Image make-over for Family Court
Standards push in Family Court NZ Herald
The Family Court is facing a fresh shakeup, with Principal Judge Peter Boshier insisting on more formality to ensure it – and the legal orders it makes – are respected.
Judge Boshier wants a higher standard of evidence presented to the courts, and has decided lawyers will be asked to stand, not sit, when they address judges.
He has already applied to the Government to lift a legislative ban on judges wearing gowns in the Family Court.
The changes he has outlined are intended to improve the authority of the Family Court and to prevent its orders, including those protecting children, being flouted.
But it is also understood Judge Boshier wants to strengthen the performance of professionals, including lawyers, social workers and court staff, to avoid “embarrassing lapses and delays”.
In a speech in Wellington yesterday, Judge Boshier said that, when established, the Family Court was allowed to receive “any” evidence which might not be heard in other courts.
“At what point, do we say there is an honourable limit to the admissibility of second-hand, unoriginal and sometimes questionably sourced material?”
Call to respect Family Court Dominion Post
“I would like there to be no perception at all that Family Court orders, when issued, can be negotiated, avoided or informally modified,” Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier said yesterday.
“The Care of Children Act does much to strengthen our court’s powers, making it clear that our role has authority and that the orders we make are not to be flouted,” he said.
But many litigants still lacked confidence in the court and did not see its orders as requiring compliance, he said.
JohnP’ s comments: Now that it is no longer able to operate in secret, the NZ Family Court is being forced to undergo a rapid image make-over. Principal Judge Peter Boshier has realised that allowing judges to continue making decisions on the basis of “second-hand, unoriginal and sometimes questionably sourced material” is not a good look, as is tolerating “embarrassing lapses and delays” on behalf of court professionals, and blatant flouting of Court Orders by some parents.
Many of Judge Boshier’s suggested reforms are on the right track, but it will take a lot more that a change of costume and protocols to rebuild public confidence in the court. For a start, an acknowledgement that thousands of families devastated by the court’s past disgraceful performance deserve to have their cases reviewed. And how about making public statistics on custody awards by gender which will demonstrate unequivocally how much institutional bias against fathers still exists?