Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for February 2010

Deaths in custody

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The death of people who are in the custody of the state always raises questions about how they were being treated, and whether more could have been done to prevent the death. A Ministerial group used to consider cases of suicide by those in custody but these arrangements were the subject of criticism in 2008. In later 2008, a new Ministerial Council on deaths in custody was established. It is advised by an Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) on Deaths in Custody. Chaired by Lord Toby Harris, the IAP will help to shape government policy in  this  area through the provision of independent advice and expertise to the  Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody.  The remit of the Council covers deaths, which occur in prisons, in or following police custody, immigration detention, the deaths of residents of approved premises and the deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) in hospital. The principles and lessons learned as part of this work will also apply to the deaths of those detained under the Mental Capacity Act in hospital.

This is not a part of the justice system that is widely known about or understood. The IAP has recently launched a new website which makes available to a wider audience reports and other information about policy and practice in this important aspect of the way detainees are treated in custody. For further information, see


Written by lwtmp

February 11, 2010 at 10:12 am

Posted in Chapter 5

Fundamental review of family justice

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The Government has announced a fundamental review of the family justice system. It is to have the following guiding principles:

  1. The interests of the child should be paramount
  2. The court’s role should be focused on protecting the vulnerable from abuse, victimisation and exploitation
  3. Individuals should have the right information and support to enable them to take responsibility for the consequences of relationship breakdown
  4. Mediation and similar support should be used as far as possible
  5. Processes should be easy to understand, simple and efficient
  6. Conflict between individuals should be minimised as far as possible

Against this background, the review will examine:

  1. The extent to which the adversarial nature of the court system is able to promote solutions
  2. The options for introducing more inquisitorial elements into the family justice system
  3. Whether there are areas of family work which could be dealt with more simply and effectively administrative, rather than court-based process
  4. The roles fulfilled by all of the different agencies and professionals in the family justice system

What is omitted from this preliminary list is the question whether there should be a separately identifiable family court to replace the current mix of magistrates’ courts, county courts and high court. It is expected that the outcome of the review will be published in about 18 months time.

For further details about the review, including details of the membership of the panel are at

Written by lwtmp

February 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Posted in chapter 7