Family Law (21 May - 4 June)

Feature of the Fortnight

Female genital mutilation protection

The spectrum of law, and of human rights law, covered by family proceedings can be seen in A Local Authority v M & N (Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order) [2018] EWHC 870 (Fam) (19 April 2018). In M & N Hayden J granted to a local authority a FGMP order under Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 Sch 2 para 1. Its aim was to prevent a mother who wanted to take her very young daughter to Sudan. The judge emphasised the importance which the 2003 Act placed on the duty of the state to ‘intervene far more positively’ in decisions on FGM ([57]).

Hayden J made clear his ‘abomination’ of FGM ([16]). He considered the spectrum of human rights in play (with full case citation): from the child’s Art 3 rights (prohibition of torture: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) to the Art 8 rights of a family life of the child and of her mother and brothers (who were still in Sudan). Art 3 was an absolute right. It was one which engaged the right of the child. It asserted the positive duty of the court to ensure that effective protection is provided ([27]-[38]; and see R (Limbuela) Secretary of State for Home Department [2005] UKHL 66 [2006] 1 AC 396 per Lord Bingham (of Art 3 and asylum claims):

[7] … Treatment is inhuman or degrading if, to a seriously detrimental extent, it denies the most basic needs of any human being. As in all article 3 cases, the treatment, to be proscribed, must achieve a minimum standard of severity, and [as in that case did not involve] the deliberate infliction of pain or suffering… It is not necessary that treatment, to engage article 3, should merit the description used, in an immigration context, by Shakespeare and others in Sir Thomas More when they referred to “your mountainish inhumanity”.

David Burrows

Family News

Domestic abusers still able to cross-examine victims in court

The Guardian – 30 May

According to a study by Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London, children’s lives are being put at risk because victims of domestic abuse are not being given safe or fair hearings. 24% of survivors are still being cross-examined by their abusers, despite government promises to stop this over a year ago.

MPs demand tougher government action on child obesity

Cypnow – 30 May

With over 22,500 children aged 10-11 currently classed as severely obese urgent action needs to be taken to tackle childhood obesity, according to a health and social care select committee report. The report suggests introducing a watershed for junk food advertising and banning the use of television and film characters to promote unhealthy products.

Second forced marriage conviction within a week

Family Law Week – 29 May

A couple from Leeds have been convicted of attempting to force their daughter into marriage, in the second forced marriage conviction within one week. The victim was tricked into travelling to Bangladesh on the pretence of a holiday, when her parents tried to force her to marry her first cousin.

SEN reforms: Sharp increase in number of children refused support

Cypnow – 24 May

Since the introduction of the Children and Families Act in 2014, the number of children being refused formal special educational needs (SEN) support following assessment has more than tripled. In 2017, 3,043 out of the 45,205 children assessed were refused support.

Social worker training on transgender issues is ‘largely deficient’

Community Care – 23 May

Community Care report on a lack of training for child and family social workers on transgender issues and social workers had a ‘very mixed’ knowledge of transgender issues. Research conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has demonstrated that transgender awareness is an area in need of development.

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