Welcome to the 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
ITV, Wales Online, BBC Wales, the Guardian, the Mail and others – Various media outlets are reporting the ongoing trial of foster carers, Laura and Scott Castle, for offences relating to the death of baby Leiland James in their care. Leiland was removed from his mother at birth by Cumbria Council. We’ve also just seen reports of the convictions of Angharad Williamson, John Cole and a 14 year old boy in foster care (whose identity can’t be published) for Logan Mwangi’s murder; and Christopher Easey and Laura Heath’s imprisonment for the manslaughter of baby Eleanor, and 7 year old Hakeem, respectively.
Meanwhile the Guardian have pointed out (ahead of publication of the Care Review Report), that an adequate response to the lessons and legacy of Arthur, Star, Kyrell and Logan is shaping up to be one of the most important public policy challenges facing the government. And that twin problems of higher numbers of children in care than ever, with no progress in reducing child deaths, require engagement with complex causes including systemic social work issues of staff burnout, high caseloads, crisis management, inadequate leadership and austerity. The Observer warned of the danger of reducing care numbers without the leadership and investment to underpin that approach. The Mail quite reasonably asked questions about council leadership, but chose to shame individuals without regard to sector systemic problems or possible solutions. Blog to follow. (See too Nuffield research on links between poverty and child abuse and neglect; Community Care on the relationship between Ofsted rating and social worker turnover; the Yorkshire Post on the latest outstanding rating for Leeds, who remain the only ‘outstanding’ rated large city in the UK; and Martin Barrow’s tweet question here):
ITV Wales, BBC News and others – Reported Russell Marsh’s life sentence for the murder of Jade Ward with her children in the next room, after she tried to leave her controlling abusive marriage. They also reported her family’s campaign to change the law so that a parent found guilty of murdering the other parent automatically has their parental rights suspended. Blog to follow we hope on this. In the meantime the petition has reached over 100,000.
The Mail, the Times and others – Jo Edwards explained her frustration at coverage in various newspapers in Divorce doom? Why last week’s “surge” in divorces doesn’t spell mayhem for marriage. Meanwhile Catherine Baksi offered thoughtful analysis, (and review of BBC1’s The Split, Series 2) at the Times (sorry paywalled). The Times, Mail and others reported judicial comments on the sort of attritional litigation illustrated in a financial remedies appeal heard on the day ‘no fault’ divorce commenced (that wouldn’t have been any different under the new law).
The Financial Times – Linked online readers of Let in the Light to the murky reaches of the English legal system to the President’s Transparency Review Report:
I-News – Linked online readers of Parents reunited with children after care proceedings accuse court process of ‘lacking humanity’ to the actual (government commissioned, University of Lancaster led) research on how parents saw care orders with children at home.
The Independent – Linked online readers of Victim’s domestic abuse allegations against her ex ‘troublingly’ downplayed by family court judge to the published judgment. (See also a legal blogger’s perspective by Julie Doughty here). (Note too new judicial guidance on when NOT to use fact finding hearings and how to case manage them, and news that measures to halt direct cross examination of alleged victims by alleged perpetrators will be in force from June with ‘barring’ order changes from May/June):
NEWLY PUBLISHED JUDGMENTS FROM FAMILY LAW CASES
Tickle v Herefordshire County Council & Ors  EWHC 1017 (Fam) (04 May 2022) – Published judgment from Mrs Justice Lieven’s decision to permit journalist (& Transparency Project member) Louise Tickle to identify and report a mother’s experience of care proceedings. The judge refused a request for anonymisation of the social workers. Panorama: Protecting Our Children: A Balancing Act is on BBC One at 8pm on Monday 16 May. Tickle explains the process of obtaining permission too in this twitter thread. The Hereford Times report here:
XX, YY and Child H (Rev1)  EWFC 10 (19 January 2022) – Abigail Bond highlighted Mrs Justice’s Knowles’ judgment and guidance on applying the Good Practice Guidance for Working with Parents with a Learning Disability. See Re H  EWFC10: See Guidance in Learning Disability Cases:
F v M  EWFC B101 and A and B (Child Arrangements: Parental Alienation)  EWFC B11 – Lucy Reed’s Family Law column was re published by the Transparency Project. It flags unexplained redaction of the details of experts from published judgments featuring allegations of alienation, and more. As highlighted in the February Roundup. See Something is going on with experts:
Re Z (A Child) (Surrogacy)  EWFC 18 and X v Z (Parental Order: Adult)  EWFC 26 – Lottie Park-Morton explained the judgments from two parental order decisions relating to surrogacy arrangements and commented on the state of the law. See Parenthood following surrogacy: recent cases further highlight need for reform:
M (A Child : Private Law Children Proceedings: Case Management: Intimate Images)  EWHC 986 (Fam) (29 April 2022) – Published judgment from Mrs Justice Knowles’ case management decisions in preparation for rehearing disputed allegations of abuse following appeal – with guidance on the use of intimate images in private law proceedings,
A (A CHILD) (supervised contact) (s91(14) Children Act 1989 orders)  EWCA Civ 1749 (23 November 2021) –Judgment from a Mother’s unsuccessful appeal against a final child arrangements order for supervised contact only with a bar on re-applying without permission for 2 years. See comment here and here.
C (A Child) (Fact-Finding)  EWCA Civ 584 (04 May 2022) – Unsuccessful appeal against findings of abuse of a 12 year old on the basis of a flawed ABE process.
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
Privacy, anonymity and vulnerability in the financial remedy family courts, and publication of ‘small money’ judgments
Sir James Munby commented on recent Mostyn J judgments, about privacy and anonymisation in financial remedies cases, that have caused quite a stir, with reference to his own earlier publications on the matter. See ‘Some Sunlight Seeps In‘.
Lucy Reed, Chair of the Transparency Project summarised the developments, the furore and the context, and speculated on some possible practical impacts in The anonymisation wars – who is right about privacy in financial remedy cases?
Christopher Wagstaffe QC responded to Munbys call for engagement with Mostyn J’s reasoning in the Financial Remedies Journal in Privacy and Transparency in the Financial Remedies Court. As did David Burrows at ICLR. New Family Law Bar Association training on identifying vulnerable litigants and advocating for them in was also flagged at the FRJ site in Vulnerable Witness Training – Not Just For Children Practitioners :
Iain Large made the case for publication of many more judgments from everyday Family Court finance cases and explained why. See The value of the “small money” divorce case: why we need more judgments from everyday Family Court finance cases, and what we can learn from them:
Open Justice and access to listings / judgments
Paul Magrath responded to the HMCTS announcement of a re-design and consolidation for publication of all court and tribunal listings in one place at gov.uk for the first time. See Court hearing lists and open justice.
And the National Archives has now started hosting judgments including family court judgments, and will be the primary publisher, though Bailii will continue to operate and will source judgments from them:
Open Justice & the House of Commons Justice Report
Judith Townend highlighted, what the House of Commons Justice Committee considered, critical and overlooked issues around transparency and accountability in their new report on court capacity. Their open justice report will follow. See Justice committee: “Government needs to have access to high-quality data” at the Open Info and Ideas site. See too Joshua Rozenberg here:
Transparency through minutes of key family justice public bodies
The Family Procedure Rule(s) Committee – Alice Twaite flagged the speed of publication of the FPRC minutes and some matters of interest in Highlights from the latest Rules Committee minutes:
Open access research and reports
Disrupting the Routes Between Care and Custody – Nuffield funded research findings led by Lancaster University. Available evidence suggests 1% of the general population have been in care, while up to 50% of imprisoned children and over a third of women in prison have been in care.
The House of Commons (HOC) 10 year review of changes to legal aid – The HOC Library published Part 1 of their review of the impact of Legal And and Sentencing Punishment Order Act changes to legal aid in 2012 (LASPOA) with an overview. The Guardian focused on the impact on domestic abuse victims.
23 May 2022 1-2pm – Family Rights Group webinar on Lifelong Links with Professor Lisa Holmes and a young person and senior local authority manager with direct experience of the positive impact. Info and booking here.
11 June 2022 and various – Family Law Bar Association vulnerable witness training for barristers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (See Vulnerable Witness Training – Not Just For Children Practitioners at the Financial Remedies Journal for details).
1st July 2022- The Government’s consultation on reform of provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities closes. There’s a handy 10 page summary here by Lorraine Peterson SEND consultant.
28 July 2022 – HOLD THE DATE – The Family Justice Young People’s Board annual Voice of the Child Conference is now fixed for 28 July 2022. Details will follow.
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