Family Courts

Justice written statement – made at on 27 April 2009.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I made an oral statement and laid in Parliament the Government’s response to the recent consultation on improving the openness of family courts in December 2008, entitled “Family Justice in View”. In that paper I announced that we would make a number of changes to current court rules to make family proceedings more open and transparent.

The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Bridget Prentice laid before Parliament on 6 April the Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No.2) Rules 2009 and the Family Proceedings Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Rules 2009. These rules provide for the media to be present at family proceedings but give the courts limited discretion to exclude in set circumstances prescribed in the rules. The rules also make it easier for parties and their legal advisers involved in family proceedings to be able to disclose information for the purpose of advice and support, mediation and the investigation of a complaint. The rules will also make it easier for the person to whom the party has disclosed information to make onward disclosure of it for the same purpose, and with the party’s consent, without seeking permission of the court. These new rules of court, which are the first phase of the wider package of measures I announced in December, will come into effect today.

The media attendance rules are supported by practice directions issued by the president of the family division.

The second phase of the measures will be the information pilots, which will test the provision of written judgments in more cases than now, and put anonymised versions in the public domain. These pilots will start when the necessary procedures and security arrangements have been agreed and are in place.

A revised reporting restriction framework will be the third phase. Primary legislation is needed to give effect to a clearer and more consistent reporting restriction framework applicable across all tiers of family courts, which will support the wider objectives of the transparency programme whilst respecting the rights to privacy of parties to proceedings, and children. This is because key existing restrictions on reporting are contained piecemeal in primary legislation, and the balanced, flexible and simplified framework which is our aim cannot be achieved through rule changes. We will do this as and when parliamentary time allows.

In December I also announced that we would be reversing the effect of the landmark judgment made in Clayton v Clayton. Since making that statement I have taken the time to reflect and reconsider my position on this issue. I have now come to the conclusion that unless good evidence can be provided to show me that by not reversing Clayton v Clayton the effects to the child will be harmful (and so far no such evidence has been forthcoming), I will not disturb the effects of Clayton v Clayton. I will of course keep this decision under review should evidence emerge of a negative impact. I will also consider the implications of the judgment with interest groups as part of wider discussions on legislative requirements to introduce transparency in the courts.


barbara richards
Posted on 28 Apr 2009 3:59 pm (Report this annotation)

More open and transparent? A bath full of mud would be more open and transparent than what you have been peddling about these secret courts. You are not fooling many people, Jack!

You STILL have not answered my 3 year old question, which is, why did your government allow an American paedophile psychologist to influence the secret family courts?

When are you going to answer this question? I'm getting bored with asking it!

Catherine Mills
Posted on 28 Apr 2009 4:45 pm (Report this annotation)

I am sure holding court in secret is against the law.

Justice is not the same as Just Us.

You may try and fool the people that legal and lawful are the same, but we both know that is a lie.

Considering we are each sovereign beings, then it is up to each individual involved in the case to decide whether they want their cases heard in full open court.

If the judge decides, then he/she is hiding something, or is in collusion with others to hide something.

Using the excuse of best interest of the child, like Hitler did, just about says it all.

Family courts are actually ORDERING THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN in secret, but the service users do not learn this until it is too late.

Any family judge who allows convicted paedophiles to have full custody, and ignore the obvious sexual abuse of children is SICK or brainwashed.

If the people knew the truth of Kangaroo Courts and that courts a re a corporation designed to make profit for their shareholders, then I feel the scam would be over.

linda mcDermott
Posted on 29 Apr 2009 8:22 pm (Report this annotation)

Jack Straw this is just so insulting to the families who have suffered so much throughout the years leading up to this pathetic attempt to finally open up the family courts.
In the 5 years I have been at this nothing has changed the whole thing is totally CORRUPT.

Just how much money is being made by the professionals who monopolize the system such as expert witnesses.