The twin evils of delay and expense
As always, our system of justice faces two powerful enemies – the twin evils of delay and expense.
There are many cases that demonstrate the problem of delay, one being a case involving a STOPPA member: In the Matter of J (A Child)  EWCA Civ 1231 where the trial judge attempted to shut down discussion of the problems leading to the alienation.
These problems of delay and expense can be taken together, as they tend to feed off each other. They are caused by:
1 Ineffectual Judges
Take a look at the case law on this site. Despite judges having great power and a wide range of options to deal with PA cases, they make feeble, ineffectual orders – time and time again. They adjourn without good reason, order endless ‘reviews’, and seem to do a lot of ‘hoping’.
This approach causes delay. Delay is inimical to justice. Delay means more entrenchment of the alienation.
Judges must judge. Read more
Ignorance and Training
CAFCASS officers do not understand PA. Training in PA is only optional for CAFCASS officers, and is taken up by only 2% of them.
Wishes and Feelings Reports
These are a waste of valuable time in PA cases, and should be abandoned.
It is tempting to believe that CAFCASS is institutionally biased. Biased in whose favour? Well, as the system generally seems to be biased in favour of inertia, you might think that CAFCASS is biased in favour of the AP simply because finding in the APs favour means ‘no change’, and that ‘no change’ is best for children.
Well, firstly, ‘no change’ is not best. PA cases must be handled aggressively, to stop the alienation taking hold. If your child were being sexually or physically abused one might hope that immediate action would be taken to remove the child from the thrall of its tormenter. Why should it be different with PA, when the scars are no less deep, and possibly longer-lasting?
Next, STOPPA believes that CAFCASS is biased towards AP mothers. For example, in a recent study into domestic violence, CAFCASS took on board the views of Women’s Aid but ignored Men’s groups. That kind of thing does not augur well for an institution that claims gender-neutrality. CAFCASS must remember that PA is perpetrated by both genders, and against both genders.
CAFCASS has launched a new ‘ground-breaking’ initiative to tackle PA – read more here. Whether, and to what extent, this will help remains to be seen, and there are of course a large number of cases that CAFCASS have already messed up – perhaps a class action would address that.
STOPPA welcomes the CAFCASS initiative, albeit with very significant reservations (take a look at their latest blog, days after the release of the ‘ground-breaking initiative’),. CAFCASS seem to be saying ‘we have been really slow to ‘get’ PA, but are slowly waking up and are going to do something about it.’ The proof of this pudding is very much going to be in the eating. STOPPA will be very slow to trust CAFCASS. Read more...