Today’s Family Court Reforms Will Never Address Systemic Family Court Problems
July 31, 2012
The reforms of the Family Court unveiled today by Mr Justice Ryder are likely to be a case of re-arranging the deckchairs:-
Inquisitorial judges at heart of family reform proposals Tuesday 31 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi
The longstanding problems with the Family Court will never change until control over the Court and its cases is taken out of the hands of Judges appointed from the English Bar and out of the control or influence of their colleagues at the English Bar.
The Family Court has a reputation amongst the public, practitioners, politicians, expert witnesses and journalists for administering injustice. Ryder reform plans will likely not bring about change to that reputation.
We need a new system to break up the incestuous organic and social relationships behind the English Bar’s system of Barristers’ Chambers and appointments to the Judiciary – mainly from its own members.
There is an unhealthy relationship between the Judges, predominantly from the English Bar and their friends and former colleagues at the Bar who appear before them. They in practice control most of what takes place. The problems with the Family Court are systemic and organic. So it is unlikely any judge appointed to deal with the problems will ever go to the heart of the matter.
The Family Court is and will continue to be a Court whose Judges fail to observe basic principles of procedural fairness and justice. The long abandonment of pleadings means issues are introduced on spec in Court instead of being defined in advance. Litigants can be and are taken by surprise and faced with a litany of invention and accusation introduced “on spec” during the course of a case which they have to try to answer and when least fitted psychologically to do so.
This is at the culmination of a long process during which they have been softened up by unpalatable conduct of some lawyers and when they have been are subjected to considerable stress, not knowing what invention and accusation they may face at the next hearing before the trial.
The position is compounded by the Judges of the Family Court who appear to do nothing whatsoever about improper litigation conduct by the lawyers who appear before them as Officers of the Court and who may be their former colleagues, current friends and social peers.
It is a Court system which rewards the wrongdoer and punishes the victim. Those of the lawyers who fail to observe accepted standards of conduct in Family Court cases and routinely act in contravention of their obligations to the Court and under the rules of Court go undealt with, save to the extent they are rewarded with the outcome they seek by such conduct.
The worst aspects of course are when it comes to children and the false evidence presented by social workers from some local authorities and the consequent cases which some members of the English Bar present. There has long been complaint about these abuses and nothing has been done. Ryder will never address that. The litigants cannot do it – it is the lawyers who do it for them and the Judges who make it all happen. And the Judges just let it go on day in and day out.
The Family Court thus operates and maintains a Cheats Charter. Under the auspices of the Court wrongdoers who play the system and break the rules are rewarded and victims of that wrongdoing punished. The Judges do nothing about sometimes rampant impropriety taking place daily within the walls of their Courts and even under their noses. And nor do other members of the English Bar despite it being their duty to report it.
Regrettably of course it is a self-perpetuating system in that those members of the Bar who do operate unscrupulously and unlawfully may eventually be recruited to the ranks of the judiciary. Not all members of the English Bar behave improperly and likely many or most do not, but one too many do and they are allowed to get away scot free by their colleagues and Judges alike. The public as always pay the price and the lawyers collect.
We could clean up litigation in this country in six months if improper conduct were to be dealt with at source at the time in the Court. With the current social and other relationships between Judges and the English Bar that will of course never happen.
We can see from the report in the Gazette yesterday that the claimed high ethical standards of the English Bar are a myth, which go unpoliced by any effective system of regulation:-
“Review slams ‘systemic failures’ in bar’s disciplinary system” Monday 30 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Solicitor Judges and Solicitor Advocates are a step forward in breaking up this cosy insidious cartel in British justice controlled by Judges appointed predominantly from the English Bar and by the Bar. But that is hardly even a pin-prick on the carbunkel.
The Bar Council better start looking at its own ranks before it has any standing to attack the only relatively recent phenomenon of Solicitor Advocates.