Sunday, May 21, 2006

Family Law: A Lottery?

Fathers 4 JusticeSo, Fathers 4 Justice are back. They had disbanded in January following the furore over the alleged plot to kidnap the Prime Minister's son Leo (see my post here), but, according to their website "today a wider Fathers 4 Justice movement continues the work of the original group". Last night they staged one of their most audacious protests yet, invading the BBC's National Lottery studio. For details of the story and a video of the protest, see the BBC NEWS website. The story quotes a spokesman for the group, Guy Harrison, who said that "the lottery is a metaphor for what can happen to any parent, mother or father, and their children, at the hands of the secret family courts".

Their idea of family law being a lottery is nothing new (although you have to hand it to them for making the point in this way), but what interests me is the reference to the "secret family courts". I don't know whether this has always been a point of protest for the group, or whether they are just jumping on the bandwagon, but transparency in family proceedings is, of course, currently a 'hot topic'. The issue was the subject of a Department for Constitutional Affairs press release on the 27th October last, and has been debated considerably since, including by the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee in a one-off evidence session into the operation of the family courts on 2 May last. It seems likely that change is on the way, but it must, of course, be properly thought through. Greater openness in the family courts may help the public to understand how they work, but the rules are there for good reasons, in particular to protect the children themselves.

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