Domestic violence, endless emails and a Supreme Court hearing: The last week in family law

Between 2009 and 2015 936 women were killed by men in England and Wales, 598 of them (64%) by their current or former partners, according to The Femicide Census, which tracks and analyses the deaths of women killed by partners, ex-partners, male relatives, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers. Responding to the figures Polly Neate, the chief executive of the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, said: “The killing of women, especially when women are killed by an abusive partner or ex-partner, is often reported as an isolated incident. There is an abject failure to look at patterns of behaviour. We accept fatal male violence as an inevitability, not a conscious choice that a man has made to end a woman’s life. This dangerous culture needs to change. We need to learn the lessons. And by viewing these cases of femicide altogether, we can learn.”

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics has published its latest release on domestic abuse in England and Wales, for the year ending March 2016. The main finding in the release was that there were an estimated 1.8 million adults aged 16 to 59 who said they were a victim of domestic abuse during that year, with women being more likely to report having experienced domestic abuse than men. Other findings included that a large number of domestic abuse-related incidents were recorded by the police (1.03 million) in the year and that following investigations, the police concluded that a domestic abuse-related criminal offence was committed in approximately 4 in every 10 (41%) of those incidents (421,000).

A Court of Appeal judge has called for extra powers to curb the activities of litigants in person who inundate courts with communications. In the case Agarwala v Agarwala Lady Justice King referred to the “slew” of emails that both parties had sent to the judge and to the court. Both parties had already been guilty of bombarding the court with ‘endless applications’, as a result of which the court imposed civil restraint orders upon both of them, preventing them from making further applications without the permission of the court. However that didn’t stop the parties from inundating the court staff and the judge with emails, causing Lady Justice King to say in a postscript to her judgment:

“Whilst every judge is sympathetic to the challenges faced by litigants in person, justice simply cannot be done through a torrent of informal, unfocussed emails, often sent directly to the judge and not to the other parties. Neither the judge nor the court staff can, or should, be expected to field communications of this type. In my view judges must be entitled, as part of their general case management powers, to put in place, where they feel it to be appropriate, strict directions regulating communications with the court and litigants should understand that failure to comply with such directions will mean that communications that they choose to send, notwithstanding those directions, will be neither responded to nor acted upon.”

On Monday the Supreme Court heard an appeal brought by three charities in the case of Ilott v Mitson, which concerns a daughter’s claim against her late mother’s estate, most of which had been left to charity. Her mother had made no provision for Mrs Ilott in her will, the two having become estranged, and Mrs Ilott therefore made a claim against the estate. The Court of Appeal awarded her £143,000, and the charities appealed. The case is considered important in relation to the principle that a person is free to leave their estate to whoever they wish. The Supreme Court will hand down its decision later.

And finally, a British couple suspected of trying to join Isis have been allowed to keep their children by the High Court. The couple were arrested at the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone in July 2015, on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts and child cruelty or neglect. Their teenage son and two younger children were in the back of the car. The couple claimed that they were going for a weekend trip to the German Alps. The three children were placed in foster care for four months but were returned to their parents in November 2015. Mr Justice Cobb has now ruled that they can stay together as a family, along with their new baby sibling. He said he was not convinced the family had been going for a weekend away in Germany, but he believed the attitudes of the parents had “genuinely changed” after they took part in an extensive de-radicalisation programme.