Monday, 19 June 2017

Financial proceedings to be 'de-linked' from divorce

Monidipa Fouzder of The Law Society writes, divorce and its financial consequences are to be
administratively separated in a move that is expected to save family solicitors weeks of delay.

Financial proceedings will be 'administratively de-linked' from divorce proceedings across courts nationally on 19 June following a
successful pilot, family division president Sir James Munby and HM Courts & Tribunals Service
deputy chief executive Kevin Sadler said, in a letter published today.

The administrative de-linking was piloted at the south west regional divorce centre in
Southampton last month.

Munby and Sadler said that the pilot achieved its aim of introducing a more streamlined process,
reducing by up to two weeks the delays experienced by court users as files are transferred
between courts.

Days before the pilot began, Munby and Sadler told family division liaison judges that the
centralisation of divorce and dissolution proceedings into 11 specialist divorce centres in 2015
had 'shone a spotlight on the way in which related financial applications are dealt with and it
is clear that this process can and should be improved'.

Currently, if a contested financial application is made, the whole proceedings are transferred
to a local court. The pilot administratively de-linked financial proceedings from divorce so that
the main divorce proceedings remained in the specialist centre; staff and judiciary at the local
hearing centres worked independently on the contested financial proceedings. Consent applications
remained at the divorce centres.

A separate financial remedy file, with the same case number as the divorce proceedings, was
created at the local hearing centre. HMCTS staff ensured the dates on any decree nisi or decree
absolute were highlighted on the file.

Munby, in his latest View from the President's Chambers, said the time had come for a 'complete
de-linking' of divorce and money, started and pursued by separate processes. However, he
acknowledged the timeline for ancillary relief would be determined by the progress of the

However, Roe warned: 'On a wider note, whilst the president noted in his [latest update] that
only a minority of divorce cases give rise to a money claim, it is important for parties,
particularly litigants in person, to be aware of the implications that there may be by leaving
financial aspects unresolved, without a consent order dismissing potential claims.'

Roe cited the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Wyatt v Vince, which allowed a former wife to
proceed with her financial remedy application several years after divorce.

Family law group Resolution also welcomed today's news. 'Any steps that reduce delay and make
the administration of family proceedings more efficient must be encouraged. This is just one
example of how quite simple changes can make a difference in practice,' it said.

The latest development does not affect the substantive law relating to divorce or financial
remedy proceedings, Resolution added.

For more information click here

Friday, 19 May 2017

Three Girls, a chilling finale put the legal system in the dock

The Telegraph today reviews the final episode of the harrowing story of the Rochade Child Abuse case.
There was no catharsis or closure in the concluding episode of Three Girls, Nicole Taylor’s gripping, damning dramatisation of the Rochdale child grooming scandal. If anything, the sense of injustice reverberated stronger than ever as the final credits revealed whistle-blowing child welfare worker Sara Rowbotham (Maxine Peake) had been quietly scapegoated – and ultimately made redundant – after exposing the authorities’s endemic indifference towards the trafficking of vulnerable teenagers.

Ending on a downtempo note was a courageous gesture from a series that has neither flinched from nor wallowed in the horrors chronicled on screen. A glibber drama would have seized the Hollywood conclusion that beckoned after rape victims Ruby Bowen (Liv Hill) and Holly Winshaw (Molly Windsor) bravely testified by video link regarding their abuse and the accused were duly found guilty. Fade to black and the whole affair would have been wrapped up with a shiny bow.
But it was in its gently devastating coda that Three Girls landed its hardest punches. While the sex offenders cultivating and preying upon the young women were obviously monsters, the facile villainy of the legal system was also placed in the dock. The mendacity – all verified by official sources – was in places breathtaking.

When Ruby’s older sister Amber (Ria Zmitrowicz) was judged an unreliable witness, the prosecution discreetly listed her as a defendant alongside the men standing trial so that her evidence would be placed before the jury anyway. She would only be made aware of the fact when child services, noting she had been prosecuted for sex offences, tried to take her infant away.
The court-room scenes were grim and riveting, with Holly refusing to be cowed by a parade of smug, preening defence barristers. A chilling insight was also offered into the mindset of the assailants – something about which Three Girls had until now proved oddly incurious.

In the witness stand, Holly’s rapist “Daddy” (a unnervingly indignant Simon Nagra) embarked on a rant about the white community’s attitudes towards sex and appropriate behavior of young women. White people, he shouted, trained girls in “drinking and sex” from a young age. Even when confronted with evidence of his crimes, he couldn’t see he had done wrong.
Racial divisions stoked by the cases were sensitively touched upon, too. Far-right extremists chanted and waved placards outside court; later at a town hall meeting, members of the Pakistani community complained they were being collectively held accountable for the crimes of a few. This was the stagiest sequence of the three hours – but a necessary acknowledgment of the tensions framing the prosecutions and their aftermath.
Peake, so devastating in parts one and two, was more peripheral in the final hour as her character receded somewhat. However, there were absorbing turns by Paul Kaye as Holly’s emotionally tortured father and, especially, by Hill and Winshaw as Ruby and Holly.

The outcome of their cases is already known. But the suspense was nonetheless excruciating as they blinked their way through the tears and the defence's inference that they were glorified prostitutes vindictively trying to restore their reputations.

Amid the darkness of the subject matter and the web of official incompetence, their courage was a beacon burning brightly.

To read more click here

Friday, 21 April 2017

Child victims of sexual abuse in families let down by system

An article in yesterday's Guardian informs us that the Children’s commissioner for England
catalogs series of failings and calls for urgent changes to services provided.
Child victims of sexual abuse within families are being let down by the system, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Young people are often left to report the abuse themselves when the authorities fail to pick up on signs, a report by the commissioner’s office found.
Even after their experiences are disclosed, investigations into sexual offences against children tend to take an average of 100 days longer than those against adults, it said.
Victims also often face long waits for therapy, and many are blocked from having counselling in the run-up to their court cases.
Abuse within family environments is thought to make up two-thirds of all child sexual abuse, and as few as one in eight victims come to the attention of authorities, previous research by the commissioner’s office found.
Some survivors have now described feeling abandoned after telling their families about the trauma they had suffered, and in powerful testimonies they spoke of their frustrations at a lack of support.
The commissioner’s office released three reports on Thursday, looking at how child sexual abuse is investigated, the role of schools in preventing it and things to be learned from survivors.
One 19-year-old woman said giving video evidence about the abuse she suffered was “like it’s going on again, the whole thing’s happening again”.
In partnership with the NSPCC, researchers from the University of Bedfordshire spoke to young people aged between five and 19 about their experiences of abuse within a family setting.
Using information from the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service, the commissioner’s office also found that a rise in the reporting of sexual offences was placing a strain on the justice system.
Many teachers feel confident they are able to recognise the signs of abuse, but schools do not always fulfil their potential roles in preventing incidents by educating children about seeking help, one of the reports said.
The commissioner, Anne Longfield, called for urgent changes to the system and looked to the approach in Iceland, where child victims are offered specific services to deal with their trauma.
“It is clear from this research and the heart-breaking stories told by young people within it, that many child sexual abuse victims are being let down by the system,” she said.
“Professionals remain dedicated to supporting the victims of abuse, but urgent changes need to be made to the way it is reported, the role of schools in preventing it and the criminal justice process in child sexual abuse cases.
“The Icelandic ‘Barnahaus’ approach, where services ranging from medical examination to therapy are provided to victims under one roof, has been proven to be successful in overcoming some of these hurdles and I hope it will be trialled in England.”
Dr Camille Warrington from the University of Bedfordshire and lead author of the Making Noise report, said: “We know that child sexual abuse flourishes in cultures of silence.
“Undertaking the Making Noise research project highlighted only too well children’s own appetite and ability to help break that silence.
“It also emphasises the need for us as adults and professionals to improve the way we listen to and talk with children to prevent and respond to abuse - and the benefits that come from doing so.”
Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, called for compulsory lessons in schools to include topics such as sexting, consent and online grooming.
He said children should be assigned an independent advocate to help them navigate the court system when their abusers are brought to trial.
“We hear every day how much children and young people at risk of, or who have experienced, sexual abuse need and benefit from our specialist services, but we know many more need our help too,” he said.
For more information click here

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Domestic abuser must tell police if he gets a new girlfriend

An article in The Guardian caught my eye yesterday

A man who violently abused two former partners is believed to be the first person in England and
Wales who must tell police if he gets a new girlfriend.

Under the seven-year criminal behavior order, Kylle Godfrey must inform police if he is in a
relationship for more than 14 days, while officers can tell new partners about his previous
violent behavior under the domestic violence disclosure scheme.

It is thought the specific requirement to notify police about developments in his private life –
made under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Police Act 2014 – is a legal first.

Godfrey, 30, from Neasden, north-west London, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for
two counts of actual bodily harm, perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation,
throttled one victim and banged her head on the floor, causing trauma injuries to her head. The
attacks took place over several days in October last year.

He continued to intimidate her while on bail and assaulted a second woman he was in a
relationship with, Wood Green crown court in north London was told.

The order was made last week after Godfrey admitted the attacks during a court hearing on 14

DI Jane Topping, of the Hackney community safety unit, said: “This order gives us a new way of
protecting victims of domestic abuse and prevents other women from suffering at the hands of
people like Godfrey, and helps our efforts to tackle domestic violence.

“The victim in Godfrey’s case was subjected to a horrendous ordeal by him following a sustained
campaign of domestic violence. She has shown incredible bravery in supporting our investigation,
and I hope she feels safer now Godfrey is behind bars and will be subject to closer scrutiny.”

Last year a man was given a court order requiring him to inform police 24 hours before any sexual
contact with a woman, despite being cleared of rape.

Magistrates in York said the man, who could not be named for legal reasons, was also subject to
restrictions online and was required to declare to police any phone he owned that was capable of
accessing the internet, calling or texting people.

He was acquitted of raping a woman at a retrial in 2015 after claiming that the alleged victim
had consented.

For more information click here

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 
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 

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:
Unreasonable behaviour
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

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
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

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.