Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Review: Cases, fees, figures and... Mr Gove


Notable things this week:

The two biggest stories this week come, of course, from the Supreme Court.

Firstly, we had B (A Child, in which the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, by a majority of 4:1. There has been some comment on this judgment (for example this post by suesspiciousminds), but clearly child care is not as 'sexy' as multi-million pound divorce cases...

Hot on the heels of B (A Child) we had Prest v Petrodel, in which, to the surprise of some, Mrs Prest's appeal was unanimously allowed. What was not surprising was the outpouring of analysis and comment following the judgment, with Resolution, 1 Hare Court, Jeremy Posnansky QC and Joshua Rozenberg all being particularly quick off the mark, not to mention the press releases I received in my Inbox (and which still remain there). Expect a lot more in the coming days...

As mentioned by Colin Mitchell on Twitter, it seemed more than a coincidence that, just as our eyes were diverted by the excitement of two family law Supreme Court judgments, a new Family Proceedings Fees Order was being released, including an eye-watering 20% increase in the fee to issue a divorce petition, from £340 to £410 (although this does include the decree absolute fee). Another example of justice becoming the preserve of the better-off.

Elsewhere, Cafcass reported a record-breaking month for private law applications. Some lawyers considered that this was due to a surge in the number of litigants in person following the legal aid cuts at the beginning of April, and warned that this could lead to the 'collapse' of the family courts. Others, however, say the rise is simply a temporary blip due to the rush to 'beat' the cuts. I guess time will tell...

Meanwhile, a report from the Centre for Social Justice warns that around one million children are growing up with no contact with their father, and that some of the poorest parts of the country have become "men deserts". Hmm. Why am I always sceptical of research that supports the arguments of those who commissioned it? Indeed, there is a different view, for which see this article in the Guardian.

Mind you, the way some parents behave you do wonder whether children might be better off without either of them...

Finally (taking care to say nothing about the defacement of a certain painting of the Queen), I would like to draw your attention to this post on The Children's Services Blog. Serious case reviews are, of course, a serious subject, but you have to wonder what Mr Gove was thinking when he chose to appoint an air accident investigator to the new Serious Case Review Panel, but not anyone with any direct child protection practice or social work management experience...

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