Peggy Ray (Goodman Ray Solicitors) opens December’s edition of ‘Family Law’ with ‘comment’ that adds to the wider discussion about transparency. (Family Law is subscription only content I’m afraid for those following the debate who don’t have access to it. I always have to hunt for a copy myself.)
Three points in particular got me thinking further:
The idea that the family court differs fundamentally from the criminal court in terms of its public interest functions. Since the family court tries to resolve a particular child’s problem, while the criminal court acts on behalf of society as a whole.
My own view is that State driven cases to protect /remove children have striking similarities to criminal cases, by way of public interest. (In a way that private law family proceedings do not). There is fundamental public interest in what the State does in the public’s name in both criminal and public law family proceedings, beyond the proper functioning of the court. (To be balanced of course with other competing interests).
I agree that consultation and risk assessment prior to radical overhaul is outstanding. But I also think the research base for risk assessment is not yet adequate, including in terms of cogent analysis and application of existing research about all aspects of the debate, including international research.
Where I don’t yet have a firm view is whether change can/should only be achieved through Parliament. I’ve yet to see sufficient detailed legal /other analysis to underpin this view. (Either on these transparency proposals or the wider trend of radical reform to the family justice system by practice Direction and Guidance, ahead of or instead of, legislative change). I’d love to be signposted to it if it is out there.