Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases

Closed 27 Aug 2019

Opened 19 Jul 2019

Overview

On 21 May 2019 the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced a public call for evidence steered by a panel of experts from across family justice, to gather evidence on how the family courts protect children and parents in private law children cases concerning domestic abuse and other serious offences.

The inaugural panel meeting took place on Friday 14 June 2019, marking the start for the three-month call for evidence. The panel members are drawn from key organisations from across family justice including the Judiciary, academia, social care, policy officials and third sector organisations. A primary responsibility of this panel is to gather evidence from individuals and organisations who have experienced this area of family justice either in a personal or professional capacity. This written call for evidence is one of the ways in which the panel are seeking contributions for their consideration.

The call for evidence will specifically focus on the application of Practice Direction 12J, Practice Direction 3AA, The Family Procedure Rules Part 3A, and s.91(14) orders, and will build a more detailed understanding of any harm caused to parents and/or children during or following private law children proceedings. The overarching aim of the call for evidence is to better understand how effectively the family courts respond to allegations of domestic abuse and other serious offences in private law children cases, having regard to both the process and outcomes for the parties and the children.

 

Why we are gathering evidence

The panel would like to hear from people who have direct experience as parties in private law children cases, as well as from those who provide support services to parents involved in such cases, and from professionals who practise such cases.

The panel are particularly keen to receive evidence of any harm caused to children and/or parents during or following private law children proceedings, where there are allegations and/or evidence of domestic abuse or of other crimes creating a risk of harm to children or parents (such as child abuse, rape, sexual assault or murder).

In order to understand how the courts work in practice, the panel has identified specific areas for inquiry including:

  • How Practice Direction 12J is being applied in practice, and its outcomes and impact for children and parents, including its interaction with the presumption of parental involvement in s.1(2A) of the Children Act 1989;
  • How FPR Part 3A and Practice Direction 3AA are being applied in practice, and their outcomes and impact in cases involving domestic abuse or other serious offences against parties and/or children;
  • How s.91(14) of the Children Act 1989 is being applied in practice, and its outcomes and impact in cases involving domestic abuse;
  • In each case, the challenges of implementing these provisions and the nature and causes of any inconsistency and inadequacy in their operation;
  • The risk of harm to children and non-abusive parents in continuing to have a relationship and contact with a parent who has been domestically abusive (including coercive and controlling behaviour) or who has committed other serious offences against the other parent or a child such as child abuse, rape, sexual assault or murder.

Support

This call for evidence asks questions about domestic abuse and other serious offences, private law children proceedings and the impact or harms this may have had on those involved, which some people may find traumatic to recount. Please only answer the questions you feel able to. Services such as those listed below will be able to assist you should require any support before, during or after completing this call for evidence.

Women’s Aid: www.womensaid.org.uk

Welsh Women’s Aid: www.welshwomensaid.org.uk

Respect: www.respect.uk.net

Victim support: www.victimsupport.org.uk

Audiences

  • Citizens
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Youth workers
  • Charities
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Police
  • Prosecutors
  • Victims
  • Legal professional bodies
  • Academics
  • Family mediators
  • Family lawyers

Interests

  • Criminal justice
  • Law
  • Access to justice
  • Family justice
  • Judiciary