The final report from the spotlight review of family courts’ handling of domestic abuse has finally been published :

Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases

The report is long and detailed and has generated quite a lot of publicity. We’ve not fully digested it yet, but can see that it makes a number of recommendations, some of which the government appears to have committed to see through. Although some news coverage does make it sound as if changes will be forced on family courts, many of these will be welcomed by those working in the family courts who have been calling for them for years (changes such as prohibition on direct questioning by alleged perpetrators of abuse, separate entrances etc). Other proposed changes and criticisms of aspects of the system are likely to be more controversial. It’s unclear when the various pilots and reforms will begin to be implemented – understandably the implementation plan indicates that this is likely to depend on the developing position from Covid-19, as the justice system (and society generally) has already got quite a lot of change on its plate!

We think this important report deserves detailed analysis from us in due course, which we will publish when we’ve had time to thoroughly read it. In the meantime, this tweet thread signposts you to some relevant links (though it’s by no means exhaustive). We are expecting some blog contributions from various people setting out their own responses to the report and recommendations, and we welcome guest posts on this topic.

Click on the tweet above to unfurl the tweet thread with various links to things like news coverage and the Cafcass (England) response (we’ve not seen one from Cafcass Cymru yet).

Other bits and pieces we’ve seen since this tweet thread was posted include the following :

A tweet thread from Ursula Rice calling for a rethink by family solicitors’ organisation Resolution which – to their credit – they have responded to :

Louise Tickle has been tirelessly tweeting extracts from the report as she has read it, engaging discussion along the way. One example here (sadly they are not threaded tweets so you’ll have to dig) :

One aspect of the report we have considered and need to flag up is the misreporting of our position. On page 43, the authors say :

There was a consistent theme from the evidence submitted to the panel that parties to
private law children cases felt that the imperative of contact operated strongly in their
cases. The Association of Lawyers for Children and the Transparency Project considered
that family courts balance the desirability of contact and the management of risk in an
appropriate way
. But other professional and individual respondents expressed concern
that the prioritisation of contact prevented the court from undertaking a broad or holistic
assessment of the child’s welfare.

We didn’t make such an assertion in our response to the consultation (which you can read here), and are puzzled at how the report’s authors could interpret our response in this way. Other references to our contribution are accurate.

We have a small favour to ask! 

The Transparency Project is a registered charity in England & Wales run largely by volunteers who also have full-time jobs. We’re working hard to secure extra funding so that we can keep making family justice clearer for all who use the court and work within it.

Our legal bloggers take time out at their own expense to attend courts and to write up hearings.

We’d be really grateful if you were able to help us by making a small one-off (or regular!) donation through our Just Giving page.

Thanks for reading!