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Another week, another family review (or two)

View profile for Mike Devlin
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When is a rape not a rape or not a serious rape? If the Minister of Justice doesn’t know, what chance for the rest of us?
 
The Government has been having similar problems with the definition of domestic violence. Why should this concern you? Well the reason why is; the Government reforms will dictate that unless there is a history of domestic violence you will not be able to have legal aid in a dispute relating to contact or residence for your child. The Government proposal is that legal aid will only be granted if there is a conviction for an act of domestic violence or if a court has granted an injunction.
 
Research shows that only a tiny minority of victims of domestic violence actually obtain a court order or involve the police. Will the government bow to pressure to widen its definition of domestic violence or will they use their narrow definition to restrict access to justice? I suggest you write to your M.P. and let him or her know your view.
 
More news: Professor Eileen Munro’s review of Child Protection recommends a shift away from bureaucracy and towards a child centred approach allowing for greater flexibility and the use of individual professional judgement by social workers.
 
This may well lead to more state intervention in families and at an earlier stage to prevent harm and protect children. The big question is, will the Government be able to provide the resources to support Professor Munro’s recommendations? More social workers, more care proceedings, more children being looked after by the State. It all adds up to more public spending – can we afford it?
 
And finally Mr Justice Coleridge the high Court Judge who in 2008 described the system as being ‘in meltdown’ has called for an independent commission in the state of family law .
 
I wonder what next week will bring?
 
By family law solicitor, Chris Fairhurst
 

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