Information Poster for Westminster Debate, “Religious Power: Risk and Regulation”

Not long to go now before our next event in the House of Commons and we have a fantastic poster to show you, which highlights our debate on the 18th November, “Religious Power: Risk and Regulation”. This debate will look at religious authority, its regulation and the extent to which that regulation has failed to safeguard against human rights breaches involving child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The poster was made for us by Clare Whiting, and on behalf of the sponsors of the event we say a big thank you to her for all her patience and hard work (and more patience). You can see our lovely poster below:




Dr Hibbert’s Application To Publicise Patient’s Sensitive Information Denied

Dr Hibbert, a so-called leading family psychiatrist whose practices at Tadpole Cottage were called into question in 2012, both by fellow practitioners and parents treated at the centre, has been denied the right to publish a patient’s sensitive information.

The patient in question was a mother who had been seen by Dr Hibbert, and who subsequently blew the whistle on conduct she suspected was unprofessional and not based in sound medical practice. The mother told her story to the press, and Dr Hibbert’s activities were subsequently scrutinised by the media.

What followed was a bizarre application by Dr Hibbert, to be joined to the mother’s ongoing proceedings in the family court, under the pretext that he needed to show the mother’s sensitive documentation at lectures he was giving around the country as an example of how expert witnesses function inside the family courts.

Dr Hibbert specifically requested the right to share the mother’s medical records and private family affairs with the world at large.

The application though, oscillates from a public interest perspective (the use of the mother’s files for teaching purposes) to a personal one – Dr Hibbert’s concern over damage to his reputation stemming from the mother’s public statements and press reporting of the case. Another party also seeking to apply for the right to publicise the data shared the same concerns over her own reputation.

Other reasons given by Dr Hibbert for the right to publish the mother’s private information included: “to enable well researched articles to be published by highly respected journalists”, to contribute to “a public debate of the role of experts in family proceedings”, and to “balance inaccurate statements already in the public domain.”

Despite these propositions being put forward, no detailed attempt was made to qualify them.

We have seen the barristers’ for the respondent’s skeleton argument and it is truly excellent. Noteworthy is the barristers’, in our view, correct understanding of the law in this area which points to Dr Hibbert using the wrong arena completely to make his point. This application should never have found its way to the family court, being an action inherently based in the law of defamation.

In other words, if Dr Hibbert wishes to address the allegations made by this mother, and others, he will need to bring an action for libel. And we’d like to see him do that. Very much.

Thank you to our brave mother for sharing this update with us.



Researching Reform for Jordans: Survivors of Abuse Must Sit on The Panel Inquiry

This month for our column over at Jordans, we’ve chosen to write about the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Abuse, how it works and why we think the panel should include a significant number of survivors if the inquiry is to make a meaningful impact.

From the important Impartiality Clause which has caused the late chairs for the inquiry so much trouble, to the pros and cons of panel inquiries generally, we examine what the inquiry can offer survivors of abuse and why they should be an integral part of the inquiry process.

You can catch our article Child Abuse Inquiry – Process and Prejudice for Jordans, here.



The Buzz

These are the news stories floating under the radar that we think are worth a mention:


LIP Service – An Introduction To The Divorce Process

Our second video for litigants in person, or anyone who would like to know more about the family court process, is all about the basics of divorce. From an overview of how divorces are processed to some basic terms used, this video offers a simple introduction to the key stages and jargon used.



Data Pack:

Next week’s video will offer an introduction into care orders and the care process. 

Question It!

It’s yet another Monday on time’s endlessly turning wheel, and this week, our question focuses on a startling new piece of research carried out by the LSE.

A team headed by one of the UK’s foremost ‘Happiness Experts’, Professor Layard has been studying which factors in a person’s life might best predict whether they will lead satisfied lives, and the results are now in.

According to this latest research, and contrary to popular conception, it is not money in adulthood or academic success when young which are most important when examining satisfaction levels, but emotional health in childhood.

The authors evaluated the quality of a child’s emotional health by looking at factors such as whether they endured unhappiness, sleeplessness, eating disorders, bedwetting, fearfulness or tiredness during early life.

The Guardian tells us:

“The study claims to challenge “the basic assumption of educational policy in recent years – that academic achievement matters more than anything else”. This claim appears to be an implicit criticism of former education secretary Michael Gove, who instructed schools not to focus on “peripheral” issues such as children’s moral, social and cultural development in favour of academic excellence.”

Our question then, is just this: do you agree that emotional wellbeing is the most important determinant of satisfaction and indeed perceived success? 



Children In The Vine Audio Series: Episode Nine

Based on actual events, this is a serial about the love, hate, anger, panic, occasional joy, dark humour, professional dedication and professional controversy at the heart of the family justice system. The stories feature an organisation of McKenzie Friends – lay advocates who help clients who are representing themselves in legal cases.

The dramas feature cases about public family law (where a public body like a local authority is involved in arranging the care of children), and private family law (disputes between parents, especially over children) .

The cases are controversial and life changing for the families.

McKenzie Friends are a relatively new phenomenon inside the legal system but over the last few years their presence has increased significantly. Today they sit uncomfortably in the court system with fee charging lawyers who sometimes view them as potential competition. But as the legal aid cuts impact on the family justice system and the economy worsens, the small office becomes inundated with requests for assistance. The team of four have to learn to cope with the increase in work and an unforgiving system which makes it almost impossible to resolve issues conventionally.

The team begin to resort to unconventional methods to get to the bottom of the cases they’re given.

Each McKenzie Friend has their own style of working through cases and their own personal motivations for getting involved, stemming from personal experience with the system. They work with limited resources which they share with each other. They learn on the job.

But the team find help and support in the most unusual places. Rogue journalists, renegade MPs and family lawyers come in and out of the agency’s life to help them solve their cases and help the families and children they work with.

This is a story about the next generation of lawyers, who work with the spirit of law as it was intended. Often discriminated against in the court system for not having legal qualifications they slowly infiltrate the system and expose corruption and malpractice as they try to help the families who come to them because they have nowhere left to go.

We hope you enjoy this series.

You can catch the eighth episode, here.


Restorative Justice Week, 16 -23 November 2014

Apparently this month hosts Restorative Justice Week. The name is fairly self-explanatory (the government hopes to bring together people who have been harmed by crime and those who are responsible for that harm to help find a positive way forward), but we’re adding this infographic below, because it sums the ethos of the week up well:



If you want to use the campaign’s many thought-provoking web banner images and posters, you can find them all in the link above…. we’re going to put their twitter banner up on our Twitter page for the month of November and on our website as the header. If you think restorative justice is a good idea, why not use the images on your social media platforms too?

“Scrap Child Abuse Inquiry Panel And Start Again”, Say Survivors

BBC Radio 4 this morning mentioned that as the second meeting between survivors of child sexual abuse and the current Child Abuse Inquiry Panel (minus a Chair) takes place today, a call from Survivors to scrap the entire panel and start again may well cause the discussions to come to a head.

The call comes after the Inquiry’s abysmal track record with its Chairs having to step down and what is being perceived as a less than transparent election process used to choose panel members. And although a small minority of the members have been affected by abuse, only Graham Wilmer’s experience is similar to the kind of abuse being examined in this inquiry – a fact the media have not yet picked up on (presumably they have not read the Letters to the Home Secretary yet).

Quite understandably, survivors of child sexual abuse want to see the whole panel scrapped, and a public consultation process put in place to field suggestions as to who should sit on the Inquiry Panel.

For what it’s worth, we think the panel should have at least a significant minority of survivors on the panel. Without them, the Inquiry is doomed to be nothing more than a PR stunt.

Good luck today, Survivors.

(If you want to learn more about this inquiry and child abuse inquiries generally, check ou the BBC website)

House of Commons Debate on Child Abuse, Religion and Human Rights Welcomes Danny Sullivan

We are delighted to welcome Danny Sullivan as a panel speaker for our House of Commons debate, “Religious Power: Risk and Regulation,” which will be looking at child abuse within a faith setting.

Danny is the Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission for England and Wales. This independent Commission was set up by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales following the review into safeguarding in the Catholic Church in 2007 by Baroness Cumberlege.

Danny has worked in the education and justice sectors. He was Director of Education for the Diocese of Oxford under Bishop Richard Harries. He worked as a senior civil servant with the Magistrates and Crown Courts in London for five years up until his retirement in 2008. Following his retirement he led a project for the Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice in Algeria initiating and developing judicial collaboration between the two countries.
Danny is also a retired Hampshire magistrate having sat in the criminal and family courts.
He most recently accompanied two survivors of clerical abuse in England to the meeting in the Vatican with Pope Francis.

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