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A week in family law: Forced marriage, unexplained wealth, children in care and more

A package of measures to tackle the crime of forced marriage has been announced by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid. As part of this, a public consultation will be launched to determine whether there should be a mandatory requirement for professionals to report a forced marriage case to the authorities. This will help identify which professionals the duty would apply to, the specific circumstances where a case would have to be reported, and potential sanctions for failure to comply with the duty. The measures have been welcomed by Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, the outgoing head of the charity Karma Nirvana which victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage, but she warned: “I’ve lobbied five home secretaries in my time and heard them talk of their commitment to this issue but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating”, adding that she felt “there is not the right leadership in government to mainstream this issue.”

As I reported here yesterday, a judgment of the High Court may mean that the wife of a foreign banker will lose a UK property worth millions of pounds, unless she can explain the source of her wealth. The woman, who has been named as Zamira Hajiyeva from Azerbaijan, was the subject of the UK’s first unexplained wealth order earlier this year, meaning that she will have to explain how she was able to afford the property without using the proceeds of crime, her husband having been convicted in Azerbaijan of various offences including misappropriation, abuse of office, large-scale fraud and embezzlement in connection with a bank of which he was the chairman. If she does not give a satisfactory explanation as to how it was obtained, then the property could ultimately be seized. Mrs Hajiyeva asked the High Court to discharge the order, but her application was refused. As I said in my post, the case will surely act as a warning to anyone whose spouse has been involved in serious crime: not only will they will not be able to hold on to assets acquired using the proceeds of that crime, they may not be able to hold on to assets if they cannot provide a satisfactory explanation as to how they obtained them.

I mentioned here last week a case in which a family took their child to the Republic of Ireland in order to avoid her being taken into care. Thankfully, the Irish High Court ordered the child to be returned to this country. What I did not notice when I quickly scanned the report of the case was that the parents told the Irish court that before they removed the child they had received incorrect advice from a McKenzie friend to the effect that they were not forbidden from removing their daughter from this country. The case has led to further calls to regulate the McKenzie friend industry. It really is time that vulnerable people such as these parents were protected from those who effectively masquerade as unqualified lawyers.

In a shocking statistic it has been revealed that almost 17,000 new-born babies were taken into care in England in the last nine years. The statistic comes from a report by the Nuffield Foundation which looked at children born into care. The report revealed that 2,447 new-borns were subject to care proceedings within one week of birth from 2016 to 2017, compared with 1,039 in 2007-08. Over the nine-year period, a total of 16,849 new-borns were subject to care proceedings. The research also found that almost a third of all infants coming before the courts in care proceedings did so as new-borns in 2007-08. By 2017-18, this proportion had risen to 42%.

And finally, we have had another scathing judgment condemning the lack of secure accommodation available for children in need. In the case Her Honour Judge Lazarus had been asked by the local authority to make a secure accommodation order in relation to a 16 year old boy who was beyond parental control and involved with gangs and drug dealing. However, she was unable to make the order, due to the lack of secure accommodation places available. She said that this was “clearly a wholly unacceptable situation.  He is a child in local authority care who is at risk from his disordered background and the depredations of gang life.  This is the opportunity to help him and make him safe, and it is being lost.” She went on: “Like my colleagues before me, whose published judgments increasingly feel like heads banging against brick walls, I am dismayed, frustrated and outraged; and to quote the former President of the Family Division from last year’s case of Re X , I am deeply worried about the risk that ‘we will have blood on our hands’.” She said that the case represented “yet another sorry example of the state failing a child in need”, and directed that her judgment be sent to the Secretary of State for Education, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and to the Children’s Commissioner for England.

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, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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