Thanks to Sabine for posting this and to Dawn Booth Lydon, Director of Communications UKFRM, for bringing this to our attention. My comments at the end – StuG
Camilla Cavendish’s 10-Point Plan
1. Open family courts to the press in all but exceptional circumstances (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee)
2. Let any parent or carer accused of abuse call any witnesses they need in their defence. At the moment, they are routinely refused permission to do so.
3. Give automatic permission for parents who are refused legal aid to get a lay advisor to help them present their case. This is routinely refused.
4.Remove the restrictions that prevent families from talking about their case (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee).
5. Review the definition of “emotional abuse” across local authorities, to make sure that it cannot become a catch-all for overzealous officials.
6. Provide an automatic right for parents to receive copies of case conference notes and all evidence used against them in court, just as they would in a criminal trial.
7. Create an independent body to oversee the actions of social services, with proper sanctions. If that body is to be the General Social Care Council, make it easier for parents to go directly to that body rather than having to face delays from the local authority.
8. Let children in care waive their right to privacy, if they wish to speak out. For gagging children is surely not consistent with promoting their welfare.
9. Restructure CAFCASS, the Family Court Advisory Service, from being an organisation that reports on the parents to the courts to one that actively promotes the parenting needs of children. The primary focus should cease to be assisting the court process. It should be diverting parents away from contested hearings into the making of parenting plans.
10. Review the recent legal aid cutbacks that are deterring lawyers from taking on these complex family cases. It is quite wrong that desperate parents are unable to find a lawyer to help them in their time of need.
Among her articles are –
As Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) wrote:
“Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion, and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial.
In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape, have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks, applicable to judicial injustice, operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.”
I am encouraged to learn of another broadsheet journo who is clearly well informed in family law. However, Camilla is is obviously not a court user. So allow me to append some comments to the above.
On Points 1 and 4 I’d like to draw the reader’s attention back to the quote by Jeremy Bentham and add that there are only two ways to get judges to toe the line. One is to hit them in the pocket and the other is to hit their reputation. They should be accountable and sackable and the press should be able to expose and hound judicial under-achievers and charlatans in family law just as they quite rightly do in every other area of law.
On Point 7, I agree that an independent body should oversee all social work but I am not convinced that the General Social Care Council qualifies as a reliable monitoring and enforcement body for social workers, any more than the SRA or Legal Ombudsman is for lawyers or the OJC is for judges.
On Point 9 I disagree. I side instead with the Inter-Disciplinary Alliance for Children and Parliamentary Accounts Committee, who state that CAFCASS cannot be improved. The secret culture of illegal activity including perjury, perverting the course of justice, human rights abuses, child abuse, gender bias, laziness, incompetence and unaccountability is ingrained, having been deliberately migrated point for point from the Court Welfare Service after that despicable strand of civil service rot was closed down for exactly the same reasons.
All the above happens with a nudge and a wink from the CAFCASS CEO, Anthony Douglas and his sidekick Bruce Clarke, the venal bureaucrat who insidiously re-branded and stamped out the Early Interventions Pilot Project in 2003 after Parliament directed it’s implementation and ring-fenced the funding. CAFCASS must be scrapped.
CAFCASS, from the beginning, was a deliberate act of institutional malfeasance where every
senior, middle and low ranking manager, every operator, every preferred expert witness, along with the MPs, Ministers and Civil Service lackies, knew exactly what they were and still are doing wrong.
CAFCASS (let’s not leave NYAS out) waste £750 million per year at least ‘looking after’ 140,000 cases. There is no training in the very issue dominant in 99% of those cases: how much contact should children have to their fathers, under what circumstances, how soon – and no indication that there is any motivation to address this shortfall any time soon. CAFCASS persists like a malignant, societal cancer; an act of utter Government folly where social workers and civil servants exploit the hermitage of the family court system to surreptitiously gold plate their own careers by usurping common sense, the intent of statute and Government policy.
CAFCASS acts as nothing more than a mechanism for maxing up legal profit whereby easily solvable cases are fraudulently distorted to legitimise their remaining on the Family Court roundabout indefinitely.
CAFCASS is not merely part of the problem, it is the problem. It will never be fixed. It is a deformed and ugly, mucus and blood-spitting abortion with a green spinning head on a life support machine rigged with a fuse that can’t be overloaded.
David Norgrove is just on civil servent who has listened to other civil servents with no intention of reforming these God awful laws! Davey
We need a minister with some balls to exorcise the beast by entering the ward and pulling the plug. It won’t be any of the gatekeepers who have made a few bucks out of the current family law system, so I suppose we can rule out that procrastinating and bloated legal tramp Ken Clarke (I quote from weasel-worded Ken’s specious meeting with Gary Roe: “….blah… blah.. drone on… drone on… you men cant see your kids because the interests of the children are paramount…..belch belch…..fart…fart…” – then run away).
On Point 10 I feel myself swinging both ways. The Ministry of Justice has recently admitted that lawyers do not know family law. If they don’t, how can the judges, when they are recruited from the ranks of lawyers? Why should the public or private purse pay people who don’t know what they are doing? They would appear to be nothing more than actors presenting in a certain style on a certain kind of stage to a misandrist, judicial marionette.
Many lawyers drawing legal aid are not doing their jobs properly. They are simply pushing and processing paper, turning up to court, putting in second rate performances and charging the max allowed under the scheme. They know exactly what to do to get the money and go no further. Some are claiming money from the LSC without actually doing the work stated, relying on the reliable flaccidity of their regulatory bodies.
For instance, Adrian Bressington, the lawyer in Devises who appears unable to process mediation requests, misinforms courts and is able to make a perfectly run of the mill divorce last three and a half years and have the father lose contact to all three of his daughters for no good reason
(blog depicting this corrupt and spineless creep’s skirmish with Tim Line here: http://www.adrianbressington.co.uk/)
actually sat as an invigilator on the Family Panel of the SRA.
I think what is really needed is a kind of no-win no-fee system where losing family lawyers are required to prove and present work done and explain to the LSC why they did not win for their clients before being paid retrospectively. If legal standards were enforced and lawyers obligated to be ethical rather than ‘professional’ in front of trained judges in open courts I’d be all for maintaining legal aid for them; but as things stand the government may as well pour taxpayers money down the crapper as continue to feed the monstrous family law system.
In a system that (falsely) proclaims it works in the interests of children, why, in private law at least, do we even need lawyers? Especially one for each parent?
Would not a qualified, accountable, ethical bunch of psychologists, one to each case, using scientific research, definitions and principals and monitoring outcomes, be far better value for money?
25th January 2012
Here too I offer my version of how the Family Justice Review should have read! Davey