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Council composition

To ensure an appropriate spectrum of of experience and skills, the membership of the Council includes:

  • Members of the judiciary
  • Members of the legal professions
  • Civil servants concerned with the administration of the family courts
  • Persons with experience in and knowledge of healthcare
  • Persons with experience in and knowledge of social care
  • Persons able to represent the interests of particular users of family courts (such as parents groups and children’s groups)

Full Family Justice Council Membership

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division (opens in a new tab) (pictured left)

Deputy Chair
Mrs Justice Theis, High Court Judge (opens in a new tab) (pictured right)

Appointed Members

Members’ biographies
Mavis Amonoo-Acquah

Appointed: 13 July 2020

Mavis is a Family Law Barrister who was called to the Bar in 2013 and practises across all areas of Family Law. Within Private Law, Mavis’ work often involves highly contentious disputes where issues of parental alienation, significant harm and allegations of domestic abuse arise. Mavis also acts in proceedings regarding both international and internal relocation, and child abduction. Within care proceedings, Mavis represents parents, guardians, grandparents and Local Authorities and has particular experience representing vulnerable parties. Her experience with this area is broad, as she frequently deals with cases concerning serious physical harm, sexual abuse, mental health issues, chronic neglect. Mavis also has a significant interest in modern family arrangements, Fertility Law and Surrogacy Law and Reform. Mavis is committed to the principles that the justice system must be fit for purpose, and should be reflective of and accessible to all who fall within its remit.
Jenny Beck – Private Law Solicitor

Appointed: 2 January 2020

Jenny specialises in all areas of private family law including children and finances for married and unmarried families. She has particular expertise in more complex cases involving allegations of harm including domestic abuse and parental alienation. She is actively involved in the promotion of access to justice for all.
Annie Bertram – Parents and Families Representative

Appointed: 1 November 2018

“Annie” is a former care leaver and birth mother who experienced several sets of legal proceedings in respect of her own children, including a new-born removal. Annie recognised the local authority’s concerns and worked hard to make changes in her life resulting in the successful rehabilitation home of her baby and some of her older children. Annie now writes “Surviving Safeguarding: A parent’s guide to the child protection process”, runs her own training and consultancy business where she helps other local authorities and organisations and works as a Social Care Trainer for Strengthening Practice, a relational based social work training company. Annie is a pseudonym to protect her own identity and that of her children.
Jaime Craig – Child Mental Health Specialist

Appointed: 1 July 2016

Dr Jaime Craig is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has worked as an expert witness predominantly in the family courts for the post 18 years, assessing both children and adults. He also works consulting to children’s homes and schools, and in direct assessment and therapeutic work with adults, children and families in independent practice. He has a background in specialist child and adolescent mental health services and chaired the National Committee for the Children and Young People British Psychological Society.
DJ Judith Crisp – District Judge

Appointed: 1 June 2018

Judith Rosemary Crisp was admitted as a Solicitor in 1993. She was appointed as a Fee-paid Legal Member of the Family Health Service Appeal Tribunal in 2002, becoming a Fee-paid Judge of the First Tier Tribunal, Health Education and Social Care Chamber (Primary Health Lists) in 2010. She was appointed as a Deputy District Judge in 2007 and District Judge in 2014. She sits in the CJC Manchester solely within the Family Jurisdiction and covers Public and Private law and Financial remedy complex work. She also is a tutor for the Judicial College.
Maud Davis – Public Law Solicitor

Appointed: 17 October 2016

Maud Davis qualified as a solicitor in 1990, became accredited by the Law Society in children law in 1996, and is a higher courts advocate (civil). She joined Bindmans LLP in 2020, after almost 20 years as a partner in other firms.  She specialises in children law, in particular representing children in complex care cases.


Maud is an honorary vice life president of the Association of Lawyers for Children and co-chairs the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children. She is a member of Resolution, BAAF, the London Children’s Lawyer’s Group, and the International Bar Association. She is also an associate member of NAGALRO. She has been a member of advisory groups for socio-legal research, including work on mothers and fathers in repeat care proceedings, and children’ privacy in family proceedings. She regularly provides training and writes on family law.

Colette Dutton – Assistant Director of Children’s Services

Appointed: 1 August 2017

A social work graduate with over 20 years’ public-sector experience I have undertaken several senior leadership roles across local authority areas and nationally with Cafcass. The posts have encompassed a plethora of service areas from the courts to early help and children’s social care. Passionate about putting children and young people at the centre of all we do, I have used this to drive significant improvements in the quality of services delivered and most importantly to outcomes for children. A skilled and experienced senior leader I have successfully challenged conventional thinking at a range of local, regional and national forums and boards and have a special interest in Adoption. I am adept at building stakeholder relationships to provide clear vision and leadership ensuring that the child’s voice and their lived experience remain our focus. My role since 2018 is as the Director of Children’s Services at Knowsley Council.
Louise Fleet – Magistrate

Appointed: 1 July 2018

Louise was appointed a Magistrate in 1993 and is former Chairman of the West Glamorgan Family Panel. She is a member of the Magistrates’ Association Family Court Committee.  Before retiring in 2018 she was an auditor with the Wales Audit Office.
Rosemary Hunter – Academic

Appointed: July 2016

Rosemary is Professor of Law and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Kent. Rosemary’s academic expertise is in private family law and family justice processes, access to justice, and judging and the judiciary. In family law she has undertaken major research studies with colleagues on domestic abuse and the implementation of Practice Direction 12J, out-of-court family dispute resolution (the Mapping Paths to Family Justice Project) and litigants in person in private family law cases. She chairs the Council’s Domestic Abuse Working Group and has worked with the Judicial College to produce training videos on judgecraft in relation to litigants in person.

Bernadette MacQueen

Appointed: 14 September 2020



After qualifying as a solicitor in local government, Bernadette has been a legal adviser to magistrates since 2003.  She is currently responsible for a team of lawyers working in the Family jurisdiction across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.  In her previous role, she worked at the Maintenance Enforcement Business Centre, advising on reciprocal maintenance law and becoming recognised nationally as an expert in the field.  More recently, she has developed an innovative approach to the triaging of private family law cases which has been adopted by courts around the country.
Sam Momtaz QC – Silk

Appointed: May 2019

Sam acts in all aspects of the law relating to children. In public law Sam represents local authorities, parents, guardians and competent children. Sam has particular expertise in cases which involve risk of harm from radicalisation, death and non-accidental injuries, allegations of serious sexual abuse, child trafficking and cross examination of expert and vulnerable witnesses. In private law Sam acts in disputes between parents and other significant adults including cases involving serious harm and internal and international relocation. Sam also practices in Family-related Judicial Review and some Court of Protection cases.


Mr Justice Peel – High Court Judge

Appointed: 15 March 2021


Mr Justice Peel was called to the Bar in 1990. He practised common law for about 10 years, before specialising in family law, in particular financial remedies. In 2010 he was appointed QC. He served 2 terms as Chairperson on the BTAS disciplinary panels, as well as terms on the Bar Council and the committee of the Family Law Bar Association.  In 2009 he was appointed Recorder (Civil and Family) on the Midland Circuit, and in 2016 a Deputy High Court Judge (Family). In October 2020 he was appointed to the High Court Bench (Family Division).

Fiona Straw

Appointed: 12 October 2020

As a consultant paediatrician Fiona Straw brings over 25 years’ experience of working with children and young people. Having held various operational and strategic roles locally, regionally and nationally within medical safeguarding and child protection, she has significant expertise in all aspects of child abuse and neglect including CSE, FGM. Fiona is an expert medical witness and an advisor to the Royal College of Paediatrics Child Health and Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine.Fiona is committed to improving multiagency understanding and partnership to ensure that all children and young people, and their careers, regardless of their situation are safeguarded from harm.



HHJ Karen Venables – Circuit Judge

Appointed: 1 October 2021

Karen qualified as a solicitor in 1986, and was the managing partner of a large family legal aid practice in London. She was appointed a District Judge in 2003 and a Circuit Judge in 2013. She sits in the Family Court at Milton Keynes and hears a wide range of complex public and private law children’s proceedings. Karen has been appointed the judicial lead responsible for the development of a local domestic abuse strategy for her court. She is also the lead FDAC (Family Drugs and Alcohol Court) judge for Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire and is involved in training and mentoring new FDAC judges throughout the country. She has also been involved in a range of initiatives to promote family justice, inter-agency co-operation and multi-disciplinary approaches including the evolution of problem-solving courts and a review of the way in which the voice of the child can be heard in private law proceedings.
Natasha Watson – Public Law Solicitor

Appointed: 17 October 2016

Natasha Watson was appointed to the FJC as the local authority lawyer representative in 2016. A highly experienced public law specialist she heads the safeguarding and litigation legal team for Brighton and Hove City Council. Natasha co- chaired the Sussex Family Justice Board until 2016. She regularly provides policy advice to the DFE and other bodies, and has contributed to various publications concerning the development of good practice, most recently in relation to social work reports in private law proceedings, and timescales for the assessment of special guardians. Natasha currently sits on the Public Law Working Group at the invitation of the President which has made extensive recommendations to improve practice and achieve the right outcomes for families before, during and after care proceedings. The final report and recommendations will be published later this year.
Claire Webb – Mediator

Appointed: 14 November 2018

Claire, a solicitor for over 20 years, is the Mediator member of the Family Justice Council and believes in communication above anything else. She is Member of Law Society Family Panel, is a Family and Civil Mediator and a Collaborative Lawyer (Resolution trained). Claire has achieved Accreditation through Resolution as Specialist Family Lawyer in and has a large following of clients in the south of England. As a trained Child Inclusive Mediator, Claire believes strongly in the voice of the child and contributed to the Voice of the Child report. Claire acts a supporter to other mediators as their Professional Practice Consultant and is also a 1-2-1 peer mentor for Resolution.   She recently trained as a Parenting Co-ordinator which she feels pulls of her skills together as it enables couples who remain in conflict after their case has closed, now have a process enabling them to co-parenting more effectively by reducing conflict. Claire is currently training to be a supervisor for those in the helping professions.


Ex-officio Members:

Neal Barcoe – Ministry of Justice
Melanie Carew – Cafcass
Rebecca Cobbin – HMCTS
Alistair Davey – Welsh Government
Sally Holland – Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Maria Kavanagh – Secretary to the FJC
Beatrice Longmore – Office of the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England
Ify Okoye – Department of Education
Matthew Pinnell – CAFCASS Cymru

Executive Committee Members

Mrs Justice Theis


Neal Barcoe
Annie Bertram
Melanie Carew
Maud Davis
Rosemary Hunter
Sam Momtaz QC
Matthew Pinnell
Jane Probyn
Fiona Straw

Code of Practice

Members of the Council must abide by our Code of Practice: