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
- Local authority is granted permission by a top judge to forcibly vaccinate a seven-month-old baby boy against his mother’s wishes despite claims she has bad reactions to jabs in the past:
The Daily Mails ‘forced vaccination’ headline implies some excessive, inappropriate state interference with families. The published judgment (the Daily Mail don’t link to) shows otherwise, revealing a local authority taking care to ensure it sought judicial permission, based on medical evidence, before vaccinating a child in its care where his mother objected.
The vaccination issue arose in care proceedings that were not about vaccinations at all. Barnet held an interim care order but applied for a declaration (under the inherent jurisdiction), that it was in the baby’s best interests to be vaccinated. McDonald J confirmed that given the gravity of the issue in dispute, it [was] not appropriate for the local authority simply to … consent to immunisation pursuant to the provisions of s 33(3) of the Children Act 1989 on the basis of its shared parental responsibility for SL under the interim care order (see A Local Authority v SB, AB & MB)  2 FLR 1203 and Re Jake (Withholding Medical Treatment)  EWHC 2442 (Fam)).
Following a series of High Court cases where declarations have been made that it is in a child’s best interests for them to be vaccinated, against their own or their parents’ wishes, McDonald J found, based on medical evidence, that the balance of risks firmly favoured immunization. (He was also at pains to point out that this was a decision about one child’s best interests based on [the] very particular circumstances of the case, not a comment on the merits of vaccination more widely nor how the issue should be approached in other situations).
(The mother had filed no statement of evidence & produced no medical records to support her contention that his older siblings had had adverse reactions. A single joint medical expert considered the medical records of the child and siblings before reporting).
- Do we need a deed of trust to reflect our shares in our house purchase? in the Guardian. Explainer blog to follow
- “BBC News on evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee inquiry into fostering and the ‘State of the Nation’s Fostering’ report. An informative BBC News piece, despite a lack of links to the report or the evidence given to the committee, for readers wanting more information. See also the Fostering Network press release; Community Care and The Huffington Post.
- Relationships between poverty, care and adoption: The Guardian published letters in response to an earlier letter by John Simmonds of Coram BAAF, responding to the Guardian article quoting research by Dr Bilson. They include Dr Bilsons own response as well as letters from Dr Nigel Thomas of the University of Lancaster; a former magistrate; and the authors of the Legal Action for Women Report. (BASW are still taking evidence on the role of the social worker in adoption, ethics, human rights at Adoptionenquiry@basw.co.uk)
- The Guardian on tackling child poverty. The Almost 300 Sure Start children’s centres have closed since 2010 report discusses the Child Poverty in the UK (Target for Reduction) 2016-17 private members bill about to be introduced into Parliament.
Media reports we found notably balanced, accurate or otherwise helpful to transparency this week
- The BBC News report on adoption breakdown in the wake of the Victoria Derbyshire show: I sent my adopted son back into care reports the families’ accounts from the show and goes on to explore placement breakdown, placements of older children and the adoption support fund more fully. A balanced piece, careful to place the traumatic breakdown experiences (of adults and children alike) in a wider context from the outset with ‘thousands of children are successfully adopted each year, but a small number of cases will end in failure. So what makes an adoptive parent return their child into care?‘ It also helpfully links readers not just to the Victoria Derbyshire show but also to Julie Selwyn’s 2014 research on adoption breakdowns published by the Department for Education. (A Mirror article followed, largely quoting the BBC report with Parents who sent their adopted children BACK into care reveal why they made the heartbreaking decision)
- And in case you missed this blog…
Newly Published Cases for Explanation or Comment
In case you missed these blogs this week…
- Re X – a trade off between privacy and anonymity?
- Coercing the obdurate (and other exercises in futility)…
In other transparency news
- The ALC have published an open letter to Liz Truss making some key points on cross-examination of children and adults by alleged perpetrators of abuse in family cases and offering assistance to the much welcome review.
- Information Commissioners Office (ICO) publish Code of Practice on Anonymisation: Managing the Data Protection risk: Whilst the anonymisation techniques in the newly published code don’t transfer over to family law cases, the data protection context of effective anonymisation practice, also applicable to family law judgments, is usefully set out. The reminder that: With ever increasing amounts of personal information in the public domain, it is important that organisations have a structured and methodical approach to assessing the risks is also noteworthy.
- Online divorce pilot. The Law Society Gazette report that MOJ confirmation of a pilot of certain matrimonial proceedings in Nottingham, with further pilots to be rolled out. New practice direction 36D Procedure for using an online system to generate applications in certain proceedings for a matrimonial order was published last week.
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.