Archive for November, 2011

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Family Courts Investigation

November 10, 2011

I conducted a long investigation into the operation of the family courts. What I ended up focussing on was whether or not it was possible for the family courts to meet a target, suggested in a recent government report, that they should speed up the process.

On one hand, any observer can see that the faster a care case is resolved, the better that will be for the child and for the families involved. On the other, no-one wants decisions about a child’s future to be made quickly, if that means the decision is poor. I wanted to ask what balance should be struck?

Here is a report I produced for BBC Somerset:

Here is a longer version of an interview with a ‘Children’s Guardian’, a family court official appointed to represent the interests of the child in the court case.

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Avon and Somerset Assaults FOI

November 1, 2011

I discovered there is a big difference between the number of police officers in Avon and Somerset accused of assault and the number who are disciplined as a result.

This stemmed from a Freedom of Information request I submitted to Avon and Somerset police. I asked for a comparison between a) the number of complaints of assault received by A&S between 2007 and 2009 and b) the number of officers facing disciplinary action.

The resulting figures were that just over 1,200 officers had been named in around 600 complaints of assault during that time. However, of these, only yhree had faced verbal warnings, with none facing written warnings or criminal charges.

What I wanted to discover was: why? Two possible causes suggest themselves. The first is that accusations of assault against officers are routinely frivolous, or done out of a desire for revenge. The second, that accusations of assault are not taken seriously. I set out to ask whether either of these was the case, or whether there was another explanation.

Here is a link to a version of the story written for the BBC web site.

Here is the report I produced for radio:

Here is an interview I conducted with a woman who claimed she had been assaulted by an Avon and Somerset Officer:

Here is the response of the Police Federation: