Domestic Violence Child Care Cases
Rights of Women (ROW) and London Metropolitan University Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) have published their research report 'Picking up the Pieces' which explores the experience of women in child contact proceedings with violent ex-partners. The findings are shocking, and the experience of the victims is negative. This includes the failure of the courts to investigate abuse, minimise abuse, including the harm it causes to children when approving contact with children and violent fathers. This is really concerning given the changes to procedure brought about by the practice direction to lawyers dealing with violence against women in the last year. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has continued to experience domestic violence after the making of a contact order, or anyone supporting someone in this position.
Conviction Rates in Rape Cases
Last month Dame Vera Baird PCC was outspoken in her criticism of the decision by the CPS to drop a significant number of rape cases. In a move that she described as appalling, she called on the CPS to justify why they have removed 350 cases out of the system in order to increase their conviction rate.
Cases deemed 'too difficult' include those where the victim is young, more vulnerable or those with mental health problems. We applaud Dame Vera for speaking out and we support her call on the CPS to up their game in rape cases. If they drop cases where they deem the victim to be too vulnerable, then they are condemning those most likely to be abused, whilst letting the predatory offenders know that they can abuse with impunity.
Recent Case Law
Akhtar v Akhtar  EWFC 54
This case considered the position of those who have had an Islamic marriage (Nikah) in England and Wales but not had a Civil registration. The Judgement stated that these cases would be recognised as marriages in our courts for the purposes of making an application for an annulment, and also for financial settlement in the process.
This is a significant step forward for our clients and we welcome it.
X (A Child FGMPO)  EWFC Civ 1825
In this case a father appealed against an FGM Order preventing him taking a child out of the country until she was 16 years old. The appeal was allowed and the case was sent back to the lower court for rehearing. The Judgement in the appeal made a number of important observations in FGM cases: in his judgement Lord Justice Moylan noted that the FGM Act 2003 gives real guidance as to the approach to be taken by courts in deciding these applications, and when and how to exercise judicial powers.
In each case he said there had to be a significant balancing act considering:
- The degree of risk of FGM
- Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- The degree to which protective factors can be put in place to allow travel
- Proportionality and the issue of what is the least interventionist means to securing the child's safety
The child's mother was neutral on the appeal but it was opposed by the child's guardian and the local authority. It will be interesting to see how this now plays out in up and coming cases. Both parents had given evidence as to their total opposition to FGM.
Law Society Excellence Awards
We are delighted to announce that we won the national award for medium law firm of the year. We were in a shortlist of 11 firms and we were the only North East firm included. It was a wonderful surprise and great honour.
New office in Middlesbrough
We will soon be opening a new office in Middlesbrough city centre on Albert Road. We are delighted to be extending our specialist VAW/DV services to Teesside. We will be sending an update as soon as the office is open for business.