Correcting, clarifying or commenting on media reports of family court cases
Explaining or commenting on published judgments of family court cases
Highlighting other transparency news
MEDIA (MIS)REPORTS OF FAMILY COURT CASES
The Times -The launch of Sammy Woodhouse’s campaign for legal reform caught the attention of the public, the media and politicians in recent weeks. The way the Times (then others) reported it, (Jailed rapist given chance to see his victim’s child: Council investigated over ‘perverse’ decision), caught the attention of lawyers, social workers, press reform campaigners, and The Transparency Project.
We explained the law and procedure on who must normally be told of, or automatically joined as a party to, care proceedings being issued about a child, to help those considering whether (and if so how) they should change or be better implemented, and to help people decide whether the Times and others reported accurately. See Did a council ‘act perversely’ to offer a jailed rapist a chance to see his victim’s child?, and The Sammy Woodhouse Story and Associated Campaigns – An Update. We also offered some guidance for victims, social workers and lawyers grappling with such situations in When should I apply for permission not to notify a father about a court case concerning his child? See also Lucy Reed, Chair of the Transparency Project on the Victoria Derbyshire Show (44 mins in) and at BBC News. (Sorry no catch-up clips for Sky News or Talk Radio).
There are various views on what reform is called for, let alone required and achievable, (as well as on whether Rotherham and / or the Times got this right – The Yorkshire Post now report No blame for social workers in latest Rotherham controversy). There does appear to be a broad consensus (even among some family lawyers), that a fresh look at how the rules are applied, with victims in mind, is warranted, and that Sammy Woodhouse’s willingness to speak out about her own personal traumatic experiences has begun that process.
Interesting insights also emerged on the different ways lawyers tend to engage and their priorities, compared to journalists and the public; see Louise Tickle’s I’d have written that article too at The Transparency Project. (See also Louise Haigh, shadow police and crime minister in the Guardian; the House of Commons briefing paper on the draft Domestic Violence & Abuse Bill and measures in the Courts Bill on suspects cross-examining victims; comments in the Commons; and opinion at Rights Info and Byline):
The bravery of @sammywoodhouse1 in speaking out has revealed just how much the family courts need to change.
For a start, convicted rapists should have no parental rights.https://t.co/bZ4nfmA9jy
— Louise Haigh MP (@LouHaigh) November 30, 2018
The law may well need to be changed but it's not right for a local authority to be damned for following law as it stands. let's move on from clickbait headlines for proper discussion about the family procedure rules & the rights of women & children when a child is born after rape https://t.co/WWeB2PKmzn
— Dr Shona Minson (@ShonaMinson) November 28, 2018
This looks really useful for LA social workers and legal teams in the light of this week's story about @sammywoodhouse1's campaign to prevent men with a child conceived by rape from applying for contact with them https://t.co/6FmbqrRT7N
— CCInform (@CCInform1) November 30, 2018
No blame for social workers in latest Rotherham controversy https://t.co/UV92NoFa6O
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) December 8, 2018
The Daily Mail and the Times – Reported Family Court Anonymisation Practice Guidance issued by the President, Sir Andrew McFarlane, on safer anonymisation when publishing judgments. The guidance appears to be the recommendations in a report published by the Association of Lawyers for Children and the Nuffield Foundation in 2016. Blog to follow. (See also our guidance note on publication of judgments including safer anonymisation which we’ll update in light of the President’s new guidance):
It is sometimes necessary to prevent a child being identified in their local community but it shouldnt be the default imho, which is what this guidance appears to suggest.
— Lucy Reed (@Familoo) December 8, 2018
The Guardian – Why do we separate the mother and child victims of domestic abuse? by Louise Tickle (Transparency Project member) in the Guardian, also provoked radically different perspectives. The Transparency Project hosted How do social workers approach domestic abuse?, guest post by a social work team leader in response:
Thank you to @louisetickle and the social work manager for writing this. It has been a brilliant talking point with social work students today and really assisted in the wider critical thinking @WarwickSocWork embed within the masters programme. https://t.co/WDg2CwgGxL
— Jess (@jess_L81) November 27, 2018
The British Medical Association – Facilitated an investigation into the removal of a newborn from a mother and junior doctor, experiencing mental ill health), and hosted the report in strikingly accessible format here. Guest blog post to follow on this unusual collaboration between the BMA, a doctor/parent and a journalist, featuring an application to lift usual family court privacy rules and report in the public interest:
Superb investigation and reporting of the mental health struggles of a mother whose baby was removed at birth, by @keithcooper1973 for @theBMA https://t.co/5oAgEKpRJh Why was no Mother and Baby unit place made available, to keep them together?
— The open family court (@openfamilycourt) November 27, 2018
Channel 4, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4and BBC News – Lots of positive twitter responses to media reports (particularly broadcasts) on important topics for children’s social work and family justice in the last couple of weeks. Channel 4 – Lemn Sissay’s Superkids:Breaking Away from Care; BBC5Live on the need to support birth parents who’ve had children removed from their care, featuring some parents. (The Born Into Care report (22 mins in) from the Nuffield Observatory, confirms what many have anecdotally reported for some time about rising numbers of removals of babies at birth (22 mins in); BBCR4 – In the child’s best interests on how and when decisions should be made to end the life of critically ill children; BBC News – Forced marriage law could stop victims reporting crime, getting beyond the obvious in thinking about victims.
— lemn sissay MBE (@lemnsissay) November 28, 2018
Very good BBC coverage of 'breaking the cycle' this morning – excellent contribution from birth mothers on turning lives around@bbc5live @FamilyRightsGp @Familoo @familylaw @afteradoption https://t.co/EobpWgYsQa
— Karen Broadhurst (@KarenB_LU) December 3, 2018
The adoption discussions with Anna Foster on @bbc5live this morning really show the links between supporting birth parents and positive experiences of contact: good contact helps parents cope and good BP support enables good contact – great work @afteradoption!
— Beth Neil (@prof_beth_neil) December 3, 2018
Linkers of the (fortnight)
BBC News – Made the effort to link readers of their report, Herefordshire Council provided ‘woeful’ care for girls to the family court judgments in BT & GT and A & B Care Orders (albeit one link needs updating):
Big thanks @BBCNews for links to the family court judgments under report. Though we think you meant the first link to be to: https://t.co/jFFNptv6aF Herefordshire Council provided 'woeful' care for girls https://t.co/hZAsaNGnRk
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) December 8, 2018
BuzzFeed News – Linked Emily Dugan’s report of Sir James Munby, former President’s speech to the National Association of Child Contact Centres, as soon as they realised it had been published in full at the Transparency Project:
Exclusive: Former head of the family court, Sir James Munby, has given a damning assessment of the impact of legal aid cuts and the government's failed attempts at encouraging mediation https://t.co/2dXRI0NDws #TheLawIsBroken
— Emily Dugan (@emilydugan) November 27, 2018
NEWLY PUBLISHED CASES FOR EXPLANATION OR COMMENT
Re D parental alienation 2018– We updated on the controversial issue of ‘parental alienation’ in response to: HHJ Bellamy’s judgment in Re D (See Making Sense of Parental Alienation: Part 2); the Cafcass Child Impact Assessment Framework, Cardiff University research (commissioned by Cafcass Cmyru), and a podcast featuring Sarah Parsons of Cafcass with Julie Doughty (Cardiff University & Transparency Project). (See Making Sense of Parental Alienation: Part 2):
Huge thanks to the team for raising awareness on this.
An incredibly emotionally fraught space, particularly where there is a child being exposed to harm and a victim of abuse. Really tough for the authorities to effectively handle this.
Hopefully things will improve. https://t.co/mmPvNiftyi
— Jon Irwin (@JonIrwinLD) December 5, 2018
HRH Louis Prince of Luxembourg v HRH Tessy Princess of Luxembourg & Anor (Application for Financial Remedy)  – Polly Morgan wrote about this case at an earlier stage for @seethrujustice in Privacy and the Princess. Blog to follow on the judgment from the latest decision which has raised some twitter eyebrows:
Judgment of McDonald J in the Luxembourg divorce case: https://t.co/blmJgupc6u
Surprising decision that declaration of trust in TR1 can be outflanked by proof that someone else paid for the property #tolata
— Mike Horton (@mhbarrister) December 5, 2018
M & Ors v Liverpool City Council  – Suespicious Minds explained this family court decision featuring a challenge to the use of a screen during cross-examinatoin as a special measure to protect a victim.
Global Corporate Ltd v Hale 2018 – The Law Society Gazette reported the judgment from this (non family) Court of Appeal decision that the High Court had crossed the line by leading the evidence from a litigant in person.
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
Media Regulation – See our roundup of recent developments in Media Regulation Update:
New for @seethrujustice from @Maggotlaw MEDIA REGULATION UPDATE (Leveson 2 JR; a new Leveson resource for better public understanding; the government plan to implement s.44 LASPO on costs in media cases now too & more..): https://t.co/68ypxVCM1W pic.twitter.com/GC3SmrQ5aj
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) December 7, 2018
Allegations of domestic abuse : are family courts working for children & families? – We marked the launch of a guidance tool on how the family courts treat domestic abuse at a packed panel event. We wrote it up here and will post the recording to our website once available:
With huge thanks to our Chair @louisetickle & our remarkable panel @King_Barrister @MyCafcass @JudiciaryUK @OnlyDads @rightsofwomen @FredaFvg here's our write-up of our latest event around domestic abuse with a link to our new Guidance note.https://t.co/8dptKclwdf pic.twitter.com/INcqDAlXwc
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) November 27, 2018
I would like to see all meetings openly recorded, minutes (if you get them )rarely include family view/ concerns , I often wonder if I was at a different meeting. https://t.co/nk6oRgo8sD
— Frances steepe (@auntyfrances) December 5, 2018
A privilege to take part in this debate and in such company!! @Familoo – there is a clear and pressing need to present guidance on this difficult issue of management of covert recordings in family proceedings. https://t.co/XYqsGWV91o
— Hannah Markham (@hannahmeg) December 3, 2018
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) December 4, 2018
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) December 3, 2018
Online Courts – We attended an International forum on online courts hosted jointly by HMCTS and the Society for Computers and Law. Blog to follow. See an overview of The Cutting Edge of Digital Reform event, with links to speeches and presentations including from the Lord Chief Justice at Gov.UK. See also David and Goliath or cat and mouse? Prising information on digital court reform out of the Ministry of Justice
For those interested in the genesis of the digital court reform programme, I have published (linked in blog) the management consultants' report commissioned by the gov in 2016 which suggested the programme prioritised cost saving over access to justice https://t.co/LrDREu52Py
— Penelope Gibbs (@PenelopeGibbs2) December 4, 2018
such an important Q. How are other jurisdictions consulting and involving users? My view – design and development must be as open as possible and not limited to commercial sector interests #OnlineCourtsForum18 https://t.co/AUcSak9wIZ
— Judith Townend (@JTownend) December 3, 2018
Feature pic: Courtesy of Flickr Lauri Heikkinen via Creative Commons licence – with thanks