FAMILY JUSTICE: TRANSPARENT, TRANSLUCENT or OPAQUE?

 

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgThere is a big difference.

Transparent – (of a material or article) allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.

Translucent – (of a substance) allowing light, but not detailed shapes, to pass through; semi-transparent.

Opaque – not able to be seen through; not transparent.

One of our main aims at NAAP is to shine a light on some very dark corners of the family courts. Transparency or even translucency and openness are therefore vital principles if we are ever to make any improvements.

Unless you are one of the many parents that has been forced to learn about the family justice system, to either restore a severed relationship with your children or heal a wound when someone is trying their level best to remove a limb, lectures staged by the Family Justice Council may not vie with the X-Factor for your attention.  But if you feel strongly that family justice should strive to be both open and transparent then you should read the transcript of this most recent Bridget Lindley Memorial Lecture delivered by campaigning journalist Louise Tickle. Alternatively you can listen to the podcast whilst doing the ironing i.e enjoy a tickle whilst ironing.

The Q & A session that follows Louise’s presentation also contains a few insights into the system. There seems to be a consensus that, subject to safeguards to protect the identities of parties to family proceedings, we should be doing a lot more. Indeed, compared with the criminal courts the family courts is still dwelling in the dark ages.

However, whilst these sentiments used to give me a ‘warm feeling’, how much more hand wringing and how many more years will we need to wait before before the family court and its inhabitants get dragged kicking and screaming like naughty teenagers into the  21st century.

This quote from Sir James Munby during the Q&A session caught my eye and gives an insight into the extent of the problems we face.

“Well, one of the problems… I mean I have an enormous postbag. Every day they come in. They’re special delivery, addressee only letters from people who think the family justice system has failed them and many of them are parents, many are grandparents, and the answer I’m afraid is terribly simple. There is nothing I can do because, although I’m head of family justice, judges are independent. I can’t tell the judges what to do and the remedy is simple or straightforward in theory. If it’s judicial misconduct, you write to the judicial misconduct people and here is their address. If you don’t like what the judge has done, go to the Court of Appeal, and that is the stance which, as a matter of constitutional propriety, I have to adopt but I’d have to have a heart of stone not to be very moved by some of these letters and sometimes reading some of these letters, you know, four, five, six pages from an articulate grandmother, one’s left with very uncomfortable feelings. Now that’s rather a round way of answering your question.”

Whilst the independence of the judiciary and even children’s guardians are hallowed principles they can only be respected and honoured when the judges and guardians conform with the rule of law. When they do not play by the rules then we are encouraging arbitrary justice. That needs to be stamped out and must never be tolerated: NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

Sir James says that:

‘“The emperor’s got no clothes on,” and I think we need more and more people sniping at us, informed people like Louise and others sniping at us, saying, “Actually this emperor’s got no clothes on.” If you want to go out and blunderbuss, fine.”

We will take that as an invitation. Thank you Sir James.

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/the-second-bridget-lindley-annual-memorial-lecture-transcript-and-podcast/