A week in family law: Statistics and more statistics

Family Law|Industry News | 2 Oct 2015 1

The week has been dominated by an avalanche of statistics…

First up, the Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) has published its latest statistical bulletin presenting statistics relating to family courts. The bulletin includes statistics on activity in the family courts of England and Wales and provides provisional figures for the latest quarter (April to June 2015) with accompanying commentary and analysis. Key findings included that the number of cases that started in family courts in England and Wales in April to June 2015 rose four per cent to 59,908 compared to the equivalent quarter of 2014, and that nearly half of new cases are divorce cases. For a little more analysis of the statistics, see this post.

Further statistics were published by the MoJ in respect of legal aid, again for the quarter April to June 2015. These show that the number of mediation starts in that period is up by a third. The number of cases assessed for suitability for mediation fell sharply after the legal aid cuts in April 2013, but over the last year the number of mediation assessments has stabilised at around half of the level they were prior to the cuts. While the number of mediation starts fell by a similar proportion to assessments following the cuts, starts have recovered more strongly than assessments over the last year and were up by 33 per cent in the latest quarter compared to the same period in the previous year. The MoJ says that this may suggest that a larger proportion of assessments are leading to starts now than before the cuts. The statistics also showed that over the last year 64 per cent of all mediation outcomes involved successful agreements, which is actually quite a lot lower than the 79 per cent figure in 2013-2014.

Moving on, a High Court judge has extended an injunction restricting the reporting of details of the divorce of Liam Gallagher and his former wife Nicole Appleton. The pair jointly had applied to exclude the press from a family court hearing in central London this month. Mr Justice Mostyn said journalists were allowed into private financial remedy proceedings to observe as watchdogs, but “not to report specific details of the case”. His ruling slightly relaxes the injunction, leaving it open for the judge who heard the case, Judge O’Dwyer, to provide further details in his final judgment. For a more detailed explanation and analysis of Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment, see this post by Marilyn Stowe.

In another demonstration of the enormously difficult decisions our judges are regularly faced with, a Court of Protection judge has ruled that it would be unlawful for an NHS trust to carry out life-saving treatment against a patient’s wishes. In Wye Valley NHS Trust v B the issue was whether it was lawful for doctors treating a 73-year-old man with a severely infected leg to amputate his foot against his wishes, in order to save his life. The man had a long-standing mental illness that deprived him of the capacity to make the decision for himself. Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that, having considered all of the evidence and the parties’ submissions, he had reached the clear conclusion that an enforced amputation would not be in the man’s best interests. The decision was unusual because in most such cases the court will approve life-saving treatment despite the opposition of a patient who lacks capacity.

And finally (you guessed it): some more statistics, this time from the Department for Education, on the subject of looked after children in England, including adoption, for the financial year 2014-2015. The headline from these statistics was a drastic reduction in the number of children being placed for adoption. As others have said, this does rather put a dent in the Government’s flagship policy to increase the number of children being adopted. However, I agree with the comment of Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, when she pointed out that this was not a numbers game, but rather: “It is about finding stable, loving and permanent homes for children who cannot live with their birth parents.” Quite.

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. Wistilia says:

      The number of Private Law cases are lower than in 2011 and far lower than the peak in 2013 of just under 16,000 (quarter) – It is now just over 10,500 (quarter)

      So the volume of Private Law cases have reduced substantially since Legal Aid was restricted.

      Look at page 10 figure 6 gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388811/family-court-statistics-quarterly-july-to-september-2014.pdf

      The number of cases are lower ‘now’ than in 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014

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