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Family Court To Blame For Its Own Dramas

Family Court To Blame For Its Own Dramas

Friday 6 Jun 2003 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

If it were not for the secrecy of the Family Court - with the associated delays and costs - MPs would not be asked to intervene in Family Court cases, and National MP Dr Nick Smith would not have found himself facing prosecution, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"The public is not only frustrated with the Family Court's lack of openness, but also with the tremendous taxpayer costs involved - answers to my written Parliamentary Questions show that the highest amount of legal aid paid to Family Court lawyers was in excess of $104,028," Dr Newman said.

"This is closely followed by payments of more than $75,000, $64,000 and $59,000. Usually only one party in a case receives legal aid - enabling them to constantly appeal decisions at relatively no cost to themselves - while the other party must exhaust their funds or give up.

"Add to this the secrecy that surrounds Family Court hearings and decisions, and we are left with a public that feels it cannot expect justice from this court. Is it any wonder, then, that people turn to MPs for help?

"Now, Dr Smith faces prosecution for drawing aside the Family Court's curtain of secrecy. Yet this need not have been the case. In other jurisdictions where Family Courts are open and justice is seen to be done, endless litigation at enormous cost to the taxpayer is virtually unknown. It is long past time for New Zealand's Family Court to open its doors to proper scrutiny, so that MPs would not have to put themselves on the line to help New Zealanders who are being denied justice," Dr Newman said.


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