Radicalisation guidance and Cafcass figures: The last week in family law

According to their lawyer, a couple accused of abuse are unlikely to ever see their child again despite being cleared. Three years ago Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter took their then six-week-old child to hospital after noticing bleeding in the baby’s mouth following a feed. Hospital staff noticed bruises and what were thought to be fractures. Shortly afterwards the couple were charged with child cruelty, the baby was taken into care and subsequently adopted. However, new medical evidence showed there were no signs of abuse and the criminal case against the couple collapsed. The couple now plan to try to win custody of their child back, but their lawyers believe it is unlikely the adoption will be overturned, as such rulings are usually final.

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has issued guidance for judges and lawyers involved in radicalisation cases in the family courts. Radicalisation cases are defined as cases “where there are allegations or suspicions: that children, with their parents or on their own, are planning or attempting or being groomed with a view to travel to parts of Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State; that children have been or are at risk of being radicalised; or that children have been or at are at risk of being involved in terrorist activities either in this country or abroad.” The President has indicated that all such cases should be heard by High Court Judges of the Family Division, in view of their complexity. He also emphasised that there should be cooperation between the courts, police and other safeguarding agencies.

The latest figures from Cafcass for care applications and private law demand, for September 2015, have been published. In that month Cafcass received a total of 979 care applications, a 7% increase compared to those received in September 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,094 new private law cases, which is a 9% increase on September 2014 levels.

The Law Society has published its response to a Ministry of Justice consultation on proposals to close 91 courts and tribunals, which is one fifth of courts and tribunals across England and Wales, and integrate or merge 31 more. The response, says the Law Society, reflects solicitors’ views on the likely adverse impact of the proposed closures on local communities, the justice system and the legal profession. Amongst the Society’s concerns are that almost all of the proposed closures would result in court users travelling further, at greater cost, and that part of the rationale for the proposed closures is that better use of technology could improve the court service and reduce the need for in-person hearings, but these facilities are not yet in place across all courts nor in the proposed alternatives.

Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has warned that thousands of divorcing couples are lying to the courts every year due to divorce laws which pit people against one another. Current divorce laws in England and Wales require an accusation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order for a divorce to be granted in less than two years of a marriage breaking down. However, according to new research by Resolution more than 27 per cent of couples citing unreasonable behaviour admitted that their claims were not true, but were the easiest way of getting a divorce. The chair of Resolution Jo Edwards commented: “As our research findings show, the current system is causing couples to make false allegations in court in order to have their divorce finalised within a reasonable time. This charade needs to be ended.”

And finally, the Supreme Court has handed down its decisions in the Sharland and Gohil appeals, which concerned the impact of fraud or non-disclosure upon financial orders following divorce. In each case the wives sought to re-open financial orders on the basis of non-disclosure by the husbands. The Supreme Court unanimously allowed both of their appeals, so that the cases will now be heard afresh.