Surrogacy, domestic abuse and the Sally Challen case: The last week in family law

Proposed Surrogacy Law Change

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are proposing to reform the surrogacy laws to allow intended parents to become legal parents when the child is born, subject to the surrogate retaining a right to object for a short period after the birth. This new “pathway” would replace the current system where the intended parents must make an application to the court after the child has been born, and do not become legal parents until the court grants them a parental order. The proposal comes in a consultation paper on the reform of surrogacy laws. Other proposals include the creation of a surrogacy regulator to regulate surrogacy organisations which will oversee surrogacy agreements within the new pathway; in the new pathway, the removal of the requirement of a genetic link between the intended parents and the child, where medically necessary; and the creation of a national register to allow those born of surrogacy arrangements to access information about their origins. Sir Nicholas Green, Chair of the Law Commission said: “More and more people are turning to surrogacy to have a child and start their family. We therefore need to make sure that the process is meeting the needs of all those involved. However, the laws around surrogacy are outdated and no longer fit for purpose. We think our proposals will create a system that works for the surrogates, the parents and, most importantly, the child.” The consultation closes on the 27th of September.

Study into Domestic Abuse on Women’s Mental Health

Research by Birmingham University published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has found that women who experience domestic abuse are three times more likely to develop a serious mental illness. The study was based on 18,547 women who had told their GP of domestic abuse they had experienced. They were compared with a group of more than 74,000 women of a similar age who had no experience of domestic abuse. The study, from 1995-2017, showed that nearly half of women who had gone to their family doctor with domestic abuse had a mental illness already diagnosed. Among the rest, the researchers found that domestic abuse survivors were twice as likely to develop anxiety and three times as likely to develop depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Dr Joht Singh Chandan, lead author and academic clinical fellow in public health at the University of Birmingham, said the burden of mental illness caused by domestic abuse in the UK could be much higher than previously thought. He commented: “Considering how common domestic abuse is, it is important to understand how strongly the two are connected and consider whether there are possible opportunities to improve the lives of women affected by domestic abuse.

No Retrial for Sally Challen

And finally, Sally Challen, who killed her husband with a hammer in 2010, will not face a retrial, after prosecutors accepted her manslaughter plea. In 2011 Mrs Challen was found guilty of murdering her husband, and jailed for life. However, she recently appealed against her conviction, on the basis of fresh evidence, namely a diagnosis by a consultant forensic psychiatrist that she was suffering from two previously undiagnosed disorders at the time of the killing, and fresh evidence as to alleged coercive control by her husband. The appeal was allowed by the Court of Appeal in February this year, and the conviction was quashed. The Court of Appeal ordered that she should face a retrial for murder. However, prosecutors accepted a manslaughter plea on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and she was sentenced to nine years and four months for manslaughter, but walked free due to time served. Mr Justice Edis said the killing came after “years of controlling, isolating and humiliating conduct” by her husband. The outcome has been welcomed by many, who believe that it shows that the law recognises the effects of psychological abuse upon victims.

If you need assistance in childcare law, are a victim of domestic abuse, or are in need of a family law expert, please get in touch with our friendly team at Prince Family Law who will be happy to help.

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