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Family Proceedings Amendment (No 2) Rules 2009

Both of the Statutory Instruments for the family courts are now available. I have loaded them on the JFF website and they are available by the link.

This is not the expected opening of the family courts as journalists are potentially allowed to attend proceedings, but cannot report on them.

Nor do these rules allow second opinions - probably the main cause of the miscarriages of justice in the family courts.

However, they are an improvement. In particular there is a section in the rules:

Communication of information for purposes connected with the proceedings

11.4.—(1) A party or the legal representative of a party, on behalf of and upon the instructions of that party, may communicate information relating to the proceedings to any person where necessary to enable that party—

(a) by confidential discussion, to obtain support, advice or assistance in the conduct of the proceedings;

(b) to engage in mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution;

(c) to make and pursue a complaint against a person or body concerned in the proceedings; or

(d) to make and pursue a complaint regarding the law, policy or procedure relating to a category of proceedings to which this Part applies.

(2) Where information is communicated to any person in accordance with paragraph (1)(a) of this rule, no further communication by that person is permitted.

(3) When information relating to the proceedings is communicated to any person in accordance with paragraphs (1)(b),(c) or (d) of this rule—

(a) the recipient may communicate that information to a further recipient, provided that—

(i) the party who initially communicated the information consents to that further communication; and

(ii) the further communication is made only for the purpose or purposes for which the party made the initial communication; and

(b) the information may be successively communicated to and by further recipients on as many occasions as may be necessary to fulfil the purpose for which the information was initially communicated, provided that on each such occasion the conditions in sub-paragraph (a) are met.

This allows "any person" to be told of what is happening for the above reasons and for that person to pass on the information. This is helpful for MPs as MPs can now as MPs (without making use of Article IX of the Bill of Rights) get total access to the proceedings in the family court as can in fact journalists as long as it is for the above purposes.

The question, however, is how it becomes possible to press for changes outside the system. To have an effect on government it is necessary for people to understand widely what abuses of process have been going on.

I am already able without using Article IX (as above) to talk generally about what happens in the court. However, it becomes possible for better investigative work to be done. It is also easier to take up complaints with the appropriate regulatory authorities which is nigh on impossible at the moment.

Most importantly CAFCASS and the local authority cannot hide behind family court secrecy when responding to enquiries from MPs (or indeed Councillors or anyone else).

Hence these rules are perhaps 2/10 for improving accountability compared to the old rules at 1/10. It will be difficult to steer a path towards revealing what is going on, but it will be easier from 27th April than now.


ian josephs said…
As usual Jack Straw addresses the wrong problem.It is not court secrecy in itself that is the root of the problem.Judges just shrug their shoulders and call it "privacy" to protect families and children.
What is really outrageous is the gagging of parents and even the children themselves. Worse still around 200 victims a year are jailed for breaking the "omerta" wall of silence.It should be the democratic right of any citizen to publicly complain about a perceived injustice without being jailed for their temerity all in the name of protecting their own privacy !Parents and children should like rape victims be free to waive anonymity and to speak out revealing names and details of injustices they claim to have suffered in our "private" family courts !
I cannot understand why more of these stories are not exposed in the press using anonymisation .

Surely that complies with the law but tells the public exactly what really happened.

I'm baffled !
Anonymous said…
John I think the work you are doing with regards to Family Courts is excellent.

I've visited other MPs blogs and rarely see anyone addressing the real issues of the day that will make any substantial difference to anyone's lives.

Good luck with your campaign and keep up the good work.
moira said…
So the media can go in court but not report. a bit like being allowed to go to the polls but not to vote!!

What happens if an Mp or councellor arent interested in helping a family as in many cases.

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