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The Family Justice Research group

The Family Justice Research group was launched in 2018 and is based in the School of Law at Northumbria.

Family Justice is a multidisciplinary research interest group comprising practitioners and academics with an interest in family law and practice. The group’s diverse remit encompasses work in relation to domestic abuse and gender-based violence, youth justice, international family law, child protection, children’s rights and the formation and dissolution of relationships.

Our aim is to promote Northumbria University as a Centre of excellence in the field of family justice. Our members undertake high quality research, supervise PhD students and host events that bring together practitioners, academics and policy makers. We are also keen to innovate within the family law curriculum, as seen through the introduction of the new ‘International Family Law’ module at undergraduate level and our students’ participation in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. We have also assisted our students setting up a blog so they can provide commentaries on Judgments and legal updates. Read our blog

Research Highlights

Researchers in the group recently conducted work into the ability of gender-based violence victims to access justice during lockdown. As a result, they have made several recommendations and are calling for better refuge and emergency accommodation provision for victims. Their research also found that the issue around demand for domestic abuse support services was not always accurately portrayed in the media, which could have exacerbated existing problems. 

In 2018, the group led the Family Justice Project which worked with a BAME women’s organisation to provide free community legal support. This work was awarded ‘best pro bono’ activity at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Awards 2018. 

Group convenors: Ana Speed and Kayliegh Richardson

Kayliegh Richardson, Ana Speed and Victoria Roper secured funding from the Modern Law Review to host a conference entitled ‘Gender-Based Violence: Approaches to Education, Engagement and Elimination’. The conference, which took place in June 2020, was attended by academics, legal practitioners and domestic abuse specialists from countries including England, Bangladesh, India and Canada.

In December 2020, Callum Thompson was invited to speak at an event hosted by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about the rights of women and girls and protecting the future. 

Kayliegh Richardson and Ana Speed were invited to present their research about the ability of gender-based violence victims to access justice during lockdowns at the Policing, Vulnerability and Victimisation Conference in November 2020. 

Kayliegh Richardson, Ana Speed and Callum Thompson were invited in August 2020 to present their research above to the Local Family Justice Board. 

In November 2019, Dr Caroline Andow from the University of Winchester visited to present her ethnographic study of everyday life inside a secure children's home in England. 

Gender-based Violence Conference 2019

On 29 January 2019 and 30 January 2019, the Family Justice research interest group held a conference on the theme of gender-based violence in the Great Hall at Northumbria University.

Attendees had the opportunity to:

  • Engage in a range of debates and discussions around the themes of gender-based violence on both a domestic and an international level.
  • Participate in lectures, workshops and seminars run by domestic abuse agencies, academics and practitioners from local law firms.
  • Network with both academics and lawyers who have expertise in a variety of areas, including: image-based sexual violence, gender-based online abuse, human trafficking, and forced marriage.

Speakers and facilitators included:

Professor Claire McGlynn (Durham University)

Dr Shahrzad Fouladvand (University of Sussex)

Professor Vanessa Bettinson (De Montfort University)

Cris McCurley (Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors)

Jessica Ritchie (University of Queensland)

The event was open to staff and students.


Visit from Dr Máire Ní Shúilleabháin 

On 27 November 2018, we will be delighted to welcome Dr Máire Ní Shúilleabháin from the university of Dublin. Dr Shúilleabháin will be giving a talk at 2pm in CCE1-223B (Faculty of Law and Business). The title of Maire’s paper is ‘Surrogacy, System Shopping and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights’

Abstract: Contracting States of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are bound to secure the rights guaranteed by the Convention. Article 8 ECHR, which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, has been interpreted as importing extensive obligations to recognise parent-child relationships created through overseas surrogacy arrangements. These ECHR obligations (first articulated in 2014) signify an acceleration in the privatisation of family law and in the legitimatisation of system shopping. Whilst the EU institutions had previously indicated a willingness to accommodate party autonomy and system shopping in its private international law instruments, these accommodations were carefully calibrated, in particular where children were concerned.  This paper critiques the Article 8 ECHR jurisprudence on international commercial surrogacy and the role of the child’s ‘best interests’. It questions the desirability of the Strasbourg Court’s interventions in a domain where human rights considerations are so conflicted. It is argued that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has facilitated untrammelled system shopping in a very sensitive field of child law, and has dismantled domestic legislative choices, without providing a convincing alternative analysis.

Members of staff and students are encouraged to attend this event.


Home Affairs Committee report on domestic abuse

Following a consultation in early 2018, the Home Affairs Committee have now released their report on domestic abuse. The aim of the report is to help inform the government in their preparation of the draft domestic abuse bill.  On behalf of the Family Justice research interest group and a number of other law school research interest groups/signature research areas, we submitted evidence to the government in response to their consultation. Further, Kayliegh Richardson and Claire Bessant contributed written evidence to the final published report.

Access the report

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