Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

Rob Williams writes in the Guardian about the practice at Basildon hospital of excluding fathers to be from ultrasound scans. He suspect[s] that the policy to exclude men from the scanning room is rooted in a belief that men are not important to the process of bringing a baby into the world. Whilst I sympathise and think this policy creates more issues than it resolves, I suspect it’s not that simple.

.

The article publishes in full correspondence in response to a complaint about this policy, along with answers to a Freedom of Information Act request. Rob Williams complains that the Trust’s claim that the policy is ‘to protect technicians from violence’ is not borne out when one looks at the statistics – only one incident of violence towards a sonographer in the two year period covered. But in fact, this is not what correspondence from the Trust says. It says that in part the policy results from very real concerns about ‘the reactions of partners when they are in the scanning room’. It seems fairly clear to me that what is likely to be behind this is not a concern about direct aggression towards staff, but the risk of an adverse reaction towards the patient herself, particularly at dating scans where a woman may be caught out in a lie. We know that domestic violence often emerges or worsens when women fall pregnant and I suspect that this policy relates to the risk to women patients, and of course the risk that staff may be caught in the crossfire. And a woman in an abusive or controlling relationship may not have been able to prevent her partner from attending the appointment, or may be unable to voice her preference to attend the scan alone.

.

That said, I don’t think its a policy I support. I do think that it minimises the role of fathers and operates on a presumption that they will be disruptive or unsupportive. If we can manage to involve fathers routinely in the birthing process we should be able to make arrangements for dating scans to be carried out in a way which doesn’t exclude dads, whilst safeguarding vulnerable women. If this means that staff need to be watchful, sensitive and adaptable so be it. It shouldn’t result in women who wish to have their supportive partner with them being denied that support. Having experienced both the awful moment when the sonographer confirms that the baby has no heartbeat, and having gone through subsequent scans with my heart in my throat clutching on to my husbands hand for dear life, I cannot see that this policy is right. And allowing for the partner to be brought in after the initial scan does not solve this problem.

.

We should not see all men as potential perpetrators. Violence against women is bound up with gender stereotypes and such a policy runs the risk of perpetuating them.
.

Equally, the campaign which sought the information from the Trust seems to have been so focussed on rights and equality that it had a bit of a blind spot as to the very real issue that the Trust was quite legitimately trying to address.

Read Full Post »

Contact Activity Directions – remember them? Yes, the little used Contact Activity provisions have received a bit of a boost as of 1 April: they are now provided free of charge to any parent ordered to attend such an activity.

.

Previously, you will recall (or perhaps not): parents who were eligible for public funding or who would suffer hardship if they had to pay were paid for via funds devolve to CAFCASS. CAFCASS would pay providers of Parenting Information Programmes (PIPs) directly to provide services to the publicly funded or poor. And the rest just had to pay for themselves. But as it turned out this was a bit too complicated for anyone to be bothered to disentangle and so the courts were not making Contact Activity Directions. Hence the new arrangement: step 1 the court orders a party / parties to attend, step 2 the DCSF pays (or DofE or Michael Gove himself for all I know or care) no questions asked. Easy peasy, no excuses.

. (more…)

Read Full Post »


banana split

trial by banana split (Photo: arboltsef)

To split or not to split? That is the eternal question, answered here by new Prez in new guidance. In short: split only when it serves a purpose. And don’t forget split listing (or not) is a judicial decision. Lord Justice Wall (little known founder of Wall’s Ice Cream) also adds a reminder that splits of the banana variety are absolutely not to be eaten whilst the court is sitting. During the luncheon adjournment only please. (Okay, I made that last bit up, but it was a VERY dull post without it).

Guidance: Split hearings May 2010

Read Full Post »

Family Law Week publishes an interesting article this week on the recent case of Grubb v Grubb which concerns an appeal against the granting of an occupation order ousting a husband from the matrimonial home. The article appears here and the transcript here. I am going to take a slightly different slant on that case than the author on FLW, who is critical of the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the occupation order and who suggests that the case has significance for occupation order applications without allegations of violence, a significant which he fears is in danger of passing unnoticed.

.

Under s33 FLA 1996 the court has a discretion to make an occupation order even in the absence of significant harm. In exercising that discretion s33(6) directs the court to consider all the circumstances including:

(a) the housing needs and housing resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child;

(b) the financial resources of each of the parties;

(c) the likely effect of any order, or of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers under subsection (3), on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child; and

(d) the conduct of the parties in relation to each other and otherwise.

.

The only relevance of significant harm in an application for an occupation order is that, where the court considers that the Applicant or a relevant child might suffer significant harm if no order were made, then the so-called ‘balance of harm’ test set out in s33(7) comes into play. That creates a potential obligation to make an order, rather than a mere discretion. An applicant for an occupation order may seek to make out his case either by satisfying s33(6) or s33(7)  (or both). The Grubb case was not argued under s33(7). Looked at in that light, we can see that insofar as the Grubb case is an example of an occupation order being made in the absence of any significant harm, it is not groundbreaking.

.

An occupation order is of course quite separate from a non-molestation order - although they often co-exist. It may be trite to say it, but a non-molestation order deals with prohibiting acts of violence or harassment whilst an occupation order regulates the occupation of the home. Whilst there has to be a good reason to oust a party from their home there do not necessarily have to be grounds for a non-molestation order in order for an occupation order to be made. There is in fact no reference to violence or harassment in s33, although of course such behaviour would fall under ‘all the circumstances’ or ‘conduct’ or ‘significant harm’. It is a mistake to think that one can oust only a violent partner, although very clearly violence or harassment are very likely to form a main plank of the grounds for many an application and it may be difficult to justify an ouster in the absence of such conduct – depending of course on the facts.

.

The transcript of judgment bears further reading. Although there are a number of specific findings relating to the Husband’s conduct upon which the court of first instance relied when granting the occupation order, it is clear from the full judgment that there was a significant course of conduct of oppressive behaviour on the part of the husband which the wife experienced as putting her under unbearable pressure whilst the family all remained within the one property.

.

And yet the article characterises an occupation order as a ‘domestic violence remedy’ and queries whether this is really the kind of situation that it was intended to apply to. The suggestion made in the article is that a party ‘need not cite very much by way of conduct’ to justify an occupation order, and it seems to be said that cases of this kind are not what such a ‘domestic violence remedy’ was intended to cure. The writer of the article seems to me to fail to properly appreciate the extent of the Husband’s conduct as described in the judgment (and indeed the medical evidence which demonstrated the impact it was having upon the Wife), and in doing so seems (perhaps unintentionally) to minimise the significance of the non-violent conduct. In my view non-violent conduct of the kind described in the transcript falls fairly and squarely within most working definitions of domestic abuse that professionals in the field would use – which may range from controlling behaviour and mental or verbal abuse to physical attacks.

.

I think that this is very much a case turning on its own facts. It may be unusual for occupation orders to be made in cases where the parties are wealthy, but that is precisely why the particular mix of factors is unlikely to be often repeated – for what the court was required to consider was whether to permit the toxic and harmful situation at home to continue in circumstances where an exercise of the court’s discretion in favour of the wife would not cause the Husband significant hardship. More often than not there is only one property and an ouster will mean the ousted party sleeping in the car or sofa surfing. There is a difficult balance to strike in such cases and often the lesser evil is leaving the parties in situ, albeit in very unpleasant circumstances. In this case the court could cure the impact of the husband’s ongoing conduct on the wife and children without causing any serious detriment or harm to him.

.

Characteristic of this case was the fact that the wife did not seek to exaggerate the seriousness of the conduct of the Husband by asserting any s33(7) significant harm, and nor did she seek necessarily to oust the husband if alternative accomodation were provided by him for herself and the children. The Husband had within his control the parties substantial financial resources and had it within his power to make this happen without the need for him to leave. Had the application been for the husband to be excluded from his own home for reasons outwith his control and without recourse to suitable accomodation to meet his own needs, the outcome no doubt would have been very different, and properly so.

 

Read Full Post »

The One Show tonight ran a piece on men as victims of domestic violence, including a brief interview with Erin Pizey founder of the women’s refuge movement. This issue is not often enough highlighted, and as reported on the show there are many reasons why it is likely to be underreported – both embarrasment and fear of not being believed or of counter accusations. Services for men are patchy, but the information on the one show website gives some helpful links and information.

..

What wasn’t helpful about the piece was the way it skated over the source of its statistics which were used in a way that suggested that men were victims as often as they were perpetrators, which anything more than a superficial understanding of patterns of violent and abusive behaviour would tend to suggest is unlikely to be the case (although it’s impossible to be certain because underreporting is probably prevalent regardless of gender or sexuality albeit for slightly different reasons. However, as the hidden hurt website rightly points out the numbers affected is not the key issue: the important point is that it happens to men too, and whether or not a victim is male or female they should be able to access support. Even for women there are stigmas attached to admitting you are a victim of domestic violence, it is an extraordinarily difficult acknowledgment because most victims’ self-esteem has been worn right down.

.

I didn’t find the whole ‘domestic violence hijacked by the feminist movement’ line terribly helpful. There was a time not so long ago when it was considered socially acceptable to perpetrate violence on a female spouse or partner and finding the support necessary to break free of an abusive relationship was very difficult, and when attitudes to divorce were very different. It’s easy to forget that it is the work of the women’s movement and campaigners in this field that has in part brought about a fairly radical shift in attitudes about domestic violence against women (alongside general social shifts), so that women are now able to report and escape from violence or abuse. Equivalent work now needs to be done to change attitudes in the case of male victims, but that should not detract from the validity of the work done thus far to highlight the problem of male on female violence.

.

Anecdotally, I often represent male clients who are or say they are victims of domestic abuse, although they are rarely the applicant for injuctive relief. Most often they are responding to an application by their wife or partner who has ‘got in first’, thereby putting hubby on the back foot. Sometimes these appear to be to some degree or another mutually abusive generally dysfunctional relationships, but sometimes it is clear that the sole perpetrator is the woman. But experience of talking to male clients at court (and to male litigants in person who I am opposing) and their reports of how they have experienced the process of alleging violence by a female partner suggests that many men are fearful of the consequences of seeking help – they do not expect to be believed – by family, the police, the family court, the CAFCASS Officer – and they do not expect to be supported.

So in spite of my minor griping, good on The One Show for being part of the process of moving attitudes forward in respect of male victims of domestic violence.

Read Full Post »

This news story about the imprisonment of a woman giving testimony about an alleged rape does not make happy reading. It appears that the Scottish judge imprisoned her for contempt of court when she objected to questions about her sexual history and broke down in the witness box, unable to continue. I find it hard to imagine the circumstances in which this could have been helpful or productive, but no doubt we will find out in due course when the investigation into her complaint is concluded. It certainly will do nothing to boost the low conviction rates or to encourage other women to come forward. I wonder what preparation the witness was given? I would have thought that she ought to have been made aware that she was likely to have been asked questions of that order prior to the case being proceeded with.

Read Full Post »

Myself and another legal rep were a little taken aback to be told recently that we were ‘making a meal of it’, ‘it’ being the alleged assaults by a father upon his children by blows to the head. Not – apparently - a child protection concern because the kids, now just in double digits, don’t present as frightened. Well – ok then. This gem was from the social worker involved with the children. I say ‘case’ - there is no social work file – as said social worker has closed it. However the legal case runs on. And we sort of thought maybe, just maybe, the judge would be a bit interested in ‘it’ and might require a bit of disclosure so we could decide if it was necessary to hear evidence about the alleged assaults (social work view: ur…what for?). Pesky lawyers, what do we know about risk? Sticking our oars in and upsetting the apple cart. Clearly not every social worker has got Baby P paranoia.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.