Cafcass figures, adoption and domestic violence: The last week in family law

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for December 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,092 care applications, a 17% increase compared to those received in December 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,991 new private law cases, which is a 12% increase on December 2014 levels.

A judge has ruled that a husband obtained his divorce by fraud, after he deceived the court by wrongly stating that he did not know the whereabouts of his wife, so that he could obtain an order from the court allowing him to dispense with service of the divorce papers upon his wife. In Raani v Charazi Her Honour Judge Karp found that the husband had perverted the course of justice and succeeded in obtaining a decree absolute by fraud. Accordingly, she set aside and declared null and void the decree nisi and decree absolute and dismissed the husband’s divorce petition.

Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, has announced plans to change the law on adoption. The government says that it “will seek to change legislation as soon as possible to make crystal clear that councils and courts must place children with the person best able to care for them right up until their 18th birthday – rather than with carers who can’t provide the support they need over the long term.” The move “follows concerns that life-long stability and high-quality care that adoptive families can bring is not always given sufficient weight by councils and courts when they make decisions about where children should live – sometimes focusing on just who can support the child in the short term.”

A new method of analysing crime statistics by researchers at Lancaster University has found that, contrary to the official view that violent crime in England and Wales is continuing to fall, it is actually increasing, and the rate of domestic violence has been increasing since 2009, coinciding with the start of the economic crisis. The researchers compared trends based on the number of victims, capped crimes, and all reported crimes. Their new analysis found that ‘high frequency’ victims, rather than all victims, are key to the increasing rate of violent crime in England and Wales. Their new methodology rejected ‘capping’, a technique used by official methods of estimating violent crime whereby the yearly number of violent crimes against any one individual is capped at five, despite around 5% of respondents reporting a greater number than this. Capping is a widely used to reduce year-to-year volatility when examining change over time, but this method can introduce significant bias. The researchers used a new method to manage volatility, through an alternative statistical technique of three year moving averages. This results in the same level of volatility but without introducing the bias caused by capping.

An Oxford University study has estimated that of all same-sex couples who had formed a civil partnership in England and Wales by mid-2015, one in eight had converted their partnership to a same-sex marriage by that time. The study shows there was no rush for same-sex marriages compared with the numbers wanting civil partnerships. During the first half of 2015, 5,300 couples converted their civil partnership to a marriage, twice the number of same-sex couples who were marrying without first having had a civil partnership (2,500). Almost 15,000 couples entered civil partnerships in the first full year (2006), with numbers declining to around 6,000 each year thereafter, falling further after March 2014, when same-sex marriages were introduced.

And finally, a judge has confirmed that 13-month-old Poppi Worthington was sexually assaulted by her father shortly before her sudden death. Poppi Worthington, who was found with serious injuries at her home in Barrow, was pronounced dead when she was taken to hospital in December 2012. Her father, Paul Worthington, was arrested and questioned on suspicion of sexual assault but never charged with any offence. He denied any wrongdoing. In 2014, as part of care proceedings in relation to other children in the family, High Court family judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson found that Mr Worthington had sexually assaulted Poppi. Mr Worthington appealed against those findings and Mr Justice Jackson reconsidered them at a further hearing last November and December. In a judgment published this week he confirmed his earlier findings.