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MoJ call for evidence on assessing risk of harm in private law children cases – Law Society response

14 October 2019

The proposals

On 21 May, the Ministry of Justice announced a public call for evidence steered by a panel of experts from across the family justice sector.

The panel gathered evidence on how the family courts protect children and parents in private law children cases concerning domestic abuse and other serious offences.

The panel members were drawn from key organisations including the judiciary, academia, social care, policy officials and third sector organisations.

The panel invited submissions of evidence on how effectively the family courts respond to allegations of domestic abuse and other serious offences in cases involving disputes between parents about arrangements for their children following separation (known as ‘private law children cases’).

The overarching aim of the call for evidence was 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.

Our view

We welcomed this call for evidence into the experiences of harm suffered by children and parents in private law children’s cases.

This is an extremely important issue, not just to our members who practice in this area, but to the parents and children experiencing domestic violence.

Our opinion is that presently the system is not operating as it should to protect victims, and ensure they are able to fully participate in the court process.

It also does not facilitate perpetrators to access services to address their behaviours or seek the support they may require.

We noticed a number of common themes which have a significant impact on children’s and parents’ journeys through the family courts, such as:

  • concerns around judicial recognition and understanding of all forms of domestic abuse
  • cultural competency
  • lack of resources
  • the effect of cuts to legal aid

Next steps

The consultation closed on 27 August.

The Ministry of Justice will analyse the results of the call for evidence.

View the consultation on the Ministry of Justice website

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