Live updates

Court witnesses 'should be warned' of questions about sexual history

Witnesses and alleged victims of crime should be warned before they are questioned about their sexual history or previous bad character in court, the country's top prosecutor has proposed.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has put out proposed guidance for prosecutors on the approach to witnesses or alleged victims giving evidence during the trial process at court to prevent them from being "ambushed".

The updated guidelines follow a number of high-profile cases in which witnesses or alleged victims have suffered during or after the trial process.

Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, for example, described her experience as a witness in the trial of her ex-husband Charles Saatchi's personal assistants as "mortifying".


Judge allows surgeons to operate on boy who won't eat

A judge has given specialists the go-ahead to carry out exploratory surgery on a teenager who refuses to eat or drink and has lost a "worrying" amount of weight.

Mrs Justice Pauffley ruled that the 16-year-old boy, who has learning difficulties, did not have the mental capacity to make decisions about his medical treatment.

She gave surgeons, who fear he could die, permission to investigate in the ruling at the Court of Protection in London.

The judge said the boy and the hospital where he was being cared for could not be identified.

Charles Taylor: UK jailing 'denies right to family life'

An African warlord who is serving 50 years in a prison in county Durham is reportedly suing the UK Government for denying him the right to a family life.

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who is alleged to have eaten the hearts of his enemies, says he is being kept from his wife and 15 children.

The former Liberian president says he is being kept from his family in Africa and is a "breach of human rights". Credit: PA

The 66-year-old was was convicted in 2012 of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers during a civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead.

He has reportedly lodged legal papers with the United Nations' Special Court for Sierra Leone, claiming that his detention in the UK breaches his human rights.

Conservative MP Dominic Raab said: "If he's successful, it would turn British human rights laws into a laughing stock around the world."


Mediation made divorce 'more respectful'

Natasha Brittan sung the praises of mediation in divorce in proceedings. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

Mediation can make divorce "more respectful" and help the splitting couple from arguing unnecessarily, according to one mother.

Natasha Brittan told Daybreak sitting down with her estranged husband and an impartial referee with legal knowledge had helped them have an amicable divorce.

"It just made everything more respectful, kinder and we did not want, or certainly I did not want my divorce to define the rest of my life.

"We just wanted to look after our children, our wider circle of friends and family by having a good divorce and a respectful divorce."

Govt: Children in court battles 'failed by the system'

Simon Hughes said the Family Courts would help avoid confrontation by speeding up painful court cases. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

Family Courts are being brought in because children caught up in the middle of a custody battle or divorce have been "failed by the system", according to a justice minister.

Simon Hughes told Daybreak divorce, custody and care cases were held back the "three different types of court" they could be heard at.

"You could go to the Magistrates Court for something and the County Court for other things and the High Court for other things.

"Then you find it's a really long process, then you find it was often a very confrontational process.

"So in the end the children are the people who suffer the most - often the couples suffer, but the children suffer most."

Senior judge: Family court 'a cultural revolution'

The introduction of a single Family Court in England and Wales is "a cultural revolution", according to one of Britain's most senior judges.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division said:

Taken as a whole, these reforms amount to a revolution. There has been, indeed there had to be, a fundamental change in the cultures of the family courts. This is truly a cultural revolution.

I have visited every care centre to see for myself how it is taking shape.

These visits have brought home to me just how enthusiastically and with such determination and commitment everybody in the family justice system has embraced the process of reform.

– Sir James Munby

Single Family Courts come into effect

A single Family Court dealing with divorce and custody cases comes into effect today as part of Government plans to speed up official proceedings.

Family Courts will speed up costly and painful proceedings, the Government said. Credit: ITV News

The single Family Court for England and Wales replaces three separate tiers of court that currently deal with the family justice system.

There will also be a new 26-week time limit for care proceedings, expert witnesses can only be called when necessary and compulsory family mediation meetings so separating couples consider alternatives to court battles.

Liberal Democrat family justice minister Simon Hughes said: "For too long children have suffered from excessive delays and confrontational court battles.

"Our reforms will keep families away from negative effects of battles or delays in court and make sure that when cases do go to court they happen in the least damaging way."

Load more updates