‘Transparency’, a judgment published and more

Family Law|August 5th 2016

A week in family law

The Trinity term has ended and the summer vacation is upon us. There is not yet however any shortage of family law news:

The Court of Protection pilot scheme which has allowed the public and media to gain greater access to hearings is to be extended by a further twelve months. The Court of Protection makes decisions on behalf of people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. It usually carries out hearings in private. However, when the pilot began in January 2016 this was reversed so that during the pilot the Court will normally direct that its hearings will be in public, with the court making an anonymity order to protect the identity of the people involved. The pilot will now run until August next year. All very laudable I suppose if ‘transparency‘ is your thing. However, I was amused to read that the pilot scheme may not actually have resulted in any attendance at hearings by members of the public unconnected with a case. Still, perhaps another twelve months will make all the difference…

The Court of Appeal has overruled a ban on the publication of the 2014 High Court judgment of Mrs Justice King (as she then was) concerning the Ellie Butler case. To recap, Ellie’s father Ben Butler was recently convicted of murdering her. Ellie had been removed from her father’s care after he had been arrested for assaulting her, an offence for which he was later convicted. In 2007 Ellie was placed with her grandparents, after the family court found that her father had caused her a serious injury. However, her father’s conviction was subsequently quashed and in 2012 Mrs Justice Hogg overturned the previous findings. Ellie was therefore returned to her father, just eleven months before she was murdered. The 2014 judgment related to care proceedings concerning Ellie’s younger sibling, who cannot be named. It revealed that Butler displayed a “pattern of impulsive violence” months before Ellie died, and that he posed a “medium risk of serious harm to members of the public”. It also revealed that Ellie’s younger sibling had suffered injuries at the hands of Butler. Let us hope that the appropriate lessons are learned.

A child who was taken into care and whose parents cannot be found should be placed for adoption, the High Court has ruled. The child was taken into the care of West Sussex County Council in March, after she was found in Crawley. She is thought to be about two years old and has been given the name ‘Jade’. The court took the unusual step of allowing the council and the police to launch a publicity campaign, appealing for information about her. Sadly, no trace of her parents has been found. Mr Justice Hayden ruled that the council had done all it could to find Jade’s parents and that she could therefore be placed for adoption. I’m sure we all wish her well.

A High Court judge has ruled that a woman who claims that her father has kept her locked up against her will in Saudi Arabia must be allowed to return to Britain. Amina Al-Jeffery, who was born and brought up in Swansea, was taken to Jeddah in 2012 by her father, who said he did it to “save her life”. Ms Al-Jeffery claimed that her father took the action against her will after she “kissed a guy”. Mr Al-Jeffery has denied the allegations, but Mr Justice Holman said that she had been “deprived of her liberty” and her father must facilitate her return, by 11 September. All very well, but Mr Justice Holman did accept that there was “little or nothing this court could do” to enforce the order if Mr Al-Jeffery “was determined not to comply with it”, although Mr Al-Jeffery could face contempt of court proceedings if he returned to this country without having complied.

And finally, my favourite story this week was that a survey has revealed the not entirely surprising news that people in relationships underestimate the likelihood of their partners being unfaithful. As the researchers said: “wishful thinking may blind individuals to real warning signs”. You have been warned.

Have a good weekend.

Author: John Bolch

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.

Comment(1)

  1. Bridget Doman says:

    There is no tansparency in the family court and there never will be while it is only what the ‘professionals’ say that is taken notice of and the parents (the children are being taken from) ignored and treated as liars. This gives these ‘professionals’ – social workers, guardians, child psychlogists for example – carte blanche to make things up to take kids into care, especially babies and very young children for forced adoption. These people are a law unto themselves. We need to practise transparency, not just preach it.

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