A WEEK IN FAMILY LAW
The first story I want to mention may, ultimately, be nothing more than one of delay, rather than anything more significant. The Prisons and Courts Bill has been dropped, ahead of the dissolution of Parliament in the run-up to the general election. Amongst other provisions the Bill would have allowed courts to ban the cross-examination of domestic violence accusers by their alleged attackers. The Bill could have been pushed through Parliament before dissolution, in a process known as ‘wash-up’, but it had too many stages to go through, as it had not yet been to the House of Lords. However, there is of course, nothing to stop a Conservative government, if returned at the election, coming back to the reforms set out in the Bill.
Staying with the election (I promise not to mention it again after this), the campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships argue that a poll shows that pledging to extend civil partnerships would be a popular choice for parties contesting the election. The poll, by market researchers Populus, found that 57 per cent of respondents think that civil partnerships should be made available to both mixed-sex and same-sex couples, while only 20 per cent think they should be scrapped altogether. Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said: “This survey adds to the mound of evidence demonstrating that giving every couple the option of getting a civil partnership would be the popular and fair thing to do. Over 76,000 people have already signed a petition calling on the government to extend civil partnerships, MPs from all parties support our cause, and countries such as France, Sweden, and New Zealand and regions of the British Isles like the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and Isle of Man have already shown that mixed-sex civil partnerships are easy to introduce and warmly welcomed.” Somehow I’m not that sure that it’ll be much of a vote-winner…
Moving on, the Owens divorce case is now going to the Supreme Court, at least for the purpose of seeking permission to appeal to that court. Last month Tini Owens lost her appeal against the refusal of the court to grant her a divorce, because she had failed to prove that her husband had behaved unreasonably, despite the fact that the marriage had broken down. As she said, this left her in the appalling position of being “locked into a loveless and desperately unhappy marriage”. We will have to see whether she is granted permission and, if so, whether her appeal is successful. However, it would surely be far better if the government were to introduce a proper system of no-fault divorce, so that this sort of nonsense never happens again.
Government ministers have ruled out intervention in the Charlie Gard case, in which Mr Justice Francis ruled that doctors can withdraw life support from a sick baby with a rare genetic condition, against his parents’ wishes, and despite the fact that they had raised the funds to take him to the US for a treatment trial. Shadow housing minister Ruth Cadbury called on the Justice Secretary Liz Truss “to do the right thing”, but justice minister Phillip Lee told her that the judgment “should be respected”. Whilst I have every sympathy for the parents, this must be right. Parliament should not directly interfere with the decision of a court, made after careful consideration of all the evidence. That would totally undermine the court, and set a very dangerous precedent. In any event, if the parents wish to take the matter further, then they of course have the option to appeal.
And finally, in a piece of news that should come as no surprise to anyone, we have been informed that mobile phones interfere with family life, hampering the family’s enjoyment of each other’s company. In this instance the culprits are parents, but it could equally well be their children. In fact, with the possible exception of those who, like me, are old enough to blissfully remember the days before the mobile phone was invented, I suspect all family members are guilty. Perhaps the answer is for them to use their phones to communicate with one another…
Have a good weekend and Early May bank holiday.
Photo by Clare Black via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.