Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Our question for you today focuses on Panorama’s upcoming documentary about allegations surrounding the Westminster VIP Paedophile ring, which airs tomorrow night.

As this documentary seeks to get to the bottom of allegations made against high profile politicians and celebrities, campaigners for the rights of survivors and victims abused as children have expressed concern about the emphasis placed by the media on false memory memory syndrome – a condition in which a person’s identity and relationships are affected by memories that are factually incorrect but that they strongly believe.

Panorama’s spin on their own documentary is as follows:

“Panorama investigates sensational allegations of historical child abuse and murder by some of the most prominent people in Britain: a paedophile ring at the heart of the Establishment. Why were the allegations described by police as “credible and true” with no hard evidence or corroboration? What role have senior politicians and the media played in promoting this story around the world? And what price will genuine victims of child abuse pay if it turns out not to be true?”

Our question to you then, is just this: are these kinds of documentaries helpful in getting to the truth of the matter, or will genuine survivors and victims of abuse pay a high price for investigative journalism which seeks to focus on only one aspect of a very broad phenomenon?

For an interesting take on Panorama’s decision to make this documentary, My So Called False Memory offers food for thought. 


Panorama Documentary “Plans To Smear Survivors Of Child Abuse”

Exaro has published a piece this morning in which it asserts that the BBC’s Panorama programme is planning to criticise survivors and victims of abuse in relation to the Westminster Paedophile Ring allegations.

According to Exaro, Panorama’s latest documentary will allege that:


The piece is worth reading, as it gives a full account of how Panorama finds itself angling their latest documentary. It seems that the programme intended to try to get to the bottom of abuse allegations, even perhaps to discredit them, and despite clashing with other BBC outlets over the focus of the programme and constant in-fighting at the BBC over its stance, the documentary will be forced to air due to the vast production costs it has incurred.

If this documentary is not balanced or sensitive to those who have genuinely suffered abuse, the backlash will not just be ferocious, it will change the face of the BBC forever.

BBC Panorama

“A Myth Persists That Men Who Abuse, Assault, Blackmail, Stalk Or Terrorise Their Ex-Partners Can Still Be “Good Dads”.

In this thought-provoking article about the perils of contact with violent partners, Australian Coroner Judge Gray, investigating a case in which a child was tragically killed by his father calls on state departments to put the welfare of children first and support the ‘protective’ parent – the parent who has been deemed protective of the child in assessment processes.

In a case in England earlier this year, a mother was forced by a judge to send letters to her ex partner, who had tried to murder her in front of their small twin boys. The boys, who were old enough to understand the ordeal they were witnessing, may also be required to have contact with their father at a later date, as he is believed to be hoping to have direct contact with his sons once he has served his prison term.

What is worrying for us in cases like these, is that the root cause of the issues don’t ever seem to get addressed, and therefore it becomes wholly impossible to know whether contact is ever appropriate. Worse still, as the article points out, it is difficult to see how men who abuse women, or women who abuse men, can be automatically assumed to be fit parents. This kind of conduct goes to the heart of deep-seated psychological difficulties which impact every kind of relationship.

Without addressing the mental health concerns of the individuals involved and trying to manage any risk in a highly sophisticated and efficient manner, contact will always be an unacceptable risk and violates the human rights of every child placed in such a precarious position.

But not everyone agrees. So,  what do you think? Should violent partners be given access to their children as of right, or should we be much more careful with contact under such conditions?

Thank you to the National Child Protection Alliance for alerting us to this news item.

Ban On Smoking In Cars Carrying Children Will Take Effect From 1st October

As of Thursday this week (1st October), it will be illegal to smoke in a car where any child under the age of 18 is present. This measure was voted for overwhelmingly by politicians in February of this year, and will become enforceable in two days’ time.

And winding down windows won’t be viewed as an acceptable way around the new legislation, though doubts have been expressed as to how the new law will be enforced. 

Adults who get caught smoking in a car with a minor present could face an on the spot £50 fine, whilst allowing a passenger to light up could lead to being fined twice.

The new measures fall under the Smoke-Free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015 – which were enacted under the Children And Families Act 2014 and which amended the Health Act 2006.

Some other news items:

Police will turn ‘blind eye’ to new smoking ban in cars

Smoking in cars with children to be banned from next October

UK law bans smoking in a car in presence of a minor

A very big thank you to the lovely Alison Burge over at Pump Court Chambers for confirming the name of the new piece of legislation holding the measures relating to the smoking ban.

Interesting Papers On The Child Abuse Inquiry And Family Courts

The House of Commons Library is always an interesting place to visit, with reports, briefing papers and more, and their materials on Family Law related topics are always worth a read. The Library is nicely organised too, allowing you to search for documents by type, date and topic.

We spotted two briefing papers this morning which we thought were worth sharing.

The first, which was published on 25th September 2015, is about the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse and offers a very thorough explanation of how the Inquiry works, its scope, the extent of its powers and its origins.

The second looks at transparency in the Family Courts and was published on 18th September, 2015. The paper explains how the Family Court works, and the current rules on transparency, as well as some history on how those rules have evolved over time.

For a little more information on transparency and openness in the Family Courts Jordans offers a lovely summary of related materials which are also worth a look.

House of Commons Library

Question It!

Hello and welcome to another week.

Our question this week focuses on an issue which is highly divisive, and so controversial that even the President of the Family Division said of it,“These are deep waters which I hesitate to enter.”

The subject is Male Genital Mutilation, often referred to as circumcision. Carried out as a form of religious ritual, or under the guidance of some medical professionals as a form of good hygiene, MGM involves surgery to remove the foreskin covering the glans of the penis.

Those who argue in favour of the practice say it offers certain health benefits, including lowering the risk of cancer, preventing the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases, and reducing the likelihood of urinary tract infections occurring. Those against the practice cite research which contradicts current held beliefs about the benefits and consider it a form of child abuse.

The President of the Family Division, Lord Justice Munby has also likened circumcision to Female Genital Mutilation, which is currently illegal in the UK:

“Given the comparison between what is involved in male circumcision and FGM WHO Type IV, to dispute that the more invasive procedure involves the significant harm involved in the less invasive procedure would seem almost irrational. In my judgment, if FGM Type IV amounts to significant harm, as in my judgment it does, then the same must be so of male circumcision.”

Our question to you then, is just this: do you agree with Lord Justice Munby, and if so, should circumcision be illegal in the UK?


PRESS RELEASE: Leading Dads’ Charity Launches Food Bank For Fathers




DadsHouse (1), the UK’s leading charity for single and lone fathers has set up a food bank in London to help families struggling to feed themselves.

The food bank is located in Kensington and Chelsea (2) and will open on Friday 2nd October, 2015, from 6-7.30pm. It will then run every Friday evening.

Billy McGranaghan (3), Founder of DadsHouse:

“The number of fathers coming to us for this kind of help is on the rise, so we felt we had to find a way to make sure dads and their children weren’t going without food.

With the different kinds of support we offer dads, we never thought in our wildest dreams we would need to start opening food banks, especially in a neighbourhood in London where you might not think such help is needed, but this clearly shows the extent of the problem families are facing on a day to day basis.

Food banks though are a temporary measure, and so I hope the government will work on long term solutions with us moving forward.”

DadsHouse is currently accepting donations for the food bank (4), including non perishable food items and toiletries.

For more information, please visit


If you would like to know more about DadsHouse and the Food Bank Scheme, please leave a comment below, with your contact details. 


(1)DadsHouse is the UK’s leading charity for single and lone fathers, and creates a network of support for dads through counselling, general advice, and activities.

(2)The food bank will be held inside the Kensington United Reformed Church, Allen Street, W8, Kensington High Street, London.

(3)Billy McGranaghan set up DadsHouse after being unable to find support as a lone father. He raised his son Sam on his own in London.

(4)Donation information and deliveries can be arranged through DadsHouse by emailing

DadsHouse Food Bank

High Court: Family Rights Between Biological Parents And Their Children End Upon Adoption

In a recent case in the High Court in which a mother battled relentlessly for years to recover her daughter from the care system, a judge has ruled that Article 8 rights, the right to a private life and family life, cease upon the creation of an adoption order.

The facts of the case are distressing, not least of all because of the opaque nature in which social services appear to have gone about assessing this mother, but a good summary of the case has been written by Marilyn Stowe, on her blog. 

In care as a child herself, moved from foster home to foster home, the mother fell pregnant at 20. Her baby was removed from her care because she was deemed to be ‘not coping’ and soon after care and placement orders were made. Indirect contact by way of letter writing twice a year was put into place but this was reduced to once a year because social workers were uncomfortable with the mother’s inability to accept the adoption.

The mother sought contact, which was denied. She appealed the care and placement orders, several times and then took her case to the ECHR. All of these actions were unsuccessful. She also made separate claims for her own experience in care, which she felt had impacted upon her development significantly and was responsible for the difficulties she suffered with in adulthood. None of her efforts yielded contact time with her daughter.

The High Court, ruling upon whether Article 8 rights of biological parents remained intact post adoption, took the view that such rights did not survive an adoption order, and were in fact, terminated upon the order being made.

Of significance in this case is the testimony of one social worker, who astutely points out the very real and poignant impact of preventing contact entirely within adoption scenarios. On that point he notes:

“The adopters need to appreciate (in a socially-networked virtual world) that it is now almost inconceivable that A and Ms Seddon will not resume contact with each other at some stage during A’s adolescent/young adult years…. It is also likely one day that A will read the court papers concerning her history and her adoption. She will learn how vigorously her mother ‘fought’ to have her returned to her care, and how they were prevented from maintaining contact with each other. This could fuel her resentment and anger towards her adoptive family and be a disturbing experience for A, which could threaten her lifelong wellbeing.”

In all of the cases we have assisted on, this hallmark, a strong will to preserve a bond and fight for that parental connection when it is being denied, has been present. It highlights the folly of adoption which seeks to erase a child’s biological blueprint, an embedded history which cannot be denied and which grows stronger in an adopted child as they grow older, until the desire for that connection reaches the same profound yearning as that of the biological parents’.

It also exposes a weakness within the adoption process – adoption would be far less attractive to most if it meant keeping a connection with the biological parents. And so this ruling, if one were cynical, could be viewed as a convenient way to preserve the artificial boundaries imposed by modern-day adoption practices designed to make it more palatable.

Thank you to Jerry Lonsdale over at Court and Tribunal Solutions, for sharing the details of this case with us.


Save The Inner Temple Library – A Piece Of History That Belongs To Us All

The Inner Temple Library is a library located inside Inner Temple itself, which is an old quarter in London where lawyers have over the years, lived and worked. It is a breathtaking law library, which houses not only invaluable legal resources but rare works too.

The architecture of the building itself, which is stunning, is a masterpiece of engineering and design. This Library is home to 70,000 volumes, 90 reader places (cosy nooks and crannies perfect for reading and reflecting), and blends old world wisdom with state of the art technology. It is also home to an award winning Library Team.

Now, the Executive Committee are recommending structural changes to the Library, which would mean the upper floor being converted into meeting and training rooms (do we really need more of those in the City?), resulting in a drastic loss of space and books.

The reaction to the proposed changes has already been marked on social media platforms like Twitter. A petition which has been launched to stop the proposal, has already garnered over 1,270 signatures. Poignant in itself because this Library is not just seen as a practical resource, but a place which levels unequal battle fields, and engenders sentimental attachment, too.

For our part, Inner Temple is our Inn, our legal home and its Library also happens to be the best around for Family Law materials. This makes the Library very special for us, and a place we want to preserve.

It is true that the Library is not open to the public as of right, and we feel this is a shame, as it should be, but it is still a piece of history worth saving in its current state. Books in this Library have helped save lives, protect the vulnerable and shed light on often forgotten yet fundamental principles of justice. It is a national treasure, and should be preserved, not torn down for profit.

If you feel the same way, please consider doing as we did, and sign the petition. A world filled with conference rooms and polystyrene cups is a world without soul. Let’s preserve what little meaning is left, one cornerstone at a time.

Researching Reform



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,951 other followers