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Sharing information between care and criminal proceedings

 

There’s a CPS protocol about Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse

http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/third_party_protocol_2013.pdf

I really do know that there’s too much guidance and directives, and strategy initiatives descending on us, because it has taken me a week to force myself to open the document.  But then I remembered the unofficial motto and raison d’etre of the Suesspicious Minds blog , which is  “I read this stuff, so you don’t have to”

So, I’ll read it and give as short a summary of it as I can bear.  It all kicks into lively exciting being on 1st January 2014  (I’m really not selling this much, sorry)

 

Police to care proceedings

1. There’s a form in there (oh goody, another form) at Annexe D, for a Local Authority to fill in and send to the police, to get disclosure within 14 days.  That sounds as though it won’t be necessary to have a court order to seek the disclosure.  [though they might redact, or keep info back if it would prejudice the investigation)

2.  The CPS are apparently going to give priority to making charging decisions in cases of alleged child abuse where there are linked care proceedings  (so perhaps no more waiting to see how our finding of fact hearing panned out before they make that decision)

 

3. Restrict the requests to relevant material from the police, not a big fishing trawl through everything they’ve got.  Expect to see disclosure requests being more narrowly drawn.

4. Where there are no criminal charges brought, the police will let the LA know and give reasons

 

Care proceedings to police

1. The LA are to let the police know of care proceedings relating to alleged child abuse [again on a form in Annexe D]  – that might be a bit broad, I would tend to construe it as care proceedings where the allegations could consititute a criminal offence where the child is a victim  [I can’t imagine that the intention would be to alert the police of every care case that arises as a result of heroin misuse, for example]

2. The LA let the police have their files, or access to them, expeditiously – but NOT docs filed in the care proceedings*, and let the police know what schools the children attend.  ( *They mean docs created expressly for the purpose of court, and say that for example medical report on the injuries which existed before proceedings but were filed within them, can still be given to the police)

3.  the LA can provide the police with docs from the care proceedings PROVIDED it is for the purpose of child protection, not the investigation of the criminal offence – but the police can’t USE this in criminal proceedings (including showing it to the CPS) without permission from the Family Court.   (That’s a change, since often the HAVE/USE distinction is viewed to allow the police to show the doc to the CPS to aid in charging decision/decisions about whether to make a full-blown disclosure application)

4. If the police/CPS want to make use of court docs from the family proceedings, they will make a formal application – though the guidance is that they won’t actually attend a hearing for that application unless the Judge directs them to, raising the spectre of four parties in the care proceedings rocking up once to say “we object” and then again a week later for the argument.

5. the LA must send to the police/CPS any transcribed judgment (redacted if necessary) that they get in relation to a case of this kind, and should ask the family court to expedite it where it is known that parallel criminal proceedings are ongoing/contemplated

6. There’s provision for Public Interest Immunity applications (I used to do those a lot, until the criminal courts thankfully determined that it wasn’t a DUTY to assert PII all the time, and the LA could restrict the applications for issues which were particularly vital or delicate that there was a wider public interest in not having social services docs get into the criminal proceedings)  – these days, it is only likely to be info on children who are not victims or anonymous referrers identity which is the subject of a PII consideration.

 

Linked directions hearings

 

This is actually new – I’ve done it once or twice in particularly tricky cases, but now there is a protocol which allows the Judge in either limb to consider whether it would be helpful to have a joint directions hearing of the care and the crime, so that any issues /conflict can be thrashed out.  If you were wondering, us family lawyers have to go to the criminal court – the people in wigs and gowns can’t travel to us.  The directions hearings will be linked, but not combined (there are some tricky differences in law and procedure that means just having a joint hearing is not possible). In effect the care people all go into the criminal one and listen, and then if necessary the crime people or some of them will ask to come into the care hearing.

 

Despite my reluctance to read it, it isn’t actually bad, and not as long-winded as it could have been. Nothing immediate springs to my mind as a terrible omission (apart from the guidance being utterly silent as to whether the police can charge for disclosure, which we were promised would be going away. One could argue that given that the guidance doesn’t say that they CAN, that means they CAN’T.  But no doubt those arguments will continue over the next few years)

 

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

19 responses

  1. Thanks for the concise summary.

  2. Erm yeah got that, not quite sure about this bit though,

    “”This is actually new – I’ve done it once or twice in particularly tricky cases, but now there is a protocol which allows the Judge in either limb to consider whether it would be helpful to have a joint directions hearing of the care and the crime, so that any issues /conflict can be thrashed out. If you were wondering, us family lawyers have to go to the criminal court – the people in wigs and gowns can’t travel to us. The directions hearings will be linked, but not combined (there are some tricky differences in law and procedure that means just having a joint hearing is not possible). In effect the care people all go into the criminal one and listen, and then if necessary the crime people or some of them will ask to come into the care hearing.””

    Would a bus load of Family Lawyers travelling to a Criminal Court and partake listen and take notes on a Criminal directions hearing be article 6 compliant for the Accused?

    Can just see Lawyers now, Where’s me frigging client, where me frigging paperwork, what court am I at today, not that they don’t do that anyway, now add a Criminal court into that process,

    Does criminal proceedings “Always”, initiate Care Proceedings I do not think overwhelming does.

    I can however see the benefits for this, yesterday while at a conference an expert Paediatrician was discussing the difficulties they have when criminal cases are in swing and one has to complete a report for Family Proceedings, now, obtaining the documentation to complete that is further faced with difficulty if the Criminal team, have, the say medical notes’

    • well, we can all go to the criminal court and take notes anyway (we just don’t get paid for it). There might well be some article 6 issues the other way (since hearsay and s98 apply in care proceedings, there are things within care proceedings which aren’t evidence or capable of being evidence in crime, whereas the reverse is not true)

      I can’t actually see anyone asking for these linked hearings other than in really really tricky cases; because the idea of either side wanting to talk in the other sides Court room, faced with rules and practices and traditions they either never knew or have long forgotten isn’t that appealing.

  3. I think the system of family care proceedings investigating suspected child sexual abuse is a complete bollocks (excuse my language) it is a CRIME and only police are trained to send file to CPS so if someone is found guilty in a family court (and this happens even in their absence) it can not then proceed to criminal proceedings, this is putting the cart before the horse. Social workers are not police and suspected sexual abuse is a police matter and only they can interview under caution etc and collate evidence. The proper test is the criminal test because if a perpetrator is trialed in family court they will not be held accountable at all and this is a get out of jail free card at best or a ‘cover up of sexual offences’ at worse. I know parents who have lost their children because family judge says child abused by an absent third party and even though the parent had no knowledge or partake in the suspected abuse the child is separated from loving parent because they then claim parent ‘may’ not be able to protect in the future so in effect it makes victims out of victims, like I said it is a ‘bollocks’ and quite frankly an abuse of power!

  4. This is a major step forward in protecting abused children. Too many are hidden in the secret family courts and given to the alleged abuser. Now that the police and CPS will be overseeing child abuse cases, many children will stand a chance of being protected.
    Corruption and the cover up of child abuse within family courts hopefully will now be abolished.
    I would like to know the reasons why Local Authorities want to”win” cases rather than protect children. Taking children into care against all of the odds needs investigating under the gaze of the public.

    • Ashamed to be British

      You know why Vicky, you’ve been in this nightmare long enough – it’s all about £££’s and ego’s

  5. Attention all mothers !Do not report the father of your child for sexually abusing that child ! If you do the chances are that both you and the child will be disbelieved and the child will be given in full custody to the abuser ! You the mother will be forbidden from contacting that child face to face ,by phone or by email and if there is an accidental meeting in a petrol station like happened to Vicky Haigh( named in parliament) you will be sent to prison for 3 years! If you send a birthday card you will also be jailed like a mother I dare not name or I myself will be jailed !BEWARE BEWARE you mothers :if you report sexual abuse you risk losing your sons or daughters maybe for ever ! Five parents I am trying to help (including one father who reported the mother) have been made victims of this rotten system.Better flee abroad you parents or hide in a big city with your child ……………..

    • Which is why your most recent blog is significant in protecting vulnerable children within the secret family court system. Child abuse cases will have leading input from CPS lawyers first and foremost. If this had been the case in 2009 a family court judge, social workers, CAFCASS officers and corrupt family lawyers would not have been able to rig a court hearing, bully and blackmail the mother and obtain their much sought after care order.

      • Hi Vicky,

        I have communicated the piece badly then – there is no suggestion that CPS lawyers are going to direct or control care proceedings – it is just about making sure that where there are care proceedings and criminal proceedings about the same family, that the care proceedings lawyers and criminal lawyers talk to one another to make sure neither one is messing things up for the other set, or that they aren’t wasting public money by duplicating their efforts when not needed.

    • The problem is and I know this from own experience care proceedings are based on evidence of probabilities the level of evidence in criminal law is beyond reasonable doubt . If the police and CPS run at a investigation and prosecution of any linked crime relating to care proceedings then the evidence gathered is likely to be of a far higher standard than that of social services . But social services are obliged to give evidence to police not the other way around . So with parallel courts in the judicial system both supposedly based on evidence what happens if the police refuse to release any evidence into the care proceedings even denying judges orders in which they can do in the fear of the criminal evidence being contaminated by the care proceedings . This means not all the relevant evidence is Realeaed and of the burden of proof relying on probability not fact like criminal the gaps are filled in with assumptions . When trials in family proceedings run parallel with criminal proceedings it makes the failings of the justice system far more apparent . The family courts do not hold the same level of evidence but yet often the outcome is this . In the criminal trial the criminal may be found guilty and recieve a sentence . The victims will be treated as victims with the victim code of conduct implemented throughout that trial . In the family courts that victim will not often recieve the same justice as no evidence was released only based on probable and the sentence dished out in the family courts is longer and more breaching of freedoms and rights than what the person who commited the crime got . There is little justice in scenarios such as this . Victims are revictimized by this system there are fundamental floors to it . There is a culture in family courts in care proceedings it’s not a culture you see victims treated as in criminal courts the standards are very low in care proceedings but all fall under the umbrella of justice ! Hardly justice !

  6. Excuse my ignorance, but I am learning more each day … how can one possible combine family & criminal law, when family law is based on the balance of probabilities and criminal law is based on beyond reasonable doubt? That’s is why the local authority like to keep their corruption, lies and perjury behind closed doors in secret court, followed by having the judge slap a gagging order in the best interest of themselves … erm, I meant the child

    Totally agree with the above posters, I know the gentleman who had his child removed when reporting the maternal family and have worked hard on every word of the case, it’s always the same, the LA remove the child and cover up what is happening for fear of getting egg on their face, hardly in the best interest of the child. The police are virtually always told to drop any investigation (if they haven’t informed you that they will arrest you if you don’t leave) as they will look into their own failings, then produce a shiny and glowing report about themselves, hmm.

    • Sandy, it is a pretty rare occurance, but sometimes when you have ongoing care and criminal proceedings about the same family or allegations, the two cases can interfere with one another (for example, you have to be careful about who goes out to take statements from witnesses, that witnesses are not told things that they ought not to know for the criminal proceedings, the timings of important hearings or final hearings in each case) and this procedure allows for in those fairly unusual circumstances, to gather all of the lawyers from both cases together, so that they can thrash out any difficulties that are arising and if necessary a Judge can make a decision about who does what. As I said to Jerry, I only see it being used in really unusual cases – like investigation of a child death to be honest. It is much more of a procedural logistical thing than any suggestion that a criminal court would decide FACTS or ISSUES in family cases or vice vera

  7. Suespicious minds you miss my point ! Fair enough in some cases not to believe either mother or child.Let’s say we ACCEPT the judgement . BUT,BUT,how can it be right to punish a mother and her child by depriving her and the child of all contact and jailing her for 3 years for a meeting in a petrol station that she could not possibly have anticipated, or jailing the other mother I mentioned for sending a birthday card? Punishmemts without crime and absurdly cruel ones to both parents and children at that !

    • Suespicious minds, You have not communicated your blog badly, but team this new protocol signed by President Munby and Keir Starmer with the new child sex abuse guidelines recently published by Keir Starmer and there is no hiding place for child sex abusers in family courts. Those family courts were a breeding ground for paedophiles, which is why there has been the biggest changes for a generation. I welcome it all and am looking forward to January 2014 when they come into operation.
      A mother like myself should not be put in a situation in a family court to do a “fact find” on whether her child has been abused or not, it is a criminal offence and should be handled by the police and CPS. Relying on an “opinion” of a family judge knowing his judgement or opinion will never be aired in public (an exception being mine), can cause every sort of problem and often does. I want to see the police taking back charge when crimes against children are alleged. Social workers should never have been allowed so much power. I could go on and on….
      Myself and Ian Josephs are not making this up, mothers and on occasion fathers who report abuse of their children to the authorities can lose them forever!
      Jimmy Savile indirectly started this massive shake up and let’s all hope that our children will be safer than they have been for a very long time.

  8. Sexual abuse is a crime and only the police and the criminal courts should determine if it happened and who in that case was responsible.Social workers should be there to help people not terrify them by snatching their children .No more punishment without crime and the protocol would be redundant because only the criminal courts would be concerned with child abuse or neglect.

    • I would just like to add that tax payers money goes into criminal investigation into prosecution by CPS into entire criminal trials with public accountability with JURY . With press release of the trial and outcome . I think it speaks absolute volumes of the trust the criminal justice system has in care proceedings and evidence gathered by the likes of social workers and cafcass that they have no trust criminal evidence for justice will not be contaminated all it takes is one incompetent assuming opinion from a social worker or cafcass to contaminate evidence that can be subpoena into that criminal trial by the defence this is why your writing the blog of this issue as not even the justice system has faith in its own justice system I think it’s shocking to be honest the CPS motto is NO VICTIM NO JUSTICE the family court motto is WELL WE WILL JUST HAVE TO FILL IN THE GAPS WITH ASSUMPTIONS

  9. Vicky asked me to remove some of her pieces, and I have respected her views on that. I wouldn’t have taken them down if she hadn’t asked me to. As a result, I have also removed my substantive reply, since it didn’t feel fair to keep that up there when there was no need for it.

    Am more than happy to have people comment and share their thoughts and feelings as long as they remember that the law still applies to the internet (even though it feels Wild Wild West is what wwww stands for sometimes)

    Is interesting, Vicky, that the CPS are today mooting making it compulsory to report child sexual abuse, which would of course place some people in a moral and legal conundrum. If they report the abuse, they may be accused of being vindictive in a private law dispute, if they don’t, they may be breaching the criminal law.

  10. Ashamed to be British

    The police are quick to arrest parents accused of a criminal offense, such as child abuse or neglect, yet refuse to investigate perjury, misconduct in public office abduction (by the state) ALL of which is their duty to do so.
    Combining criminal and family law need not be conflicting or difficult, I am finding many parents who are arrested, and then told there will be NFA, are still slammed by the LA in court for being arrested for what they then portray as FACT, they say it happened, so it did, even though the CPS say it’s not so

    And it ends up on the CRB, this is not justice, it’s a stitch up

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