The Children App

Some time ago I was playing with my iPhone, wondering what apps I could justifiably claim as tax deductable, when I chanced across the Child Law App published by Stroika and subtitled ‘The Pocket Lawyer Guide to Child Law‘  (at the time of my download this pocket lawyer guide was listed on cantaffordalawyer.com as one of their ‘Pocket Lawyer’ series, created on their behalves by pixidapps.co.uk, but it has now mysteriously disappeared from both websites). Since it came at the negligible price of 59p I thought I would install it on my phone for the purposes of reviewing it at some later date. Finally, I have got round to posting about this.

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Contrary to the pre-download blurb, my opinion is that the Child Law App is difficult to navigate and not at all intuitive (which I have to say is an impressive achievement for an iPhone app). It seems to be essentially based on a relatively dense paper format, using chapter headings and sub headings as navigation and indexing and adding a pretty basic  search function. It has dimensions which would be more appropriate for a book than the shape of an iPhone screen meaning that by the time the text is large enough to read it is running off the side of the screen, even when in landscape mode.

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The pre-download info suggests this app contains ‘invaluable information for every parent’ and that it will be ‘of great assistance to anyone working with children, family lawyers and law students’.  But having looked at it I don’t really know who this app would genuinely benefit. Not legal professionals who one would hope had learnt all the basic information in it before resorting to desperately scrolling through an iPhone app in the court toilets for salvation. Not litigants in person, who would find it inaccessible and not easy to apply to their own circumstances. This type of information has it’s place, but it’s not the sort of practical information you’d want at your fingertips in mobile format for quick reference. But then that’s the trick with apps – you pays your 59p you takes your chances.

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I noticed that at the head of each page there is the heading ‘The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations – Volume 1 – Court Orders’ which did not correspond to the title of the app, and I wondered to myself if this was simply a scanned version of a printed publication available elsewhere? I did not see it at the time I downloaded, but the pre-download information now says that this application ‘draws directly upon the guidance published by the DCSF – The Children Act 1989, Guidance and Regulations – Volume 1 – Court Orders‘. However a quick search on Amazon had already revealed as much when a quick go on this app left me with the distinct impression that this was no more than a pdf version of the some hard copy publication viewable on a very teeny weeny scale. What is noteworthy from Amazon is that the chapter headings in the table of contents are identical to those in the app, with the exception of chapters 4 and 5 which appear in reverse order. However the numbering used in the app is identical to the numbering in the original publication, albeit that the numbers appear out of sequence (i.e. the fourth chapter in the app is called ‘Chapter 5 – Secure’ which corresponds with Chapter 5 in the DCSF publication). Which rather suggests that this app does more than ‘draw directly’ upon the guidance. However, I’m not going to waste another £15 on buying the DCSF publication and comparing it word for word just to make a point (even if it is tax deductable) – even at 59p I don’t really think this one is value for money. I certainly can’t see anything in this app that one couldn’t get from the original DCSF book (probably in your local library) or free off the internet.

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It isn’t even an accurate statement of the current law (probably because it draws directly on a publication that is 2 years old), stating incorrectly that the route of appeal from the family proceedings court (magistrates court) is to the High Court, when an appeal now lies to the County Court (as of April 2009, 2 months before this app was even published). Routes of appeal might have been the one thing that inexperienced advocates or litigants in person might have wanted to quickly look up whilst at court, and it isn’t even accurate. Which for what purports to be a legal guide is a pretty fundamental flaw.

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Although this app is still for sale (search the apps store for ‘child law’) it is no longer showing as a product on cantaffordalawyer.com or on pixidapps.co.uk. I wonder if this is because they have run into copyright problems or for some other reason. Whatever the reason I wouldn’t waste your 59p on this. Beware of this app – or of any lawyer you see relying on an iPhone app for legal research!

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