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Double trouble

21 July 2009

One of the trickier areas in advocacy is the interface between care and criminal cases, where one’s client is accused of offences against a child in respect of whom the local authority have issued care proceedings.

Familial sex abuse or ill treatment cases with double proceedings are beset by procedural and evidential difficulties. The need of the criminal defence team to have as much information as possible about the background of the allegations and the conduct of the social services investigation is at odds with the confidentiality rules – and secrecy – of the family courts.

Documents filed within the family proceedings can’t be disclosed without the leave of the family court, which makes for strangely convoluted preparation. One’s client is allowed to have the documents in the care case, as a party to those proceedings, but when he hands them over to his criminal barrister in conference they have to be handed back – and the subsequent application to th...

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