28 Feb 09 – Grey protesters hold rally to stop ‘forced adoption’ of grandchildren

Source: Scotland – Sunday Herald – Saturday 28th February 2009

Elderly activists will stage a protest in Glasgow this week to demand that no child should be put into care if they can live with their grandparents.

Grandparents Apart UK believe that social workers are too willing to place children with strangers. The group’s “war cry” is the recent case of an Edinburgh child sent to live with a gay couple – but they insist their grievance is not homophobic.

They have previously campaigned for automatic access rights for grandparents after custody battles and were involved in writing the Grandparents’ Charter, which sets out the rights of grandparents but is not legally binding.

Grandparents Apart urged the SNP to listen to their demands and warned failure to do so could cost them the “grey vote” at the next election.

Jimmy Deuchars, manager of Grandparents Apart UK, said: “We’re challenging the social services’s and the government’s policies regarding children and adoption, particularly when grandchildren are adopted to strangers. Social services used to be an organisation that cared and protected, but now they snatch the children and adopt them forcibly, alienating them from their family. Evidence from our members indicates that if grandparents then put up a fuss, they are threatened with the removal of all contact rights. What sort of a democracy is this?”

In response to a questionnaire, 33.6% of Grandparents Apart’s 500 members said they had experienced “falsified” reports from the social services, 43.5% said they had been bypassed by social services on child welfare issues, 79.4% said their grandchildren had been used as “weapons” against them in arguments, and 78.6% felt their grandchild had been “brainwashed” against them.

The daughter of one member of Deuchars’s organisation, who would not give his name, died of a drug overdose, leaving three children. Two were taken in by family members but one was taken into care aged 10 and his grandfather did not see him for another seven years.

When the grandfather finally managed to get a meeting, the boy said social workers had told him his grandfather did not want to see him. His hair was matted, he was dirty and he was dressed badly.

In care, the boy attended five separate schools, lived in eight foster homes and said he had had soapy water poured into his mouth for swearing. By the time of his standard grade exams, his self-esteem was so battered he didn’t feel “good enough” to take them.

The grandfather said: “You’ve heard that children in care are low achievers, that they end up running with gangs to take the place of their families. It’s all true. That happened to my boy.”

Since the two got together, the young man has become an apprentice mechanic and is more optimistic about the future.

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, favours children staying with their families. She said Scottish law, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and European Court of Human Rights case law, all recognise children’s rights to benefit from the care of their wider family where it is in their interests.

She said: “Courts should look to the child’s extended family before considering placing a child with strangers. Grandparents can also apply to the courts for contact with their grandchildren and the court will decide what is in the child’s best interests, taking account of the child’s views, where the child is able to form them and wants to give them.”

The Scottish government and children’s minister Adam Ingram said in a letter to Deuchars he was “very aware of the important role that grandparents can play in development of young people”. He denied social services had a policy of forced adoption.

A spokesman said: “The removal of any child from their natural parents is always a difficult decision and one that is never taken lightly. We firmly believe that, if a child cannot live with their birth parents, the first option should be to consider the ability and capacity of kinship carers in the wider family.”

Related Link: www.grandparentsapart.co.uk

On 8 December 2008 – The Children and Adoption Act 2006 on contact reinforcement provisions by the family courts came into force

Children and Adoption Act 2006

On 8 December 2008, sections 1-5 and 8 of Part 1 of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 came into force in the UK. An Act to make provision as regards contact with children; to make provision as regards family assistance orders; to make provision about risk assessments; to make provision as regards adoptions with a foreign element; and for connected purposes. These provisions confer additional powers on the courts, when they are dealing with applications for contact orders made under section 8 (Children Act 1989).

See here for the full law text of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 (c. 20).


Group of children

Group of children

Children and Adoption Act – more flexible approach to resolving disputes in contact cases
Source: UK Ministry of Justice – 08 December 2008

New provisions in the Children and Adoption Act 2006, which come into force today, provide new ways to help the courts find solutions in contact cases where there is conflict between the parents about whom a child should see and how often.

Courts will have more flexible powers to resolve conflicts between parents in contact cases as a result of the implementation of the remaining provisions of Part 1 of the Act.

The government is committed to the principle that the well-being and interests of the child are of paramount importance. It is known that prolonged disputes over contact are damaging to children. The new powers will therefore allow the courts to deal with more flexibly with cases where parents cannot reach agreement or fail to comply with a contact order.

The new rules include:
* giving the court power to direct a party to the case to undertake a contact activity
* providing the court with the power to attach a contact activity condition to contact orders
* enabling the court to award financial compensation from one person to another for losses arising from failure to comply with the order
* enabling the court, upon application, to impose an unpaid work requirement on the person who breaches the contact order.

The new court rules and forms have been published on the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website and are listed below (as of 18 November 2008 these links replaced the draft statutory instruments published on this page on 30 October 2008).

Statutory Instruments
* The Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No 2) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No 2861
* The Family Proceedings Courts (Children Act 1989) (Amendment) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No 2858
* The Magistrates’ Courts (Enforcement of Children Act 1989 Contact Orders) Rules 2008 SI 2008 No. 2859

Press Office
* Press Office

Related links
* Children and Adoption Act 2006 – Court Rules
* Relationship breakdown

Parents who block estranged spouses from seeing children face community punishment
Source: Telegraph – By Martin Beckford, Social Affairs Correspondent – Last Updated: 11:57PM GMT 05 Dec 2008

Parents who prevent their estranged spouses from seeing their children will have to carry out community service.

Under new laws that come into effect next week, divorced or separated mothers and fathers will be hit with tough punishments for breaking contact orders handed down by family courts.

They can be sentenced to up to 100 hours of unpaid work in the community for breaking the orders, with the penalty doubling to 200 hours and a fine if they fail to abide by the punishment.

In addition, parents can be forced to attend therapy sessions and parenting lessons in the terms of the contact orders.

The new rules come into effect from Monday in provisions of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 that aim to strengthen the power of the authorities to deal with parents who block contact.

They are being welcomed by some legal experts as a way of ensuring that parents who separate are able to keep in touch with their children.

Barbara Reeves, a partner in the family department of leading law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: “Any measures that support parental contact following the separation of a child’s parents are to be supported.

“These latest measures allow courts far greater powers to facilitate contact by imposing conditions to contact orders which will compel parents to attend family therapy, parenting classes and the like.

“Also, where one parent frustrates contact, the court now has a practical enforcement power in that it some circumstances the recalcitrant parent can be compelled to take unpaid work.

“It remains to be seen however, just how far the courts will take advantage of these new powers and move us towards the ideal situation whereby children are brought up always knowing both parents and honouring agreements or orders that facilitate contact.”

But others claim the new sanctions will criminalise mothers and fathers unnecessarily, and point out that single parents will struggle to find the time to attend courses as well as meeting the costs, which could reach £2,500.

Chris Goulden, of the family law group Resolution, said: “The principles behind these new powers are laudable but they are unlikely to bring about any meaningful improvement unless the new services are up and running, properly funded and readily available for the courts to refer families to.

“At the present moment there is a disturbing lack of clarity as to what activities will be available, where, when and who will pay for them.”

Children and Adoption Act 2006: child-contact powers ‘could worsen parent wars’
Source: The Times – Frances Gibb, Legal Editor – December 8, 2008

Fears on penalties for parents breaching orders

New powers to stop warring parents using contact with their children as a weapon could backfire and inflame fraught family relations, according to judges and lawyers.

The measures, which take effect today, could criminalise mothers and fathers who fail to keep contact arrangements, they say. The powers, contained in the Children and Adoption Act 2006, enable judges to order parents who breach contact orders to attend parenting classes, pay a fine or compensation. Defaulters can also be ordered to carry out up to 100 hours of unpaid community work, such as removing graffiti or picking up litter.

The move comes in response to persistent criticisms from fathers that mothers regularly breach contact orders and courts do little to enforce them because imprisonment harms the children.

Family judges have told The Times that the measures, although welcome in principle, could damage tense family relations, rebound on fathers as well as mothers and fetter judges’ discretion.

The wording of the powers appeared to require judges to add a “warning notice” to any contact order so that, if it were breached, penalties would be incurred immediately – with no discretion, one said.

“The measures could be inflammatory and damaging,” one family judge said, and could be counter-productive to fathers trying to improve relations with children. “You might have terrified children thinking: if I don’t go and see Dad, my Mum’s going to prison.” He added that the measures were devised to be evenhanded. That meant they would hit fathers equally. “So if a father fails to take a child on a weekend when arranged and a mother loses out – perhaps because she has arranged a holiday – the father can be ordered to pay compensation.”

The compensation could be limitless, he added. “You could envisage a situation where a mother had to keep taking time off or changing her hours because a father did not keep to the arrangements and so she loses her job. The father could then be ordered to pay thousands of pounds in compensation for the loss of that job.”

Emma Flisher, a family solicitor with the law firm Mills & Reeve, said there was a danger that mothers would be criminalised through the powers to penalise parents with up to 100 hours of unpaid work – which can be increased to 200 hours and a fine if they fail to turn up.

“Whilst some people may welcome the law flexing its muscles in this way, opponents question whether it will actually change the way parents behave. There is also a concern it sends the wrong message, by appearing to criminalise mothers.”

Resolution, the association of family lawyers, said that the measures will not work without a properly funded network of support facilities to run classes or “contact activities”.

Chris Goulden, who chairs its children committee, said: “The principles behind these new powers are laudable but they are unlikely to bring about any meaningful improvement unless the new services are up and running, properly funded and readily available for the courts to refer families to.”

At present there was a “disturbing lack of clarity” about what activities would be available and who would pay for them.

Parents ordered to attend “contact activities” could be covered in some cases by legal aid, but others on low incomes might face footing the bill themselves, paying fees ranging from “£200 to £2,500”, he added. “Access to help and advice for parents struggling to handle the impact of family breakdown must not become another postcode lottery.”

Barbara Reeves, family partner with Mishcon de Reya, in London, said that any measures to support parental contact after separation were welcome. She added: “It remains to be seen, however, just how far the courts will take advantage of these new powers and move us towards the ideal situation whereby children are brought up always knowing both parents and honouring agreements or orders that facilitate contact.”

Calum Chase, of Families Need Fathers, also welcomed the powers, urged by the group for years, as they would “press home the message that children need good levels of contact with both parents”.

But he said: “We are, however, concerned that some members of the judiciary may shrink from deploying the new powers.”

Related Links
* Most men are winning right to see children
* How can the courts do more to help fathers?

Penalties for partners who block child access – New laws bring threat of up to 200 hours’ community service and fines
Source: The Observer, Society, Jamie Doward, home affairs editor, Sunday September 7 2008

Carl Court/PA

Two Fathers 4 Justice campaigners protest on the roof of the deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman.Photograph: Carl Court/PA

Separated husbands and wives who block their former partners from seeing their children could be forced to do community service under new laws coming into force in the autumn.

The move is likely to be welcomed by fathers’ rights groups, which in recent years have led high-profile campaigns to highlight the problems fathers have maintaining contact with their children once relationships break down.

But it has drawn criticism from some justice experts. ‘I’m not convinced unpaid work will change the way people think or behave,’ said Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, which advises the courts on the interests of children in family proceedings. ‘It might be the right thing to do in a handful of cases. But what we really need is more specialist family support services with counselling for both children and parents.’

Harry Fletcher, spokesman for the probation union, Napo, said it could see thousands of people, mainly women, criminalised. ‘It could mean that distraught mothers do unpaid work alongside persons convicted of criminal offences,’ he warned. ‘It would conflict with childcare responsibilities.’

The Children and Adoption Act, which comes into force in November, will see parents, who fail to comply with contact orders handed down in the family courts, made to carry out up to 100 hours of community service, performing tasks such as collecting litter or working in a charity shop. If they fail to carry out the tasks, the penalty can be increased to up to 200 hours’ community service and result in a fine.

The new measures reflect a growing concern about the family courts system. Critics say that it is cumbersome, lacks transparency and that social workers involved in drawing up reports have too much power. ‘The court system is so slow and adversarial and the punishments for disobeying so seldom used that people feel they can get away with stopping a father or a mother from seeing their child,’ said Jon Davies, chief executive of Families Need Fathers. ‘But we are sceptical about these new laws. What we need is a change to the adversarial court system. We need to stop people going to court in the first place.’

Cafcass deals with 85,000 cases each year, involving separating couples who have children. Up to 15,000 of these cases result in contact orders being issued. Currently, parents who refuse to allow former partners to have contact with their children are forced to attend dispute resolution talks. But there are few sanctions to force parents to comply with the contact orders.

The issue of access to children of separated and divorced couples has come to the fore in recent years, with fathers’ rights groups claiming that they are getting a raw deal. The issue has been raised predominantly by men’s rights groups because courts usually decide that the child should stay with the mother when couples split up. Members of the militant group Fathers 4 Justice have launched a series of high-profile stunts to draw attention to their grievances, including taking to the roof of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman’s home dressed as superheroes.

According to Napo, the vast majority of the individuals who breach contact arrangements are women, often because a mother believed that her children would suffer as a consequence of contact with the father.

A government spokeswoman defended the new laws: ‘These new measures, which include ordering an individual to attend contact activities such as a parenting class, or carry out unpaid work, give the court new ways to help find solutions where there is a serious conflict between parties.’

Section 11 A – P (Children Act 1989) Guidance (for CAFCASS Practitioners)
Source: Family Law Week: 8 december 2008

Guidance to Cafcass Practitioners on their roles in supporting the courts in their use of the section 11 A – P provisions, Children Act 1989 (as inserted by the Children and Adoption Act 2006)

1. Introduction

1.1 On 8 December 2008, sections 1-5 and 8 of Part 1 of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 came into force. Their effect is to amend section 11 of the Children Act 1989, by inserting sections 11A-11P into the 1989 Act. These provisions confer additional powers on the courts, when they are dealing with applications for contact orders made under section 8 (Children Act 1989). The provisions also place a number of specific new duties on Cafcass. This guidance describes the new provisions, in terms of what Cafcass officers should do in supporting the work of the courts. The guidance has been drafted in consultation with the Magistrates’ Association, the Association of HM District Judges and the President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter, who has disseminated this guidance to the judiciary, with his endorsement of its contents. This means that the courts will be anticipating that Cafcass will undertake its work in the ways described below.

2. Making and Monitoring of Contact Activity Directions and Conditions (sections 11E and 11G)

2.1 Section 11E of the (amended) Children Act 1989 enables the court to ask for information from a Cafcass officer (‘an officer of the Service’) in the process of making a contact activity direction (CAD) or contact activity condition (CAC). Section 11G enables the court to ask the Cafcass officer to monitor and report on compliance with any CAD or CAC. A CAD can be given at any time when the court is considering making, varying or discharging a section 8 contact order. A CAC can only be made when a court makes or varies a section 8 contact order.

2.2 There are to be three types of contact activity: – information/assessment meetings about mediation (provided by LSC-approved providers on a one-off basis, free of charge to both parties if either party is publicly funded) – parenting information programmes (provided by DCSF-commissioned providers, typically involving two two-hour groupwork sessions, free of charge to those parties who are publicly funded or who would experience hardship if they were required to pay (the financial regulations may be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/pdf/uksi_20082940_en.pdf )(NB mediation itself cannot be ordered by the court) – domestic violence prevention programmes (provided by DCSF-commissioned providers) involving an intensive programme of 60 hours’ intervention. These are also free of charge to those who are publicly funded or who would experience hardship if they were required to pay (the financial regulations may be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/pdf/uksi_20082940_en.pdf).

2.3 Before making a CAD or CAC, the court must satisfy itself about the appropriateness of making a direction/imposing a condition. The court must consider:

– the local availability of contact activities (information about approved providers may be found at http://cafint01/Intranet/knowledge_base/partnerships/partnerships_map.aspx)
– the accessibility of the location of the activity,
– the suitability of the party to participate in the activity (taking account of religious beliefs and work/education commitments), and
– the likely effect of undertaking the activity.

The court must also consider the suitability of the provider, though this has been addressed by ensuring that all providers are approved by either the LSC or DCSF (on behalf of the Secretary of State). The child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. A Cafcass officer is under a duty (under section 11E(7)), if requested by the court, to inform the court about all of these issues.

2.4 In practice, the Cafcass officer is very likely to have suggested to the court, either at the first or second hearing in a contact case, that participation in a contact activity might be beneficial. The potential benefits of a CAD/CAC might well have been identified by the Cafcass officer at the first hearing, either in a Schedule 5 letter to the court or orally. If recommended subsequently, the recommendation is likely to be made in the Initial Analysis and Recommendations on the basis of a Cafcass assessment. If the court accepts such a recommendation, the court may then ask the Cafcass officer to provide information about the issues listed at 2.3 above.

2.5 In practice, the attitude of the parties towards the potential activity will be a key consideration to address, not least because of the possibility that one or both parties might be required to pay for the cost of the activity. This will be an important factor to address in any oral or written report to the court. In the case of mediation assessments, those parties in cases whether neither person is publicly funded will be required to pay (a sum of about £80). Both parties will be required to participate, but can initially be seen separately. In the case of parenting information programmes, a self-funding party will be expected to pay about £200. In this type of contact activity, it will generally be the case that both parties are required to participate, though the programmes will be delivered to parties separately from one another. In the case of domestic violence prevention programmes, they will be focused on one party, who has conceded, or where it has been found through a finding of fact, that they are responsible for causing harm (as defined by the President’s Practice Direction dated 9 May 2008 ‘Residence and Contact Orders: Domestic Violence and Harm’). In addition, support services are likely to be offered to any adult victim of harm and to any current partner of the perpetrator. For a party who is not eligible to be subsidised, the cost of participation in the programme (up to £2,500) is likely significantly to influence the potential participant’s perspective. In this type of intervention, a suitability assessment by the potential programme provider will be undertaken, in addition to any work carried out by Cafcass, in order to give the best possible information to the court about the party’s suitability and the likely impact of the activity.

2.6 In accordance with section 11G, the court may decide to ask the Cafcass officer to monitor whether the party (or, more usually, the parties) attended the contact activity and to report to the court on any non-compliance with the CAD/CAC. Cafcass is under a duty to provide this information to the court. In addition, the court may also ask Cafcass to provide information about the impact, beneficial or otherwise, of attendance, in terms of helping to address the issues in the case. Both elements will require there to be liaison with the provider, information from which should be reported to the court, together with any additional Cafcass analysis and recommendations. In some cases, the Cafcass officer will have been asked by the court to have other forms of involvement with the parties and/or the child during the period of participation in the contact activities, the outcome of which should also be reported to the court.

3. Requirement to monitor a contact order (section 11H)

3.1 When the court is making or varying a section 8 contact order, it may ask a Cafcass officer, who is under a duty to respond to the request, to monitor whether there is compliance with the terms of the order and to report to the court about compliance-related matters. This may relate only to the period when the proceedings are before the court or it may, alternatively or in addition, relate to a period (of up to 12 months) after the proceedings have ended.

3.2 With nearly 40,000 contact orders having been made in 2007, this provision has major potential resource implications for Cafcass. It has been agreed with the President that the general assumption is that the provision should not be used in ‘consent order’ cases where proceedings have ended. Instead, consideration of its use should be limited to those cases where the issue of contact has remained in dispute during the proceedings and where a trial and judicial determination of the contact issue has taken place. For example, where there is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of one or both parties, the court may consider that the imposition of a monitoring requirement is appropriate. Unlike the situation with Family Assistance Orders (see Section 6), the consent of the parties is not required.

3.3 The court may end the proceedings, having made a contact order with a monitoring requirement, or it may set a further date for a review hearing (usually before the same judge). In either event, it is essential that timely monitoring takes place in the immediate aftermath of the contact order (and monitoring requirement) being made. This monitoring is likely primarily to take the form of telephone contact with both parties and, where children are of sufficient age and level of understanding, also with the children. To assist in this process, the Cafcass officer should consider recommending to the court the type of arrangements that need to be included in the contact monitoring requirement to enable it to be operated effectively. For example, the parties may need to be directed to provide telephone contact details to Cafcass, to respond to phone calls, voicemail messages and other communications from Cafcass and to facilitate communications between Cafcass and the subject children. This is provided for by section 11H(8). The focus of the monitoring should be on the issue of whether there is compliance with the terms of the order. The act of monitoring is neither a punitive nor a welfare intervention. Where early contacts with the parties and children reveal that compliance is adequate, it may be appropriate to reduce the frequency with which monitoring takes place, especially in the case of requirements that are of many months’ duration.

3.4 The court may request that it be notified in writing about the outcome of the monitoring, either at the end of the monitoring period if compliance has been adequate, or at an earlier stage if the Cafcass officer forms the view that compliance is inadequate. Non-compliance may take the form of an absolute refusal by the resident parent to allow contact to take place, which may occur at the point at which the order is made or at a later stage. At the other end of the spectrum, non-compliance may take the form of a chronic series of more minor failures to observe the terms of the contact order. Such chronic cases should not be allowed to ‘drag on’ across many weeks or months. Instead, the court should be notified that, in the view of the Cafcass officer, there has been non-compliance, together with details of the series of minor (or more major) infractions. The court should also be asked for guidance about how it wishes to proceed.

3.5 On receipt of such a notification, the court may, if a review date has been set, choose to bring forward a hearing in order to consider the matter. Alternatively, if proceedings are at an end, the court will need to await the making of an application for enforcement (see Section 4 below) by a party. In either case, the Cafcass officer will need to ensure that any letter of notification to the court is also sent to both parties. In addition, the Cafcass officer will need to consider how this letter’s contents might best be communicated to the affected children. Once non-compliance has been notified to the court, the parties and, in the most appropriate way, the children, monitoring should continue while the guidance of the court is awaited about how it wishes to deal with the reported non-compliance.

3.6 The new provision for the imposition of contact monitoring requirements may replace the use of addendum reports in many contact cases, with brief reports instead being focused on the facts of compliance. The task of monitoring compliance with contact orders is one that might most appropriately be undertaken by Family Support Workers, working in consultation with the Cafcass officer who has undertaken the bulk of the work during the previous proceedings. This arrangement may also be an effective one where contact monitoring is ordered as part of Cafcass’ intervention during ongoing proceedings

4. Making and monitoring of enforcement orders (sections 11L and 11M)

4.1 Where a contact order, to which a warning notice is attached, is considered to have been breached, an application for an enforcement order may be made. If the court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a person has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with the contact order, it may make an enforcement order imposing an unpaid work requirement (of between 40 and 200 hours) on the person who has failed to comply with the contact order. Cafcass will be sent by the court a copy of each C79 enforcement application that is received, to enable Cafcass to undertake updating screening checks with the relevant local authority and the police (see the Cafcass Private Law Enforcement Interactive Pathway for further details). Some applications will be made subsequent to a Cafcass notification of non-compliance, while others will arise in cases where Cafcass has not recently been actively involved. In either type of case, the outcome of the checks needs promptly to be notified to the courts, together with any other requested information. The court has discretion to join the child as a party to enforcement proceedings. The child is not automatically a party even where he or she was a party to the original proceedings which led to the making of the contact order. Cafcass may be asked to advise the court whether the child should be joined as a party. In practice it will rarely be necessary, and Cafcass Legal can advise in cases of difficulty.

4.2 Before making an enforcement order against a person who has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with a contact order, the court is required to satisfy itself that an enforcement order is necessary to secure the person’s compliance with the contact order and has to consider the likely effect of an enforcement order on the person, including in terms of any conflict with the person’s religious beliefs or their education/work arrangements. The court also has to be satisfied that provision for unpaid work is available locally. A Cafcass officer is under a duty to provide information about suitability and availability if the court requests it. In order to inform the court about the local availability of unpaid work, it will be necessary to liaise with the local National Probation Service (NPS), which stands ready to provide unpaid work to those ordered by the court to undertake it. If the court does not grant leave to Cafcass for disclosure of information about the case to the NPS, the court’s leave should be obtained before doing so. When considering whether to make an enforcement order with an accompanying unpaid work requirement the court must take into account the welfare of the child who is the subject of the contact order that has been breached, but the child’s welfare is not its paramount consideration.

4.3 On making an enforcement order, the court is to ask a Cafcass officer to monitor compliance with any unpaid work requirement that it has imposed when making an enforcement order. The monitoring of individuals’ compliance with unpaid work requirements will be undertaken by the NPS, on a similar basis to that followed with those referred to it by the criminal courts. The Cafcass officer will need to notify the NPS (which will fulfil the role of the ‘responsible officer’), which in turn will report to Cafcass on compliance. In cases where the NPS determines that there has been non-compliance without reasonable excuse, this will be reported to Cafcass. Similarly, if an individual is or becomes unsuitable to perform unpaid work, Cafcass will also be notified of this by the NPS. In both instances, the Cafcass officer must report such matters to the court. In addition, there may be other matters that are reported to Cafcass by the NPS for onward communication to the court, such as a situation in which an individual moves from their address without providing a new address.

5. Compensation for financial loss (section 11O)

5.1 Where a contact order has been made and, as a result of one party’s non-compliance with its terms, the other party suffers financial loss, that party may apply to the court for compensation to cover the cost of that loss. While Cafcass is unlikely to be aware of such applications having been made, it is possible that the court will seek information from Cafcass about the welfare of the child, given the requirement placed on the court by section 11O(14) to take into account the welfare of the child concerned. Cafcass should respond in accordance with the specific request made by the court. The court has the discretion to decide whether to join the child as a party. (See para 4.1.)

6. Family Assistance Orders (FAOs) (section 16) and Risk assessments (section 16A).

6.1 In addition to the provisions relating to contact with children, which amend section 11 of the Children Act 1989, Part 1 of the 2006 Act made two other amendments to the 1989 Act, both of which were implemented on 1 October 2007. Section 16 of the Children Act 1989 has been amended to remove the ‘exceptional circumstances’ requirement relating to the making of FAOs and has increased their maximum duration from six to twelve months. Cafcass guidance on FAOs may be found at http://www.cafcass.gov.uk/publications/policies.aspx. Section 16A of the Children Act 1989 now places a duty on Cafcass to make risk assessments (and report them to the court) wherever there is cause to suspect that a child is at risk of harm. Cafcass guidance on risk assessment is set out in the Cafcass Safeguarding Framework.

* contact
* enforcement

Obituary – Dame Joyanne Bracewell
Source: The Guardian, Society, Anthony JN Kirk, Thursday January 25 2007

Dame Joyanne Bracewell, who has died of cancer aged 72, was the most senior judge of the family division. She was promoted to the high court from the circuit bench in 1990 with specific responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the Children Act 1989, a major piece of reforming legislation.

On the bench she was equally at home dealing with complex disputes about the division of assets on divorce as she was with care proceedings, international child abduction and adoption from abroad. She was passionate about family law, but was comfortable with high-profile criminal cases, particularly those where young people were accused of sexual offences. Her quiet approach, coupled with her instinct to get to the facts without fuss, singled her out. She had a great ability to empathise with those whose family problems she was sorting out, doing so with enormous care and humanity: her decisions were rarely successfully appealed.

She fought shy of publicity but inevitably received her fair share. In 2004 she took the then unusual step of opening her court to the public to deliver judgment on her decision to transfer care of children from the mother to the father. The mother had obstructed all contact, and Bracewell thought that her ruling might at least afford the children the opportunity of maintaining a proper relationship with both parents. This was applauded by Fathers4Justice, up till then one of her most vociferous critics.

In February 2005, she was called to give evidence to a parliamentary select committee on new measures to ensure that orders for contact were not ignored. Many of her thoughts found their way into the Children and Adoption Act 2006, yet to be implemented. She publicly deprecated litigation in cases where early mediation might help.

On another occasion, she gave evidence at the trial of a woman who had evaded security at the royal courts and brandished a revolver. Bracewell was sitting in the court of appeal with two male lords justices, and the story has it that she calmly defused the situation, urging the woman to “put the thing down, please, before someone ends up getting hurt” – but not before one fellow judge had fled to raise the alarm, and the other had moved out of harm’s way.

Away from the bench, Bracewell was a loyal supporter of the Family Law Bar Association and took a keen interest in young people coming up through the profession. She rarely missed the opportunity to attend any of the association’s social events, where her name badge, which she always liked to write herself, simply said “Joyanne”.

Among her many interests were antiques (about which she was very knowledgeable), cookery (at which she was expert) and wildlife conservation (about which she was as passionate as she was about her day job).

Bracewell was born in Manchester into a comparatively well-off family; her father had worked his way up from humble origins in the textile industry. Educated largely at home, she achieved a commendable set of examination results at the age of 16, and later went on to read law at Manchester University. She was called to the bar by Gray’s Inn in 1955. As guest speaker at the annual dinner of the Family Law Bar Association in 2006, her coming retirement prompted her to reflect on her early experiences at the bar and her disheartening trawl from one set of chambers to another in search of a seat, only to be rebuffed by a succession of senior clerks. Such were the prejudices against women joining the profession that, when eventually granted a tenancy, she was compelled to sign off court documents as “J. Bracewell”, lest her gender be discovered and future supplies of work dry up.

In 1978 she was appointed Queen’s counsel, and she was a recorder of the crown court from 1975 to 1983 – when she was made a circuit judge. Her promotion from the circuit bench to the high court in 1990 was regarded as an unusual career progression at the time, but in her case it was undoubtedly justified. She lectured widely on the ramifications of the new Children Act, and was only the fifth female judge to be appointed to the family division.

Between 1993 and 1997 she chaired the Children Act Advisory Committee and was a consulting editor of Butterworths Family Law Service from 1989 and the Family Court Practice from 1993. She was awarded a doctorate of laws by Manchester University and served as the family division liaison judge for London and the south-eastern region for seven years – a significant responsibility. In 1994 she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In 1963 she married Roy Copeland, a gifted jazz musician, with whom she found time to run their lovely guest-house in Somerset. She leaves him and their two children, Philippa and Adam.

Joyanne Winifred Bracewell, lawyer, born July 5 1934; died January 9 2007

Society: Children
UK news: Law

Dec 10 2007 – Family justice policy does not work for children, report says
Sep 4 2007 – At what age can you be a criminal?
Oct 25 2006 – Heavy vetting
Jul 31 2006 – Family judges learn from Australian approach to battles over children

Labour’s Social Policies Against Teenage Binge Drinking

By Peter Tromp MSc

Before reading about the UK Labour government’s latest social policy proposals below on fining ‘parents’ for up to a £1,000 for their children’s alcohol misuse and binge-drinking, you should be aware of the following research showing that teenagers living without their biological fathers are more likely to drink alcohol:

1. In the West of Scotland, 18-year-old girls from lone-parent households were twice as likely to drink heavily as those from intact two-birthparent homes (17.6% compared to 9.2%). This finding holds even after controlling for poverty.
Source: Sweeting, West and Richards (1998), ‘Teenage Family life, lifestyles and life chances’, pp. 15–46.

2. British 16-year-olds from lone-parent households are no more likely to drink than those from intact households. This is mainly because higher levels of teenage drinking actually are associated with higher family incomes. After controlling for household income and sex, teenagers from lone-parent families were 40% more likely to drink.
Source: Ely, West, Sweeting and Richards (2000), ‘Teenage Family Life, Life chances, lifestyles and health’, pp. 1–30.

The alcohol misuse problem addressed by the Labour government now (see below), might therefore very well be a self-created one, resulting from the Labour Government’s own family breakdown policies. This raises the legitimate question of who is to decide on the fine Labour is to get for its family breakdown policies and who is to serve it!?

Home Secretary admits majority of 13-year-olds drink as she threatens £1,000 fine for parents of binge-drinking children
Daily Mail – By JAMES SLACK – More by this author » Comments (5) – Last updated at 21:54pm on 6th February 2008

Britain has passed a “worrying tipping point” where more 13-year-olds drink alcohol than do not, the Home Secretary said yesterday.

Jacqui Smith also warned of young adult binge-drinkers with an “appetite for destruction” causing mayhem in town centres.

Despite admitting the huge alcohol problem, she gave a clear indication that 24-hour drinking is here to stay.

Binge Britain: Parents are to be fined £1,000 if their children are caught with alcohol in public. Under-18s are currently banned from buying alcohol but not from consuming it

A review, due to report within weeks, is expected to recommend no change.

Miss Smith said: “Without pre-empting the findings of the review, I do not expect the impact of changes to licensing hours on crime and disorder to have been as dramatic as some have suggested.”

She delivered the blunt warning that 13-year-olds who drink are now in the majority for the age group – giving a total of nearly 350,000 in England and Wales – while unveiling heavily-trailed “new” powers to tackle the problem.

Miss Smith, who has sons aged 14 and nine, said police could be given new rights to confiscate alcohol from underage drinkers – those below the age of 18 – caught by the police in public places.

She also threatened the parents of underage drinkers with “parenting contracts” which could lead to a £1,000 fine if ignored.

And she said an enforcement campaign costing £875,000 to confiscate alcohol will take place during next week’s half-term holidays in 175 areas of the country.

Her remarks come after the widespread alarm caused by the murder last year of devoted father Garry Newlove by young thugs who had been drinking on the streets of Warrington.

But opponents dismissed the announcement as nothing more than a “headline-grabbing gimmick”.

Police have had powers to seize alcohol from youngsters since 1997. Her proposed change, which is not certain to happen, would merely remove a requirement that police must suspect that an under-18 plans to consume the drink – which officers say has never been a problem.

It also emerged that the parenting contracts are nothing more than a “voluntary agreement”.

jacsmithms1512_228x322.jpgParents of the worst teenage drinkers could simply opt out of them.

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This is yet another half-baked announcement designed to grab a headline.

Jacqui Smith: cracking down on teenage drinking

“The powers to confiscate alcohol from underage drinkers on the street were proposed and passed under the last Conservative government, but ministers have no idea how effective the existing law is because they haven’t the faintest idea how often it has been used.”

Of more long-term significance are likely to be Miss Smith’s remarks on irresponsible drinks promotions. She dropped heavy hints that if pubs and supermarkets do not stop selling alcohol so cheaply, the Government will be prepared to regulate.

As the Daily Mail revealed last month, this could include laws setting aside Competition Commission rules which bar a minimum price being fixed for the sale of alcohol.

Miss Smith revealed that the Government has commissioned a firm of auditors to carry out a review of whether pubs, clubs, off-licences and supermarkets are abiding by the standards set by the alcohol industry.

The report by KPMG – due to be completed by the end of next month – will focus on these cutprice drink promotions.

The Home Secretary said: “It can’t be right that you can still find promotions for 50p shots until midnight or “all you can drink for a tenner” nights.

“And people are increasingly asking whether the approach to alcohol sales, marketing and promotions is as responsible as it needs to be.”

She is also writing to chief constables telling them to take action against shops which sell alcohol to children.

“We have now reached a worrying tipping point where more 13-year- olds have drunk alcohol than have not,” Miss Smith told a Home Office conference on alcohol enforcement in north London.

“This is clearly a cause for concern.

“There is alcohol education in schools, but we need to make sure this is as effective as possible in alerting children to the dangers of drinking.”

Parents are also to blame, she said. “The idea that you can hand your kids a six-pack of lager and tell them to disappear off for the evening – with no thought to the consequences – frankly baffles me.”

Miss Smith also admitted alarm at “young binge-drinkers, the 18 to 24-year-olds whose capacity for alcohol consumption seems to be matched in extreme cases only by an appetite for destruction”.

She said a multi-million pound advertising campaign later this year will set out “in no uncertain terms” the dangers of bingedrinking.

A scheme which sees alcohol-related offenders referred to special counsellors will also be extended to ten more areas.
Parents face £1,000 fines for giving children drink
London Evening Standard – By Nicholas Cecil – Add your view – 06.02.08

Parental support: Jacqui Smith

Parents will face fines of up to £1,000 for giving their children alcohol. They could also be sent on residential courses to be taught how they are harming their children by giving them beer, wine and spirits. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today announced plans for parenting contracts and orders to be used against parents whose drunken children, aged under 18, behave anti-socially. “If a young person is being picked up night after night for drinking, there’s clearly a problem with their parents as well,” she said. “Those parents need support … but they need to be expected to take that support.” As part of moves to tackle Britain’s binge-drinking culture, police, town halls or youth-offendingteams will be able to ask adults to sign voluntary parenting contracts demanding that they stop supplying their children with alcoholic drinks. If the contract is breached, the authorities can then apply to a court for a parenting order to enforce the actions outlined in the contract. Adults who fail to obey the parenting order risk a £1,000 fine or a community sentence. In her first major speech on alcohol, at the Business Design Centre in Islington, Ms Smith was also set to moot plans for a ban on teenagers drinking alcohol in public. Those under 18 are banned from buying alcohol but not from consuming it. The Government is concerned that some parents are fuelling under-age drinking by allowing too much alcohol at home and is launching a £750,000 campaign to confiscate cans, bottles and glasses of alcohol being drunk from by teenagers in public. The campaign also extends police powers by enabling them to confiscate alcohol from under-18s even if the teenagers insist they are not planning to drink it themselves. This aims to confine any under-age drinking to the home. However, ministers are not just concerned about young drinkers but also older, often middle-class, men and women consuming harmful levels of wine and other alcoholic beverages. A new £10 million advertising campaign will be launched in the summer to raise awareness of the effects of drink. Ministers, though, believe they have made progress in tackling pubs and off-licences selling alcohol to under-age drinkers. Only one in six licensed premises now breaks the law by selling drink to teenagers instead of half of them three years ago.


Under five years old: It is illegal to give alcohol to a child under five except under medical supervision in an emergency.
Under-16s: Can go anywhere in a pub as long as they are supervised by an adult, but cannot have alcohol. Some premises’ licensing conditions may bar them.
16 or 17 years old: Can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if it is bought by an adult and they are accompanied by an adult. It is illegal for this age group to drink spirits in pubs even with a meal.
Under 18 years old: Illegal to buy alcohol in a pub, off-licence, supermarket or other outlet, or for anyone to buy alcohol for someone under 18 to consume in a pub or a public place.

source: http://www.direct.gov.uk

(9) – Add your view Here’s a sample of the latest views published.

Why can’t New Labour just pipe down? They are full of dreadful, depressing mediocrities, and Jacqui Smith is herself as depressing and mediocre as they come – even by New Labour’s own ghastly standards. Stop knocking parents all the time, Jacqui, and take some responsibility for your over-manned, wasteful, bureaucratic and failing state education system whose failure accounts for most of the teenage problems. Better still, resign – give us all a break and let someone who can do the job properly get on with it.
– Peter Johns, Toulon, France

Silly woman. Who is going to police this stupid idea?
– Mick W, wellingborough uk

“If a young person is being picked up night after night for drinking, there’s clearly a problem with their parents as well,” – wasn’t Euan Blair under 18 when he was found legless in Leicester Square?
– Caroline, London

I’m assuming that the majority of children that drink come from poorer families so how could they afford £1000? It would just be increasing their debt. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that alcohol is not good for children as it’s not good for adults if taken excessively so why waste more taxpayers’ money?
– Moo, South London, UK

Can you imagine this law being introduced in Italy and France where adults and children drink wine around the dinner table?
– Peter, London

How exactly will the government know if a child has been given alcohol? There is no sensible way to implement this idea. Are they saying they will fine someone who buys alcohol in a shop for a child? Are there going to be big sting operations? What a load of rubbish. How will the government know what happens behind closed doors? I can’t believe this is the government answer to the problem of underage drinking and the violence caused in its aftermath. I always thought Jacqui Smith looked a bit gormless, it looks like she is proving me right.
– Paul B, London

Failing UK family courts and judges :: Mark Harris :: Jailed for waving hello at his kids


Reunited: Lisa, 20, with her father, Mark Harris (Photo from the Daily Mail)

Interview with Mark Harris and his daughter Lisa

UK Channel 4; Richard and Judy Show; June 2007 ::

(Click on the arrow in the picture above to see the video with the interview)

The story of Mark Harris, his three daughters and UK family court judge Munby

The story of Mark Harris – is that of a British father jailed by the UK family courts for 10 months simply for waving at his kids. A story in which Mark for the love of his children had to make 133 (family) court appearences and had to stand in front of 33 (family court) judges, before he was finally reunited again with his children. A waste and a nonsense that has costed the British taxpayer at least a milion pounds of taxpayers money spent to keep the familycourt machinery running its failing course.

Mark recently published his book “Family Court HELL” on his experiences with the anti-father biased UK family courts and the abuse of power by the gender racist family court judge Munby.

It is a long story going back into the nineties of the last century. But let’s start from today by first listening to both Mark Harris and his daughter Lisa in their June 2007 television-interview on UK Channel 4 (above) and reading the Daily Mail article on their experiences with UK family courts and family judges (below), only to learn about their story from there by going back in history.

Father Knowledge Centre

Jailed for waving at my daughter

Source: UK Daily Mail – By JENNY JOHNSTON and RACHEL HALLIWELL – Add your comment | Comments (21) – 26th June 2007

Denied access to his three children after his divorce, Mark was jailed for standing outside his house to wave to them. It took ten years and 133 hearings before they were reunited. How CAN the Government insist cases like his are kept secret?

Every day there is some reminder of what Mark Harris calls ‘the lost years’. It could be his daughter’s reference to a particular birthday party or a family holiday. It could be talk of exams sat, dentists visited or pop stars worshipped.

Each time it happens, he feels a stab of regret. ‘I missed so much,’ he reveals, with understandable bitterness. ‘They took my daughter’s childhood, her formative years, from me. Lisa is 20 now. I didn’t see her between the ages of ten and 16. An awful lot happens in a child’s life in that time, and I missed it all.’


Reunited: Lisa, 20, with her father, Mark Harris

Lisa missed a lot, too. She sits by Mark’s side as he talks, a beautiful and assured young woman, but one still coming to terms with the fact that her father simply wasn’t there when she needed him – and for an entire decade she did not know why. ‘There were times when I needed a father figure – for reassurance and advice,’ she says, with quiet restraint. ‘There just wasn’t one there.’

But the story of what happened to the Harris family isn’t just another tragic case of broken homes and estrangement. Mark, Lisa and her two younger sisters were wrenched apart by the state. Mark was not a feckless, irresponsible father. He did not walk out of his children’s lives. Rather, he was ordered out by the family courts, and when he objected – insisting it was his right to see them – he was dealt with in a scandalous way. Mark Harris went to prison for his girls. He was jailed for waving at them after a court order demanded he sever all contact. It was the most shameful chapter in an extraordinary ten-year custody battle.

He has now ‘won’ – today, two of his daughters live with him – only because they shared their father’s determination to re-establish their relationship. He has lived every father’s worst nightmare, and every miserable step is etched on his face. ‘It took ten years, 133 court appearances before 33 different judges, two prison sentences and a hunger strike before I was given permission to be with my daughters again,’ he says quietly. ‘What happened to my family is unforgivable. And that it was all sanctioned – ordered – by a system that is supposed to help families is outrageous.’

The controversial family court system has much to answer for in this case. Mark Harris isn’t the first father who has questioned how it operates. Family court proceedings are notoriously secretive, and campaigners have long appealed for the proceedings to be more open and judges more accountable. That is not to be, however. Last week the Lord Chancellor ruled that proceedings must remain secret – something that horrifies Mark and his girls.

So angry is he about his experiences that he has written a book, Family Court Hell. ‘Surely my story is evidence enough that the system needs to change. ‘If it doesn’t, the family courts are open to abuse by unaccountable judges and social workers with their own agendas, whose word is taken as law and who almost invariably favour the mother. ‘It’s a scandal which has left hundreds of fathers like me in desperation. The only solution is to have a court system that’s transparent. Otherwise it is simply not fair to fathers or, more importantly, to the children it is supposed to protect.’

When Lisa was born in 1988, Mark felt ‘like the happiest man alive’. He had been married to his wife – whom we cannot name even now for legal reasons – for three-and-a-half years, and he had longed for fatherhood. Over the next four years, two more daughters followed. MARK says: ‘I remember thinking how lucky I was because I had a job that I could organise around the children. I’m a driving instructor, so my work was flexible. I loved the time I spent with Lisa. Not every father could read their children stories, bath them or take them out for walks in their pram.’

Mark thought he had a happy marriage, too. The only difficulty was his strained relationship with his mother-inlaw. Yet it didn’t concern him much. ‘Looking back, we rowed constantly about my mother-in-law, but I never thought it would lead to drastic action,’ he says. Perhaps he will never know exactly what was wrong in his marriage, but his wife was clearly unhappy.

One day in 1993, Mark returned from a football match to find the house ‘looking as though it had been ransacked’. Almost all the furniture had disappeared. So, too, had his wife and children, and he had no clue where they had gone. ‘I went to the police,’ he says. ‘I was beside myself, distraught. They said my wife was in a rented house nearby, but that I shouldn’t go round until the next day. When I did, she told me she no longer loved me, but said I could see the children whenever I wanted. I was bereft.

‘I took the children home for a few hours and they spent the time crying – they were only six, four and two, and it must have been horrific for them to see their parents like that. They wanted to know when we’d all be at home together again, and I didn’t know what to say. I was as shocked and bewildered as them.’

Over the next few weeks, Mark stumbled through life in a daze. He saw his girls every day he wasn’t working, but his anger towards his wife was building up. Two months after she left, she asked if he would take her back. Mark was too hurt to contemplate that. Instead, he launched divorce proceedings.

‘At that point, it didn’t even occur to me that access to the children would be an issue. I was granted unrestricted access – but later I discovered that even then my wife was seeing a solicitor, with a view to having my time with them reduced. She said it was confusing for them to see me.’

THE FAMILY court agreed, and his access was reduced to three times a week, then to once a week and finally to once a fortnight. Mark was stunned to discover he was powerless to resist. ‘I petitioned the judge every time, but there was nothing I could do,’ he says.

A year after they had separated, the couple divorced. Again, Mark made a bid to see more of his girls, and asked the court if they could live with him. His wife retaliated, claiming that seeing him at all was unsettling them. The court’s reaction? It banned him from any contact at all with his daughters. ‘I was just floored, disgusted. On my wife’s word, the judge simply severed all my rights of access. When I protested, no one listened. I was devastated, but there was no way I was going to turn my back on my children. How could a court order stop me from being a father?’

Every morning, while he waited for a court date to argue against this judgment, Mark saw his children being driven past his house to school by their mother. He’d wave – angry that he couldn’t say hello, but grateful for their smiles. Then his former wife was granted an injunction stopping him even gesturing to his children as they passed. ‘It was incredible. She said it was harassment, and the court believed her. But I carried on waving. I was looking for a job and I’d walk to the Jobcentre every morning – knowing how to time it so they would come past. ‘I was damned if I was going to be prevented from waving at my own children. Naively, maybe, I assumed the whole business would be cleared up at the next court hearing.’

It wasn’t. Instead, Mark left that courtroom in handcuffs, sentenced to four months, having been told that waving was tantamount to stalking his ex. He couldn’t believe what was happening. ‘On my first night in jail I shared a cell with a murderer,’ he says. ‘It was so intimidating. The next few weeks just blurred into one long nightmare. Every waking hour I pined for my girls, wondering if I would ever see them again. ‘When I got out, the nightmare continued. It took another year for me to convince the courts I should be allowed to see them at all. Life was an endless round of court hearings. It was a wretched existence. Time and again I’d be facing a new judge and having to re-tell the story. To me, it was a matter of life and death, but to them, it seemed I was just another pushy, undeserving father who was trying to interfere in his former wife’s life. ‘I was so messed up by it all that I had a vasectomy to ensure I couldn’t find myself in that position again.’

Finally, five years after the separation, Mark was granted permission to see his daughters. He was excited about the planned date – but devastated when Lisa didn’t turn up. ‘By then I was livid at the system. It was destroying my life. I know it was a foolish thing to do, but I started picketing the homes of the judges who had denied me contact, hoping they would take pity on me.’ His protests were to no avail. Instead, in 2001, he was sentenced to ten months in prison for contempt of court for driving past his girls’ house to catch a glimpse of them. By then spiralling into depression, he went on hunger strike. For two weeks he refused food and water. ‘I stopped only when I realised that if I died I would never see my precious daughters again,’ Mark says.

Who knows how this desperate fight to be a father would have ended had Lisa, then 16, not intervened. ‘After a row with her mother, she called Mark and told him she and one of her sisters wanted to live with him. ‘I got this call saying they had packed their bags and were at a bus stop. Would I pick them up? In breach of all court orders, I got in the car and brought them home. Seeing Lisa again, for the first time in six years, was incredible. I didn’t know how to speak to, or look at, this young woman before me. She was wearing make-up. She had her 6ft boyfriend in tow. It was surreal, but in the end we fell into each other’s arms and sobbed.’

It was only then that the family court system seemed to consider Mark’s rights. He called the High Court emergency hotline and eventually spoke to a ‘decent, humane judge’. Ten minutes after their conversation-he was faxed a temporary residency order. In court the following week, every previous court order was set aside. ‘It took ten minutes to put right and ten years of injustice, which made me realise just what power those judges have,’ says Mark.

The ruling meant that Lisa and her sisters could choose which parent they lived with. Lisa and her youngest sister – who, again, we can’t name for legal reasons – now live with him. Lisa is studying to be a legal secretary. Her story is even more poignant. She tells of the confusion that has blighted most of her life, and you cannot help but wonder what long-term damage has been inflicted on her and her sisters. ‘One minute we were normal children. The next we were in a rented house with Dad hammering on the door demanding to be allowed to see us,’ she says. ‘We were scared. None of it made sense. Sometimes we’d be allowed to see Dad regularly, then there were times with no contact at all. ‘When Dad disappeared out of our lives, we just thought he had stopped loving us. I was certain I’d done something wrong. ‘The first time we saw him waving to us as we went to school, I was thrilled. I remember thinking: “He still cares.” ‘Every morning, Mum would tell us we shouldn’t look at him – that he was a bad man – yet we couldn’t help but grin when we saw him. It made our day.’ It was impossible for Lisa’s mother to go a different route.

WHEN her father went to prison, no one explained to Lisa why. ‘Mum said: “You see – I told you he was bad.” I was ten years old. As far as I knew, you had to do something pretty awful to go to prison.’ She turned against her father, telling social workers she didn’t want to see him. Yet with hindsight she explains she was simply trying to gain control over the horrific situation. ‘There was this endless pantomime with social workers wanting to know what I thought. All I wanted was to be allowed to love both my parents, but I knew that was never going to happen.

‘Mum’s hatred for Dad was so deep that to keep her happy, and to get them off my back, I said I wouldn’t see him. Turning love to hate made that easier. I told myself that my dad had been wicked, so he deserved it.’ When the courts finally granted access, Lisa was so tortured that she often didn’t turn up to see her father. She thought she was protecting her mother by siding with her.

However, when she fell out with her mother during a phase of teenage rebellion, it was to her father that she fled – and when she discovered he had never stopped loving her, she was left reeling. ‘I’d never forgotten Dad’s number. I know I was only ringing him then to get back at Mum, but when I heard his voice, I wanted to cry. I told him I loved him and that I wanted to see him. Everything just flooded out.’

The first meeting was as hard for her as it was for him. ‘The last time I’d seen him I’d been ten and carrying a skipping rope. When I walked into my old bedroom – and saw it was as I had left it – I wanted to sob. I didn’t dare do so, though, because I knew if I did I’d never stop.’

Four years on, Lisa and Mark are only just beginning to rebuild their relationship. Every day, more gaps are filled, and more trust regained. Meanwhile, Lisa rarely sees her mother, and she is angry at her mother’s behaviour. It is a desperately sorry story, with no real winners. But then, as Lisa points out, it was never supposed to be a contest.

‘I wish to God that my parents had avoided the courts from day one, and simply shared us, the children they created together,’ she says. ‘Instead, complete strangers were allowed to get involved in our lives to such an extent that everyone lost sight of the needs of us children. ‘I love both my parents; I always will. But I will never get my childhood back. It is gone for ever.’

• FAMILY Court Hell by Mark Harris, costs £8.99. Call 0845 1080530, or visit http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.penpress.co.uk.

1b4736c622a0146a7e173110l.jpgFamily Court HELL

Written by Mark Harris

Details :: Pen Press Publishers Ltd Paperback; Language English; 230 pages; ISBN-10: 1906206120; ISBN-13: 978-1906206123; 17 Jun 2007


This is one man’s harrowing story of frustration and determination as he battled for access rights to his young daughters following the bitter break-up of his marriage. Incredibly, his was a journey that spanned almost ten years, with 133 hearings by 33 judges, and which reportedly cost the taxpayer over GBP1 million. What should have been a “simple contact dispute” somehow resulted in this innocent family man effectively being criminalized by the family courts, resulting in a stretch on the A Wing of the infamous Pentonville prison, which housed convicted murderers, terrorists, gun runners and drug dealers. Mark Harris eventually took his case public and the campaign for fathers’ rights took off – with the formation of Fathers 4 Justice. This is a shocking story that deserves to be heard.

From the Author

Any father whose got nowhere in the family courts when trying to maintain his relationship with his children may well think he lost out for a variety of reasons; because his case was not put properly, the judge did not listen, the welfare report was bias or some other likely reason for why the injustice took place.
By reading ‘Family Court Hell’ it should become apparant that farce and injustice is dished out routinely in the family courts-if your children’s mother simply opposes you seeing them. Fathers up against a mothers’ hostility will usually get no where at all-especially when young children are involved-as the courts avoid being put in the position of having to enforce any order upon a mother. They would rather demonise the father instead and pick him off as an individual troublemaker. Truth, justice or even the children’s welfare is simply not on the agenda. You are not alone, this is just the way they operate.

Going back in history :: Mark Harris jailed by family court judge Munby for waving to say ‘Hello’ to his children!

Source: Fathercare :: 23 March 2001

Family judge Munby’s decision starts protests

Judge Munby’s Order of Comittal:

“By orders dated the 3rd day of July 1998 as subsequently varied on 18 September 1998, 25 November 1998, 20 January 1999, 11 March 1999 and 7 February 2000 (SEE ATTACHED HERETO)

  • Upon the application by the Petitioner by notice of Motion dated 18th October 2000.
  • AND UPON HEARING Counsel for the Petitioner, Counsel for the respondent and Counsel for the Official Solicitor
  • AND UPON READING the affidavit of Peter Stewart Smith sworn on 12 October 2000, Charles Oliver 12 October 2000, “The mother” sworn on 13 October 2000, ” The mothers boyfriend” sworn 13 October 2000, Lianne Verna Katibeh sworn 16 October 2000, Mark Dean Harris sworn on 8 December 2000 and “the mother” sworn on 4 January 2001.
  • And the respondent accepting that a copy of the said orders and said summons have been served upon the Respondent Mark Dean Harris,
  • AND having taken the oral evidence of “the mother”, “the mothers boyfriend”, Lianne Verna Katibeh, and Mark Dean Harris
  • AND UPON it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that the said Mark Dean Harris has been guilty of contempt of Court namely that;
  1. On 2 April 2000 he approached the children (eldest), (middle) and (youngest) outside Chaplins superstore in Plymouth and talked to them there by breaching paragraph (h) of the order,
  2. Shortly before 20 April he sent to the mother through the post a cheque for £900 post dated to 29 April 2000, with a note stating that the Cheque could be cashed if (the eldest) attended the next session of contact and continued to attend contact, thereby breaching paragraphs (d) and (i) of the order,
  3. On April 25 2000 he did enter (road A) in a car seeking contact or communication with the children and driving past the mother thereby breaching paragraphs (a) (d) and (h) of the order,
  4. On 26 April 2000 he did hand birthday presents to (middle) and (youngest) during the session of contact and without the presents first having been approved by Plymouth City Council thereby breaching paragraph (h) of the order,
  5. On 27 june 2000 he left a note for (the youngest) in one of her school books after attending an evening at (her school) to discuss her work and without the note first having been approved by Plymouth City Council thereby breaching paragraph (h) of the order,
  6. On 7 August 2000 he entered (road A) , Plymouth, in a car seeking contact or communication with the children and driving past waving to the mother and the children thereby breaching paragraphs (a) (d) & (h) of the order,
  7. On 24 August 2000 he entered (road A) in a car seeking contact or communication with the children and driving past the mother and the children thereby breaching paragraphs (a) (d) and (h) of the order,
  8. Shortly before 30 August 2000 he sent or caused to be sent through the post to (the eldest) an article from “Families Need Fathers” and without the article first having been approved by Plymouth City Council thereby breaching paragraph (h) of the order,
  9. On 5 October 2000 he entered (road A) in a car seeking contact or communication with the children thereby breaching paragraphs (a) and (h) of the order,
  10. On 7 October 2000 he approached (the eldest) in New George Street, Plymouth and spoke to her thereby breaching paragraph (h) of the order.

It is ordered that;

  1. for each of his said contempts 1 and 10 above the Contemnor Mark Dean Harris do pay a fine of £250 each (total £500) to be paid within 12 months from today,
  2. for each of his said contempts 2,4,5. and 8 above the Contemnor Mark Dean Harris do stand committed to Her Majesty’s Prison at Pentonville for a period of 4 months or until he shall be sooner discharged by due course of Law (these sentences to run concurrently with each other)
  3. for each of his said contempts 3,6,7 and 9 above the Contemnor Mark Dean Harris do stand committed to Her Majesty’s Prison at Pentonville for a period of 6 months or until he shall be sooner discharged by due course of law (the sentences to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the sentences in (2) above

AND the Contemnor Mark Dean Harris can apply to the Judge to purge his contempt and ask for release,

And it is further ordered that any application for the release of the said Mark Dean Harris from custody shall be made to a Judge,

And it is further ordered that there be no order for costs, save that there be detailed assessment of the publicly funded costs of the assisted parties,

Sir James Laurence Munby

Comment by Mark Harris (June 2001) ::

It should be noted that throughout the period these heinous crimes were committed, I had a contact order for unsupervised contact. Someone should explain as to why the mother breaching the Contact order (see breach (2) ) attached no penalty for her at all, but got me 4 months for trying to bribe her to comply with the order ? And, perhaps someone can tell me the logic of giving me four months for giving the children birthday presents on an unsupervised contact (breach 4)?I think this particular piece of Judicial abuse of power should be recorded for future history, as this sort of behaviour is in the class of the Nazi extremes, and in future may be viewed in the same category by historians.
Mark Harris

Fathercare-links on this story ::

* 2001 :: Judge Munby’s order jails Mark Harris for 10 months (including four months for giving the children birthday presents, and 2 months for waving ‘hello’).
* 2001 :: Judge Munby uses Telegraph journalist Joshua Rozenberg to publicly humiliate and defame a father whose children want to see him and who has fought against the anti-father Family Court System.
* 2003, April 13th :: Mark Harris’s children defy Judge Munby’s wishes by voting with their feet to re-unite with their dad. The father who was jailed by Judge Munby to 4 month in jail for giving presents to his children, and 2 month for waving ‘hello’ is reunited with his children. Read more
* 2004, Friday April 2nd :: Judge Munby launches an extraordinary attack on the family justice system for failing separated fathers and their children. He said he was ashamed. Read about Munby’s extra-ordinary outburst
* 2004, Monday, April 5th :: Lisa Harris, whose father had been jailed by Judge Munby to 10 months in for trying to see his children, and whom Munby had publicly defamed in the Daily Telegraph as a “charlatan”, goes public with her anger at the Judge for stopping yet another girl seeing her dad while trying to blame somebody else for his own actions. Read the latest twist to Munby’s attempt to evade the blame for putting the Family Courts into terminal decline here.

Additionally – in an interview in the Daily Telegraph of April 28th, 2001 – the ‘Judge Munby’ set out to publicly brand and defame Mark Harris as ‘martyr father’ and as a ‘charlatan’:

Judge brands ‘martyr’ father as a charlatan

Source: Daily Telegraph – By Joshua Rozenberg – (28/04/2001)

A FATHER who “cast himself as a martyr” in a high-profile legal battle over his three daughters was described by a High Court judge yesterday as an “unprincipled charlatan” who should have no direct contact with them.

Mr Justice Munby said the children’s welfare was best served by them having no direct contact with Mark Harris, 42, a driving instructor from Plymouth. He referred to one of a number of demonstrations by supporters of Mr Harris outside the homes of various judges. The demonstrations were publicised on the internet. Posters were displayed criticising Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the Family Division. One read: “If BSE-infected meat is bad for kids . . . why is this mad cow in charge of Family Courts?”

Mr Justice Munby, sitting in the Family Division in London, said: “No amount of intimidation, whether demonstrating outside their homes, vilifying them on the internet or bombarding them with offensive letters, will have any effect on the judges or their families, or deflect the judges from their sworn duty to do right to all manner of people without fear or favour affection or ill-will, or alter their approaches to the cases they are called upon to try.”

The judge said Mr Harris’s daughters lived with their mother following her divorce from him. The daughters wanted and enjoyed contact with their father. The judge said that the mother did not significantly oppose contact, but “all three daughters have ended up opposed to and refusing to participate”.

He said: “Mr Harris is the author of his own immense misfortune. He is also, even though he probably cannot recognise it, the cause of the blighting of his daughters’ lives.” The mother and children have been left, he said, with a “beleaguered feeling of being stalked and harassed”.

The judge said one reason he was giving his ruling in open court was that the case had been promoted as a cause celebre both by Mr Harris and by a number of campaigning organisations, including Families Need Fathers, the Equal Parenting Council, the UK Men’s Movement and the group set up by Mr Harris himself, Dads Against Discrimination.

Mr Justice Munby said: “Mr Harris has cheerfully cast himself and allowed and encouraged others to cast him in the role of martyr. I believe there is a public interest in the members of these organisations knowing just how they have been bamboozled and cynically manipulated by a man, devoid of all moral scruple, who is singularly ill-suited either to assume the martyr’s crown or to act as an ambassador for such organisations. “Mr Harris has manipulated the press by feeding it tendentious accounts of these proceedings, enabled to do so because he has been able hypocritically to shelter behind the very privacy of the proceedings which hitherto has prevented anyone correcting his misrepresentations.”

Mr Harris, who is serving a 10-month sentence for contempt of court, was in court for the ruling, as were a number of his supporters. The judge rejected an application by Mr Harris to “purge” his contempt and release him from prison “to start with a clean sheet”.

Mark Harris reunited with his kids

Source :: Fathercare 2003 :: Judge Munby Latest

From: Fathers4Justice; Matthew O’Connor, Wednesday, March 26, 2003 2:17 PM

Dear All,

Mark had the surprise of his life on Sunday when his eldest and youngest girls arrived on his door step saying that they wanted to live with him!!! Apparently mum had confiscated a mobile phone Mark had given his youngest daughter because it had his number on it. Her 2nd marriage had also broken down and things in the house were not good.

Mark called the duty Judge on Sunday night and had a temporary residence order faxed through from Judge Coleridge whilst he was dining out with his daughters. The Police had arrived at his house (at mums instruction) in the interim but the magic piece of paper sent them packing. Yesterday he secured an interim residence order and mum is now very bitter saying ‘how could my daughters repay me like this after all I’ve done for them’.

I am personally delighted for Mark. I first met him in the Hotel Pentonville a few years back and have stayed in touch ever since. Whilst other groups picked him up and then abandoned him when it suited their means, the rest of us have stuck by him. Yes he’s got ‘militant’ views, but his clarity and central plank in his argument have always been persuasive. Whilst others have lost sight of the target getting bogged down in plans, courses and other forms of futile education, alot of what Mark says continues to resonate with alot of people in this movement.

Perhaps what this illustrates match is how bankrupt this system is. Children will vote with their feet eventually, the price though is resentment now between mum and her daughters. So much for the child’s best interests. I think this is one outcome the LCD should be made aware of.


(Click on both pictures to have larger and readable versions)

Judge Munby also – as must be added to his credit – later on April 2nd of 2004 came round with a media statement in another case saying that family courts are failing fathers and that he felt ashamed about it:

Legal system is failing fathers, says judge

Source :: UK Daily Telegraph – By Sarah Womack and Yolanda Copes-Stepney – 02/04/2004

One of the country’s most senior family judges launched a blistering attack on the legal system yesterday for failing divorced and separated fathers. Mr Justice Munby said he felt “ashamed” after dealing with a man who had fought unsuccessfully for five years to see his daughter, and he argued that mothers who repeatedly defied court rulings on access should be jailed.

Mr Justice Munby

“A wholly deserving father left my court in tears having been driven to abandon his battle for contact with his seven-year-old daughter,” the judge told the Family Division of the High Court in London. “From the father’s perspective, the last two years of litigation have been an exercise in absolute futility. It is shaming to have to say it, but I agree with his view. I feel desperately sorry for him. I am very sad the system is as it is.”

Mr Justice Munby’s comments come at a time of growing protests against the decisions of the family courts in favour of the mother. Last year David Chick, 37, spent six days dressed as Spider-Man on a 100ft crane near Tower Bridge in London to protest over access rights to his daughter. He was a runner-up in a Channel 4 viewers’ poll for the most significant political figure of the year. Fathers for Justice stage a rooftop protest at the High Court.

Well-known fathers, including Bob Geldof and the Prince of Wales, have also criticised the system for being weighted against fathers. Geldof, who was involved in a protracted custody battle with his ex-wife, the late Paula Yates, said: “God bless Mr Justice Munby. The law itself is the problem and the system that implements that primary injustice compounds it.”

In an attempt to defuse the situation, the Government has introduced pilot projects based on mediation between parents, but fathers’ groups say they are too little, too late. They point out that 40 per cent of divorced fathers lose contact with their children after just two years. The same percentage of mothers admit to “thwarting contact” between children and their fathers.

Mr Justice Munby, 55, who has a son and a daughter, said a lack of resources and “scandalous” court delays were major problems. But he also regarded the legal process as “adversarial” and counter-productive because it focused on the arguments of the parents, not the child. “There is much wrong with our system and the time has come for us to recognise that [or] risk forfeiting public confidence,” he said. In the particular case of the father and his daughter, Mr Justice Munby focused on the system’s failure to prevent the mother from ignoring contact arrangements.

Among the many excuses put forward by the mother was that the child, known only as D, was frightened by the father’s chastisement of her, that D was forcibly fed by him and that he threatened not to return her after contact. “All those allegations, I emphasise, were groundless. Conspicuously absent, also, are any judicial findings supporting the mother’s allegations of domestic violence.”

The parents separated when their daughter was two, with the father allowed to see her every Saturday. But the mother attempted to “sabotage” contact and was in contempt of court. On one occasion she was jailed for two weeks for a “flagrant breach of court orders”.

Matters came to a head in December 2001, the last time the father saw his daughter, when he lost his temper with the child’s mother. “The father behaved most foolishly. But the mother needs to ask herself why,” said Mr Justice Munby. “The plain answer is that it was her constant sabotage of contact that goaded him beyond endurance. “What is this father supposed to do? Just walk away from his daughter in the faint hope that perhaps if he does not press for contact something will happen? Surely not. “Is he to be criticised for continuing to invoke what thus far has proved to be the wholly inadequate assistance of the court? Certainly not. He would, in my judgment, be fully justified if he believed as a responsible and loving father that the time for appeasing the mother had come to an end.”

The case had spent nearly five years in the courts. There were 43 hearings conducted by 16 different judges and more than 950 pages of evidence. Mr Justice Munby said that where a mother thwarted contact on a Saturday, she should be ordered to attend court on the Monday and, if she did not, she should be arrested. She could be told that if she thwarted contact again, she would be jailed for up to three days. While committal was “the remedy of last resort”, it might “achieve the necessary coercive effect without significantly impairing a mother’s ability to look after her children”.

Matt O’Connor, the founder of Fathers 4 Justice, said: “Lord Justice Munby’s comments are highly significant. There seems to be a sea change in the way family law is being perceived at the moment.”

John Baker, of Families Need Fathers, said: “Justice Munby is absolutely spot on. Making allegations is risk free for the person making them. There should be sanctions when they are proved unfounded. In other sections of the law it would be seen as perjury. “Time that is lost [between father and child] should be seen as a debt to the child and paid back in new contact arrangements.”

A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor’s Department said: “In terms of contact orders, the Government is aware of the issues but is wary of imprisoning or fining a mother who deprives a child of contact with their father.” He said fresh proposals to help fathers would be announced this summer.

Related articles

* 20 March 2004: Bitter parents urged to seek mediation
* 22 February 2004: Three months jail for mother who kept child from his father
* 6 November 2003: Spiderman ends ‘£5m’ crane protest


Daughter’s anger at ashamed High Court Judge Munby

Source :: Fathercare

Dad4Justice Press release, Monday, 5th April 2004, 8:43 AM

A 17 year old girl today condemned the Judge who last week said he was ‘ashamed‘ at the treatment of a father who had been denied all contact with his daughter by the family justice system in a case he had ruled on. Lisa Harris from Devon said the Judge concerned, Mr Justice Munby, ‘should be ashamed – he let our whole family down and branded my dad a charlatan.’

Ms Harris said ‘he said he was acting in our interests but stopped us from seeing dad even though we wanted to see him. He has ruined my family. I am very angry now that he has stopped another girl seeing her dad and is trying to blame somebody else. ‘

golaed_for_hello1.jpgMr Harris, a member of campaign group Fathers 4 Justice, spent 129 days in Pentonville Jail for trying to see his children MORE than the Court had sanctioned, which was SIX times per year, fully unsupervised, at his home. His case lasted 133 court appearances in front of 33 different judges and cost the taxpayer £750,000. In an amazing turn around, two of his daughters ran away from their mother to live with him in breach of all court orders last year. Lisa now lives with her dad and both his other daughters live him 50% of the time.

Mr Harris said ‘Last weeks judgement was history repeating itself only this time round Munby is trying to save his own bacon by blaming the system yet he has the authority to enforce his orders. He called me a charlatan but he ruined our family.’ ‘My case shows how Judges are acting AGAINST the best interests of the child. My daughters and I intend to confront him soon to ask him why he stopped them seeing their father. He has done nothing to help this poor father and only when the dad concerned gave up did Munby say he wished he could have helped him. He has destroyed another family.’

Is feminism relevant in 2000? (BBC News, 28 December, 1999)

Source: BBC News | AMERICAS | Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 10:51 GMT

Robert Whiston
A whole generation is growing up without male input
real 28k

Melanie Phillips
Feminism in its extreme form has poisoned our culture
real 28k

Germaine Greer
Housework has expanded
real 28k

Natasha Walter
Feminism must acknowledge the differences between women
real 28k

By the BBC’s Michael Gallagher

Girlpower 1990s style

Spice Girls: Girlpower 1990s style

Feminism reached its peak in the radical 1960s, but it is actually as old as the century. In Britain, the movement for women’s suffrage began as early as 1903, to the great amusement of many onlookers.

“Once they get the vote, you can bet they’ll make it tough for men!” sang music hall entertainer, Arthur Aiston.

And almost 100 years on, that is one of the charges still levelled against feminism. Hence our first critic – the embittered male.

Take Robert Whiston for example – a member of the United Kingdom Men’s Movement, which wants to repeal equal rights for women in Britain.

A whole generation is growing up without male input

Robert Whiston

“If you look at counselling for instance, or at social services these days, it’s predominantly women,” he says.

“No one makes any effort to make them friendly to men. And schoolteaching too. Most teachers are women now. A whole generation is growing up without male input.”

Men would say that, wouldn’t they? The defenders of feminism should have no difficulty fending off this kind of attack.

Feminism in its extreme form has poisoned our culture

Feminism in its extreme form has poisoned our culture

Striving for equality

Tackling discrimination always risks the charge that things have gone too far in favour of the injured party. However, in some cases feminism goes beyond striving for equality.

British social commentator Melanie Phillips believes that legitimate struggle has spawned a sinister conflict between the sexes, which she calls gender-feminism.

Are women still expected to do the housework?

Are women still expected to do the housework?

“Feminism, in its extreme gender form, has told women for example that they can and should become independent of men,” she says.

“That I think has had a very grave effect in weakening marriage and the family, and the consequence of that has been untold harm for children, as well as men and also for women themselves.

“Men are seen as the enemy, reprobates, potential wife-beaters and child-abusers and so on. And the battle remains to free women of men. It’s really poisoning our culture.”

Nonsense, say the alleged gender-feminists, among them, Germaine Greer, the Australian-born writer whose book The Female Eunuch inspired a whole generation of women to get angry in the 1970s.

Men are reactionary. That’s their nature. They get their revenge

Germaine Greer

She believes men have indeed trapped women, who therefore have a legitimate need to fight for their liberty. And nothing, she says, not even modern technical advance, has so far freed women from their oppression:

“It’s a bit like traffic. If you build more roads, you get more cars,” she argues.

“If you get a washing machine, do you say: Yes, I never have to wash again, and the washing machine will go just once a week? Washing machines started going once a week, but then it was every other day, then every day. And now, in many households, they go three or four times a day. So that washing has expanded to consume all the time available. And that is the pattern of housework.”

Man have trapped women

Greer: Man have trapped women

Ms Greer believes men are intrinsically opposed to women. What’s more, she says, they hate women more than ever today, thanks to the advances that feminism’s brought.

“Men are reactionary. That’s their nature. They get their revenge. They fight back. It is just spontaneous,” she says.

“If you put pressure on men, they will give you a jab in the ribs. I think it is because women are seen to be invading male preserves that men are responding. And sometimes in quite devious ways, and extremely destructive ways.”

Men ‘becoming redundant’

Many though believe this kind of thinking belongs in the past. Today, western women have achieved much, though not all, of what they set out to. They now often stand above men in terms of personal achievement.

In countries like Britain, many traditional areas of male superiority have disappeared along with old industrial structures, and males are being left behind.

There’s a general sense in which boys are seen to be missing out and that men are becoming redundant

Dr Anne Gray

“Boys in school are seen to be failing, seen not to be doing very well in education, while girls and young women are striding ahead,” says academic Doctor Anne Gray.

“There’s a general sense in which boys are seen to be missing out and that men are becoming redundant really. Traditional forms of male employment are on the decline.

“And the areas of employment are demanding skills that girls have always been good at – like good communication skills, social skills, and the ability to balance several tasks at once.”

Future for feminism

With this kind of development, say critics, feminism is no longer appropriate. They believe what is really needed is a stable and prosperous society for everyone, rather than one that’s disrupted in the interests of any one group.

Role model for teenagers

Geri Halliwell: Role model for teenagers

But, says Melanie Phillips, feminism encourages women to continue making damaging demands of society, demands that they really ought to fulfill for themselves.

“Feminism is really an offshoot of the great movement for individualism which developed after the war in the west, and individualism is all about raising expectations,” she explains.

“It’s about telling people they have a right to expect things of life and very much down playing the extent to which people have a responsibility and a duty to put something in. This has led to to an assumption that if women can’t have it all, it must be someone else’s fault, and someone else should pay for it.”

With such divisions between women, it is tempting to see feminism as a discredited intellectual force, no longer able to square up to the realities of the new millennium.

Feminism can only move forward now if we acknowledge the differences between women, and that women want to lead their lives in all kinds of different ways

Natasha Walter

Then again, it is perhaps unsurprising that such a relatively recent phenomenon should suffer some growing pains. And there is an emerging consensus among women that asserting their right to equal treatment with men need not mean hostility, or living without men.

“I think that feminism can only move forward now if we acknowledge the differences between women, and that women want to lead their lives in all kinds of different ways,” says feminist writer, Natasha Walter.

“I think it can only move forward if we stop telling women how to lead their personal lives, and look at some of the real goals we want to achieve – and I’m thinking of economic and political equality, because those are really achievable in the west. And I think it would be a pity if we don’t work together and try to achieve those goals.”

Beyond the developed world, where women often have much fewer privileges than men, the hope among women’s rights activists must be that feminism can overcome its difficulties. For, if the women’s movement loses its appeal in the west, there is little chance it can extend its achievements anywhere else.

See also:

30 Dec 97 | Entertainment

You’ve come a long way baby…

21 Sep 98 | Health

Making Cindy into Barbie?

21 Jul 99 | UK

Feminising the Web

21 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech

It’s a man’s cyberworld

Internet links:

Talking Point: Has sex equality gone too far

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