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March 4, 2012 permalink
While a recent proposal to extend the scope of secrecy in British courts was denounced by lawyers, secret courts are already in operation for families. And as for the mother about to be jailed because her children used Facebook, Christopher Booker says her hearing has been adjourned for two months.
We already have unjust secret courts
Behind a wall of secrecy, the family courts routinely turn all the familiar principles of justice upside down.
There was outrage last week over government plans to extend the degree to which our courts can operate in secret. David Davis, former shadow home secretary, claimed that such “a regime of secret courts and hidden judgments”, where defendants could not even be “told the evidence against them”, were worthy only of “despotic one-party states such as Syria, Iran and North Korea”. A letter from 57 of the 69 lawyers already familiar with such practices, from their work on terrorist cases, protested that extending this system would “represent a departure from the foundational principles of natural justice that all parties are allowed to see and challenge all the evidence relied on before the court”.
However shocking this may sound, though, it is already the system which operates in our family courts. Behind a wall of secrecy, they routinely turn all the familiar principles of justice upside down in just this way. Among the dozens of cases I have reported where children are removed from their parents, often for what appear the most absurd reasons, I have been astonished to hear how judges accept extraordinary claims by social workers and lawyers without allowing the parents to challenge them. Hearsay evidence is accepted in a way that would never be allowed in a normal court, and parents are condemned on evidence they are not allowed to see.
One such case I compared recently to the Dreyfus affair – which turned on evidence supplied to his judges but withheld from him. Yet in our family courts such travesties of justice are commonplace. I shall return to this particular case in a future column. I must add an update, however, on the case I reported last week, where a mother faced imprisonment because her teenage children, two of them in care, had been communicating on Facebook. On Monday, the judge decided to adjourn the hearing for two months. I can say no more –thanks to that secrecy which conceals abuses of justice just as shocking as anything David Davis and others protested about so eloquently last week.
Source: Telegraph (UK)