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16 MAY 2019

Committee writes to Minister expressing concerns over family justice system

Tony Roe

Collaborative lawyer & Family law arbitrator


Committee writes to Minister expressing concerns over family justice system

“Call for inquiry into abusive parents' access to children” was the story on the BBC website on Wednesday (15 May). It plugged a feature on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. For early birds the story was also at the top of the news on the Today show on Radio 4 but nowhere else. What was this all about?

So what do we know? Initially very little outside these two sources. Was this simply the BBC show plugging? It was more than that. 

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The BBC website announced that it had:
“learned that 123 MPs from seven different parties have now come together to sign a letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke calling for an independent inquiry into the family courts "to establish the extent of the problem and if more fundamental reform is required".
The letter continues: "The lack of transparency in the family courts, while essential in maintaining the privacy of families and children, does not allow scrutiny and masks decisions that are made contrary to the interests of victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence - or their children".  
Labour's shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh MP, said it was "horrifying that even in proven cases of sexual assault, severe domestic abuse, rape, murder in some cases, men are still being encouraged and granted access to their child".
She added: "If they're a known risk to mother or child, then we need to assume that contact probably isn't best for the child and grant it only in certain circumstances." 
When there is a court-ordered contact, a parent can be at risk of being fined or going to prison if they fail to send their child on the unsupervised visit”.

I make no apologies for quoting the BBC in full – after all, that’s all we have got. Sadly, this succinct lot of four paragraphs raises more questions than it answers. What is this letter? What is its content? Can we see a copy please? Who were the MPs?

It is unfortunate that the BBC hasn’t explained the detail. Isn’t the first rule of journalism to “show your working out?” It is not as if they need to protect their sources, is it?