fam) (01 December 2021) and GK v PR  EWFC 106 (14 December 2021) and S (Vulnerable Party: Fairness Of Proceedings)  EWCA Civ 8 (18 January 2022) – Three new judgments from the Court of Appeal on special measures in the context of domestic abuse allegations and cognition . See here, here, and here. Suesspicious Minds commented on two of them – here and here:
AC (unaccompanied asylum-seeking child – threshold criteria)  EWFC B89 (13 April 2021) – Decision of HHJ Reardon in the East London family court not to make a care order as she couldn’t properly make findings that, the undoubted significant harm a vulnerable (perhaps trafficked) child had suffered, was attributable to parental failure.
H (A Child : Private law; adverse findings, restrictions on parental responsibility) (Rev1)  EWFC B91 (15 December 2021) – Long judgment from Her Honour Judge O’Neill in the Reading Family Court finalising a 7 year old’s move to her father’s care and restricting her mother’s contact, decision making and future applications on the basis allegations of abuse were not proven and she had lied and manipulated.
B-B, Re (Domestic Abuse: Fact-Finding)  EWHC 108 (Fam) (20 January 2022) – Mr Justice Cobb makes findings of serious domestic abuse and its harmful impact on the child, at a re-hearing following a mother’s successful appeal in Re H-N  EWCA Civ 448 . (See here for comment on the appeal last year).
O and T (Children: Supervision Order)  EWFC B84 (17 December 2021) – Published judgment behind HHJ Middleton-Roy’s decision to reject an unnamed councils’ plans for adoption of children aged 2 and 3. Reasons for not naming the local authority are not explicit in the judgment. Martin Barrow commented on the case facts here.
Together for Children Sunderland (on Behalf of Sunderland Council) v A Mother & Ors  – Judgement from Mr Justice Poole’s findings that children were not sexually abused by their father. Their mother had wrongly come to believe that they had been abused and influenced them to report, rather than dishonestly fabricated the allegations.
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
Behind Closed Doors – Why we break up families and what to do about it – Polly Curtis answered questions about her new book which launches on 3rd February alongside Tortoise Think-In on the future of social work – After Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbié: what should social workers do? See Behind Closed Doors – new book about the care system. Click here and use code SOCIAL22 to register for the Think-In for free:
The Justice Committee inquiry into open justice – Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, Natalie Byrom (Researcher & Director of research at the Legal Education Foundation), and John Battle (ITN Head of Legal & Compliance & Chair of the News Media Association) gave evidence. See Parliament TV and twitter threads from LEF and Judith Townend (here and here). Also the Press Gazette:
Justice data Roundup – Judith Townend rounded up open justice system data issues from 2021, and speculated on 2022. See Justice system data in 2022: New year reflections and resolutions
The minutes from the first Transparency Implementation Group – The TIG published the minutes of its first meeting to action the President’s proposals for a major cultural shift in safely opening up the family courts:
Transparency and the Equal Treatment Bench Book – The Transparency Project commented on transparency related inaccuracies (and a few other bits) in the revised version. See The Equal Treatment Bench Book Guidance on Fairness for Judges.
26th January 2022 – Ashley John-Baptiste’s new film, Split up in care: life without siblings streams on BBC player:
Late January 2022 – Applications open for funding to conduct research that will improve understanding of children and families’ experiences of the family justice system, through access to the (SAIL) linked dataset consisting of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) Data First family court data and Cafcass’ data . Sign up for email alerts here.
3rd February 2022 – Tortoise Slow Media Think-In on the future of social work. Click here and use code SOCIAL22 to register for free for After Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbié: what should social workers do?
7th February 2022 – Deadline to respond to the judicial conduct public consultation here.
10 February 2022 – Some places may still be left for the initial (free) (London) Domestic Abuse training for family lawyers delivered under pilot by Safer Lives, funded by the Legal Education Foundation. Sign up here.
11th February 2022 – Deadline to respond to the Family Procedure Rule Committee Consultation on proposed new Practice Direction 3B, to provide guidance on cross-examination provisions in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021
28 February 2022 – Deadline for practitioners, judges and others with an interest to email email@example.com (using subject header “SFO Review”) to feed into a review of the current standard family (court) orders (children and financial).
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