Archive for December, 2010

December 12, 2010

The Voice of the Child – click here

To read the full text of Mr Justice Coleridge’s speech.

December 12, 2010

What happens to your comments?

Last week Sally gave some great feedback on why civil court orders are often breached in cases of domestic abuse.  Hannah checked out her ideas in the training room.  (You can see the conversation on the comments section) Just to say that I will use these insights to see if there is some way that we can link with the Family Courts and try and find a way that they can be made aware of the potential risks to victims and children in some orders.  So great practical feedback.  Thank you.  But would every IDVA have the confidence to raise this kind of point in practice?  Over to the PD team to sort that one out…..

December 12, 2010

Philanthropy Review

Just in case anyone missed the news last week….there were a number of reviews of philanthropic and charitable giving announced.  There is obviously concern that with funding cuts, many areas of the arts, medical research and social causes will all suffer.  One review announced by Arts Minister Jeremy Hunt, will focus on giving to the Arts.  I have been asked to join the team overseeing an independent review of giving, with a focus on making practical recommendations to government about how to increase the quality and quantity of charitable giving in this country.  If you are interested go to

I think it will be interesting and give us a voice in this debate.  Any inspiration welcome!

December 5, 2010

The voice of the child in court – how to hear it responsibly…

There are some weeks when the blog might be more about what I have done- and others where it is more about what I have read or heard.  This week is definitely one of the latter.  Here is another thought provoking article from this week’s Family Law- especially the second part.

A senior Family Division judge for England and Wales has warned that people do not take family court decisions seriously enough and do not obey the court orders promptly and fully.

In a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Lawyers for Children this morning, Mr Justice Coleridge warned this lack of respect for family court orders is leading to an increasing number of hearings and ever more interventions by guardians, social workers, Cafcass officers and child experts.

The judge argued that in order to avoid a “flabby judicial response”, especially at a time of unprecedented squeeze on public resources, that family courts need to reassert their authority. One of the ways in which he proposes to do this would be to introduce a three strikes system whereby if a parent disobeys a court order three times the residence of the child should be transferred to the other parent.

Summing up his argument, Mr Justice Coleridge said: “my principle point this morning is that we should all, all of us involved in the system,  be alive to the unintended slippage in the authority of the family court which has been creeping in and gathering momentum over the last decades and which we can no longer afford to ignore. Expression and projection of proper authority is of vital importance to parents, the courts and society. The rot must not be allowed to go further. In every way we simply cannot afford it.”

In addition he said that family courts should seriously consider following the Australian example and resume wearing robes and removing the carpets and indoor plants to reinforce the authority of the court.

Although the judge was speaking in his own capacity and not on behalf family judiciary in Britain, he added: “However, many I would count as my friends I know share my views although they tend to be rather more reticent about expressing them in public. In that respect I now no longer share their traditional restraint. Times demand more open discussion and debate.”

Mr Justice Coleridge criticised the way in which too great an emphasis was being placed on listening uncritically to the views and wishes of children, including young children. This he said was leading to the danger of “undermining the family court’s authority and proper function which is to arrive at a decision which is overall, best for the child.”

“As a matter of both fact and law, children lack capacity to make important decisions. That is why they are treated as ‘being under a disability’ legally speaking,” the judge said.

“If we forget this and too readily impose the decision on the child, surely we, all of us, are shirking our responsibility to a degree which is bordering on the abusive. In just the same way as the weak and indecisive parent allows the children to call the shots we are abnegating our function to a degree which is nothing short of cowardly and unfair.

“Children expect and are entitled to expect us to make these important decisions without overly and unnecessarily involving them in the process.”

He added: “I suggest we need to reaffirm, redefine and re-establish the proper function and role of the family court and family judge. It is to act as the proper and appointed authority figure both towards the parents and the children. Not another expert or welfare officer.”

I am lucky enough to have met Mr Justice Coleridge and he is a very experienced and wise judge.  It is worth considering what the ‘voice of the child’ means in practice.  There is obviously a fine and critical line that we need to find between abdicating our responsibility and listening.  I am sure that this will be a topic that we will spend more time on in our Safeguarding module next year.

December 3, 2010

New style DV training for police…

Latest from the Harvard Innovators website….

Violence and Abuse
New police recruits at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Midway in Florida are receiving instruction in the prevention of domestic violence—in their own homes—under a program believed to be the first of its kind in Florida. Following research that shows higher incidences of domestic violence among officers than the general public, the curriculum is aimed at educating the new recruits about the consequences and prevention of domestic violence at home, and ensuring that they understand how the stresses of their career can lead to domestic incidents.

I wonder if it would catch on here??


December 3, 2010

England’s World Cup bid….

Our bid, which cost £15 million and got two votes (?!?) would have paid for the whole of the Home Office VAWG strategy for 2 years…or all of CAADA’s for 7 years.  Value for money? (sorry to the football fans in the office)