#NQ6: Modern Day Challenges: A Family Court Conference Report

There is always something very special about Napo professional conferences and this year’s Family Court Conference on 15 June was no exception.

Thought provoking content and excellent speakers and workshop facilitators helped create a real “buzz” that was felt throughout the whole conference and provided plenty of opportunity to share ideas and to socialise during the breaks.

The event theme was “Modern Day Challenges” and the speakers addressed issues of “Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking” (Scott Cairns from Leicestershire Police Complex Investigation Team), as well as “Radicalisation” (Penny Logan from Principle Lawyer, Cafcass Legal Dept).

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, opened the conference with a speech about right wing terrorism and radicalisation. He also spoke of the sad death of Jo Cox, the terrible fire in Grenfell Tower in London and the terror attacks over the past year.

Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking

Detective Sergeant Scott Cairns heads up The Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Team (HTMS) which sits within the Complex Investigation Team at Keyham Lane Police Station.

DC Cairns explained that since 326 BC there have been attempts to abolish slavery. The Modern Day Slavery Act is two years old, but there are still 13,000 victims being exploited in Britain today.

The various definitions of slavery were explained to attendees and included: a person having absolute power and control of another person’s life; a person being  legal property of another and being forced to obey them; a person working very hard without proper remuneration and a system where people are bought and sold, held captive, forced to work and deprived of their right to leave or demand compensation.

DC Cairns then went on to explain the difference between people smuggling and human trafficking. Trafficking is an offence where people are moved in order to be exploited. Smuggling is when people voluntarily pay for a smuggler to bring them to a country illegally.

The exploitation faced by modern day slaves and people who are trafficked include: sexual exploitation; domestic servitude; forced labour; criminal exploitation; organ removal; forced marriage and forced benefit fraud.

Policing these crimes prove difficult as victims often make poor witnesses but important work is being done to protect vulnerable people, pursue perpetrators and increase awareness and reduce the harm through improved victim identification and enhanced support and protection.

Radicalisation

Penny Logan gave a detailed presentation about radicalisation which had been taken from revised Cafcass legal roadshow training in 2016.

‘“Radicalisation” refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups. In the family court this is currently associated almost exclusively with Islam and the Middle East, especially Syria.

“Extremism” on the other hand is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

Penny explained how the family court is concerned with four types of cases which are not always distinct and often overlap. These are: children who plan/attempt to travel to Syria; children at risk of being involved in terrorist activities; parents who plan/attempt to travel to Syria with children; and children who are at risk of being radicalised at home or through external influences.

Where these risks have been identified there are two primary proceedings, the most common being S.31 and the second being Wardship.

Some of the reflections that were in Penny’s presentation included:

  • Some cases have had surprising results
  • Is this a facet of child protection/something entirely new?
  • What tools and resources can be used?
  • Don’t be cowed by other agencies
  • Evidential issues are difficult
  • Case is in family court so the child’s welfare is still paramount

Information about Cafcass and legal resources as well as agencies with responsibilities are provided within a PowerPoint on the Cafcass intranet. Please contact me on jbarlow@napo.org.uk if you have difficulty in accessing it and I will send you a copy.

This conference was a really positive experience within an excellent venue. I would strongly urge those colleagues who did not attend to put the date for next year in their diaries as soon as we are able to let you know. It is too good to be missed.

It only leaves me to state a great big thank you to all who were involved in preparing, facilitating and working together to make the conference so successful and enjoyable.

Jay Barlow
National Vice-Chair (Family Court Section)

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