28.4.09

Should Family Courts be open to Journalists? Er...like...Yeah!

Ok back to business after that brief family and friends jokery. And the business today is law and the family. Should journalists be allowed in to report on the shennanigans going on behind those oh so closed doors in Family Courts? Whoa a moment! What the hell is Family Law anyway? Why do journo's want in there? And finally what's it all about Alfie?


First a quickie rationalisation of what the law is-Obviously a means by which a small and privelidged cadre of pseudo-professionals create a lengthy and elitist training to preserve an illusion of technical skill and allow the charging of astronomical fees that people must pay in order to settle their affairs within a clearly defined and boundaried social context. Jesus you people are so damn cynical!


Law reflects society, that's why a law predicated on norms and values of 100 years ago would obviously prejudice the rights of women and ethnic minorities because those prejudices were embedded in the society. So when some fanatical goon-bob says Shariah law allows him and his pals to stone some unfortunate woman to death during the half time period of a local Afghani footie match, that's because stoning to death is a value with meaning in that person's clearly well-adjusted and intelligently constructed mind.


John Rawls Theory of Justice states that laws result from combining concepts like liberty and equality resulting in justice with fairness. Rawls theory is well worth exploring and has some compelling Philip K Dick-like resonances-eg that the law should be made with a veil of ignorance as to the makers place in the society. That is, if we don't know whether we'll be at the top or the bottom we'll make damn sure it supports us all equally. Of course the prevalent 'death wish/dirty harry' counter argument is that you don't give the punk a lawyer, you take him out back and blow his goddam brains out muttering things like 'that'll teach him' as you stride manfully to the dry cleaners. Anyway, I'm wandering!


Children, until quite recently were seen as somehow part of their parents property and children's rights are a fairly recent concept. The 1989 Children Act was a major attempt to bring together and blend all the up to date relevant legislation relating to children and clarifying adults responsibilities rather than their rights towards children. This was a major shift in the legal perspective with it's 'no order' principle and with 'the child's wishes and feelings' placed central to the process.  When we are making arrangements between ourselves in relation to our children after the break up of a relationship, that is the realm of private law. When a public body seeks to take action in relation to caring for or securing the wellbeing of a child such as social services that is the sphere of public law.  In complex cases an officer from The Child and Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) is appointed to make investigations and recommendations to the sitting judge.  This might range from which parent a child should live with to whether a local authority should take a child into care.


Family courts are the theatres of public and private law where the dramas of family life and child protection are played out daily and where there has, to date been an extraordinary level of secrecy, note I say secrecy not privacy.  Nobody should ever be able to nose around in the most private affairs of children and families but against that, society needs to know just how some people behave when they are divorcing, how they will sacrifice their child's well-being and relationship with the other party for advantage in the disposal of assets.  The world of private law is not one in which you see people at their best.  Or rather the best sort it out to the benefit of their children and you don't see them in the courts..
Also society needs to understand what some parents actually do to their children.  How children are abused, tortured, undermined and neglected by those who are supposed to care for them.  Maybe then the Daily Mail readership might not be quite so smug about the failures of social workers when they know the kinds of things they have to deal with.  Likewise the rest of the gutter press and what might be loosely termed their readership.
Children are all our futures and everybody's responsibility.  Let's get those courts opened up.



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