Family Law (2 April - 16 April)

Feature of the Fortnight

David Burrows on judicial review and family proceedings

R (DSD and NBV & Ors) v Parole Board and Secretary of State for Justice [2018] EWHC 694 (Admin) – the Warboys case – recalls the importance of judicial review across the board. Of the grounds identified in Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374 by Lord Diplock – ‘illegality’ (or ultra vires), ‘irrationality’ (Wednesbury unreasonable) and ‘procedural impropriety’ (failure to observe fairness) – the first two were held to justify judicial review in DSD. Recent family cases raise the question: should family courts (maybe High Court judge level only) should have judicial review powers?

In Re X (A Child) (No 3) [2017] EWHC 2036 (Fam), Sir James Munby P dealt with treatment of a suicidal 16-year-old. He reminded every public body (education, health, etc) involved with X of their duties under the European Convention 1950. He berated the NHS for its failings of X. He had no power of compulsion. In Re J (A Child: Care Proceedings) [2017] EWFC B49, HHJ Bellamy criticised the ‘tick-box’ mentality of the Legal Aid Agency in dealing with expert’s fees; and with its malign effects on family justice.

In Re T (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 650 the Court of Appeal faced a dilemma where the judge wanted a child (18 months old) to stay with her grandmother under a care order, but the local authority fostering panel refused. The case was sent back for further consideration of its powers by the family court; while the grandmother had a parallel judicial review application of the foster panel.

If the family judges had had power to review the actions of public bodies relevant to the cases before them how might the outcome in each of these family cases have been altered and improved?

David Burrows

Family News

'Meal ticket for life' bid backfires as divorcee loses £175,000 a year from
ex-husband

The Telegraph – 11 April

Kim Waggott, a divorcee who was awarded a settlement of £9.76 million in 2012, and annual payments of £175,000 for the rest of her life has now lost her annual maintenance after she went to court to ask for a £23,000 per year pay rise. Lord Justice Moylan cited the need for a clean break after a divorce.

Rising number of grandparents going to court to win right to see their grandchildren

The Telegraph – 8 April

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have demonstrated a rise in the number of grandparents attempting to win the right to see their grandchildren. The number of private court cases involving children has increased by 14.6% in the past two years, reaching 52,168. According to family lawyers, fathers’ parents are the most likely to miss out on seeing their grandchildren, as mothers are often the ones who win main custody.

Conversion rate of completed foster carer applications to approvals decreases

Family Law Week – 6 April

The Fostering in England statistics for April 2016 to March 2017, released by Ofsted, have revealed the proportion of places that were ‘not available’ has increased by 2%, reaching 15,520. This meant that although there was an increase in approved foster places and an increase in the proportion of places filled, there were fewer actual places for children in 2016/17 than in the previous year.

Mediation starts at their lowest since LASPO introduction

Family Law Week – 6 April

Quarterly statistics from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have revealed that the number of people starting to use mediation is down 15% since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).  Between October and December 2017, mediations and Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) were down 13% from the previous year.

Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2018

Family Law Week – 5 April

Family Law Week report on the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2018, which come into place on 4 June 2018. The rules concern making provisions for ‘fast track’ and ‘standard’ procedures involving certain applications for a financial remedy. Rule 3 ‘confirms that the High Court may direct that proceedings may be heard by a Divisional Court of the High Court.’

As many as 1,000 children's centres now closed, study finds

Cypnow – 4 April

The Sutton Trust, an education-based charity, has claimed that government figures on the closure of children’s centres are inaccurate, with twice the number published closing since 2009. Around 1,000 centres have closed in the last nine years. According to the charity, the government figures are so inaccurate because they are not kept up to date and there is not an official definition of a ‘children’s centre’.

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