Because we need to protect children from harm. But equally we need to protect families from arbitrary interference by the state. Leaving a child to suffer harm in an abusive family is a tragedy. So too is taking a child away for no good reason.
There is often tension between these two necessary aims. Sometimes we get the balance wrong. An important check upon the way decisions are made about such important issues is knowing that we will be held open to scrutiny and that we must be accountable. We also need the public to have trust in the system and they can only have that if they understand what is going on.
I think that in recent years the ‘privacy’ of the family courts has not helped people to understand what goes on and why decisions are made. The distinction between ‘privacy’ and ‘secrecy’ for many is a distinction without a difference. And if we have confidence in what we are doing – as I do – we should not be afraid to shine as much light on it as possible.
The difficult issues are going to be what we do about keeping matters private for children, most of whom when old enough to voice an opinion are not at all happy about their family histories becoming public knowledge.
I hope this project can be part of helping to publicise and explain reported family cases and thus drive forward debate, discussion and decision making about opening up the family courts. This area of life and law is simply too important to be hijacked by those with an agenda or those with very imperfect understanding of what is going on.