Posts Tagged ‘transparency’

On Monday Panorama showed a report on the journey through the family courts of a family accused of causing serious non-accidental injuries to their baby son: ‘Parents’ Child Abuse Nightmare’. After lengthy police investigation and care proceedings no prosecution was pursued and a finding of fact hearing exonerated the parents, the Judge holding that there was no cogent evidence that causation of the injuries was non-accidental.


It was a shocking story, perhaps more so for those who do not work in the system and have not been caught up in it in respect of their own families. On another level, for care practitioners like myself it was however in many respects unremarkable – although the case broke new ground in respect of issues concerning publication of judgments and the identity of experts the care proceedings themselves raised familiar issues and followed a well worn path. What was unusual in terms of the care proceedings was the total failure of the Local Authority to make out threshold.


There were several predictable references to the secrecy of the system, though the system was not so secret as to prevent the programme from being made. The fact that permission had been given for the proceedings to be reported did not appear to attenuate the hyperbole about the cloak and dagger approach of the courts (In fairness though, the lengths to which the parties and the BBC had to go to get permission were not insignificant as can be seen from the number of citations which follow at the end of this post). (more…)


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Can I recommend you read this blog post from Heather Brooke about court secrecy. Not about family proceedings, but interesting and thought provoking nonetheless…

And also interesting is her take on The Times paywall, which I have yet to fully grapple with, although I am going to have to do so in the next 29 days and counting.

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The Guardian posts an interesting piece about the Court of Protection and quite serious unlawful conduct by a Local Authority towards a vulnerable young man in their care: breach of right left right and centre and unlawful imprisonment. The Press Association understandably want to report on this and identify the Local Authority in question, but as with children proceedings they are prevented from doing so (albeit under a different legal framework). This affords the apparently rather badly behaved LA a certain – unwarranted – protection.

The article is here.

POST SCRIPT: HT to M Dodd for alerting me to the judgment permitting identification of the Local Authority as Manchester City Council. The Judgment is not yet available on Bailii, but you can download it here.

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Lord Justice Munby recently delivered the annual Hershman Levy Lecture on the topic of Transparency and the Children Schools and Families Act 2010, in which he referred to my recent article in Family Law, republished here. You can read the lecture here on the Association of Lawyers for Children website.

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The Children Schools and Families Act 2010 made its way through ‘wash up’ and received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010.

Amongst other things (not dealt with here) it makes substantial and controversial changes to the law concerning the publication of material relating to family proceedings, which are summarised below. There will be repeals and amendments of a number of pieces of primary legislation, in particular s12 Administration of Justice Act 1960, s97 Children Act 1989 and s39 Children and Young Persons act 1933.

The relevant provisions are contained in Part II of the Act, and they apply to all relevant family proceedings at which the public are / were not entitled to be present. Broadly: divorce, civil partnership and financial matters are not ‘relevant family proceedings’. References to ‘the Act’ in this article refer to Part II and its associated schedules. At the time of writing the Act is not yet in force and no date for its implementation has been announced.


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Fudge - Stephanie189

Children Schools & Fudge Act 2010?

Further to my previous post on the passing of the Children Schools & Families Act 2010, The Times has published an article about the new provisions which is spot on: it identifies – importantly – that the new law, when it is brought into force, will in fact be more restrictive than the existing privacy rules covering children proceedings. In particular, not only will anonymity rules apply to the children themselves, but they will also apply to anyone involved in the proceedings, apart from professional witnesses.

So much for open justice. The Times says ‘a Fudge’, I’m inclined to agree.

PS Does anybody know when this is likely to be brought into force?

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The snappily titled and easy to read Children Schools and Families Act 2010 has landed on our virtual desks. Not yet in force owing to the impending election (‘What election?’ I hear you say) the Bill made it through ‘wash-up’ and received Royal Assent only moments before Parliament was dissolved, to gasps of relief all round. Or groans.


Its a b*tch of a document (that’s local legal jargon) and I’m still digesting it piece by piece in between hearings and nappy changes – but I will be cooking up a summary of it for you. My preliminary observation is that it is convoluted, complicated and will probably benefit only the legal profession who will be instructed to deal with all the applications prompted as we all try to work out what it all means. And in a special election double whammy it contains a whole raft of future changes which will be brought in 18 months down the line – just at the moment that everyone has worked out what the law is. I can tell you that fat cats like me are rubbing our greasy little paws with glee. Or I would be if I didn’t have such a god awful headache from trying to unpick the unsightly mess that is the CSFA 2010.


To experience the pain yourself first hand you may wish to visit the Office of Public Sector Information where you can view the Act alongside the explanatory notes, and also a helpful article in Family Law Week here (written when the Act was still a twinkle in the Queen’s eye (at Bill stage) but still helpful).

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