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family law, feedback, judges, research, masson, court user surveys
Research by Judith Masson at Bristol University has examined how feedback could be useful to judges when dealing with public law children cases.
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Oct 7, 2015, 07:10 AM
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by Judith Masson at Bristol University has examined how feedback could be
useful to judges when dealing with public law children cases.
research team conducted focus groups and interviews with judges and socio-legal
and child care researchers, and found that currently judges receive little
feedback on their work. As one judge said:
‘[It is] very strange to be doing something every
day as part of your time work and not knowing whether it’s doing any good or
even, dare I say, is it making things worse? So there is a need for
feedback.... I don’t think anyone could logically argue that it’s right to be
doing something and not having any idea what the effect is ... you can hope but
without feedback you don’t actually know what you’re achieving.’
The research team also assessed
practice in other jurisdictions, noting that other countries used a variety of mechanisms to provide different types of feedback to
The study concluded that five
potential means of providing feedback for judges are worthy of further
through observation and discussion. Judges should observe other judges
conducting cases, be observed, discuss their observations and reflect on their
through Interdisciplinary case discussions. Judges should meet with other professionals
for multidisciplinary/multi-agency discussions of closed cases;
user surveys. Court user surveys should include court-users’ perspectives on
their experience in the court room; judges should discuss and reflect on these
better use of existing data and research studies in judicial training; and
new data on the operation court system, for example to include the outcomes by
reference to applications and orders, not just timeliness.
A research-based guide on the care
system should be provided to all judges to increase their understanding of care
services and outcomes, and, children’s care experiences of them.
the recent Bristol Family Law Session, the question was raised if judges should
or do receive feedback. HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC, echoing the findings of this
report said, ‘One of things you don’t get as a Judge is feedback. That’s why I
am keen to do conferences like this. Open forum encourages Judges to hear what
other people think and force us to think more deeply. External feedback is so
full study, The role of Feedback for Judges in
the Family Court, can be found here. It includes a useful executive summary with a
list of the key findings.
Masson has also written about the research in October’s edition of Family Law, 'Developing judgment: feedback and learning in family justice' is available to online subscribers here.