Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fanning the flames

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has been an advocate of ‘family court transparency’, should learn important lessons from his latest foray into challenging the ‘secrecy’ of the family courts. The whole sad story is revealed at length in the Guardian (see below).

Sadly the family courts often have to deal with cases in which angry parents hit out at former partners by making reckless allegations. To borrow a phrase from Margaret Thatcher (something I don’t often do) the ‘oxygen of publicity’ can fan these flames of family conflict, often to the detriment of the children.

An important function of the Family Court is to create the conditions in which a child’s best interests can be calmly discussed and successfully realised. Lowering the emotional temperature and promoting a problem solving, rather than conflict sustaining, approach is key. But admitting the press to family court hearings inevitably raises in some people’s minds the possibility of inflicting severe and lasting damage to some-one who has hurt them.

Confidential (not secret) hearings are much more likely to promote a calm and constructive attitude by all the parties to the case.