Court reporters - cAFCASS
Dear Mr O'Connell
Thank you for your email of 21 July, sent to
David Edwards about child contact. Your email has been forwarded
to the Department of Education and Skills as this Department
is responsible for Children, Young People and Families policy.
I have been asked to reply.
I must explain that neither Government Ministers
nor officials can intervene in the proceedings of individual
cases. I can assure you that this is not because of any lack
of concern, but because to do so would undermine the principle
that the judiciary is entirely independent of Government.
Cases which involve the care of children can
be very distressing. In dealing with these cases all judges
and holders of judicial office are expected to display tact,
sympathy and understanding. Inevitably the decisions which
have to be taken are difficult ones and judges may be called
upon to reach a view which will be disappointing or unwelcome
to at least one of the parties. If you have a specific complaint
against a judge then you can contact Ms Pennie Turrell, Judicial
Correspondence Unit, The Department for Constitutional Affairs,
Selborne House, 54-60 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QW. If
you have a complaint about the conduct of solicitors you can
contact the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS),
Victoria Court, 8 Dormer Place, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
CV32 5AE; tel: 01926 820082; helpline: 0845 608 6565; website:
or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Children Act 1989 makes the welfare of the
child the court’s paramount concern. We must put children
first. The Government has no plans to change this principle.
Primary legislation obliges the courts to consider any harm
a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering when deciding
whether or not an order is in the best interests of the child.
It also gives the court powers to protect children and families
Existing legislation makes clear that in any
proceedings under the Children Act 1989, the child’s
welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. The
court must apply the “welfare checklist”, as set
out at section 1(3), which includes any harm which the child
has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
The definition of “harm”
in the Children Act 1989 has been amended by section 120 of
the Adoption and Children Act 2002. This section further defines
“harm” by including “impairment suffered
from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”.
This provision is due to be commenced with effect from January
2005, as the resources necessary to fund the additional public
legal funding of applicants and respondents, which fall to
the Legal Services Commission to meet, has now been identified.
From that date the new definition of harm and the new forms
will be used for all applications for orders under section
8 of the Children Act 1989 (contact, residence, prohibited
steps and specific issues). This will build upon the existing
Practice Direction issued by the President of the Family Division
and the related case law judgments.
The commencement of section 120 will be accompanied
by the introduction of revised court forms. This, taken together
with the Children Act Sub-Committee Guidelines on how courts
should handle contact applications where domestic violence
is alleged, will enable the parties to section 8 proceedings
to make clear any allegations about domestic violence and
its impact on children that may be relevant.
This will, in turn, allow findings of
fact to be made by the family courts at an early stage in
the proceedings, enabling this determination appropriately
to influence the making or refusal of contact or residence
orders, in the ongoing context of the child’s welfare
remaining the paramount consideration of the court. The subject
of the allegations will, of course, be given the opportunity
to respond to them.
We know there are parents who fear violence
toward themselves or their children on contact visits. They
decide not to take the matter to court because they believe
the court would order contact in any event. The new arrangements
should give all parents and their legal representatives the
confidence to use the courts for the protection of themselves
and their children.
Families in Change Team
Vulnerable Children Division
Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
Sent: 21 July 2004 14:58
To: David Edwards; MINISTERS, Dfes
Subject: Re: CAFCASS to destroy another generation
6, The Towers,
21st July 2004
What happens when the mother is abusive and
violent and the family law sytem covers up??
I shall tell you, the father is tortured by
the State and the system acts collusively.
Check the stop press on http://www.familieslink.co.uk
This is not Iraq but at least Saddam Hussein
was given the right to a fair hearing.
Shaun O'Connell BSc PGCE