This article is based on the first Bridget Lindley Memorial Lecture, given by Lord Justice McFarlane in March 2017 and organised by the Family Justice Council.
The full version of this article will appear in the June 2017 issue of Family Law. Find out more or request a free 1-week trial of Family Law journal.
The article is a fascinating and thought-provoking exploration of whether ‘we currently have the balance “right” as between, on the one hand, the need to protect children from harm and, on the other, the need to respect the right to family life'. Lord Justice McFarlane’s conclusion is that in most cases our system is one that is likely to strike the balance of risk between protecting children and affording respect for family life correctly in most cases. His chief concern is that the courts' belief that adoption provides a quality of care that far outstrips any other model is possibly mistaken for some of the children who are currently being adopted. Given that adoption ‘radically shifts the tectonic plates of an individual's legal identity (and those of others) for life' if we cannot be certain that it is the best outcome how can we say that we are getting the balance right in those cases?