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
BBC News – BBC News provided links to the President’s interview at BBC Radio 4 ‘Broadcasting House’ (33.34), and the Family Solutions Report that partly underpins the pilots testing reforms to private law cases. The President helpfully distinguished cases involving domestic abuse etc from his estimated fifth of separating parents that can be safely diverted from the family courts on the basis they feature relationship rather than legal issues. He discusses changes in language and new child impact statements as well as his plans to open up the family courts, including letting journalists report about cases, if the identities of the families are protected. Although the BBC refer to ‘divorce’, the President was not talking about divorce itself, but about child arrangements. We wrote about the Family Solutions Report here last year:
The Guardian – reported last week’s hearing of their appeal against press exclusion from attendance at, or even notice of, last year’s hearing that led to an order that Prince Phillip’s will and the value of his estate be kept private. See Guardian reports here, here and here. See too the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane’s judgment, published in a break with tradition and linked to from the Guardian reports. The live-streamed Court of Appeal proceedings are available here. Our post explaining last year’s decision to seal the will for 90 years is here. Update to follow:
The Guardian – reported the Court of Appeal setting aside a family court order limiting police powers to interview children who had made new allegations against a parent the family court had previously exonerated, following findings of emotional manipulation of the children. Residence had been transferred by family court order to the father. See Appeal court kicks out judge’s ban on police investigation linking readers to the judgments and reporting in detail on some challenging issues for the family justice system. We’ve asked for the listing to attend the next hearing with a view to reporting if permitted to do so. (See too reports in the Observer and Guardian last month and this Mail Online report; new domestic abuse statutory guidance which no longer includes ‘alienating behaviours’, with a government response to the consultation saying they are covered within existing definitions etc; and the new Family Justice Council sub group preparing guidance on responding to allegations of parenting alienating behaviours):
The Times – A Times editorial (paywalled) argued in favour of changes to enable charity status for journalism to boost local news. See written evidence from the Charitable Journalism Project to the House of Commons Inquiry on the sustainability of local journalism:
BBC File on Four – We got to this June report interrogating profit in provision of children’s care homes in England late. It stands out in illuminating complex, politically challenging issues for children’s social care with expert commentary and children’s voices in just 36 minutes. The programme covers the different approaches of the English, Welsh and Scottish governments, high rates of complaints and serious incidents in the private sector, Ofsted, alternative models, and the impact on children including, A-B:
The Guardian – Featured Lemn Sissay’s inspirational photograph project for children in care without glossing over the reality of the challenges of care experience:
The Press Association – reported calls for the incoming Prime Minister to prioritise investment in early support to children following new evidence that council investment in children’s services in England is down by half in the last 10 years. See Stopping the Spiral from Pro Bono Economics. (See too reports of under investment in social workers, even at Leeds who have just had another excellent rating from Ofsted; massive budget shortfalls in Devon and Bradford; children in care being illegally placed in caravans and boats at BBC News; and news that the implementation board for children’s social care has been set up before the government has responded to the Care Review report):
Wales Online, the Guardian, The Times and others- Following multiple reports of the trial and sentence of Logan Mwangi’s mother, step father and half brother for his killing, came reports of the decision to name Craig Mulligan, 15 (including to ensure the public interest in publication of the child safeguarding practice review report); of children’s services and family court decisions that Craig should move to live with Logan days before the murder, despite apparent indicators of risk; and of the local authority not informing Logan’s biological father about the child protection procedures. The published Sentencing Remarks are here. More information will surface with the published practice review expected in autumn. The Sunday Times yesterday published Logan Mwangi and Craig Mulligan: the two boys who never stood a chance, a detailed investigation highlighting Craig’s journey as a vulnerable, neuro-diverse child enduring a relentless series of adverse childhood experiences, in becoming a perpetrator of grave harm. The report suggests that early intervention for Craig may have saved both boys, and highlight that Wales has not held a national review of its child care services, in contrast with the other UK countries:
(See too reports of Carol Hodgson’s sentence for the manslaughter of two year old Daniel, in the context of her own suicide attempt, on the day she was due to undergo a finding of fact hearing in the family court. There are also reports of the trial of Lauren Saint George and Darren Hurrell for the death of premature baby Lily, aged 10 weeks. A legal gateway meeting decision had been taken, on the day she died, to escalate her case from child protection to edge of care and place her, with Hurrell, in the safe environment of a residential assessment unit the following day).
BBC News (and others) – reported a High Court decision to quash an unnecessary adoption order and correct a birth certificate, after a woman was wrongly refused registration as a parent on her child’ birth certificate. Blog to follow explaining more we hope. We’ve not yet seen a published judgment.
The Sunday Times – Published a thoughtful report (paywall) on adoption breakdowns, raising similar issues to those in last years reports in the Times by (and about) BBC journalist Eleanor Radford. (We wrote about those here last year). Comments at the Times this time round include similar criticisms as were made about the Eleanor Radford pieces – that the child’s perspective, and analysis within the wider policy context of adoption in England and Wales are overlooked. (See too ITV News on a grandmother’s experience of feeling ‘punished’ for raising the alarm about her grandchildren by their consequent adoption with loss of ongoing relationship with her).
NEWLY PUBLISHED JUDGMENTS FROM FAMILY LAW CASES
Emma Nottingham explained Court of Appeal and High Court decisions here and here about Archie Battersbee’s treatment. Mr Justice Hayden declined to hear the remitted High Court decision in private, but protected health professionals through reporting restrictions. The parents have since obtained permission to appeal Mr Justice Haydn’s decision about treatment. The Appeal was heard on Thursday and Friday of last week with judgment expected on Monday. The Family Justice Council have launched efforts to collaborate with the RCPCH to ensure high quality medical mediation for parents like Archie’s, and produce guidance to try to support future parents and professionals as explained in this post on the Family Justice Council below:
A (A Child), Re  EWHC 1873 (Fam) (13 July 2022) – Hayden J’s judgment from a Health Trust application for declaration of brain stem death & that it was lawful to cease ventilation, withdrawn in light of unprecedented circumstances of the baby regaining some spontaneous breathing capacity. Adjourned for expert evidence and further hearing in August on the basis of a cautious and reflective response to what has occurred in order to assess and gauge its significance for A and indeed, potentially, for others. We’ve asked for the listing with a view to attending.
X v Y  EWFC 77 (07 July 2022) – Judgment setting out the law on declarations of parentage in the context of deciding a woman in her early 50’s claim that a man in his late 60’s was her father. The judgment considers tensions between her Article 8 rights to know her parentage and his right to choose not to engage, and how far the court can go in inferring parentage when the making of the declaration isn’t opposed, but there’s no positive engagement to enable certainty by DNA tests.
R (Becker) v Plymouth City Council  EWHC 1885 (Admin) – Published judgment from a decision that a council’s policy for calculating SGO payments departed so fundamentally from the DfE model in statutory guidance without justification, as to be an incoherent and unlawful scheme. With potential implications for other councils doing similarly. Reported by 39 Essex Chambers here and Louise Tickle for the Guardian here.
Re G (Child Post- Mortem Report: Delays)  EWFC 55 (14 June 2022) – The President flagged the problem of delay for children in post mortem reports following suspicious child deaths , and canvased family court options. Lucy Reed discussed the judgment at Family Law:
Lee v Brown [2022 1699 EWHC QB – Julie Doughty explained an unsuccessful defamation claim that has some links to family law in the context of domestic abuse allegations. See Domestic abuse and defamation then Defamation and domestic abuse – an update:
H-W (Children) and In the matter of H-W (Children) (No 2) (Rev1)  UKSC 17 (15 June 2022) – Guidance from the Supreme Court on proportionality when making care orders. See too D (A Child: Placement Order), Re  EWCA Civ 896 (30 June 2022) and CV (A Child) (Placement Order) (Rev1)  EWCA Civ 930 (06 July 2022) applying H-W’s requirement for rigorous evaluation and comparison of all the realistic possibilities for a child’s future in the light of the court’s factual findings in the context of placement orders, and Re B-S (Children) (Adoption Order: Leave to Oppose)  EWCA Civ 1146 and earlier authorities. Explainer blog to follow on these we hope.
X v C  EWFC 79 (12 July 2022) – This rare example of a modest financial remedy case, following Mostyn J in Gallagher v Gallagher (No.1) (Reporting Restrictions)  EWFC 52 (13 June 2022) and on publication and anonymisation attracted considerable interest. (See too Lucy Reed, Chair of the Transparency Project in The anonymisation wars – who is right about privacy in financial remedy cases? and The Unintended Consequences of Law, and Iain Large on 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):
P, J, E-R, E-L (Children : Care Orders)  EWFC 73 (28 March 2022) – Judgment from a family court decision to make care and placement orders for 3 of 4 siblings that documents serious care-planning failures. See Local Government Lawyer and SuesspiciousMinds.
Law Commission review of contempt law – The Law Commission announced a review of contempt laws including those on publication of information from court proceedings. They will publish a consultation paper at the end of 2022 on their provisional proposals for reform.
Transparency through Family Justice System organisations:
The Transparency Implementation Group – Lucy Reed and Julie Doughty wrote about the transparency side of transparency reform, some 9 months after the President’s big reveal. See Transparency Implementation Group – what’s actually happening?:
The Family Justice Council – Alice Twaite reported news from the 8th open FJC meeting, including the President’s suggestion that the Family Justice Board no longer be chaired by ministers; a new working group promoting medical mediation for difficult child medical treatment decisions; and the timetable for finalising the covert recording guidance.
Remote access to hearings – Lucy Reed flagged the new Practice Guidance on Remote Observation of Hearings accompanying new court powers from 28 June 2022 to allow journalists and members of the public who are already entitled to attend, to observe hearings remotely, even when those hearings are otherwise in person. See also Mark Hanna’s twitter thread:
Transparency by publication of family court judgments – We discussed problems with the switch to publication from Bailii.org.uk to the National Archives in The National Archives and Family Court transparency – a temporary glitch?. See also Joshua Rozenberg here:
Transparency through systematic data – The Legal Education Foundation and IPSOS published the Justice Data Matters report: Building a Public Mandate for Court Data Use in the wake of judgment publication moving to the National Archives. The report explores global public attitudes to the use of court data by third parties and makes recommendations for what is required to ensure that use of court data enhances, rather than undermines, public trust and confidence in the justice system. Joshua Rozenberg commented here.
26th July – Free online training at 7.30pm for journalists on reporting domestic abuse deaths sensitively and managing court hearings, from Levelling Up and AVA.
27th July – Louise Tickle in conversation with Victoria Scott at 6pm on her new novel about fostering for adoption.
31 July 22 – Deadline to respond to the TIG Financial Remedies Court sub group questionnaire on transparency in the Financial Remedies Court. See here for more information. Aimed at professionals such as lawyers (including chancery and pension lawyers) trustees, judges, the press, mediators, law reporters, etc though doesn’t specifically exclude others such as litigants in person and their representatives.
31 August 22 – Deadline to respond to the Cerebra/ Leeds University survey on fabricated or induced illness in children in response to reports from families with disabled children, which suggest that some parents have been accused by practitioners of creating or exaggerating their child’s difficulties when trying to get help to meet their child’s needs.
7 September 2022 – The British Psychological Society hosts the annual Expert Witness conference with High Court Judge Mr Justice Williams QC on the panel.
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