The production of the new practice direction was subject to an entry on this web log about two weeks ago.
Even though only a few of the better judges have started publishing their judgments there are already some interesting judgments published This one is one of Mr Justice Peter Jackson (who I believe to be one of the better judges>. In essence children who were placed with the grandparents have been put into foster care because the grandparents allowed the parents too much contact. There are two points about this. Firstly, people would not generally be aware that this would be likely to happen. Secondly, it raises a complex question as to whether this is actually more generally best for the children and how reliable the assessments are by the local authority and its agents.
This case is one about parents who have been to Ireland. I know of many parents who have gone there. I now recommend that people avoid Ireland as the system there has decided simply to push people back to England. I don't recognise the case reported, however.
There is also a Schedule 1 Children act case that I cannot re-find at the moment which looks at the law around Artificial Insemination. What I note about this case is the magnitude of the legal costs.
Later comment. I have now found it. The total legal costs were £294,000 (see para 12).
It remains, however, that Social Workers are often under pressure to say things in court that they do not believe are true. I know of one social worker who was fired because she wanted a child to return to its parents based upon her professional experience. This arises from the central government pressure on outcomes. The same problem exists for experts as well (I have had whistleblowers who are experts tell me this).
It is still the case that there have been contempt hearings that have not followed the practice direction of 3rd May. I will be particularly interested to see if there are published judgments for some of the cases that I am following. It is also still necessary to get some proper independent scrutiny on the evidence in cases. We also need to ensure that experts are properly independent and fulfil their duty to the court.
I also agree with Sue Reid that we need some form of jury system with greater independence from the state than the childrens panels in Scotland. I take the view that strengthening the case conference is the best way to achieve this. However, too often it is easy to see cases which seem to be fixed from end to end.
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