Friday, 24 March 2017

Wife of 39 years fails in divorce refusal appeal

Reports from the BBC today inform us of a woman who says she is "desperately unhappy" in her 
marriage has lost the latest round of an "extraordinarily unusual" court fight.

Tini Owens, 66, asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a family court ruling, which said she 
could not divorce her husband Hugh Owens, 78.

But the appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, upheld the original ruling.

However, Sir James did point out that some people would feel unhappiness should be grounds for 
divorce.
The decision means Mrs Owens will have to remain married, although after five years of 
separation she would be eligible for a divorce even if her husband still objected.

The couple married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcestershire.

The Court of Appeal heard that Mrs Owens' case was that the marriage had broken down, although 
Mr Owens disagreed, saying that the couple still had a "few years" to enjoy.

Mrs Owens contended that she had been left in a "wretched predicament", locked in a "loveless 
and desperately unhappy" marriage.

She had made 27 allegations about the way Mr Owens treated her, including that he was 
"insensitive" in his "manner and tone" and said she was "constantly mistrusted" and felt unloved.

Opposing a family court ruling made last year by Judge Robin Tolson, who refused to grant a 
divorce petition on the basis her allegations were "of the kind to be expected in marriage", she 
took the case to the Court of Appeal.

But on Friday, Sir James - the most senior family court judge in England and Wales - said: "We 
cannot interfere with Judge Tolson's decision, and refuse the wife the decree of divorce she 
sought."

He said Judge Tolson had correctly concluded that the marriage had not "in law" irretrievably 
broken down.

Grounds for divorce in England and Wales:
When you apply for a divorce you must prove your marriage has broken down and give one of the 
following five reasons:
Adultery
Unreasonable behaviour
Desertion
You have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to the divorce
You have lived apart for at least five years, even if your husband or wife disagrees

However, Sir James added: "Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you 
find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be."

Appeal judges analysed the case at a hearing in London last month and announced their decision 
to dismiss the appeal in a written ruling
For more information click here

Monday, 20 March 2017

Unpaid child maintenance backlog in UK is £3.8bn

A report by Nicola Ress for the BBC today reveals that there is a UK backlog of more than £3.8bn in uncollected child maintenance payments, figures have
revealed.

The money is owed by non-resident parents and has built up over 23 years, with figures showing
about 1.2 million people are owed child maintenance.

The Department for Work and Pensions said a new system was "actively pursuing" unpaid child
maintenance.
But Janet Allbeson, from the charity Gingerbread, called for parents waiting for money to
receive compensation.

The latest figures, revealed by the Victoria Derbyshire programme, show the vast majority of
unpaid maintenance money was accumulated under the Child Support Agency (CSA) - which was set up
in 1993.

The system was replaced in 2012 after mistakes were made with assessments and absent parents were
not tracked down.

However, a further £93m of unpaid child maintenance has already developed under the new Child
Maintenance Service (CMS) system.

It comes as the findings of a Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into CMS are due to be
published next week.

MPs on the committee are expected to be highly critical of the new scheme.

For more information click here

Friday, 3 March 2017

Poppi Worthington denied justice after litany of police failings, IPCC report finds

An article by Hayley Dixon in The Telegraph today informs us Poppi Worthington has been denied
justice because of a litany of police failings including a senior officer not wanting to spend
£20,000 on forensics and others taking the weekend off, a damning report has found.

Despite the 13-month-old's father, Paul Worthington, being a suspect "from day one" the
"unstructured and disorganised" investigation means that there was no resolution to the case,
the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded.

The report lays bare a blame culture in which the two senior officers, Detective Superintendent
Mike Forrester and Detective Inspector Amanda Sadler, tried to pass responsibility for a series
of failings.

A 2014 fact-finding judgement concluding her father had probably sexually assaulted her yet
charges have never been brought as prosecutors say that there is not enough evidence.
Mr Worthington denies any wrong doing.

Jerry Graham, the Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary last night admitted that the watchdog's
report"makes for uncomfortable reading". But he insisted that changes had been made and officers
and staff have been "properly trained and equipped" to conduct similar complex investigations.

The circumstances surrounding the toddler's sudden death in  Barrow-in-Furness in December 2012
have long been shrouded in secrecy.

The IPCC concluded the report in March 2015 but it can only now be released as the Crown
Prosecution Service have re-examined the evidence and concluded they have no "realistic prospect"
of securing a conviction.

The watchdog lays blame for the lack of evidence on Cumbria police, who on the first day allowed
potentially crucial evidence to be thrown in the bin.

Despite officers having alleged "intelligence" on Mr Worthington and the doctor who treated
Poppi raising concerns that she had been sexually abused, it took senior officers seven months
to launch a criminal investigation, risking the loss of evidence, and eight to arrest him.

Mrs Sadler admitted she had suspected Mr Worthington from "day one", but said that she "didn’t
feel that I had enough experience myself to make any of those decisions on my own", whilst
Mr Forrester denied that he had failed to record it as a crime so that he did not have an
unsolved crime on his record.

In the first explanation of the delays to be made public, Mrs Sadler gave evidence explaining it was a "real shame" that nothing was done between
Poppi's death and the initial post mortem five days later as "because it was a weekend and we
were off”.

Her position was criticised by the IPCC as it suggested that "had Poppi died on a different day
then more actions may have been completed".

It was the first in a long line of delays, and Mr Forrester claimed that he could not do anything
until the full post mortem concluded in June 2013 that Poppi had been sexually assaulted after
doctors initially said she could have just been constipated.

He blamed staff cuts which meant that they could not spend time taking statements which might not
have been required, telling investigators that "an ideal world they would have obtained all the
statements, but this is not an ideal world".

The report states: "D/Supt Forrester agreed that there were actions that could have been done
quicker, he said he could have spent £20,000 sending everything off for forensic analysis, and
they probably could have interviewed everybody in that period; however he also said to do that
meant tying up resources when it was not known if there was any value in doing it."

Statements should be taken as soon as possible so that untainted accounts can be taken and
witnesses do not forget information, the IPCC said as they noted that "not only were there
suspicious circumstances, there was also a suspect on day one".

The IPCC also criticised his claim that e was investigating only the death and his role "wasn’t
to investigate whether Poppi had been sexually abused, either at the point of death or prior to
death".

The comments were cited as proof that the officers were focused on establishing that Poppi died
of natural causes.

When questions were raised about the investigation Mr Forrester allegedly said he would use an
email ordering him to take control two weeks after the death as a "a get out of jail card"  to
prove he was not initially involved.

The IPCC concluded that there was "substantial evidence available to support the contention that
the reason this case has still not reached a resolution more than two years on from the death of
Poppi is because of the unstructured and disorganised approach taken by D/Supt Forrester and
DI Sadler."

IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley described the inquiry as "not fit for purpose".

For more information click here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Divorcees don't need to afford lifestyle they were accustomed to in marriage, Court of Appeal judge says as he rules against ex-wife

Divorcees do not need to be able to afford the lifestyle they were accustomed to in marriage,
a Court of Appeal judge has suggested as he rejected an ex-wife’s bid to increase her settlement.

Katriona MacFarlane claimed that she had not been awarded enough to buy a home similar to the
£1million country cottage she shared with Dr James MacFarlane, 74.

The 58-year-old also claimed she was owed compensation for “abandoning” her teaching career to
be “looked after” by the millionaire.

The judge was correct when he said the previous standard of living is a guide, but not
completely determinative Mr Justice Moylan

But a Court of Appeal judge on Monday rejected her claims and said the previous living standards
of a couple were only a guide when it came to how much an ex-wife or husband deserves.

Mr Justice Moylan said he did not agree that “need should be met at a level similar or comparable
to the standard of living during the marriage”, as this standard was only one factor.

Referring to a previous hearing at a divorce court in Nottingham, where Judge Mark Rogers
similarly rejected Mrs MacFarlane’s claims, he added: “The judge was correct when he said the
previous standard of living is a guide, but not completely determinative. There is no prospect of the judge's assessment of housing need being shown to be wrong."

Click here for more information


Sunday, 29 January 2017

UK judges change court rules on child contact for violent fathers


The reforms are to be introduced in the family courts after campaigning by the charity Women’s
Aid, which identified that 19 children have been killed in the last 10 years by their violent
fathers after being given contact with them by judges.

The changes include a demand from one of the most senior family court judges for all the
judiciary to have further training on domestic violence and to act to ensure women and children
are protected.

Mr Justice Cobb announced the changes on Friday after talks with Women’s Aid, and following
concerns raised in a Guardian investigation.

Cobb said: “It is indeed most disturbing to note that for at least 12 children [in seven families]
of the 19 children killed … contact with the perpetrator [the father] was arranged through the
family courts.

“For six families, this contact was arranged in family court hearings [two of these were interim
orders], and for one family, contact was decided as part of the arrangements for a non-molestation
order and occupational order.”

Since its report on the child murders last year, Women’s Aid has identified another case in which
a child was murdered by a father after being given contact via the family court. The charity is
presenting their updated report to the prime minister in Downing Street on Monday.

Read More

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Three parent babies: IVF clinics told they can create children with two mothers

Sarah Knapton, science editor of The Telegraph writes today about three parent families.
The legal implications are, of course a minefield.
The fertility technique, which was developed by British scientists, allows doctors to replace an
egg’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor to prevent children
suffering debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

It is controversial because it would result in babies born with the DNA of three people -
and effectively, two mothers.

Yet despite concerns, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) today said the
procedure could go ahead when all other options, like screening, have proved futile.

IVF clinics can start applying for permission immediately and after gaining a licence, could
begin practising the new procedure early next year, with the first babies potentially being born
around Christmas 2017.

Newcastle University, which pioneered the technique said it would be submitting its application
for a licence within 24 hours. after lining up several women who already want the procedure. They
have also asked for healthy women under 35 years old to consider donating their eggs
for the treatment.

For the full article, click here

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Public believe solicitors are still best option for wills

Solicitors have been backed as the best option to ensure that wishes written into wills are met, a recent article in the Law Society Gazette informs us.

In a survey by Will Aid, a partnership between the legal profession and top charities, 62% of respondents said they prefer to use a solicitor to manage their will.

Peter de Vena Franks, campaign director, said Will Aid was hoping to continue to work with solicitors to promote the profession ahead of a ‘do it yourself’ option.

‘Drawing up a will is a vital financial planning step but the lure of the cheaper alternatives to solicitors can mean the document is not properly written nor legally binding,’ he said.

Will Aid works with law firms across the country that pledge a portion of their time to write basic wills and waive their usual fees in exchange for a voluntary donation to charity. They suggest minimum donations are £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills.

The donations go to the nine charities involved.

Franks added: ‘While an off-the-shelf will might seem attractive to those who are watching the pennies, it could be money wasted rather than saved.’

According to Will Aid’s research, 62% of people who made a will last year used a solicitor and 12% a will-writer. A further 9% made a homemade will while others used DIY kits or banks or high street services.

The research also revealed that the public were generally unaware of the rules and regulations governing will-writers and that will-writers can practice without proper training, regulation or insurance.
For more information click here