RR For Huff Post: I Raped You – Now I Want Contact.

Our article in the Huffington Post this month looks at the phenomenon of rapists who go on to ask for contact with the children they produced out of rape.

This is a particularly difficult area to write about due to the cultural and evidential problems surrounding rape, so the article focuses on incidents of undeniable rape as its starting point.

In the piece we look at the right to contact through the eyes of the children involved and a little explored area which sees fathers asking for contact only after they have been ordered to pay maintenance by a court.

What do you think? Is contact in this context ever justified?

You can read our article here. 

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Lawyers, These Cases Need Representation Urgently – Can You Help?

After our meeting with Legal Action For Women, we were made aware of several family law cases which were in urgent need of legal support. If you are able to help, or know of anyone who might, please do take a look below and pass the details on if you can.

The cases are based in London, Portsmouth and Manchester. 

Cases looking for legal representation:

Parents of two young children (2 and 3) needs help to lodge an appeal against a placement order – deadline is now but will have to be out of time as they haven’t even had transcript of judgement yet (only court order).  Hayes, West London

Young parents of two young children facing final adoption hearing after being refused permission to appeal, no date yet but any advice or help about what they can do.  London.

Mum whose 6 year old is up for adoption final hearing is 23 February and has no lawyer.  Also wants to challenge placements of two other children in long-term foster care with relatives.  Portsmouth.

Family who want to challenge placement orders of 3 children including one who has reported sexual abuse in foster care and has been moved to a residential home. Final adoption hearing for 6 year old just taken place without a lawyer.  Manchester.

Please contact Legal Action For Women at law@allwomencount.net if you’re able to offer assistance.

Thank you so much and good luck,

Researching Reform

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“Going To A Home Where You Knew You Weren’t Loved, Or Probably Even Wanted.”

We’ve just come across this incredibly moving video produced by Upworthy, and we felt we had to share it.

A man speaks about his life in foster care, how he found himself inside the system and what happened to him once he was removed from his family. But the story doesn’t end there, and there are some controversial elements which we know many of our readers will find unsettling.

We’re not referring to the fact that the man in this video is gay – Researching Reform champions all loving, voluntary relationships – but to the choices the man and his partner make in deciding who to adopt.

In the short film, we are told that the man and his partner resolve to adopt children in their local area, but will only take children under the age of five. This is an astounding admission, not just because it echoes what we already know about foster carer preferences when it comes to young children, but also because this man was in foster care himself.

We are told that when the couple eventually decide to adopt, they find themselves going to court to fight for the adoption orders. The film suggests that this was due to the fact that the couple are gay and there were concerns at the time that they would affect the children’s sexual orientation and general development (these events took place during the very beginning of the tide turning in relation to gay parenting, so prejudice was high), but what we don’t know is whether the biological parents were also fighting these adoption orders.

However, the couple do go on to look after four vulnerable children and make some wonderful life choices, selfless life choices for these children which are deeply inspiring. The video makes some insightful observations as well, the first of which is how these children inside the system still turn up on carers’ doorsteps with rubbish bags holding their possessions. This observation is what compels the man in this film to make Comfort Cases.

This is a video about the US foster care system, so we don’t know how children’s belongings are kept in our care system, but we would love to hear from anyone who knows.

There is a point in the film where the man tells the interviewer that whilst they faced terrible prejudice as gay parents and they themselves were unsure about how they could make it all work, they knew three things: that the children needed love, to feel safe, and to feel wanted.

These three things are to our mind, the only three things that matter when parenting a child, and these very things continue to be ignored by our own care system.

Please do share this video with anyone you think may want to see it. It was made for children in foster care.

Researching Reform Meets Legal Action For Women

Legal Action For Women (LAW) very kindly invited Researching Reform to come to their office in Kentish Town yesterday, to talk about child welfare.

Dedicated to offering support for low income women, Legal Action For Women garnered media attention this year after publishing a report entitled, ‘Suffer The Little Children‘, which looks at some of the underlying causes for the sharp rise in the removal of children from their mothers inside the Family Justice System.

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We met with Anne Neale, co-author of the report, and Kim, who talked to us about the work they do, the campaigns they are currently working on and the organisation’s continued efforts to lobby government in order to raise awareness around the importance of motherhood.

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Anne Neale

 

LAW is currently working in several different areas, including the Children and Social Work Bill and its content on adoption, service privatisation and the ‘opt out clause’.

If you’d like to get involved or get in touch with LAW for support, you can do so by calling them on: 020 7482 2496. If you have access to email, they would find it easier if you could reach out at law@allwomencount.net.

We would like to thank LAW for inviting us to learn about the vital work they are doing, and for the very delicious lunch they kindly gave us, too.

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Government: Children Have No Right To Talk To Judges

Despite promising to give children a greater voice in the Family Court the government still seems to be doing nothing, after it confirmed that the Ministry of Justice never enacted a policy allowing children to speak to judges.

This information came to  light after Researching Reform made a Freedom Of Information Request asking what progress had been made allowing children to speak to family judges about their cases. You can see the request and the Ministry of Justice’s full response, here.

We’ve added the section which confirms the government’s inaction, below:

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In 2014, the government pledged to make sure that children going through the family courts would be able to speak to judges about their wishes and feelings.

Whilst the Freedom Of Information response from the Family Justice Policy Division blames the last government for failing to implement this policy, that’s not quite right.

Dr Phillip Lee, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Victims, Youth and Family Justice in 2016, confirmed that the current government was working on this policy only 4 months ago, in October 2016.

Dr Lee had this to say at the Family Justice Young People’s Board 2016 Voice of the Child Conference:
“Guidance on children’s participation in proceedings is key to the voice of the child agenda. It is vital that we get this right, so the judiciary, Cafcass and Ministry of Justice are working carefully on this.  We need to explore ways to balance children’s stronger involvement in proceedings about them, while also making sure the system continues to operate effectively at this time of increasing demand and pressure. We will, of course, listen to your views in getting that balance right.”

This begs the question – is Dr Lee lying about the government’s agenda on this policy or is the response to our FOI request a little shoddy?

Either way, we will be inviting Dr Lee to clarify the position. Twitter: @DrPhillipLeeMP

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Judge: Sentences For Paedophiles Too Lenient

A judge has come forward and spoken to the press to say that current guidelines for sentencing paedophiles are far too lenient.

Under the current legislation, Judge Ticehurst felt he had no choice but to let a paedophile who had over 2 million child abuse videos, walk free. 

The article tells us that the collection of videos was so large officers were unable to categorise them all. Shortly after being bailed, the suspect then went home and downloaded a further 2,231 sexual photos and videos of girls aged 8-16. The suspect told the police that he did not view the girls in the videos as human.

Judge Ticehurst wanted to impose a jail term and a rehabilitation order, but suggested that he could not do both. As a result of national guidelines, he could have imposed a two year sentence, but the convicted paedophile would only have to serve six months – not enough time to complete treatment within a rehabilitation order.

Whilst some might argue that people who wish to look at child pornography should have the right to do so as long as they don’t assault children in the real world, the act of watching what is really child sexual abuse fuels a demand and places children at risk of exploitation in order to satisfy that demand. The law has been put in place to try to address this issue and deter people from watching and downloading images and videos of child abuse. But the law is not working.

Part of the reason why the law is failing to protect children in this context has to do not only with the overly lenient sentences which still exist, mainly because they don’t allow judges the opportunity to imprison convicted paedophiles for terms which protect the public, in this case minors, from visual and physical exploitation, but also because the law is not very effective when used as a deterrent. We know that some paedophiles are not put off by the law, as they continue to download images and videos and also physically assault children in the real world.

There is huge debate over whether paedophilia is a mental illness, and when paedophiles sexually assault children whether they can be cured of their urges. To date, science and psychiatry have not been able to offer any concrete solutions, with controversial ideas like castration and libido reducing  drugs being at the forefront of today’s debate on the issue.

The law in this area does need to be looked at, though. At the end of last year we wrote an article for Lexis Nexis about this, looking at sentences for paedophiles both in recent and non recent child abuse cases. 

There’s lots of work to do.

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Judge David Ticehurst

Channel 5: Mother Or Monster?

Channel 5 is airing a documentary tonight which looks at mothers accused of child cruelty.

The short film takes us through the criminal justice system “from crime to verdict”, and explores how the child protection sector works, or doesn’t.

There’s already a lot of debate about this documentary over on Channel 5’s Facebook page, which you can check out here.

The programme is on tonight at 9pm.

Very many thanks to Linda Black for alerting us to this development.

Hashtag #MotherMonster for Twitter.

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Question It

Welcome to another week.

Australia’s child abuse inquiry will be starting to look at the controversial question of the confession box and child sexual abuse as part of its investigations this month.

The Church is arguing that the confession box must remain confidential and that priests should not be placed under a legal duty to pass on child abuse information they receive during confession.

Over the next few weeks the royal commission will examine a range of areas including the sacrament of confession, celibacy, and why child abuse was so prolific in Catholic institutions.

At the moment in the UK there is no legal duty on priests to pass child abuse allegations to the police or other bodies. England and Wales are currently considering implementing a duty to report child abuse through a consultation which is now analysing the data it’s received, and will be investigating which organisations and professionals should be included in any duty to report.

Our question this week is a simple one: do you think the duty to report child abuse should include priests who hear details about abuse during confession? 

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‘No Duty’ On Councils To Get Parents’ Consent For S.20 Arrangements

A recent ruling in the Court Of Appeal suggests that local authorities do not have to get parents’ permission before placing children in accommodation under S.20 of the Children Act 1989.

The Court took this view because the law addressing S.20 arrangements is silent on the issue of parental consent and because both parents in this case were subject to bail conditions, and so not legally able to mount an objection around consent. The Court of Appeal also went on to say that a failure to get consent may not necessarily constitute negligent or actionable behaviour on the part of the local authority.

Whilst the Children Act 1989 doesn’t mention whether or not consent is required, S.20 arrangements are meant to be collaborations between parents, children and the local authority, so whilst the Children Act doesn’t expressly state consent is required, it is implied.

The entire provision is based upon understanding and agreement – what could be a more basic condition than consent in this context? Consent in a legal sense too, is the most fundamental element in any agreement, and should never be waived by a court.

And in the case of S.20 arrangements consent is incredibly delicate and presents a Catch 22 for parents. That is because S.20 is used as a measure of co-operation by local authorities, to see whether parents are willing to work with them. This practice has resulted in local authorities using S.20 to secure care proceedings where parents were thought to be un-co-operative because they did not consent to the arrangement being offered. This is not how the legislation intended S.20 to be used, but it is this kind of culture creep inside the system which both directly and indirectly wears away at family and child rights.

It’s also officially poor practice not to get consent from parents in the first instance. President Of The Family Division James Munby has made it clear in guidance that consent is necessary when putting together S.20 arrangements. Moreover, a failure to do so could still result in legal action against the local authority involved.

In spite of all that, this ruling does not affect a parent’s right to remove a child from council accommodation under S.20 – so if an arrangement is made and you or your child don’t like it, if you have parental responsibility or your child is 16 or over, they can leave at any time. Children are also entitled to have their say over S.20 accommodation plans – this legal right is set out under S.20(6).

At a time when councils are looking to cut costs, this judgment is a reckless one and it sustains the myth that families’ rights are somehow subservient to local authority obligations. Councils could now take the view that they don’t have to spend their already limited time and resources getting parents to agree to S.20 accommodation arrangements for their children. We would suggest councils think twice before bypassing parental consent – any future legal action will be far more costly.

The Addams Family: An Evilution

 

 

 

 

In The News

The news items that should be right on your radar:

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