Category Archives: Legal

The state of child rights in the UK reviewed

crc_logoThe body which reports on the U.K.’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its last report was issued last month. While the recent report of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights received quite a lot of media attention, with its criticisms of UK austerity policies,  children’s rights do not seem to have received the same level of attention.

Meanwhile, children’s rights have been receiving attention in a different way, in recent online exchanges over the last couple of days concerning the Children and Social Work Bill. Specifically,

I am not really convinced by urgings that we should trust civil servants and ministers in relation to children’s rights,  Continue reading The state of child rights in the UK reviewed

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Brexit and Beacons

ECHR signatories
Signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights

Hmm… Just a quick one, this.

I heard Lord Lawson of Blaby last night, speaking on the ‘Outcome of the European Union Referendum’. I was very struck by the similarity of the language he used to language used by David Maxwell-Fyfe at the time of the genesis of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950. (David Maxwell-Fyfe was the U.K.’s Deputy Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg, and a key negotiator in the Council of Europe after the Second World War, and spoke for the U.K. at the signing ceremony). I wondered whether Lord Lawson was aware of the similarity of language and was deliberately evoking it; but what struck me equally forcefully was how the contexts were almost polar opposites. Continue reading Brexit and Beacons

Brexit and the misunderstanding of Democracy

quote-democracy-cannot-succeed-unless-those-who-express-their-choice-are-prepared-to-choose-wisely-the-franklin-d-roosevelt-157938

“The people have spoken, and their wishes must be respected.” We have been hearing a lot of this recently, and not only from the majority who want to see what they voted for realised. There seems to be a broad acceptance of the proposition by the minority also.

I do not want to question democracy itself – as Churchill once famously observed,

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

But I do want to cast the spotlight on this curious understanding of what democracy means: that a bare majority of those voted on a particular day must prevail in the argument.

As an understanding of democracy, I think this is both reductive and insular. Reductive, because it is just not as simple as that in a modern social democracy. Insular, because it is not like that in many other modern social democracies. Somehow, it seems that winners and losers alike have caught onto a notion that the bare majority of those who voted on a particular day must prevail; seemingly unaware of the counter-arguments that regularly prevail elsewhere. Continue reading Brexit and the misunderstanding of Democracy

DoLS, floodgates, and judges who won’t play ball

Deprivation of Liberty seems to be an issue which is putting the doctrine of judicial precedent – where lower court judges have to follow the reasoning and decisions of higher court judges – under considerable strain.

Here, I document – mainly to collate the resources into one place – two recent instances of where the lower courts have been questioning the higher courts.

But actually, this is not new. Continue reading DoLS, floodgates, and judges who won’t play ball

An elephant in the room – what could an extra 26 weeks do?

The Court of Appeal has given judgment in a case where the judge at first instance delayed for 6 months between the end of the hearing and giving a decision: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/606.html.

As ever, hat tip to @suesspiciousmin for reading the case so that we don’t have to! His commentary is here: http://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/06/18/six-month-delay-in-giving-judgment-appeal-point/

I just wanted to say, there is an elephant in the room. Continue reading An elephant in the room – what could an extra 26 weeks do?

Age Assessment: let’s all guess together!

On 22nd May, ‘Joint Working Guidance’ on Age Assessment was published by the government, branded with the logos of the Home Office and ADCS. More guidance on age assessment is promised in the near future.

‘Age assessment’ is the misnomer commonly used for a process whereby social workers allocate a date of birth to potential service users. BASW has last week published a position statement which questions the use of the term, but more importantly warns against social workers undertaking the exercise alone.

BASW is hosting a twitter debate on this on Monday 8th June between 6-8pm. Here (that would be below, after the background section), I want to set out why I think it is indeed a nonsense for social workers to carry out single-agency age assessments. Continue reading Age Assessment: let’s all guess together!

Two benefits of a Human Rights Act

I’m flagging up here a couple of posts by others, a couple of posts which I’m linking together as highlighting benefits of the Human Rights Act. Both are from bloggers I’d highly recommend following anyway – @DrMarkElliott‘s Public Law for Everyone and @SteveBroach‘s Rights in Reality. Both are about recent decisions of the Supreme Court. But since they’re both legal blogs, I hope the authors won’t mind if I go back a couple of steps for a non-legal audience.

Irrationality or proportionality?

There has been a long-running debate about what happens if the State (which includes central and local government and lots of officials and bodies which make decisions on behalf of the State) does something unreasonable. Decisions have been able to be challenged by a process called judicial review, but a very old case Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1947] EWCA Civ 1 (10 November 1947) gave its name to a long established principle, that you can’t win a judicial review just because the State is unreasonable. Continue reading Two benefits of a Human Rights Act

Briefing paper on non-consensual adoption and the law

Note: this was not originally written as a blog post, as you can probably tell…

1. Introduction

It is explicit in government policy that there has been a push towards more and faster adoption. This was notably so under Michael Gove, who was himself adopted:

In fact, the press for more adoption neither started nor ended with Michael Gove, and arguably more properly represents a pendulum swing, between a model of social work that favours family support (intervention to keep families together) and one that favours child rescue (intervention to give children a better life).

This paper sets out, only briefly, some of the legal issues that have arisen in relation to the policy push for adoption. In is underpinned by two broad points about the nature of the law: Continue reading Briefing paper on non-consensual adoption and the law

If the State wants to take your child, be prepared to represent yourself!

If you read one judgment this year, read this by Munby on legal aid: As scathing a judgment as you will ever read.

…wrote @JackofKent on Friday. I have read more than one judgment this year, but agree with the “must-read” label. This case ticks so many of my boxes in addition to what it says about legal aid. It’s also about:

  • social work and the law
  • the human right to a fair trial
  • principles of natural justice
  • non-consensual adoption
  • CRPD rights of parents with learning disabilities
  • the Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers

So I felt I really ought to try some commentary, especially when one tweeter asked Continue reading If the State wants to take your child, be prepared to represent yourself!

Doncaster Childrens Services Trust: how Colin Hilton is strong and independent

Three weeks ago, on 26th September 2014, Doncaster Childrens Services Trust (“DCST”) filed new Articles of Association – governance documents – with Companies House.

It may be recalled that Michael Gove had said that Childrens Services would be removed from the local authority. There was widespread concern about whether it would be handed to profit-making companies. DCST, however, was set up as a private company limited by guarantee. In February, Colin Hilton was appointed as the first chair of the new Trust, with Michael Gove saying of the Trust that,

It will provide a new model for the delivery of children’s social care services in England, one intended to drive improvement and innovation through strong independent leadership.

With these new Articles of Association, we get some glimpse of the legal mechanism whereby Colin Hilton will deliver strong independent leadership. It is perhaps fair that I point out this blog critiques these governance documents, rather than anything about his personal style or what is happening on the ground.

I want to comment on three things: Continue reading Doncaster Childrens Services Trust: how Colin Hilton is strong and independent