Recently Ms Justice Russell has granted a mother in family proceedings an appeal against findings made during a “fact find” hearing in the Family Court. In so doing she has raised the need for Judges sitting in the Family Court to have similar training as judges sitting in the Crown Court on issues concerning serious sexual assault.

Ms Justice Russell commented in the recent case: ‘Judges in the family courts are regularly required to make decisions and find facts in cases where there is domestic abuse: this will include cases where serious sexual assault is alleged to have taken place. Judges who sit in the family courts are not, however, required to undergo training on the appropriate approach to take when considering allegations of serious sexual assault where issues of consent are raised.’

Sexual assault in family proceedings is a matter that needs to be handled carefully and sensitively. Ultimately the court has a statutory duty to give a child’s welfare its paramount concern, and it often has to weigh up certain facts in reaching its decision. Often a court will need to have a standalone hearing to decide whether a disputed fact took place or not. It often feels for the parents involved as if they are participating in a Crown Court trial, and there is some force in the argument that the judicial training involved in criminal cases should be replicated in family cases when conducting such a hearing.

Greens Solicitors have extensive experience at handling cases involving children, often involving complex factual disputes and issues. Please email me if you would like to arrange an initial consultation.

Gemma Preston
gemma.preston@greenssolicitors.org