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Why Don’t the Family Courts and the Criminal Courts Just Work Together?

One of the great paradoxes for dedicated legal scholars, whether or not they also professionally work in the law, is the fact that the saddest cases are very often the most interesting, from a legal perspective. This principle is perfectly exemplified by a recent case where 2 parents had their child removed from their care and placed for adoption, despite the fact that they were subsequently cleared of child abuse.

The problem with this case is that the wheels of justice in the family court and the wheels of justice in the criminal court actually turn at different speeds. The welfare of the child will often, although not always, demand that things are done relatively quickly. Family lawyers are very accustomed to the ‘no delay’ principle. On the other hand, the criminal justice system is tasked with convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent. A fully functioning society would expect nothing less.  Almost inevitably, limited resources will mean that such a lofty aspiration will not necessarily be achieved in a speedy timescale. In this particular case, the problem is easily identified but, as always, less easily resolved. A perfect example of law, logic and morality all operating in different time zones.

In real terms, on almost any view, it would be far too emotionally disruptive for a child to be moved from a family that he has been settled with for 3 or 4 years. Steps are being taken for the criminal courts and family courts to do more ‘joined up thinking’ and to talk more freely to each other. Sadly those steps may have come too late for this particular family.


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