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.