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Nick Smith welcomes opening of Family Court

Hon. Dr Nick Smith National Party Nelson MP

23 September 2004

Nick Smith welcomes opening of Family Court

Nelson MP Nick Smith has welcomed the Government's decision to open Family Court proceedings to the scrutiny of the media and the public.

"A secret court is a dangerous court. Open scrutiny is essential to holding the judiciary and the system accountable to the community it is there to serve.

"There is a rich irony in having been hung for contempt of court by the Government's top law enforcement officer for public statements about a Family Court proceeding, only now to now have the Government concede the law is wrong.

"I feel I have lost the battle but am winning the war."

Dr Smith was found in contempt by the High Court in February and fined $5000 for publicly commenting on a Family Court case. Dr Smith never publicly disclosed the family or child's name, consistent with the new principle now adopted by Government.

"However, National still wants to see the detail of the Government's proposals to ensure it does not involve judicial censorship.

"We agree with the Government on openness and identity protection for children and families, but the principle will be defeated if the judge can determine what can and cannot be reported by the media.

"The Family Court makes critical decisions about some of the most important issues in people's lives. It has a very wide brief and the public needs to know that its processes and approach are in touch with New Zealand values.

"Cabinet's decision to open the court is the first step along the road of ensuring families get a better deal," says Dr Smith.


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