The purpose of this update is to correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, to explain and comment on published Judgments of family cases and to highlight other transparency news.
Media Reports of Family Courts Case and Family Justice Issues
Media reports we found notably balanced, accurate or otherwise helpful to transparency this week
- The Daily Mail, followed by the Telegraph, reported on the serious case review findings in relation to Poppy Widdison’s death – in detail and without resorting to cheap stereotypes or vilification.
Poppy died in the care of her mother and step-father who were later convicted of cruelty and drugs offences. North East Lincolnshire Childrens Social Care Services and partner agencies missed opportunities to protect her.
(We hope one day they will also allow readers to deepen their understanding of the child protection system and how things go wrong by linking them to the published serious case review). The (now updated) Daily Mail online report does contain some editing errors and the sentence ‘after Poppy was born, she was due to be taken into care by her grandparents, but her legal status remained unchanged and Pyke retained parental responsibility’ is confused).
See Community Care (who do link to the serious case review) for a fuller explanation of the facts, the missed opportunities and the ‘disguised compliance’ that was a feature. The Serious Case Review report published by North East Lincolnshire is here.
And in case you missed these…
- ‘Three Sisters whose parents didn’t name them taken into care’ on the Mirror report of a family court decision that a baby should be placed for adoption, in which the parents not naming them didn’t feature at all.
- Bradford councils claim that it has decided to cut foster care allowances to the government national minimum level to comply with the law rather than principally to reduce costs setting out some of the law and guidance likely to be behind the Bradford decision.
Newly Published Cases for Explanation or Comment
In case you missed this…
- Judge rejects welsh local authority’s care plan and allows mother to keep eighth baby on getting beyond the myth that family courts only ‘rubber-stamp’ and differences between English and Welsh law.
In other Transparency News
- Secrecy’ in the family courts and the practice of alleged perpetrators cross-examining those alleging abuse by them
In the aftermath of the Guardian investigation, links were made by some between ‘secrecy’ in the family courts and the time it took for the issue to reach parliaments attention, via the press in their watchdog role. See:
The Hansard record of the parliamentary debate on Monday 9th November in which it might be said the Minister for Courts and Justice’s replies were so vague and brief as to confuse.
Peter Kyle: “… the secrecy imposed by law on the family court process allowed this to continue without journalistic oversight. Will the Minister consider longer-term assessment of the wider operational activity in the family court system? Such assessment should look, in a considered and detailed way, at the overall operation of family courts with a view to ensuring, where appropriate, greater transparency and oversight of the family court process is introduced.”
Minister: ‘On transparency in the courts, journalists are now able to attend court and report the proceedings, although there are obvious restrictions to protect children and so on.’
- I News followed with ‘Secrecy and lack of legal aid empowered my abusive partner’, prompting twitter speculation as to whether Women’s Aid have altered their position from opposing press attendance in the family courts in 2010 to apparently promoting it now.
- The Minister for courts and justice also confirmed, within the same parliamentary session, that the promised government review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) (which introduced cuts to civil legal aid including family cases), will start ‘fairly shortly’ and ‘be concluded by April 2018’.
The Public Law Project also wrote to the Lord Chancellor suggesting priorities for that review here.
Media reports campaigning about the future of press regulation continued thick and fast through the 10th of January government consultation closure date. Less overtly campaign-orientated reports published after the consultation closed included:
- The Press Gazette: ‘Government may have to adopt section 40 compromise with benefits for impress but no penalties for the rest’
- The Times summarizing the number and type of responses received by the consultation with ‘140,000 give views on press regulation’
- Inforrm with ‘Don’t believe what you read: Section 40 will protect the local press not kill it’
The Transparency Project announced that the third annual Child Protection Conference will take place on 9th June 2017
The multi disciplinary conference, which the Transparency Project will take part in, is at UWE this year. Details so far are here.
- And in case you missed this…
Women’s Aid answer our queries about their evidence base
Feature image courtesy of Flickr with thanks to Lauri Heikkinen
This post originally appeared on the Transparency Project blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.