We must shed light on family court crisis

23rd May 2019

Lucy Reed

Family law barrister Lucy Reed, of St John’s Chambers, writes in The Times [££] about why it is now essential for there to be transparent scrutiny of the Family Courts and their handling of domestic abuse by way of inquiry.

She writes, ‘Family court rules designed to protect the privacy of vulnerable children come with a corollary: when something goes wrong, it is difficult to see it, talk about it or fix it. …Trial by media is a poor basis on which to critique and reform the justice system.’

Lucy reminds us that, since cuts to legal aid in 2013, ‘lawyers are not even involved in a significant proportion of these cases.’ She continues, ‘Family lawyers have historically responded defensively to what is seen as ill-informed outside criticism, but it cuts both ways — our perspective is also just anecdotal evidence too, and our conviction that what we see or do is representative may be equally wrong.’ At present, says Lucy, ‘The concerns are real, but the evidential base is weak, with the consequence that neither side can prove their point, leaving public debate deadlocked.’

Although, last week the Prime Minister rejected the call from 120 MPs for a public inquiry into these issues, saying there was ‘no evidence’ to justify it, today also sees the announcement that there will be a three month ‘spotlight’ review by the Ministry of Justice. The MoJ announcement says that ‘A panel of experts will review how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences’. Watch this space.

To read the full article, please click here.

Lucy will be running a Transparency Project workshop for lawyers in chambers on 25 June : Journalists and legal bloggers attending family courts. Booking is essential.