Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Family Court Changes Could Be No Change At All

Family Court Changes Could Be No Change At All

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader and Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today issued official information confirming that the Labour Government's changes to bring more openness into the Family Court could well be toothless.

"While clause 129 (1)(fa) of the Care of Children Bill certainly allows accredited media and a wider range of people to attend Family Court hearings, clause 129 (3) contains sweeping provisions to allow parties involved in a case to object," Dr Newman said.

"I have sought clarification from the Government as to its intention: if it becomes common practice to object to the presence of media in hearings, then claims of bringing more openness into the Family Court are false. Today, I asked the Minister's office"

`Can any party to proceedings object to the presence of an accredited news media reporter and if so can a Judge exclude them from proceedings?'

"And the official answer:

`A party is free to raise concerns with the presiding judge about the presence of witnesses, a person speaking about a child's cultural background, support persons and an accredited news media reporter at a hearing. The judge is entitled to request any of the above persons to leave a courtroom, and the person must comply with such a request (cl 129 (3) - this provision is an extension of s27(2) of the Guardianship Act 1968).'

The Bill does not attempt to prescribe in what situations a Judge would make such a request. This is not unusual in legislation. There are a number of situations in which it might be appropriate to exclude observers, as opposed to parties, from a hearing.

Examples justifying exclusion might include intensely personal evidence of sexual abuse; the presence of one party's supporters is intimidating the other party; a child is giving evidence in Court; or where the persons are disrupting the hearing.

"In making a decision under clause 129 (3), a Judge will balance a number of competing interests, including the need for transparency and public interest in proceedings against the privacy interests of the parties involved and the best interests of the child.

"This answer demonstrates that, despite of Labour's rhetoric, openness appears to be an optional extra. That is why changing the presumption of the court from closed to open was so important, and why it was so disappointing to see the government opposing that move in order to protect the secrecy in the court", Dr Newman said.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>


Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election