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A report by Cardiff University has found that there has been a 7.5 per cent increase in the number of cases of children aged up to 10 being treated for assault injuries in hospitals in England and Wales.
The researchers gathered data from 44 accident and emergency wards in England and Wales and found that, while overall serious violence fell in 2009, the number of victims aged 10 and under has risen by 7.5 per cent. The report showed that in the accident and emergency wards studied, 431 children were admitted to hospital after being assaulted last year, an increase from 399 in 2008.
The Family Proceedings Fees Order came into force on 1 May 2008 and increased the court fees local authorities have to pay in care and supervision proceedings from £150 to £5,225 for a fully contested court case.
Professor Jonathan Shepherd from Cardiff's Violence and Society Research Group said: "The anecdotal evidence we are getting from hospitals tells us that this is a real increase. The question is why. One explanation is that it is more difficult for children to be taken into care by local authorities, and that may mean more young children are staying in risky home situations than they were before."
Having introduced the fees in 2008, earlier this month the Government announced that it will scrap the fees from April 2011.
Following a recommendation in Lord Laming's report on the protection of children in England, the Justice Secretary commissioned a review of the fees. The review concluded that the costs of bringing proceedings, including the court fees, can deter local authorities from bringing proceedings.
The scrapping of the fees marked a significant U-turn for the government after it strongly resisted that the 'full cost recovery' principle should not be extended to child-care cases. In November 2008 four local authorities, Hillingdon Borough Council, Leeds City Council, Liverpool City Council and Norfolk County Council, lost a judicial review against the government over the fee increase.
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