Question It!

With a windswept few days ahead of us, there’s no better time to confront a rather blustery issue for our question of the week…..

As the winds of change seem to be making their way through the system, from a new Single Family Court, to a greater emphasis on settling matters outside of court, our question this week, is a simple one:

How have the changes affected you, as practitioner, McKenzie Friend, or parent?

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Unregistered Doctor’s Application To Intervene In Case Strongly Opposed By All Parties

George Hibbert, the psychiatrist who came under fire from colleagues, parents and the media for his questionable practice inside the Family Court, appears to be struggling to become joined as a party to proceedings involving a mother whom he saw at his practice, and who subsequently filed a complaint about his conduct.

The application to be joined as a party to the proceedings is highly irregular and caused concern among the legal and blogging community. The reasons Hibbert gave for doing so was that he needed documentation for complaints he was pursuing against professionals who had spoken out about his own professional conduct. But no one could work out why an application to do that was needed, when other more conventional avenues appeared to be in place.

And it now looks as if the request to be joined as an intervener is being strongly opposed by all parties to the case, including the Guardian and the Local Authority involved. Hibbert has since shut down his practice and voluntarily removed his name from the medical register.

Sources tell us that the request will now be interwoven within a case management order and that the President of the Family Division may shortly take over the case.

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Children In The Vine Audio Series – Sneak Preview

It’s with much excitement (and the usual dose of mischief), that we are delighted to announce a new audio series, which we will be publishing shortly on our You Tube channel.

The channel’s Family Law Season will kick off in September with our Children In The Vine column, which features stories inspired by the very many cases we have assisted on inside the family justice system.

We are collaborating on this project with Sehb Hundal, a very talented law graduate who happens to be a tech maven in his spare time – any graphics you see for the series will have been expertly crafted by Sehb. We are already indebted to him for his time and boundless creativity.

We hope you’ll tune in, in September and that you’ll find the series interesting, and compelling.

See you soon….

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Researching Reform for Jordans: The Voice of the Child Finally Heard. Now, Will It Be Understood?

This month for our column over at Jordans Family Law, we discuss the history of the Voice of the Child as a movement inside the family justice system, and ask the fundamental question: what measures are in place so that children can be understood once their voices are heard?

In the article we take a look at how the Voice of the Child as a movement within the system has evolved and what can be done to ensure that their voices are amplified without unnecessary adult filters.

You can catch the article here. 

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Image Of The Month: Glorious March of Authorities

This month’s featured image is a painting by contemporary artist Albina Kourmirova, entitled “Glorious March of Authorities”. Albina is an accomplished painter who has showcased her work and lectured widely on contemporary art. Albina’s work focuses on the impact the UK family justice system has on families and specifically children, by exploring the themes of power, corruption and compassion within child social care.

Her award-winning work is often raw and compelling and highlights the tensions between established norms which no longer offer children the protection they deserve, and the important work that needs to be done to ensure vulnerable children are cared for properly.

We think this image is rather profound. Faceless, nameless government figures marching over the children they are tasked with protecting as the march, or the ceaseless process, continues unaffected or altered by the impact it has on families inside the system. It is a stark reminder of how bureaucracy and bottom lines can make us numb to the very job we are assigned to do in the first place. That standing by and doing nothing, is as inexcusable as actively causing harm.

Notwithstanding the important message this haunting painting sends out, the artwork itself is stunning, and so this month, Albina’s wryly titled, “Glorious March of Authorities” is our featured image.

Albina Kumirova Glorious March of Auhorities

 

The Little Book – Keep Calm and Keep Them Occupied!

We came across The Little Book a couple of years ago and were astounded to discover a treasure trove of activities, information and engaging commentary for families and their children. And now we’re sharing it with you.

If you’re not familiar with The Little Book, it might just become your new best friend in the next five minutes.  Spanning several counties, including Berkshire, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, The Little Book offers tons of ideas on where to take your Mini Me’s, all beautifully and neatly organised on their online site. There’s even an on-site directory giving you links to party cakes, babysitters, brilliant days out and beyond….

And if you’re not sure about that new restaurant, or want to know if a venue is family friendly, then their Reviews section is your go-to page for all you need to know.

Being that time of year, The Little Book is something of a life saver if you’ve got kiddy twinks bouncing off the walls and tugging at your collar to take them out. There’s masses of fun to be had, with the book never disappointing for inspiration and new ways to keep the kids occupied. For Londoners, it can be a great way to get the kids out into the nearby countryside, or if you don’t want to leave the comforts of the city, the book also offers London-based entertainment for all the family.

If you want to get the goodies in real-time (there are meals out and other wonderful giveaways to be gotten), you can always follow this brilliant little book on Twitter or check out their Facebook page. And you can also subscribe to their super-fab newsletter if you’d like the bounty to come straight to your inbox :)

It’s also a great site for businesses, with wonderful advertising space on offer, inside a publication which is widely read. Many of the businesses advertising, including our very own Chameleon Copy, are small, family or parent-run businesses . No surprise, as the book is read by a lot of families. If you’d like to find out more about their advertising rates you can contact them here.

We’re big fans of The Little Book…. we dare you not to get hooked…..

Children’s Rights, Views and Interests Are Still not On the Government’s Agenda, New Report Claims

Hot off the Voice of the Child Conference, and now numerous statements from government officials looking to prioritise children in family proceedings, comes a report which claims that children’s interests are still not fully fixed on the government’s agenda.

Written by Dr Julia Brophy, Kate Perry, Alison Prescott and Christine Renouf, in conjunction with NYAS and the Association of Lawyers for Children, it aims to balance media access with the Voice of the Child.

The report highlights the need to ensure children’s privacy is safeguarded during the court process, at a time when more transparency is called for both within the family justice system and by the media at large. In it, the report suggests that Parliament should be able to scrutinise media access in such cases.

There are other suggestions, too. In relation to the current policy which is moving towards including Young people’s views, the authors argue that a full-scale consultation should take place to fully weigh up what is being proposed and what children think about the proposals. The authors also appear to indicate that this kind of research might be lengthy, given the serious nature of the issues at hand.

Young people questioned felt that children’s rights, views and interests were still not on the government’s agenda.

Given that Lord Justice Munby, the President of the Family Division is very aware of the need to balance right to privacy and public interest where children are involved, we are not sure whether this research is necessary, and too time consuming, when what we should really be doing is focusing on improving social work, expert training and getting children’s wishes and feelings in the mix when trying to work out what’s best for them. However it will be interesting to see how certain quarters respond to this report, particularly government sectors who seem to be focusing on child welfare for the time being.

You can access the full report here.

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Question It!

It’s Summer proper, with all that that entails and up for debate this week is the notion of The Voice of The Child.

In his speech last week, Simon Hughes, our Justice Minister, talked about focusing on making children central to family law proceedings. Speaking at The Voice of The Child Conference, he suggested that the government would be implementing the following:

  • Ensuring children were made aware of their rights during proceedings;
  • Allowing children to meet with judges, not just to learn about how the court process works, but to express their wishes and feelings directly;
  • Creating proper pathways which would allow children to give CAFCASS their views in writing;
  • Giving children the ability to give feedback about their experience of the process;
  • Making it law that all children involved in proceedings must have their views heard before any decisions are made;
  • That these measures will be available to all children aged 10 and over (Hughes says that age threshold was chosen because it is also the threshold for Criminal Responsibility, suggesting that if a child is old enough to be held responsible at 10 for a crime, then they must also be able to express their views about their future).
  • Where children below 10 wish to have their views heard, they will be able to do so;
  • Children who are vulnerable will need to be treated differently to those who are not in terms of expression, and may need someone to express their views on their behalf;
  • To make the Voice of the Child central to family mediation processes.

Our question to you this week, is just this: do you agree with the proposals?

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As The Home Affairs Committee Publishes Its Report on Sham Marriages Today, Were We Right About Rapisarda?

This just in.

The Home Affairs Committee has this morning published its report on the work of the Immigration Directorates, which looks at sham marriages in the UK and the apparent increase in this industry to secure immigration rights. 

The report suggests that the problem is now a large-scale one and one which needs greater powers to tackle. The Committee explains that sham marriages provide UK residence rights not to one person, but to other family members as well.

The Home Affairs Committee make several recommendations, including:

  • A change in the law so that if the Home Office enforcement team do not act on a section 24 report from the Registrar and the Registrar is confident the wedding is a sham, then the Registrar should have the power to cancel the wedding.
  • Allowing The Home Office to provide training on how to identify potential shams and to provide full, accurate and timely information to the Registrars to tell them what action is being taken as a result of their reports.

In a statement on Parliament’s website, Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Commitee says:

“There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control. Marriage is a precious institution and should not be hijacked to make a mockery of the law or our immigration system.

The estimated 10,000 sham marriages appears to be increasing at an alarming rate. One sham marriage can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here.

The role of Registrars is critical. The Home Office should not only provide them with better feedback and training on reporting but also empower them to stop suspicious marriages.

Data is not being collected in a consistent manner across the UK. We cannot afford for any town or city to become a back door entry to our country. The Government needs to publish the total number of interventions, arrests, prosecutions and removals to prove that action is being taken.

It is absurd that we willingly accept as valid, marriages where the two parties do not attend the ceremony. This allows an easy ticket into the UK and this proxy marriage loophole must be closed immediately. Without taking these steps the Government will never get a firm grip on a situation which is spiralling out of control.

The backlogs continue to blight our immigration system with no appreciable reduction. The use of the term service standards is a way of moving the goal posts to relieve the pressure. The Home Office need to act now to ensure this problem is fully cleared as soon as possible.”

Given what we know about  the case of Rapisarda, it is very likely, as we suggested when Munby’s Judgment was first published, that this case does indeed involve sham marriages with the intent to secure UK residence.

Despite Mr Vaz’s obvious rancour at the industry, we hope the government will treat this issue with the sensitivity it deserves. We can’t imagine what it must be like fleeing from war-torn countries or escaping hardship.

 

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