Adoption, judges and divorce: The last week in family law

It would be unlawful for an NHS trust to carry out life-saving treatment against a patient’s wishes, the Court of Protection has ruled. The issue in Wye Valley NHS Trust v B was whether it was lawful for doctors treating a 73-year-old man with a severely infected leg to amputate his foot against his wishes, in order to save his life. The man had a long-standing mental illness that deprived him of the capacity to make the decision for himself. Having considered all of the evidence and the parties’ submissions Mr Justice Peter Jackson came to the conclusion that an enforced amputation would not be in the man’s best interests. The decision was unusual, as in most such cases the court will approve life-saving treatment despite the opposition of a patient who lacked capacity.

Statistics on looked after children in England, including adoption, for the financial year 2014-2015 have been published by the Department for Education. The statistics show that the number of looked after children in England placed for adoption, which rose from 2011 to 2014, has decreased by 15% in 2015 to 3,320 (as at the 31st of March 2015). There were 5,330 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2015. Whilst numbers continue to increase, the rate of increase in 2015 is lower than in previous years: there was an increase of 5% between 2014 and 2015, compared with an increase of 26% between 2013 and 2014. The number of looked after children has increased steadily over the past seven years. There were 69,540 looked after children at 31 March 2015, an increase of 1% compared to 31 March 2014 and an increase of 6% compared to 31 March 2011. The majority of children looked after are placed with foster carers. In 2015 the number of children in foster care continued to rise; of the 69,540 children looked after at 31 March, 52,050 (75%) were cared for in a foster placement.

New research conducted for the Family Justice Council exploring how feedback on the work they do could improve the way judges handle cases about children’s care has been published. The research concluded that judges need more feedback on their work and identified several types of feedback that could be helpful for judges, including feedback from observation of their practice, from other judges and court users, and about the effects of court orders on children and families. The judges who took part in the study were generally positive about the idea of receiving feedback, although some were worried that feedback could leave them feeling less confident in the work they did. Whilst many were interested to know what happened to children involved in their cases, they were clear that feedback about what happened in an individual case could not be allowed to impact on their decisions in future cases.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has given a progress report upon the work of the Bury St Edmunds centralised Divorce Centre, which now handles all divorces for London and the South East, comprising 40% of all work in England and Wales. The report says that the Centre is receiving between 1,250 and 1,300 petitions for issue per week, although a number of these have to be returned due to errors. Taking everything into account the Centre expects to issue upwards of 40,000 petitions per annum, with the Centre on average issuing broadly 800 petitions per week. The Centre hopes to process all work within a maximum 5 days of receipt by the end of October 2015 and a maximum of 2 days of receipt by the end of December 2015.

And finally, a new legal advice clinic has been launched at Cardiff County Court, to advise people involved in family proceedings who do not have the means to pay for legal representation. The Cardiff Court Family Free Advice Clinic is a collaboration bringing together local law firms, 22 barristers, a pro bono mediation service, 2 local universities, HM Courts and Tribunal Services, LawWorks Cymru and the Personal Support Service. The Clinic will provide initial legal advice, information and advocacy and will run between 9.30am and 1.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are the family hearing days.