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171 J.P.N. 1 (2007)

handle is hein.journals/cljw171 and id is 1 raw text is: 


















R (on the application of Stace) v. Milton Key,
maogistrates' court. Road Transport -Passenger Carryin
Vehicte Driver's Licence   Road Traffic Act 1988, Pt.
- considerations to be taken into account in deciding whethe
ea   fit person to hold PCV Driver's Licence - conduc
so he taken into account. QBD. Page 1.
IB r. Director of Public Prosecutions. Criminal law - anti
,ocial behaviour - designated area - whether police constable'
irection to disperse constituted proportionate response. QBD
Page 10.
Hils v. Chief Constable of Essex. Anti-social behaviou
rder - lawfulness of order - prohibition from carrying an
-nife or bladed article in any public place prohibition fror
sciating with a named person who was not also subject to
_eciprocal term of non-association. QBD. Page 14.


EDITORIAL


PAYING THE PRICE


I wish  all our readers a very happy
New   Year, but I fear that many have
begun 2007  feeling anything but happy
or optimistic. The  Carter changes
to criminal  legal aid, for example,
will result in many legal practitioners
either unable to continue in this line
of work or becoming  financially much
worse  off under  the  new  contracts
than  before. However,  this editorial
is concerned  with the family courts;
in particular, their public law (ie, care
proceedings)   jurisdiction. Here,  a
major  crisis is developing without, so
far, any serious acknowledgment,   let
alone initiatives to tackle the problems
at its root cause. What   makes   this
all the more   disappointing  is that
the relevant  legal framework   - the
Children Act  1989 - is comparatively
recent and  generally very good,  and
it had new  life and purpose breathed
into it by the Human Rights Act 1998.
So what  has gone wrong?
   The  1989  Act  explicitly requires
expedition,   but  care  proceedings
are now   taking  up to  one  year to
be  determined.  There  appear  to be
two  main  causes for this. First, the
volume   of cases has increased  con-
siderably. This, in turn, seems to be
due  to two  factors. There  is much
more   pressure these  days on  local
authorities to intervene, and it appears
that there are simply more  problem
families in which the parents, often
through  no  fault of their own, lack
the insight and skills to cater for the
needs of their children. Secondly, the
proceedings  have  become  elongated
by  the growing  use  of professional
assessments,  especially to determine
parenting   ability. While  this may
serve the needs of procedural fairness
for the parents, which  is undeniably
very important, it prolongs the period
of uncertainty for the children. It also
imposes  a  huge  strain on  financial
and  human   resources.  The  overall,
average  cost of a care case has now
apparently  risen to £25,000  (I take
this figure from the letter by Anthony


Kirk QC,  Chairman  of the Family Bar
Association, published in The  Times,
December   30). While  this may seem
a substantial sum   (especially where
the  outcome   of the proceedings   is
inevitable, which is often the case in
public law  applications) it is, as Mr
Kirk  points out, relatively small to
the cost of the state caring for a child
throughout   its minority. Moreover,
children  who   have  been  damaged
through  abuse  or neglect often cost
the public substantial sums  in other
ways. There is overwhelming  evidence
that  they are, for  example,   much
more  likely to commit   crimes  and,
hence, impose  a financial burden  on
the criminal justice system. They are
also more   likely to become   bad
parents  themselves  through  lacking
any  internal model  to  guide  them,
resulting in the vicious cycle of their
own  children being taken into care.
   We   are a wealthy   country, but,
when   it comes  to child  protection
investment  seems  to be driven more
by emotion  than by cost effectiveness.
How   many   children,  for example,
has vetting actually protected? How
many   people  on the  sex offenders'
register actually represent a danger to
children? I suggest that these are areas
that have  seen little return for huge
resources they have received. Yet they
have been  greatly expanded  in recent
years. Meanwhile,  front-line services
often have  to operate on shoestring.
Local  authorities need  extra  funds
to employ   more  social workers  and
specialist family lawyers. Independent
suppliers -  such  as guardians  and
members   of the Bar -  have suffered
real cuts in the rates paid for  their
work   and  are  migrating  to  more
lucrative areas of practice. Funding
for assessment is inadequate, and this
causes delays in proceedings. We lack
sufficient court space and  specialist
Judges   to  manage   the  increased
workload.  Central planning  has been
poor and  has not kept pace with need.
This must change,  and quickly.  AJT


Volume  171 JUSTICE fthe  PEACE


1


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