- 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 REPORTS OF FAMILY COURTS CASES / FAMILY JUSTICE ISSUES
Reports of continuing calls for law reform on ‘no-fault’ divorce as the court of appeal refused initial permission to appeal to the Supreme Court to Tini Owens
— Resolution (@ResFamilyLaw) March 31, 2017
Owens v Owens: Court of Appeal has refused permission to appeal to Supreme Court (to whom an application must now be made) #nofaultdivorce
— PJM QC (@pjm1kbw) March 31, 2017
— Resolution (@ResFamilyLaw) March 30, 2017
- The Times with outdated divorce system encourages conflict, reporting the initial findings of a research team based at Exeter University, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, and making the case for law reform.
- The Brief (The Times) with Family lawyers ramp up pressure for no-fault divorce citing Resolutions statement to the government on Friday.
- The I-Paper with We need to change divorce law to stop people from being trapped in ‘loveless’ marriages
The Daily Telegraph with Child was taken away by social services because grandparents locked her in her bedroom to stop her wandering around at night
Child was taken into care because grandparents locked her in her bedroom to stop her wandering around at night?https://t.co/zCj04hpu3X
— Vic (@cpeanose) April 2, 2017
We note because slips quickly to after in the body of the report, which is also caveated with the couple say. We think it highly unlikely that the child was removed solely because of being locked in her room twice, for what were claimed to be child-centred reasons. We do agree that a published family court judgment from which those not party to the proceedings could make informed comment rather than speculate would be useful. And that the system by which families can consistently obtain timely written reasons would benefit from improvement.
We also question the leap from the grandparents saying they had not [yet?] received a copy of either a written judgment or written reasons to the claim that they therefore simply don’t know why the decision was made and John Hemming’s remark that If the judge doesn’t have a proper explanation as to why they’re taking the child into care, then they shouldn’t be taking the child into care. The implication that either this judge randomly took the child into care without having (or giving) reasons, and the implication that families routinely have children removed from their care without explanation, which we know not to be the case, seem unreliable to the point of absurd. It may be that the grandparents were not in court when judgment was given orally (they may not have even been parties to the proceedings); or that they didn’t accept, understand or remember the reasons given in an oral judgment. It may or may not also be the case that the reasons were inadequate to warrant immediate removal but we simply don’t know that without seeing a judgment / outcome of any application for permission to appeal.
We have tried to obtain some further information directly from Mr Hemming. See this twitter thread:
- A Press Association piece: Couple start legal bid over baby son’s £1.2m medical treatment
Couple start legal bid over baby son’s £1.2m medical treatment https://t.co/zQPsosYvuF
— Press Association (@PA) April 2, 2017
We wrote briefly about this case here: High Court to decide the future of very ill baby and aim to update once the case decision is available.
Misreporting of the sentencing remarks of a criminal judge and the sentencing review process
We mention this briefly, despite the criminal context, because of parallels with family court reporting in local news matters week.
Initial inaccurate reports were repeated and embellished long after Secret Barristers correction (below) emerged, even by well-regarded publishers and broadcasters.
The episode highlights the vital public need for journalists in local criminal and family courts with sufficient independence, rigour and specialist legal knowledge. It’s probably also worth noting the value of (even relatively small numbers of) judgments being published now from family court decisions.
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 28, 2017
1. I urge every single person who was outraged by the Bashir cricket bat/bleach case to read and respond to this consultation. https://t.co/Ur08SLziio
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 30, 2017
There’s an interesting twitter threat on journalism, public education and the Transparency Project here:
Interesting threas about legal journalism and public legal education https://t.co/TBTRCpVwpN
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) April 3, 2017
The Guardian reported early signs of a positive shift in media responses to social work
— Guardian Social Care (@GdnSocialCare) March 29, 2017
Ruth Allen, Chief Executive of BASW, says the following in response to the statistic from the Guardian social lives survey that 92% of social workers felt undervalued by the media:
Negative public image is a really important nut to crack because it’s quite corrosive on social workers’ confidence. I think it helps explain why longer-standing social workers are much more jaded…There is a shift with the media, it feels like the journalists who call us are less likely to ask questions that vilify social workers. But I think there has been such a long history of it that social workers can’t see enough change yet.
Joshua Rozenberg interviewed Lord Justice McFarlane on adoption for BBC Radio 4 Law in Action (following the recent inaugural Bridget Lindley memorial lecture)
— Brian Sloan (@briandsloan) March 29, 2017
Lord Justice McFarlane asked whether the family justice system is turning to adoption too readily for some slightly older children such as those aged 4,5,6 and 7 years old. He suggested that new research is now needed to continue to say that the total severance of adoption (from birth family and identity of origin) is still right and necessary for such children, given the changed landscape of adoption in recent years.
See also this new DfE publication this week:
Childhood neglect and abuse: comparing placement options – GOV.UK https://t.co/lVmZISVLGD
— Adoption UK (@AdoptionUK) March 28, 2017
And Caoilfhionn Gallagher with Funding crisis engulfing children’s social care & failing many “children in need” on the APPG report into Childrens Services No Good Option (which has received relatively little media attention):
Media reports we found notably balanced, accurate or otherwise helpful to transparency this week
- We did see one family case reported accurately and neutrally in the Telegraph this week. Parents’ court fight over taking son, 5, to country suffering terror attacks reports (though doesn’t link to) W (A Child: Temporary Removal from the Jurisdiction) . This was Mr Justice Peter Jackson’s carefully redacted decision to allow a father to take his son for holidays to a non Hague Convention country featured in last week’s round up.
- The Sun reported the sentencing of baby Rifat’s parents in relation to his death. In spite of an unhelpful ‘evil parents’ headline, the piece goes on to include thoughtful police comments about how, if at all, such tragic deaths could be avoided and signpost struggling parents or members of the public aware of a vulnerable child to the NSPCC helpline.
And in case you missed these:
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) April 3, 2017
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 29, 2017
See the link below for such little information as is currently available. There is still no draft bill available at the time of writing but there is a Hansard record of parliamentary discussion.
— Bolchy (@johnbolch) March 30, 2017
NEWLY PUBLISHED CASES FOR EXPLANATION OR COMMENT
ⓝⓔⓦ KCC v M and O (children, criticism of local authority)  EWFC B12 (26 January 2017) https://t.co/iYnEDGWOzJ
— Support BAILII (@BAILII) March 31, 2017
This is the published judgment of HHJ Scarratt’s decision to make a Special Guardianship Order in conclusion of care proceedings in the family court. It’s interesting because it’s unusual at this level (even where publication occurs) to see transparency of decision making about judgment publication or naming decisions.
4/5 Judge seems to be intervening in internal complaints process. What jurisdiction? Also requiring change of SW @seethrujustice
— Celtic Knot (@CelticKnotTweet) April 1, 2017
We also noted that HHJ Scarratt allowed the father to rely on his covert recording of a meeting with the social worker to show that the social work account of a meeting with him was innaccurate.
Judgment is also expected imminently in the case of:
Jdgt Thurs 0945: IoW Council v Platt (term-time holidays): meaning of regular attendance under s444(1) Education Act https://t.co/yCsaEaLi3L
— UK Supreme Court (@UKSupremeCourt) March 31, 2017
Blog to follow (albeit not strictly family court proceedings)
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
- The Times with Society is starved without strong local news
- The Press Gazette with: NUJ calls for public inquiry into ‘local media crisis’ with launch of Local News Matters campaign
The Independents new fact checking service to combat ‘fake’ news
Keehan J gave a keynote speech on publicity in financial cases at the Resolution Annual Conference:
We are hoping this might be published eventually at the judiciary or resolution sites and will provide the link to any accessible published version if we see it.
Tickets for the 3rd multi-disciplinary Child Protection 2017, supported by the Transparency Project are now on sale at Eventbrite
- Reports of an MOJ decision to withhold research findings on litigants in person in the Gazette
- Paul Magrath with Is law student’s new McKenzie Friend business too much of a hot potato? at Lawyer2B
- The solicitors journal with Pro bono is fabulous but it carries risks for lawyers and their firms
- The Law Society Gazette with Bar kicks off alternative business structure licensing
- Publicised their annual lecture
- Offered a narrow contractual justification for how they choose to deal with third party complaints in response to dissatisfaction about their ‘legsit’ response
- And confirmed that the deadline for those contracted with them to send in their annual reports has now passed. (These are not published so far as we can see)
Feature picture : courtesy of Lauri Heikkinen on Flickr – with thanks