News Brief: More statistics, a difficult case, some proposals and a letter

After a short lull, there is suddenly no shortage of family law news. Here are some of the 'highlights'.

The Department for Education has today published statistics for children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers), for the year ending 31 March 2011. The statistics show that the number of children in care in England has increased by 2%, from 64,400 last year to 65,520 this year, and that there was actually a reduction in the number of children taken into care (27,310, down from 28,090 the previous year). There was also a fall in the number of looked-after children placed for adoption, from 2,720 in 2007 to 2,450. The vast majority of children looked after in 2011, 74 per cent, were in a foster placement.

The Court of Protection has refused an application by the family of a woman in a 'minimally conscious state' for an order authorising the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration. Mr Justice Baker found that "the importance of preserving life" was "the decisive factor" in the case. As The Guardian states:
"The landmark case at the court of protection sets a precedent for future applications to withdraw treatment from patients who are chronically, medically dependent. It is thought to be the first time a judge has ruled on a case involving someone who is minimally conscious as opposed to being in a persistent vegetative state."
A full report of the judgment, W -v- M and S and A NHS Primary Care Trust [2011] EWHC 2443 (Fam), can be found on the Judiciary of England and Wales website, here.

The Telegraph reports that the Law Commission's proposals to reform the law relating to kidnap could mean that "a warring parent who fails to return a child in a domestic dispute could face the prospect of being charged with kidnap, which carries a maximum life sentence". However, the report continues by saying that:
"The Commission insisted the planned reform was not designed to target those cases but to ensure criminals who entice children or vulnerable adults in to their cars or houses can be charged with kidnap."
Which seems to satisfy the somewhat scaremongering Telegraph reporter, who then says nothing more about his fears. Still, it was a good headline...

Lastly, Lucy Reed over at Pink Tape has today published an open letter to Cafcass from former Cafcass officer Charles Place in respect of his resignation from the Service, in which he expresses doubts "as to whether Cafcass as an organisation is fit for purpose". Lucy also publishes further comments by Mr Place, of which she states: "Mr Place raises a number of other points which, if an accurate reflection of how CAFCASS is operating, are very concerning". Lucy invites comment, or response from CAFCASS.