MIAMs, a domestic violence register and more

Family Law|October 6th 2017

A week in family law

I was grimly amused when I read the latest legal aid statistics, for the quarter April to June 2017, which show that the number of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) in that period was down by 11 per cent compared to the previous year. The figure currently stands at around a third of what it was prior to the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters in 2013. As for actual mediation starts, there were 1,600 in the period, down 24 per cent on last year ago, and the lowest number since legal aid was abolished. Why the grim amusement? Well, when the government abolished legal aid its flagship idea was that there would be far more mediations, thereby reducing the need for contested court proceedings, and thus filling the ‘gap’ left by the abolition of legal aid. However, the number of MIAMs has been going down for some time, leaving the government’s policy in tatters. What makes it even more amusing is that much of the reason for fewer mediations is that many of the referrals to mediation were made by lawyers, but without legal aid litigants don’t have lawyers to recommend mediation. Typical lack of joined-up thinking by the powers that be…

A Welsh MP is to try to introduce a law to create a register of those convicted of offences involving domestic violence. Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts wants anyone guilty of domestic violence to be required to give police their name, date of birth, home address and National Insurance number within three days of a conviction. Police would then be given powers to warn new partners of the persistent offenders about their criminal history, and offenders would be required to tell police of any new relationships they start.

Mrs Saville Roberts is quoted as saying:

“Domestic violence and coercive control are very serious crimes that too often leave victims inadequately protected. Campaigners and charities are telling us that there are hundreds, if not thousands of men with multiple domestic violence victims but currently the onus is on new partners to ask the police for details about their prospective partner’s history, and unsurprisingly, this is rarely done.”

Leaving aside the fact that she has fallen into the trap of suggesting that only men are perpetrators of domestic violence, I have my doubts about this. Can we, for example, rely upon offenders to inform the police of new relationships? With respect, it all seems a little naïve to me.

Moving on, it was good to see Lady Hale being sworn in as the new President of Supreme Court, nearly a hundred years after the first female lawyers were admitted in this country. I look forward to the day when the gender of an office holder is no longer a matter worthy of news headlines.

A billionaire property developer is claiming that he was never married to his ‘wife’, in a bid to protect his fortune. Asif Aziz is arguing before Mr Justice Moor in the High Court that a decree nisi pronounced last November should be rescinded because the marriage ceremony that his ‘wife’ claims happened in Malawi in 2002 never took place, and the marriage certificate was a fake, obtained to get a passport for their adopted child. Mrs Aziz says that Mr Aziz presented to the world as married for the totality of the period between 2002 and their separation, and is relying on the presumption of marriage (as mentioned in this post). She claims that Mr Aziz is only denying that the marriage took place in order to prevent her financial claims.

And finally, the big news story of the week was clearly the one about the Indian civil servant who was harassed and threatened by a pupil he was coaching, after he turned down her proposal of marriage. He apparently attributed her behaviour to the pupil failing her exams and feeling “frustrated”, although whether the ‘behaviour’ he was referring to included the marriage proposal itself isn’t clear. After all, one can understand a person doing all they can to pass an exam, but proposing marriage to your teacher seems a bit excessive…

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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