Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Review: Holiday? What holiday?

Notable things this week:

It has been such a busy week that the summer holiday now seems a distant memory...

Not exactly this week but mentioned here because it was published after last week's Review, last Friday Lord Justice McFarlane (right) gave the leading judgment in A (A Child), the appeal by a father against a residence order in favour of the mother and an order that he have no direct contact with the child. The case is notable for the way in which the Family Justice System has failed the father and, indeed, the whole family. Lord Justice McFarlane allowed the father's appeal and made much of the failings of the system in the course of his judgment. However, it was Lord Justice Aikens who gave a view as to the reason for those failings:
"Speaking as one who is not an insider to the Family Justice System, I suspect the root of the problem is that the system is overworked and short or resources with the result that there is insufficient opportunity for professionals and judges alike to stand back from time to time and take a fresh look at a case and reconsider it from basics."
I have been saying this for years: you can do all you want to 'tart up' the system, but in the end  any improvement is likely to be limited without the injection of proper resources. Or, to put it another way, you can't get a significant improvement on the cheap.

As anticipated, Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered a review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) into the way police in England and Wales deal with cases of domestic violence. HMIC will report back to the Home Office in April 2014. Let us hope that this results in better and more consistent responses by police forces across the country.

The number of people over 65 who are cohabiting has doubled in the last decade, according to an ONS study of census statistics. This major change in attitudes towards 'living in sin' may be seen as bad news by supporters of marriage, but the up-side is that it appears to have contributed towards a drop in the proportion of retired people living on their own.

We may at last be seeing the end of the post-Baby P surge in care applications. The latest Cafcass figures for August show a 17% decrease compared to August 2012. Welcome relief, I'm sure, for all involved in public law proceedings.

The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed the mother's appeal in  In the matter of A (Children) (AP). The issue in the case was whether the wardship jurisdiction (or inherent jurisdiction) of the Family Division of the High Court can ever be exercised in respect of an infant child who has never been physically present in England and Wales. The Supreme Court held that it could, but remitted the case back to the judge to consider as a matter of urgency whether it is appropriate to exercise this exceptional jurisdiction.

The latest British Social Attitudes survey will no doubt add to the painful reading that the Marriage Foundation has had to endure of late (see, for example, previous Reviews, here and here, not to mention the story three paragraphs above). The 2013 Edition of the survey tells us that only 11% of respondents now think that pre-marital sex is wrong, down from 28% in 1983, and less than half (42%) think that couples should get married before having children, down from 70% in 1989.

Predictably, social workers have criticised the President's decision in Re J last week. Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, makes a point similar to the one that I made in last week's Review:
"The effect of the Munby ruling is likely to defeat its original purpose; the negative spin that certain journalists have given the story merely serves to lessen public confidence in social workers and the child protection system."
Has a can of worms been opened, with the anti-family justice brigade being given carte blanche to say virtually whatever they want? [Since I wrote this paragraph Lucy Reed of Pink Tape has expressed the view that the social workers are wrong.]

Under the policy "Improving the child maintenance system" the Department for Work & Pensions has proudly announced (via Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb, right) that "more separated parents than ever [are] paying towards their children". Note the word towards - as I have mentioned here previously, the DWP considers even partial payments as 'positive outcomes', so I for one will take Mr Webb's acclamation with a large pinch of salt.

Lastly, our esteemed President has been looking out of his window again. The latest View from the President's Chambers, numero six, has been published. I'll say nothing about its contents, but would repeat a point I've made before: no disrespect to the FLBA, but why is the View made available to them, even before it is published on the Judiciary website?

I hope you get through Friday the 13th unscathed, and thereafter have a good weekend - you could do with a break.

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