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IS JUSTICE IN THE FAMILY COURT AN OXYMORON?

In care cases, when compared with other areas of law, there is a very low percentage of ‘restorative’ outcomes where wrong procedures have been used or wrong decisions have been made. For example, an adoption order, wrongly made, is unlikely to result in the child being returned to the biological parent. The same is true of Fact Finding Hearings. A successful reversal of Facts Found, leading to a partial or even complete exoneration of the alleged perpetrator is, more often than not, hardly worth the paper that it is written on. Why is this? The principal reason is that there is an inherent tension in the Family Courts about successful challenges of  wrong procedures, or wrong decisions. The Children Act requires the Appeal Courts to deal with cases on the basis that the welfare of the child is paramount. Wrong procedures therefore do not necessarily mean that the wrong order has been made. Paradoxically, nor do wrong decisions! Even in cases where a parent is completely exonerated of any wrong doing, the passage of time and the child’s new circumstances, may make it contrary to his welfare to be returned to his parents’ care.  The child’s welfare being paramount, it is an understandable perception that the Courts and Local Authorities ‘gets away with’  procedural errors, unlawfulness, or even outright deception. It is of little consequence to parents, in these circumstances, that social workers’ and judges’ careers are blighted or even ruined.

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