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Family Justice Board publishes legal action plan

The Family Justice Board has published an action plan, listing ways in which it plans to improve the current legal system.

The Action Plan to Improve the Performance of the Family Justice System “sets out the actions the Board and its partners will take to achieve the Government’s vision of a family justice system that supports the delivery of the best possible outcomes for all children who come into contact with it.” It will run until 2015.

For March 2013, the Board’s plans include consultation on new standards for expert advice; support for those areas experiencing the greatest legal challenges; and the establishment of a ‘knowledge hub’ to disseminate research on key aspects of family law.

For March 2014, plans include the completion and dissemination of new standards for expert advice, as well as the introduction of a new system enabling cases in which a court order has been breached within its first 12 months to be returned to the court within weeks.

For March 2015, the Board’s plans include a full communications strategy for the Board; and the completion and review of a framework setting out the experiences of children who come into contact with the family justice system.

The action plan will be reviewed on an annual basis.

The Family Justice Board is made up of senior figures from across the family justice system. It was established last year to push forward improvements to the family justice system, following the completion of the Family Justice Review in November 2011.

Photo by enggul via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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  1. David Mortimer says:

    Please can you tell me if you think the information below can & should be used to take my case to the ECHR on the grounds that I have been discriminated against in the UK family courts because I am a father?

    The European Court of Human Rights took the view that the German government had gone too far and found in favour of the father. ‘Tender Years Theory’ effectively prevents children from having a family life with their fathers.

    According to Merrills in ‘The Development of International Law by the European Court of Human Rights’, (Manchester University Press, 1993), the European Court of Human Rights has adopted a cautious line when interfering in domestic jurisdiction. It has established a number of basic guidelines closely related to Article 31(3)(b) of the Vienna Convention which takes into account the, ‘subsequent practice of the state in the application of the treaty’.

    In layman’s terms although something may be wrong, if the practice is long established, it can be ruled inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights. For example, by limiting contact, the ‘Tender Years Theory’, effectively prevents children from having a family life with their fathers. Therefore it may be argued that the principle of ‘maternal deprivation’ contravenes,

    Article 17
    Nothing in this convention may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the Convention.

    It may also be argued that because this theory is so prevalent in family proceedings that the courts are not functioning in an objective way and contravene,
    Article 6
    1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

    However these infringements maybe overlooked because,
    ‘It is essentially for the domestic courts to determine what is in the best interests of the child, having regard to the parents submissions and other relevant evidence’ and ‘access to the court has been made subject to a restriction, namely the leave of the court, which may be considered proportionate in the circumstances and compatible with the pursuit of a legitimate aim: the best interests of the child. As stated previously, it is not for the Strasbourg Court to impugn the merits of that aim.’
    This approach is a thorny issue yet recent applications to the European Court of Human Rights have proved a limited success. For example in the case of Elsholz vs. Germany (Application Number 25735/94) the European Court not only reaffirmed the father’s right to a family life with his child but upheld the principle that his contact should not be disrupted by Parent Alienation Syndrome.
    In the case of Sahin vs. Germany (Application Number 30943/96), the European Court of Human Rights took the unusual step of overriding the view of the domestic court which was that, the mother could block contact with the father because she believed this was in the best interests of the child. The European Court of Human Rights took the view that the German government had gone too far and found in favour of the father.

    The Tender Years Doctrine as applied through Case Laws in UK Family Proceedings.

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