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Family Conciliation Services

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what recent representations he has received from agencies involved in child contact cases of the effects on children of compulsory mediation in such cases; and if he will make a statement; (318043)

(2) what estimate he has made the total savings to the public purse likely to accrue from the implementation of compulsory mediation as an alternative to court action in child contact cases.

I have not received any representations regarding the effects on children of compulsory mediation in child contact cases. Family mediation in England and Wales is voluntary and I have not made any estimate of savings from the implementation of compulsory mediation.

On 20 January 2010, the Green Paper, Support For All: The Families and Relationships Green Paper, was published. Family mediation forms part of the consultation process as the Government are seeking views about whether mediation assessment (not mediation in its entirety) should be made compulsory for parents who go to court to seek to resolve residence or contact disputes, where it is safe to do so.

At the same time, the Government announced a comprehensive review of the family justice system, which will report jointly to the Secretaries of State for Justice and Children, Schools and Families and the Welsh Assembly Government. The principle that ‘the interests of the child should be paramount’ will be at the heart of this review. The review will focus on the management and leadership of the family justice system and what can be done to promote informed settlement and agreement of family law cases outside of the court system. It will seek to learn from the experience of other jurisdictions and from research and will be supported by the appointment of an expert, external advisory group. The review will report in 2011.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice in how many cases involving a child contact decision a court has granted contact against the wishes of the child subject to that decision in each of the last five years. (318050)

Her Majesty’s Courts Service does not record any information centrally on whether a court granted contact against the wishes of the child. Information on the wishes of the child could be obtained by inspection of individual case files only at disproportionate cost.

HMCS does record the total number of contact orders made. Table 1 shows the number of public and private law section 8 contact orders made in all tiers of court between the years of 2004 and 2008. 2008 is the latest full calendar year for which data are published. Statistics on contact orders made are published by the Ministry of Justice in the annual command paper “Judicial and Court Statistics”, copies of which are available in the Library of the House and on the Ministry’s website at:

Table 1: Section 8 public and private law contact orders made in all tiers of court between 2004 and 2008

























1. Figures presented are for England and Wales only.

2. Figures relate to the number of children subject to each application.

3. All tiers of court are represented in the answer; specifically the Family Proceedings Court, county court and High Court.

4. There are known data quality problems with the figures for the Family Proceedings Courts. A new data collection method, introduced in April 2007, has made some improvements to the completeness of the data.

5. Section 8 is the part of the Children Act 1989 that refers to contact orders, residence orders, prohibited steps orders and specific issue orders.

6. Public Law refers to Children Act 1989 cases where there are child welfare issues and a local authority, or an authorised person, is stepping in to protect the child and ensure they get the care they need.

7. Private Law refers to Children Act 1989 cases where two or more parties are trying to resolve a private dispute. This is commonly where parents have split up and there is a disagreement about contact with, or residence of, their children.

8. Due to changes in methodology and data collection methods over time, comparisons between years should be avoided.


Judicial and Court Statistics