Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nollaig chridheil huibh

Seasons Greetings to everyone. And a special thought for those of you apart from your children at this time of year.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Marilyn Stowe has just written a post inspired by the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" and I can't resist posting a video of the version sung here by Rufus Wainright.

PS Why are lawyers like ogres?


News Roundup 3

The Ministry of Justice announced the opening up of family courts in England & Wales to greater scrutiny in this press release yesterday. Jack Straw's announcement is available here and a statement from Sir Mark Potter, President of the family Division is here.

The BBC reports the sad case of Sean Denton who died last year aged 18 months. Apparently both Sean's parents had been previously convicted of manslaughter and two months after his birth Sean was taken off the at risk register as his parents were showing no reasons for concern. Sean's father committed suicide and shortly afterwards his mother killed Sean and then committed suicide believing the that the family would be reunited after death.

The defeat by the European Parliament of Britain's opt out from the EU's 48-hour working week was reported by The Times today. I think this is good news for children as according to the Fatherhood Institute UK fathers work the longest hours in the EU.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do Wives Lose Out?

In his final article considering what are in his opinion three systematic failings in the way pension issues are settled in most divorces that causes a wife (or rather 'the person with the smaller final salary pension') to lose out Nigel Bradshaw of the Ancillary Actuary looks at the affects of wives opting for a credit under a pension sharing order.

Sharing the CETV 50/50 does not necessarily give 50/50 actual value to both parties, and definitely not 50/50 income. Pension schemes give higher benefits to the original pension member than the ex spouse recipient of a pension credit receives. As I said in an earlier post Problems With Sharing Pensions on Divorce during July one thing which would help is requiring pension schemes to provide information so divorcing couples could at least make informed decisions.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Congratulations, Chris ....

.... family and Sarah. It couldn't have happened to a nicer man.

Photo BBC


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Roland Cook

Yesterday at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Hodge sentenced a man to prison for attempting to murder his former wife 13 years after their divorce.

According to The Telegraph Roland Cook lived in a blackened out van for a week before he attacked her with an axe so hard that her spine was severed by one blow and she will now spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. After the attack Cook spent some time in the State Hospital at Carstairs before he was found sane and fit to plea, although suffering from a personality disorder. Cook was left in a "state of despair"after being unable to carry out his plans to see his 3 children, he could not explain how this caused the attack.


Friday, December 12, 2008


Sometimes I'm rather glad I'm not young anymore. According to a comment on the Neatorama blog 'the best way to pick up chicks is to make Pac-Man ghosts out of snow covered mailboxes.'


Legal Aid Cases Down

Earlier this week the Scottish Legal Aid Board published it's annual report. Legal aid spending in Scotland totalled £155.1 million in 2007-08, a rise of 3%, despite a 12% drop in the number of cases. Of the £155 million, £126.4 million went to solicitors, £21.6 million to counsel and £18.1 million was spent on outlays. The civil legal aid bill rose 2% to £39.8 million. Children’s advice and assistance fell by 20% to 4,678 and Children’s legal aid grants fell by 6% to 4,206. key legal aid facts and figures 2007-2008 are available in pdf format.


Confidentiality, Loosing Out & Sharia

In Marylyn Stowe's post 'Kitchen Confidential – by guest blogger Jonathan James' the misuse of documents and information during divorce proceedings, in particular copies of documents “left lying around” are considered in light of the recent English case White v Withers & Anor [2008] EWHC 2821 (QB)

Nigel Bradshaw of the Ancillary Actuary highlights two of three systematic failings in the way pension issues are settled in most divorces that causes a wife, or rather 'the person with the smaller final salary pension,' to lose out. The first fault, using CETVs for valuing final salary pensions is explained here and the second, the common practice of discounting, or reducing, a pension value when offsetting, is here.

I think it's right to question the logic of discounting a pension for offsetting purposes in divorce. From a finances POV I don't understand the idea that assets which can't be readily accessed are less valuable than those that can. I've never come across this in other countries apart from in England. Is it an American idea? (I always blame the Americans first and actuaries second)

Liquidity is not fixed and can vary depending on willing buyers and sellers in the market so is often only available in rising markets. Therefore there is no guarantee a house is a liquid asset all the time either.

John Bolch of Family Lore posts regarding the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain launch at the House of Lords. The campaign is seeking legislation to curb the influence of sharia law in Britain. You can add your support by signing the Sharia Petition.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Judicial Misadventure

In the wake of barrister and part-time judge Constance Briscoe appearing in the High Court as a defendant in a libel action brought by her own mother and the surprise resignation of Sheriff Andrew Lothian following allegations about his private life Helen MacKenzie of CaseCheck has written an article The Good, the Bad and the Ugly looking at other examples of judicial mishaps.

Allegedly a Judge was removed from the bench by the Virginia Supreme Court, after trying to encourage parents to resolve a Christmas visitation dispute by tossing a coin. It was found flipping a coin does not fully uphold the dignity of the judiciary (Times Online). Earlier in another case the same Judge ordered a woman to drop her trousers in court so that he could see a stab wound.

South Texas Justice of the Peace Gustavo Garza suggested parents could spank their errant children with the wooden 'paddle' in court instead of paying a fine. The parents of one teenager, who was struck, have now filed a claim against him. (

In a drug trafficking case Australian judge Ian Dodd appeared to be asleep for periods of up to twenty minutes at a time and a retrial has been ordered. (Daily Mail)

US Judge Robert Restaino was removed from office last year after he jailed the entire courtroom (46 people) when no one admitted to owning the mobile phone that had gone off in court during a domestic violence hearing. (BBC)


Comparing Apples and Oranges

..... Or in this case homicide with death statistics.

In an earlier post Accuracy I wrote about the confusion over the number of children dying as a result of abuse. Previously based on figures from Government homicide statistics the NSPCC estimated on average one child a week dies from abuse. In a recent report Ofsted said the the figure was 282 deaths over a 16 or 17 month period (depending on which news report you read!)

According to The Independent yesterday Christine Gilbert, the chief executive of the children's services watchdog, told a hearing of the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families that of the 282 cases of child deaths Ofsted had investigated most were a result of abuse and the remainder, 72, had died of other causes such as road accidents. This would put the average figure of 3 child deaths a week. So it appears the NSPCC's estimate is an oversimplification.

This together with the UCL Institute of Child Health research conclusions that found child maltreatment, including neglect, could be ten times the official rates is pretty depressing news.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Parent Wars: Contact Enforcement

The measures in the Children & Adoption Act 2006 take effect in England & Wales as of today enabling judges to send parents in breach of contact orders to attend parenting classes, pay a fine or compensation. Those who do not comply can be ordered to do community service.

My reservations about overstretched courts not having the resources are echoed in The Times and there are doubts as some lawyers and solicitors fear the measures could backfire and inflame family relations.

10/12/08 Updates;-
Lucy Reed of Pink Tape rightly points out in this post that the Times article is slightly misleading in that courts already have the power to imprison and the new measures may lead to even fewer committals. Also a person subject to an enforcement order will be punished for contempt of court but not criminalised by the provisions as suggested.

In his post New Children Act Forms John Bolch of Family Lore describes amendments to the existing Children Act form C1 and the newly prescribed Children Act forms brought about by the Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules 2008.



Over the weekend I've added a few widgets to my blog so now you can see updates from my blog roll, read the blog in any of 35 languages and there is a video bar at the bottom of the page.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Child Maltreatment

Last week Professor Ruth Gilbert, University College London Institute of Child Health, launched a series in The Lancet on child maltreatment. Professor Gilbert reports that child maltreatment remains a major public health and social welfare problem in high-income countries. Every year, 4–16% of children are physically abused and one in ten is neglected or psychologically abused. During childhood, between 5% and 10% of girls and up to 5% of boys are exposed to penetrative sexual abuse, and up to three times this number are exposed to any type of sexual abuse. However, official rates for child maltreatment are over ten times lower than these.

The authors conclude "Child maltreatment is common, and for many it is a chronic condition, with repeated and ongoing maltreatment merging into adverse outcomes throughout childhood and into adulthood. More attention needs to be given to neglected children. There is mounting evidence that the consequences of childhood neglect can be as damaging - or perhaps even more damaging - to a child than physical or sexual abuse."

For those who have three quarters of an hour to spare highlights from the press conference to launch the series are available here in mp3 format.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forced Marriage Consultation

As I said in my post regarding the introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Scottish Government are launching a consultation to explore whether legislation can add to the protection to those forced into marriage in Scotland. "Whether to marry and to whom should be a decision entered into freely," Communties Minister Stephen Maxwell said. "Forced marriage is a violation of human rights, an infringement of liberty and an abhorrent practice which has no place here in Scotland."

The paper Forced Marriage, A Civil Remedy? is available from the Scottish Government and the consultation is open until 28 March 2009 The freephone line – 0800 141 2759 – will be open from 5 December 2008 until 5 March 2009. The questionnaire is also available online at

Thanks to The Journal for the lead.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Petition 1197

This is a video of the Public Petitions Committee considering a petition by Bill Alexander calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to reform the legal system to adopt the Scandinavian system of allowing unrestricted access to legal representation before the court for example by allowing non-lawyers to appear in court on behalf of other parties.   At present only solicitors who are members of the Law Society of Scotland have Rights of Audience.

The Committee agreed to seek responses on the issues raised in the petition from the Scottish Government, Faculty of Advocates, Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Law Commission and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Nigel Don, Scottish Nationalist MSP who sits on the Justice Committee, appears then to go off on a tangent about party litigants. He said it isn't wise for someone to represent themselves bearing in mind a lawyer is an officer of the court and isn't there just to represent their client, but to assist a court to come the right answer.

I can't help thinking if a solicitor is there to assist the court come to the right answer and not just represent their client what is the point in both parties having a solicitor? Also whilst I agree being a party litigant is not advisable I do believe that the law should be accessible for the ordinary person in the street to represent themselves should they wish.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lone Parents to Work

The DWP has released a report, Realising potential: A vision for personalised conditionality and support by Professor Paul Gregg a Bristol University academic today. Reforms abroad have created strong links between increased support and an increased requirement for individuals to take up the support provided. It is said this is particulary true in the Scandinavian countries. A vision is set out for a single regime, where virtually everyone claiming benefits and not in work should be looking for or engaging in activity to help them move towards employment. Lone parents with youngest children aged one to seven should be expected to improve their employment prospects as a condition of benefits. Research has found children may gain from their parents being in work (Millar & Ridge, 2001) but it has also shown that there are limits to the benefits to be gained from working. For example, the report says evidence suggests that parental employment may not be beneficial for the development of children under 12 to 18 months old.

This seems short sighted when there are international concerns about very young children being in childcare. There has been a big increase in the number of children and young people with mental health problems in the UK since 1980 and this has been is across the board affecting children from intact families as well as those from separated families. Some of this might be due to awareness and more recognition of the problems but this doesn't explain all the increase. There is a high probability mental health problems are associated with childhood attachments and a recent study in a Scandinavian country, Sweden, found insecure attachments in 40% of children as opposed to 25% reported in the UK.

Internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies and Professor of Psychology at the University of London, Jay Belsky, argues having a full-time parental presence at home is what’s best for very young children in his paper Developmental Risks (Still) Associated with Early Child Care. quotes Sir Richard Bowlby, son of John Bowlby who first outlined the theory of attachment, about the importance of attachment theory for understanding childcare provision here. And The Sydney Morning Herald reports why psychologist, Steve Biddulph, suggests that at least during the first two years of life, brain development unfolds at its optimum with one-to-one care.

Why when there is this type of evidence recommend lone parents should be looking for work before children are at least two or three years old, and anyway where will the jobs come from?


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