Judges should not need guidance on contact orders if they are doing their job properly, says head of region’s largest Family Law team

The head of one of the region’s largest Family law teams has expressed surprise and concern at guidelines published this week for judges involved in child contact cases.

The guidelines, which were drawn up by Sir James Munby, the most senior judge in England and Wales, are designed to allow judges to refuse contact orders in all cases where children are at any risk of suffering psychological or physical abuse, even if the proposed contact is under supervision at a special contact centre.

The document containing the new guidelines was drawn up following a campaign by Women’s Aid which called for clearer and stricter guidance for family judges.  The charity’s chief executive, Katie Ghose, claimed that too many children had for too long been put at risk as a result of poor decisions made by judges in child contact cases.

But Nathan Wright, head of Family Law at GHP Legal which has a client base covering North Wales, Shropshire and North West England, says judges have always had the power to stop contact and the suggestion that they may not have been using those powers is of great concern.

“When considering what Order to make the court must give consideration to the welfare checklist as set out at Section 1 of the Children Act 1989,” says Mr Wright. “In clause 3 of the section it clearly states that a court shall have particular regard to any harm the subject of the order has suffered or is at risk of suffering. Therefore judges should have been giving careful regard to such risk since the inception of the 1989 Act. In my view, the Act should therefore not need to be bolstered in any way.”

(Article published 21.09.2017)

Nathan Wright

Nathan Wright

Partner

A Partner specialising in Family and Matrimonial Law