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
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).
* 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
* 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.”
* 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
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)
1.1 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.
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
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