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More family court case findings should be published, ex-MP urges

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30 Mar 2017

A former Liberal Democrat MP who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system has urged judges to publish more case rulings


John Hemming says there were about 25,000 family court cases involving council social services bosses and children in England between 2014 and 2016 but judges published less than 1,000 rulings.

He says people do not know how the system works.

Mr Hemming has raised concerns in the wake of a report by academics which said people were being left with a ”patchy understanding” of the family justice system in England and Wales because judges did not consistently follow guidance on the publication of case rulings.

Academics at Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics gathered data three years after judicial heads issued guidance to family court judges following ”secrecy” complaints.

Researchers analysed more than 800 rulings published in the two years after guidance was issued.

Their report says ”only 27 judges and 12 courts” sent more than 10 cases to the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii) website for publication during that period.

“It does not surprise me to find that there are family court judges who believe that the guidance does not apply to them,” said Mr Hemming.

“There were around 25,000 public law cases in the two year period in England. However, less than 1,000 judgments were published.

“It is in fact very important that anonymous judgments are published. For example, there is a case where grandparents had their grandchild taken off them because they locked the child in their bedroom room when the child was misbehaving.”

He added: “As it currently stands people don’t know how the system works.”

Cardiff University researchers said judges had told of not having enough time to produce rulings that could be made available to the public.

Mr Hemming was sceptical.

“Judges may complain about the work required,” he said.

“I would ask if their fear is finding out that people do not think they are right in what they are doing.”

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