(Cafcass and the family justice system make our beleaguered police service look like boy scouts)
Today’s Times headline spoke volumes.
Hot on the heals of Alison Saunders departure from her post as head of the CPS todays Times article is causing a furore. The Times quote, ‘The comments in the dossier include one prosecutor saying:
“In even quite serious cases, officers have admitted to deliberately withholding sensitive material from us and they frequently approach us only a week before trial. Officers are reluctant to investigate a defence or take statements that might assist the defence or undermine our case.”’
Only last week MacFarlane LJ upheld the view that severing the relationship between a parent and child is. ‘… rightly, regarded as the most Draconian orders that a family court, or indeed any court, can make.’
A recent poll carried out on the D.A.D.S facebook page disclosed that 55% of Cafcass section 7 reports did not arrive until 1 working day or less before the court hearing.
Therefore, where courts are considering orders, which are second only to the death penalty, in terms of their severity, impact and consequences, families get even less notice of the evidence against them than criminals accused of often much lesser offences.
Furthermore, this is not the only similarity because we have found that vital information is sometimes withheld or misrepresented by Cafcass. It is common for hear say, and the credence given to it, to be elevated in importance whilst good un-refutable evidence is ignored or withheld.
MacFarlane LJ also compared and contrasted the application of standard public law principles to the conduct of a recent string of private law cases that had resulted in the severance of the parent / child relationship. He said:
‘The adoption decision in every case is therefore afforded corresponding respect in terms of time, resources and judicial concern. Based on the evidence provided from the four recent cases that I have cited, I fear that the same cannot be said of potentially intractable contact cases.’
It would appear that children and their parents enjoy far fewer legal safeguards than criminals and parents in private law get far loss respect than the parents of children in public law where abuse can be so serious that the state removes children from parents.