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Family courts to be included in new information sharing scheme for child abuse cases

The family courts are to participate in a new information sharing scheme for cases of suspected child abuse.

The scheme, launched by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), will see the police sharing and requesting information on children thought to be at risk with the family courts, social services and schools.

The ‘2013 Protocol and Good Practice Model’ sets out procedures for the ‘disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings’ – i.e. criminal investigation into suspected child abuse and/ or related care proceedings.

Under the protocol, family courts and local authorities will be notified when the police launch an investigation into suspected abuse, but the scheme has also been designed to encourage the exchange of information and documents between the police, the CPS, local authorities and the family courts – although such exchanges will still be subject to standard legal restrictions on the disclosure of sensitive information.

A number of procedures for the exchange of information are set out, including ones allowing the police or CPS to apply to the family courts for permission to disclose material related to ongoing family cases.

The scheme has attracted support from senior judges, the Department for Education, and a number of other major organisations, including the Association of Directions of Children’s Services and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said:

“The joint information sharing protocol is a real breakthrough. Sharing information, such as school files which may help police and prosecutors piece together compelling evidence of abuse, will now be done. All those who have supported this information sharing protocol share a mutual aim of protecting children, and I am confident that this protocol will help us all to do that.” 

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    The tentacles of the state spread ever wider. As false allegations against fathers surface almost routinely in private law cases, will this arrangement work in reverse, with phony information getting “shared” and held by agencies like the police and schools, I wonder? Lord help us all.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    Question – Who’s going to argue against protecting children?
    Answer – Nobody

    The problem here is when does rumour/hearsay become fact?

  3. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Theoretically this scheme sounds like a great idea. Practically speaking we will have to wait and see what happens with regard to implementation of the new scheme.

  4. Andrew says:

    Only judicial findings reached after adversarial hearings should be shared. All else is untrustworthy.

  5. Paul says:

    As social services departments receive copies of court orders, findings from hearings would be known to the principal agencies anyway seeing that the one acts as the paramilitary arm of the other. I don’t see the need myself and certainly what ought not to be made known to police is the vast majority of petty allegations and banal tales of everyday normality which would find its way onto police computers as “soft intell” aka libellous gossip and lies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The other problem here, of course, is that the police are always looking for reasons to intervene and make arrests, because they have quotas that are directly linked to government funding. What the state gets in return is more control over people. And because it is usually a case of mother’s making allegations against fathers rather than the reverse, this is a one-way street in terms of the further criminalization of men in this country. Manipulative and sick is one way of looking at all this. I cannot see anyone in their right mind wanting to be a father in the near future. The role has just been vilified and contaminated by the divorce industry and its blackshirt paramilitias, to use Paul’s terminology.

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