http://www.venters.co.uk/

Posts tagged ‘QC’

Image

June Venters QC Top Ranked in Chambers UK 2016

Chambers 2016

Advertisements

June Venters QC writes to the Lord Chancellor about her concerns concerning changes which have been made to legal aid

June Venters QC has written personally to the Lord Chancellor, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Chief Executive of the Legal aid agency to express her immense concern at the change to the means testing of legal aid.  She drew to his attention one particular case as an example in respect of which she is instructed and which involves potentially serious risks to an abducted child where urgent High Court Orders were necessary to seek the child’s return to the jurisdiction of England and Wales.    Legal aid was not available because the client did not qualify on means even though she was in receipt of a “passported benefit.”

Extracts of her letter are as follows:

I am writing to you to express my immense and continuing concern about the inadequacies of our failing justice system brought about in particular by the implementation of what I can only describe as illogical and unfair legal aid decisions which are seriously impacting, in my view, on the ability to secure necessary access to justice.

I have always accepted that legal aid needed to be controlled and I accept in the past just as with any system there has been abuse but what is now happening is that there is a justice system for the rich and none for the rest of society in many instances and I cannot believe that is the desire or intention of this Government. 

I wish to draw to your attention one particular example with which I am involved and in respect of which I have spent many hours of providing pro bono work.

My client failed the means test because of recent changes to legal aid whereby even though previously the receipt of certain state benefits would automatically “passport” someone to legal aid eligibility this is no longer the case and capital has to be taken into consideration.

She explained that in her client’s case the client whilst having a property which had, on paper, an equity of £200,000, in practice she was not in a financially credible position sufficient to enable her to raise monies against the equity in order to fund her legal costs.

The client was in receipt of income-related employment and support allowance [a “passport” benefit] but because of the equity in her property [which was not in dispute within these proceedings and thus could not be disregarded] she was not eligible for legal aid.

She went on to say in her letter:

It has to be questioned why it is that one Government department deems my client’s income sufficiently limited so as to justify supplementing it by way of a state benefit when another Government department responsible for justice deems my client’s financial position sufficiently able to fund her own legal costs.   I understand that the theory behind this illogical decision is that my client could raise a loan against her property, however, my client’s debt is such that she is not able to acquire a loan and in any event if she did this would increase her outgoings placing an additional burden on her income necessitating further supplementation by way of state benefits..

I urge some consideration for changing the current policy with regard to legal aid financial “passporting.”  It is not serving the public and in my view is placing children at risk such as in this case.

One further issue and which I know has been raised by our professional bodies, the removal of legal aid per se in relation to family cases [save for child abduction] unless it meets the domestic violence criteria which remains increasingly difficult is also having a seriously negative impact on the most vulnerable members in society.  Time and time again I am faced with family issues that cannot be resolved without legal advice and representation and at times court intervention. At times members of the public and their children are left in an untenable situation and which then impacts negatively on their health which in turn affects their ability to work and takes up NHS resources.  I know that as an individual I am not going to achieve the abandonment of this policy when our professional organisations have failed to do so but I felt I could not ignore this subject whilst writing about my concerns.  It is my view that the short term saving the Government will have made with regard to this policy will be the Government’s long term loss overall although without proper financial monitoring and reporting the losses that will be incurred to other Government departments as a result of this policy such as NHS and DWP will simply be absorbed without the cause for such losses being obvious.

I am perfectly aware of the drive to provide pro bono services.  I have done this the whole of my career and continue to offer a pro bono clinic one evening every week.  However, if I am to remain in business and employ staff and I hope provide training to future lawyers I cannot undertake only Pro Bono work as much as I would like to do so. 

I urge this Government to review its policies with regard to legal aid and in particular with regard to the specific issue which I have addressed in this letter concerning the “passporting” of benefits. 

Re P and Q (Children: Care Proceedings: Fact Finding)

This is the approved Judgement of Mrs Justice Pauffley in the case of Ricky Dearman

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/gareeva-dearman-2015.pdf

This is a summary of Mrs Justice Pauffley’s findings –

Neither child has been sexually abused by any of the following – Ricky Dearman, teachers at Christchurch Primary School Hampstead, the parents of students at that school, the priest at the adjacent church, teachers at any of the Hampstead or Highgate schools, members of the Metropolitan Police, social workers employed by the London Borough of Camden, officers of Cafcass or anyone else mentioned by Ms Draper or Mr Christie.

The children’s half brother, his father and stepmother – Will and Sarah Draper – are likewise exonerated of any illicit or abusive acts involving the children.

There was no satanic or other cult at which babies were murdered and children were sexually abused.

All of the material promulgated by Ms Draper now published on the internet is nothing other than utter nonsense.

The children’s false stories came about as the result of relentless emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse. Torture is the most accurate way to describe what was done by Mr Christie in collaboration with Ms
Draper

Both children were assaulted by Mr Christie by being hit with a metal spoon on multiple occasions over their head and legs, by being pushed into walls, punched, pinched and kicked. Water was poured over them as they knelt semi-clothed.

The long term emotional and psychological harm of what was done to the children is incalculable. The impact of the internet campaign is likely to have the most devastating consequences for P and Q.

Domestic Violence and Contact – are they being properly investigated?

I am currently researching how effectively the courts are properly investigating allegations of domestic violence when considering applications for contact having had a recent experience where a court’s failure to do so caused a mother and her children three years of emotional turmoil as she struggled to convince the professionals involved that she was not implacably hostile to contact but had genuine and legitimate child protection concerns.   She was only vindicated when some three years later the Fact Finding Hearing was listed and determined.   I am reminded of what Dame Butler Sloss said in Re L [2000] 2FLR 334 at 341-2

‘If the allegations might have an effect on the outcome, they must be adjudicated upon and found proved or not proved. It will be necessary to scrutinise such allegations which may not always be true or may be grossly exaggerated…In cases of proved domestic abuse, as in cases of other proved harm or risk of harm to the child the court has the task of weighing in the balance the seriousness of the domestic violence, the risks involved, the impact on the child against the positive factors (if any) of contact between the parent found to have been violent and the child. In this context, the ability of the offending parent to recognise his past conduct, be aware of the need to change and make genuine efforts to do so will be likely to be an important consideration.’ 

I am in contact with Dr Danya Glaser consultant psychiatrist who was instructed by the Official Solicitor at that time to prepare a joint report with Dr J.C. Sturge, to advise on the four appeals with a view to considering the situation further.

If anyone has any similar experiences where the courts are either not listing cases for fact finding hearings in such circumstances or who are accepting “watered down” admissions so as to change significantly the nature of the allegations made thus making them less serious I should be grateful if you would send me details.

June Venters QC

 

Tag Cloud