EDUCATION AND TRAINING

We will keep you informed about training events which may be hosted by the FJB or other organisations, and will make educational material available on this page.

Section 20 “Agreements” – a further warning

  |   Case Updates, Education & Training, Latest News

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has issued a stark warning to local authorities regarding the use – or in his words, the misuse – of parental agreements to children being accommodated by the local authority under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

 

In Re N (Children: Adoption: Jurisdiction) (a case which is primarily concerned with the appropriateness of a transfer of a case under BIIA to the Hungarian authorities where care proceedings with a plan for adoption in the UK in respect of two Hungarian children had continued for many months in the English courts and had reached the stage of a final hearing before HHJ Bellamy sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) the President reiterated previous guidance in respect of the importance of local authorities ensuring that parental consent is obtained in proper circumstances.  Consideration must always be given to the parent’s capacity to give informed consent and the importance of ensuring that all relevant information is given to the parent in advance cannot be underestimated.

 

The President also expressed his concern at the frequency with which section 20 agreements are allowed to continue for very long periods before proceedings are issued.  He said he is “exceedingly sceptical” that a parent is able to “contract out” of their ability to immediately withdraw their consent to the child remaining accommodated; such a withdrawal should mean that the local authority must immediately return the child to the care of the parent.  He was envisaging cases in which a parent agrees to give advance notice to a local authority of their intention to withdraw their consent; a step which inevitably allows the local authority time to make an application to the court for a care order.

 

The judgment is worth reading in full.  The very serious significance of a long period of section 20 accommodation and a failure to properly consider the appropriate jurisdiction for the case at an early stage for these two children, who are foreign nationals, is obvious.  The President reinforced the message once again that jurisdictional matters must be raised at an early stage in every case and that the appropriate authority must be immediately informed of any proceedings in respect of European nationals.

 

The comments in respect of section 20 agreements begin at paragraph 157.

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HHJ Bellamy Newsletter 21

  |   Education & Training, Latest News, Updates from the Bench

The most recent newsletter from HHJ Bellamy can be downloaded here.

 

As ever, the newsletter is essential reading for local practitioners and covers issues such as the establishment of the Court of Protection in Leicester, the importance of bundle compliance, (don’t forget our “quick look” guide), radicalisation in the Family Court, pre-proceedings and the increase in the caseload of local care proceedings.

 

 

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Family Justice Day Success

  |   Education & Training, Events, Latest News

Our annual Family Justice Day took place on 9th October and was again a huge success.  The event, at Stamford Court, was well attended by local lawyers, magistrates and judiciary, social workers and cafcass officers, and members of other groups and organisations.

 

This year’s conference was entitled “Vulnerable Adults and Children: Justice for all?”  The main themes of the day centred around the Court of Protection and adults who are “protected parties” due to mental incapacity, and children who are victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE), a very rapidly growing area of child protection.

 

The morning was opened by the Midlands Region Family Division Liasion Judge, Mr Justice Michael Keehan.  He spoke of his experience dealing with the case of BCC v Riaz and the issues that led to the making of wide-reaching injunctive orders under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court against several men whom he was satisfied had been involved in a prolonged, organised campaign of sexually exploiting a young, very vulnerable girl.  He also explained his reasons – having balanced all of the competing human rights at play – for allowing the publication of the names of each of those men.  Mr Justice Keehan then described himself as a changed man following two very different cases he had dealt with in which he spoke directly with the subject children.  He said that the discussions he had held had a very significant impact on his perception of the cases.  He is now a strong exponent of the view that Judges should see the children they are dealing with and hear their voices directly.

 

The conference then heard from Alan Bedford, author of the 2015 Oxfordshire Serious Case Review into child sexual exploitation.  He described the reasons why – only a few years ago – all of the professionals involved in respect of several vulnerable girls over many years missed every opportunity to identify and prevent the serious and sustained trafficking and exploitation of these children by organised gangs of men.  He spoke of the lessons to be learned in this area of child protection, which – it is now becoming all too clear – unfortunately takes place on a massive scale across the whole country.

 

The conference delegates then took part in two group workshops exploring the following:

Placing disabled children and adoption (Dr Sarah Blunt, University of Bedfordshire)

An introduction to the Court of Protection (Joseph O’Brien, St John’s Buildings Chambers)

Domestic Violence and Learning Disability (Siobhan Hunt, Kent University)

Assessing Learning Disabled Parents (Ward Andrews)

Preventing CSE (Alan Bedford)

 

Later in the afternoon the conference heard from Alistair Pitblado, the Official Solicitor.  He focussed on the needs of “protected parties” in proceedings, particularly in the light of the significant reduction in the availability of Legal Aid in private law proceedings.  He highlighted many areas of difficulty for parties and judges in such situations and the lacunas that exist in the current funding available either under Legal Aid or from HMCTS, which – in his view – may lead to potential miscarriages of justice.

 

As ever the day was wrapped up with the raffle.  Prizes were very generously contributed and the raffle raised over £800.

 

We look forward to seeing you again next year for what is always a fantastic event, exploring hot topics in family law.

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RADICALISATION CASES IN THE FAMILY COURTS – Guidance issued by the President

  |   Case Updates, Education & Training, Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Please note the important Guidance issued by Sir James Munby President of the Family Division on 8 October 2015 entitled – RADICALISATION CASES IN THE FAMILY COURTS.

 

Within the Guidance, the President addresses the recent increase in the “numbers of children cases coming before the Family Division and the Family Court where there are allegations or suspicions: that children, with their parents or on their own, are planning or attempting or being groomed with a view to travel to parts of Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State; that children have been or are at risk of being radicalised; or that children have been or at are at risk of being involved in terrorist activities either in this country or abroad.”

 

The President gives guidance about potential applications in such cases, for example care proceedings or the inherent jurisdiction; and also considers the potential applicants in inherent jurisdiction cases. The Guidance  states that all such cases are to be heard by High Court Judges of the Family Division, given the complexity of such cases. It also highlights the importance of cooperation in such cases between safeguarding agencies and the family and criminal justice system.

 

A helpful list of cases is attached to the Guidance addressing key aspects of cases involving such issues. Advocates appearing on behalf of parties involved in such cases should ensure that they are able to address such matters in line with this Guidance and the relevant case law.

 

 

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Tipstaff orders: passport, location, collection

  |   Case Updates, Education & Training, Latest News

The President has announced that with effect from today, Monday 5 October 2015, different versions of the various tipstaff orders will be used in all cases.

 

As at present these orders will be drawn in every case by the court.

 

However all practitioners should be aware of the contents of the new forms in case any modifications apt for the case in question are to be proposed.

 

Here is the link to the website for copies of the new forms:
http://flba.co.uk/blog/2013/06/28/guidance-locator/

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Birmingham Law Society Conference – 3rd October

  |   Case Updates, Education & Training, Events, Latest News

Entitled “The Changing Face of Family Law in 2015”, the Birmingham Law Society is holding a conference in conjunction with Resolution on Saturday 3rd October.

 

Headed by a keynote speech from Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, there is an impressive lineup of speakers, including Mr Justice Keehan, the Midlands Circuit FDLJ.

 

Further details and booking information can be found here.

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Family Justice Day: Bookings Opened

  |   Education & Training, Events, Latest News

Please find attached a booking form and a programme for this year’s Family Justice Day taking place on Friday 9th October 2015 at Stamford Court, Oadby.

 

The theme of the day is Vulnerable Adults and Children: Justice for All? The line up of speakers is very impressive and the day will be interesting and informative.

 

Book now to avoid disappointment, and to get an Early Bird discount before 11th September!

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