Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Law Society On Relaxation Of Family Court Media

FOR IMMEDIATE USE 23 January 2001

Media Release from Anita Chan, Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society

The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society supports relaxation of the present tight hold on publicity in the Family Court.
Public scrutiny of any court system is a good and healthy thing. However, because of the deeply personal nature of Family Court cases, the public interest must be carefully balanced against the interests of protecting the privacy of families and, in particular, children.
The current bill before Parliament, The Family Court (Openness of Proceedings) Amendment Bill envisages that the Family Court should be open to the media and except in exceptional cases, the public. This is totally untenable given the extremely personal nature of cases before the Family Court. In some cases it would deter families altogether from availing themselves of the Family Court as a forum for resolution of their disputes. In others it is likely to significantly inhibit the quality (fullness and frankness) of evidence given to the courts. It would also open the door to and indeed encourage the making of false claims designed solely to grab media attention for personal gain.
It is naive and totally unrealistic to expect that privacy would be able to be adequately protected by media name suppression as suggested by Muriel Newman.
It is inappropriate to compare the Youth Court with the Family Court. The Youth Court deals with criminal offences against the state. The Family Court is a forum for private citizens to have highly sensitive issues of a personal nature resolved.
Nevertheless, there is room for some relaxation on the current prohibition on publicity. The Family Law Section in its submissions on the Ministry of Justice discussion paper on The Laws About Guardianship, Custody and Access makes specific recommendations on how better public scrutiny can be achieved.
These include recognising an education role for the court so it can make the public aware of the stance being taken on significant issues such as violence, and releasing edited versions of decisions. The test for attendance by the public and/or media at Family Court should be does the private interest outweigh the public interest in the particular case?
Muriel Newman’s stance on this issue smacks of sensationalism. In a Dominion article, “Banish this Secret Society” (6 December 2000) she used intemperate language and emotive anecdotes to portray the Family Court as a grossly destructive and inhumane system which actively “brutalises” families to such an extent that people are driven “to murder and suicide”.
Professionals working in the Family Court recognise this to be far from the truth. All Family Court professionals work within a statutory framework which requires them to promote conciliation in handling family disputes. A vast amount of energy is invested on a daily basis by family court judges, lawyers and other professionals in assisting families to resolve their disputes in a conciliatory fashion wherever possible. Indeed, the great majority of disputes that pass through the system are resolved by agreement in a civilised fashion.
It is undeniable that in a very small percentage of cases dealt with by the Family Court tragic consequences do result. However, it simply does not follow that is the Family Court system that is responsible. In cases involving children the courts are under a statutory mandate to place the welfare of children as the paramount consideration. Upholding of this duty will inevitably result in some parties becoming aggrieved, very occasionally with tragic results.
With the current prohibition on publicity, the Family Court and the professionals within it are prohibited from replying when aggrieved parties speak out about their experiences. Some relaxation of the strict prohibition would assist in a more complete picture being presented.


© 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