Saturday, September 18, 2010

A mixed bag: The Week in View

A mixed bag of news this week, with no one story standing out as the biggest.

As I discussed with Natasha Phillips in our LoreCast, Cafcass reported that the number of care applications remains at the highest ever level. This is, of course, the continued effect of the climate of fear of failure created by the media frenzy following the Baby Peter affair, something that Sharon Shoesmith touched upon when she appeared in front of MPs on the House of Commons education committee this week.

By pure coincidence, we also heard this week that a snap Ofsted inspection of Ms Shoesmith's former employers Haringey Council found their children's services to be 'improving'.

As reported in the Law Society Gazette and elsewhere, the Ministry of Justice has said that it will not enact the measures contained in the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 that would extend the media’s right to report family cases without ‘looking closely’ at the changes. This is good news - it was ridiculous that such an important matter was rushed through without proper consideration in the 'wash up' at the end of the last parliamentary session.

All of which could make academic the predictable complaint by the Newspaper Society to the House of Commons' Justice Select Committee's inquiry into the operation of the family courts that the Act will not succeed in delivering greater accountability. Still, if there is a U-turn on media access to the courts then at least they will be able to continue to describe them as secret places where evil people remove children from their parents for no reason.

Finally, two men have been convicted of running a fertility website without a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Ricky Gage and Nigel Woodforth reportedly made about £250,000 from the website, which made sperm available from anonymous donors to women who wanted to conceive. For taking advantage of the vulnerable in this way they could now be facing prison.

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