Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Delay the Bill

An article in The Times today highlights the increasing concerns of those involved in the family justice system at the proposals to further open up the family courts to the media, contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

The article explains that senior judges, including President of the Family Division Sir Mark Potter, CAFCASS, and groups such as the NSPCC, are worried that the latest reforms, which will allow media reports on evidence and naming of witnesses, would lead to disclosure of sensitive details and would put the privacy of children and their families at risk. It is not surprising that The Times is concerned about this, as they have, as the article points out, been carrying out a long campaign to open up the courts (the article complains that the original reforms have 'proved something of a damp squib', without these further reforms).

Predictably, the commenters to the article can smell a conspiracy by judges, lawyers and others involved in the system aimed at thwarting further reform, and can see no reason for the courts not to be completely open. However, most of those commenters appear to have the usual axe to grind against the system because they perceive that it has failed them. I hate to disappoint, but there is no conspiracy (why should there be?) - the concerns that have been expressed are to do entirely with protecting children, and it is no coincidence that they are echoed by groups dedicated to the welfare of children, such as the NSPCC.

As I've made clear here many times previously, I do not believe that a brick wall should be erected against all further reform in this area, just that any reform should be given proper and careful consideration, rather than just rushed into headlong, in order to appease those who shout the loudest. Hopefully, therefore, the opposition to the Bill will ensure that it is delayed until after the election.

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UPDATE: As reported by Family Law Newswatch, it appears that the Bill has now been delayed.

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