In a written statement to Parliament justice minister Lucy Frazer QC has said that she was laying before Parliament legislation reducing court fees for certain proceedings in the civil courts and the Court of Protection in England and Wales. As a result, claimants bringing these proceedings will pay less to access the courts. The reduction to the fees follows a thorough and detailed review undertaken by officials in the Ministry of Justice into the cost of these proceedings. The review identified a number of cases where the fees charged were above full cost recovery levels. The Ministry is therefore taking action to reduce those fees. It will also be establishing a refund scheme to reimburse people the amounts they have been over-charged. The statement also said that: “As part of our ongoing improvements we are making to the justice system, including the Government’s £1bn investment in Court Reform, we will continue our review of court fees, including the methodology for setting those fees, to minimise the risk of this issue re-occurring in future.”
A judge has severely criticised a social worker and a local authority, in a child care case that saw a family separated for more than six months. The case was brought by the local authority following concerns that an 8-week-old baby had been seriously injured by one or other of her parents. His Honour Judge Greensmith, sitting in the Family Court at Liverpool, said that the gathering and recording of evidence by the social worker was, in his view, wholly inappropriate, and that the local authority had failed to present a full picture to the medical experts involved in the case. The local authority withdrew its application for care orders in respect of the baby and her older sibling as a result of new evidence, after the experts changed their opinions as to how the injury could have occurred. However, the judge said, the case had already resulted in a “dreadful situation where both children have been separated from their mother and in [the baby’s] case her father’s unsupervised care for over six months”.
The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has published the second iteration of her annual study of childhood vulnerability in England, detailing the numbers of children who are growing up in England with vulnerability and risks that could affect their lives, wellbeing and life chances. The study revealed that there are over 2 million children in England living in families with substantial complex needs, and that of these 1.6 million children have no established, recognised form of additional support. The report estimates that 825,000 children are living in a family with domestic violence and that over 100,000 children are living in a family with the so-called ‘toxic trio’ of domestic violence, mental health and alcohol or substance abuse. Responding to the report Anne Longfield said: “Supporting vulnerable children should be the biggest social justice challenge of our time. Every day we see the huge pressures on the family courts, schools and the care systems of failing to take long-term action. The cost to the state is ultimately greater than it should be, and the cost to those vulnerable children missing out on support can last a lifetime. We get the society we choose – and at the moment we are choosing to gamble with the futures of hundreds of thousands of children.”
And finally, the latest NHS statistics have revealed that there is a newly recorded case of Female Genital Mutilation (‘FGM’) every two hours in the UK. According to the figures, released by NHS Digital on July 5, there were 6,195 women and girls treated for FGM in the past financial year and, of those, 4,495 were newly recorded cases. Of the 6,195 women and girls, 85 cases of FGM took place in the UK. Commenting upon the figures Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, said: “Shockingly, the figures confirm that dozens of women and girls born in the UK have undergone FGM, despite the practice being illegal for over 30 years. Yet there still hasn’t been a single successful prosecution to hold perpetrators to account. FGM is child abuse and it’s vital that we work with affected communities to change hearts and minds about the practice. Agencies must also work better together to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.”