A WEEK IN FAMILY LAW
Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for March 2018. In that month the service received a total of 1,238 care applications. This figure represents a 3.5 per cent increase in comparison with February 2018 and is the second highest monthly total for a March on record. The highest March figure was in 2017 when there were 1,298 cases. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,599 new private law cases. This is a 5 per cent reduction compared with March last year but a 15 per cent increase compared with February 2018. Overall, the figures do now seem to be stabilising, but they still remain worryingly high, particularly in respect of care order applications.
The dreadfully sad case of Alfie Evans, the 23 month-old boy who has been on ventilation in hospital after becoming seriously ill with a catastrophic and untreatable neurodegenerative condition, is still going through the courts. Since I wrote here last week that Mr Justice Hayden had endorsed an end-of-life care plan for Alfie, his parents have had their case dismissed again by the Court of Appeal, and we have heard that they are seeking to appeal again to the Supreme Court. Now, there has been a lot said about this case by the courts, the media and those involved. However, I think everything anyone with an interest in the case really needs to know is contained in the first five paragraphs of that latest judgment of Mr Justice Hayden, which was published a couple of days ago. What he said must have been terribly hard to take by his parents, but it sets out the awful position concisely, and explains the reason why the courts have taken the decisions that they have. For example, he said that after hearing six days of evidence back in February he concluded “that Alfie’s brain had been so corroded by neuro-degenerative disease that his life was futile.” That judgment “reflected a consensus of medical expertise from doctors throughout the UK, Germany and Italy.” The terrible reality, he said, was that:
“…almost the entirety of Alfie’s brain had been eroded, leaving only water and Cerebral Spinal Fluid. Even by the end of February, the connective pathways within the white matter of the brain, which facilitate rudimentary sensation – hearing, touch, taste and sight, had been obliterated. They were no longer even identifiable on the MRI scan.”
He went on:
“The remorseful degeneration of Alfie’s brain is profoundly unfair. Mr Evans [Alfie’s father] has had to encounter, at the age of 21, an unfairness which he can do nothing about. His frustration is palpable. He often lashes out verbally in his rage against those that love him most or those who are determined to help him. Doctors at Alder Hey hospital have, from time to time, been the victims of his wrath. It requires to be said that those doctors, who have dedicated their lives to some of the most profoundly ill children, have borne Mr Evans’ insults with extraordinary patience, and generosity. Their professionalism and compassion is evident to all who have listened to their evidence and read their statements. It is important to emphasise that Mr Evans has also frequently been warm in his generosity to the doctors and nurses.”
I have gone through this at length here as I think these things need to be more widely known and understood. Contrary to what you may hear elsewhere, no one is abandoning Alfie, or sentencing him to die. The sad fact is that nothing can be done for him. All everyone is trying to do is deal with an appalling situation, in the best way possible.
Finally, a 22 year-old fine arts graduate is reported to be the first woman convicted of the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship, which was introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015. The case was, in fact, rather more serious than ‘just’ that, as the woman had scalded her boyfriend with boiling water, stabbed him, kept food from him, told him what clothes he could wear, isolated him from friends and family, and taken over his Facebook account. She pleaded guilty to the controlling or coercive behaviour offence, as well as wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm with intent, and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. She was also made the subject of a restraining order preventing her from contacting her former boyfriend for an indefinite period. Hopefully the coverage that this case has received in the media will serve as a warning that coercive and controlling behaviour will not be tolerated by society.
Have a good weekend.
Public Domain photo courtesy of freestocks.org