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Bearing false witness?

The latest proposals and pilots to speed up the family justice system rushes experts into providing evidence and don’t offer the guaranties of independence and objectivity that families should be entitled to, argues Finola Moss

28 February 2012

Parents caught up in our present care system are already denied their human right to a fair hearing, and it appears that the state’s current demand for ever more control and expeditious, cost-effective process can only increase this injustice.

The Children Act 1989 promoted collaboration between parents and social services, furthering an inquisitorial approach to care proceedings, trusting social services to respect parental rights and only intervene in a family’s life when absolutely necessary to protect a child. Parents were allowed to instruct their own independent, state-funded expert evidence to defend themselves in the adversarial arena of a care hearing.

Previous government initiatives to avoid cost and delay have already resulted in rules (rule 25.7 FPR 2010) which force parents to jointly instruct and rely on experts chosen and remitted by social services, and now judicially managed and timetabled under the public law outline.

Within the increasingly ...

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