Care applications, domestic violence and foster care: The last week in family law

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for October 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,079 care applications, which is a7% increase compared to those received in October 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,311 new private law cases, which is a 2% decrease on October 2014 levels.

Victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable witnesses are being put at risk by the erratic handling of sensitive cases by police and prosecutors, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (‘HMIC’) has warned. Inspectors examined a total of 460 case files from across England and Wales and identified 195 cases that involved vulnerable or intimidated victims and witnesses. In 21% of the 195 cases, the police failed to identify the vulnerability of a victim or witness and so did not put measures in place to manage this risk through the court process.

Local authorities do not owe a child in foster care a ‘non-delegable duty of care’ to ensure that they are protected from harm, the Court of Appeal has ruled. In NA v Nottinghamshire County Council the claimant had been placed with two sets of foster parents: Mr and Mrs A from 1985-86, and Mr and Mrs B from 1987-88. At the first hearing of the claim Mr Justice Males had found that the claimant had been physically abused by Mrs A and sexually abused by Mr B. The claimant argued that the local authority was liable to her either because it was vicariously liable for the torts of foster carers or because it owed to her a non-delegable duty of care. However, Mr Justice Males rejected both arguments. He also held that the local authority social workers had not been negligent and so had done nothing wrong. The claimant appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld the earlier ruling that a local authority cannot be held vicariously liable for the deliberate acts of foster parents.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that solicitors instructed on a limited retainer do not have a broader duty of care to their clients. The ruling came in Minkin v Lesley Landsberg, a case in which a client claimed that her lawyer was negligent in the advice she gave during divorce proceedings. In the case a wife agreed a financial settlement with her husband and then instructed solicitors to draw up a consent order. An order was drawn up, and approved by the court. The wife then came to regret having entered into the consent order and blamed the solicitors for their lack of advice, which had resulted in the consent order being made. In those circumstances, she commenced proceedings against the solicitors for negligence. The judge found that the solicitors had acted under a limited retainer to embody the matters agreed between the husband and the wife in a consent order which the court would approve. The retainer did not extend to advising the wife upon the merits of the agreement and accordingly, the solicitors were not negligent. The wife appealed, but the Court of Appeal agreed with the judge’s findings and dismissed the appeal.

And finally, a husband has won the right to argue that his thirty-year marriage should be nullified on the grounds that his wife is a bigamist. Elias Bamgboye had already begun divorce proceedings after his marriage to wife Judita broke down, but he now wants to argue that the marriage should be annulled because his wife was already married. The couple married nearly 30 years ago and have since had four children, but Mr Bamboye is now convinced his wife married another man in the Philippines. He therefore wishes to abandon the divorce so that he can issue nullity proceedings.