A WEEK IN FAMILY LAW
Statistics for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), for the year from April 2016 to March 2017 have been published by NHS Digital. FGM has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1985 and the law was strengthened in 2003 to prevent girls travelling from the UK and undergoing FGM abroad. The statistics support the Department of Health’s FGM Prevention Programme, by presenting a national picture of the prevalence of FGM in England. Key facts revealed by the statistics included that there were 5,391 newly recorded cases of FGM reported in England during the year; that there were 9,179 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure for FGM was undertaken; and that women and girls born in Somalia account for more than one third of newly recorded cases of FGM with a known country of birth. Let us hope that these facts do assist the prevention of this awful scourge.
The tragic Charlie Gard case has returned to court this week, after Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) requested a fresh hearing, in light of claims of new evidence relating to potential treatment for Charlie’s condition. The case is still continuing as I write this, so I’m not going to comment upon what has happened in court. However, I would say something I believe I have said before about the case. There have been an awful lot of very silly things said, particularly in social media, about the motives of GOSH and Mr Justice Francis, who is hearing the case. The simple fact is that everyone involved in the case wants the same thing: the best for Charlie. I understand that feelings are running high, but if you don’t agree with decisions that have been made, that that does not entitle you to vilify those who have made the decisions.
Babies whose mothers have voluntarily agreed to them being temporarily looked after by the state are at risk of ‘adoption by stealth’, a family charity has warned. A freedom of information request by the Family Rights Group indicated that 127 babies under six months old have been placed with foster carers who are already approved as suitable adopters, since fostering for adoption legislation came into force three years ago. It is not known how many have been permanently adopted, but the group believes a significant number of mothers risk losing their children. It was previously assumed that parents who voluntarily gave up their children to foster care could immediately reclaim them if they chose to do so. However, the addition of the fostering for adoption legislation means that in some cases parents who may not fully understand the consequences of their decisions could find the fostering arrangement turned into permanent adoption against their will.
Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for June 2017, and the upward trends continue. In that month the service received a total of 1,319 care applications, which is a 2.8 per cent increase compared with those received in June 2016. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,913 new private law cases, which is a 12% increase on June 2016 levels, and the highest number of new cases in a single month for more than three years.
And finally, rather than my usual dubious effort to end on an amusing note, I thought that this week I would end on an uplifting one. Family law matters can at times be pretty depressing to deal with. However, I recall that my late father, who was a Justices’ Clerk, often used to say that the happiest times in his court were when he dealt with adoption orders. Seeing the reaction of adoptive parents when the orders were made was a wonderful experience for all who witnessed it. So it was with some pleasure that I saw this week that Stowe Family Law has launched a new adoption services department to advise and assist those going through the adoption process. As solicitor Amy Foweather explains, the process can be daunting, and prospective adoptive parents need, and deserve, all the help they can get. I wish the department, and its clients, well – adoption can positively transform the lives of children and adoptive parents alike.
Have a good weekend.