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A week in family law: Figure, figures, figures… and more

Family Law|Industry News | 3 Jul 2015 1

It’s mostly been about statistics this week, but there has been some other news…

The first statistics came from a Crown Prosecution Service report, which indicated that a record number of people have been prosecuted for offences categorised as “violence against women and girls” in England and Wales. The report showed there were more than 107,000 such prosecutions in the year to April, up 16,000 (18%) on the previous year. The figures are for crimes “primarily” against women, but male victims are also included. They include cases of rape, domestic violence and “honour” crime. As with all such crime figures, it’s difficult to tell whether they are an indication of things getting worse, or an indication of more crimes being reported.

The second set of statistics informed us that the number of children with a placement order waiting to be placed has fallen by a third. The figures came from the Adoption Leadership Board, the national board ‘with a remit to drive significant improvements in the performance of the adoption system in England’, which reported that at 31st December 2014 there were 2,960 children waiting with a placement order not yet placed with an adoptive family. This is a 37 per cent decrease from 31st March 2014 when there were 4,680 such children waiting. In 2013-14, the average number of days between entering care and placement was 594 days, an improvement from 656 days in 2012-13. Latest quarterly data suggest there has been a further improvement to 533 days.

The last set of statistics came from the Ministry of Justice, where new figures show that fewer separating couples now attend family mediation than before the legal aid cuts of 2013, despite government measures of the past 12 months aimed at encouraging people to seek settlements away from courtrooms. The figures prompted the charity National Family Mediation to call for judges to direct more people towards mediation. However, the MoJ figures also revealed that the success rate of mediation is in decline – as I’ve often said, mediation is not a panacea.

Moving on, a solicitor who is in a relationship with his client while she goes through an acrimonious contact dispute is to be investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’), after High Court judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that the lawyer is “in a situation where he cannot give independent professional advice”. The unnamed solicitor has referred himself to the SRA, while his client’s former husband’s solicitors have also raised it with the regulator. The case was also notable for the level of conflict between the parents, which Mr Justice Jackson described as “shameful”. He told them that it was making their children miserable and suggested that they might heed the warnings of the Cafcass officer, who said that she didn’t think they realised how much they were damaging their children, and that they would “lose the love of their children if they carry on like this”. Let us hope that they do, indeed, heed those warnings.

And finally, Mr Justice Mostyn has given an excellent speech at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference in Sydney, in which he spoke of the ‘savagery’ of the 2013 legal aid cuts and powerfully set out the arguments against the cuts. He also said that the unexpected victory of the Conservatives at the general election “surely means that there is no prospect of reversal of these cuts, and that more are in prospect”. A depressing thought. Perhaps those in power would read the speech and realise the error of their policies. One can only hope…

Have a good weekend.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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    1. Devil's Advocate says:

      Well written John.
      We can understand why mediation is not generally successful because it is not mandatory. It is like any act however responsible voluntary orders are only for saving grace measures for those who want to illustrate to the public such a multinational corporations of how wonderful they are!
      When mediation in Family Matters, become mandatory under law then they will work. In cases with the relationship to good family skills in maintaining the best interests of children, then not acting maturely and resolving your differences at mediation will work, especially when if a spoilt attitude results in the loss of custody of a child/ren!

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