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Family justice on trial: Re A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104

Date:9 APR 2014

John Eekelaar, Emeritus Fellow, Pembroke College, Oxford:

In Re A (Intractable Contact Proceedings: Human Rights Violations) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming), reported at December [2013] Fam Law 1519, the Court of Appeal held that contact proceedings spanning 12 years in Sheffield County Court demonstrated a failure of the family justice system and violated the procedural requirements that are a part of the rights enshrined in Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, resulting in infringement of the rights to family life of the child and her father. Papers of the case were sent to the President of the Family Division and to David Norgrove, Chairman of the Family Justice Board, ‘in the hope that lessons may be learned for the Family Justice System as a whole'.

This article questions whether some of the characterisations of the issues made by the Court of Appeal are clearly supported by the account of the case in the judgment and, in view of empirical evidence about the way such cases are normally handled, whether it could not be better seen as a natural though rare occurrence within a properly operating system. It also questions the basis for finding a violation of Art 8, and the approach taken to the child's wishes.    

The full version of this article appears in the April 2014 issue of Family Law.

Online subscribers can access the full article here  

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