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Family Courts Should Follow Youth Court Example

Thursday 18th Jan 2001

ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said the openness and desire for public scrutiny demonstrated by the Chief Youth Court Judge served as a good example for how the Family Court could operate.

“Judge David Carruthers has stated that it is very important that the public see what goes on in the Youth Court. That would allow people to understand what the problems are, what is being done about them and whether it is all working well in the interests of New Zealand. Judge Carruthers wants to see the court receive greater media coverage.

“Contrast this with the approach of the Family Court, which operates like a secret society. It is a closed court, where people who consider themselves to be victims of the system are denied all rights to appeal to the public, either directly or through the media. Many New Zealanders have suffered huge injustices through our family law system – and yet there is no public accountability.

“Early in the new session of Parliament, my private members bill on the Family Court will be debated. The Family Court (Openness of Proceedings Bill) changes the presumption of the court from closed to open.

“A system such as that used in the Youth Court, where journalists may report on proceedings without using the names of those involved would help to end the injustices in the Family Court and would produce a greater sense of accountability.

“I look forward to receiving cross-party report for my bill. But in the meantime I urge those involved with the Family Court to consider the comments made by Judge Carruthers and to look at how the running of their court could benefit from openness and scrutiny,” Dr Newman said.


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