Weekly Family Law Update October 17, 2020

Child marriage, support for domestic abuse services and a disbarred barrister

Bill introduced to ban marriage for under-18s

An MP has introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for the minimum age of marriage to be changed to 18, with no exceptions.  Currently the legal minimum age of marriage is 16, but children aged under 18 must have parental consent.

Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, has presented the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, saying “we need to safeguard these children”. The Bill aims to revoke parental consent which permits the marriage or civil partnership of a child, and to criminalise child marriage or civil partnership under the age of 18

Natasha Rattu from Karma Nirvana, a charity supporting victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage, has been working with Mrs Latham on the Bill and said she was “delighted” it had been introduced.

Extra support for councils to expand services for domestic abuse victims

The Government has announced that £6 million extra support will be given to councils to help them to prepare for the introduction of legislation that will ensure domestic abuse victims and their families get the help they need.  Thousands more people are expected to be helped from April 2021 when the new law comes into force placing a duty on councils to support victims of domestic abuse.

Once the duty comes into forces, the new funding will  mean that councils in England can commission additional support for those victims of domestic abuse and their children who might currently be turned away from refuges and other safe accommodation because their needs cannot be met.  The Domestic Abuse  Bill, currently before Parliament, includes a  new duty  for councils  to  assess  and  provide  support and safe accommodation to victims and their children in England.

The Government says that this new funding will mean councils can plan accommodation and specialist services ahead of the Act coming into force, and ensure that in all areas across the country services are joined up.  Councils can prepare by linking in with other agencies such as police or health commissioners and ensure their staff receive training in the new duty.

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Kelly Tolhurst MP said:  “Survivors of domestic abuse need safe refuge in order to escape this heinous crime, and support to start to rebuild their lives.

“Councils already provide much needed support, but the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill will mean for the first time councils will have a duty to provide support in safe accommodation for anyone fleeing abuse.

“The funding I am announcing today will help councils prepare for this new duty that will see thousands more survivors helped and a generation of their children able to grow up safely and free from fear of abuse.”

Barrister disbarred after deceiving divorce court

A barrister has been ordered to be disbarred by a disciplinary tribunal, following charges of professional misconduct brought by the Bar Standards Board (‘BSB’), which regulates barristers in England and Wales.

The tribunal’s decision comes after a judge found in December 2016 that Ehi Ukiwa, who was called to the bar in 2010, had deliberately, and in an attempt to deceive the court, wrongly stated the address of an individual during divorce proceedings in 2013, knowing that they had no connection with that address, and that someone else at that address would complete and return the acknowledgement of service of the divorce papers, with the intention of obtaining a divorce fraudulently.

The tribunal found that Mr Ukiwa had engaged in conduct which was: dishonest or otherwise discreditable to a barrister; prejudicial to the administration of justice; and likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice, or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute.

Commenting on the order, a BSB spokesperson said: “Engaging in conduct which seeks to deceive the court, including where the barrister is a party to proceedings, is incompatible with the ethical standards that the public expect of the profession and continued membership of the Bar. The tribunal’s decision to disbar Mr Ukiwa reflects this.”