Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bizarre, Bad and Ironic

Three contrasting stories in the news:

First, a story that has already been picked up by the ever excellent Divorce Survivor. Hot on the heels of the travails of fathers' rights group Fathers 4 Justice, comes the news that charity Families Need Fathers are in 'turmoil', following its London branch organiser admitting writing a letter to a judge containing “false and defamatory allegations”, in an attempt to undermine a father’s custody case. The letter was written on an FNF letterhead and incorrectly alleged that the court had been deceived by the father. Quite bizarre, given the fact the the group are supposed to be helping fathers, and working against injustices in the family courts system.

Also reported in The Times, the second story returns me to the subject of sharia law. The paper reveals today that the "government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence". The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, which runs the sharia courts, has apparently taken advantage of a provision in the Arbitration Act 1996, under which the courts are classified as arbitration tribunals, the rulings of which are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case. How many reasons are there for this being a bad idea? Firstly, a tribunal basing its decisions upon a work of fiction that is open to wildly differing interpretations. Secondly, arbitration should be voluntary - I can envisage many, especially women (who are likely to do less well than under English law), being forced by family or community to submit to the 'jurisdiction' of these tribunals. Thirdly, we cannot effectively have two separate legal systems - the law of the land must always be paramount.

Finally, Relate is celebrating its seventieth birthday this month. For a brief history of the organisation, see this page on their website - I particularly liked the irony of the picture of former patron Princess Diana outside a Relate office.


  1. One of the issues this raises is how vital it is for LIPs to check their court files regularly to see that nothing has been slipped in by the other side without their knowledge. My understanding was that this is a right under FPR 10.20.

    Apparently it is becoming more difficult to do this, and at the Principal Registry it is now necessary to make an appointment to see the judge of the day and to give your reasons (though those should be easier to explain in the light of this incident).

    This was an omission from the Freedom of Information Act, and perhaps should now be included.

  2. Yes, the problem of course comes when you have no inkling of the document's existence - the court would not be happy about multiple fruitless applications "on the off chance".

  3. Does the corruption within the family courts know no bounds?

    After the whole Bruce Hyman case, I thought it couldn't get any more cloak and dagger, but now this story about an FNF representative abusing his position and the standing of FNF...

    The fact that these cases rely on hearsay evidence, and the judges discretion is yet another reason to open up the decision making process to a panel of Judges, or a mix of Lay People and professionals.

    Obviously all data held on an individual by the courts should be open to same personal review under the DPA....clearly that's not the case today.

  4. May I just say 'SCOOP' please? see

    I had not heard of this practice of requiring an appt with the DJD in order to see a copy of the file but I imagine it has emerged as a result of sloppy practise where d.v. victims' confidential addresses have been obtained by those they are trying to hide from. I would have thought the answer to this problem was a proper staff procedure and flagging system NOT wasting judicial time and restricting the parties right to information that they are entitled to see. I wonder if this apparent practise applies only to LiPs or McKenzies? I have never heard of a solicitor having a difficulty getting docs (apart from the usual headaches of lost files and delays caused by understaffing).

    Familoo (grrr - can't post this comment signed in as a wordpress user??? having a techno-moron moment...

  5. Hi Familoo,

    Scoop indeed! Missed that post.

    Yes, I have never heard of a solicitor having difficulty getting documents either.


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