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Children Schools and Families Act 2010

Comment 6th July 2010

This act, which comes info force in July 2010, prevents victims of miscarriages of justice in Family courts from speaking or campaigning about their cases. It is draconian, potentially in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. Large sections of it at least need to be repealed.

It was brought in under auspices of opening up family courts, in the wake of negative publicity about apparent miscarriages of justice in forced adoption cases.

In practice it does exactly the opposite – it gags witnesses and bars the press from reporting judgements in family cases. It makes the courts even more closed and secretive and leaves victims of judicial errors without a voice, without rights and without support.

Why does this matter?

Sections 11 to 16 of the Act deliver a universal gagging mechanism, banning victims of miscarriages of justice from talking about their cases. They can't raise awareness in the press or online, or write to their MPs or campaigning groups.

This draconian legislation was introduced after a publc outcry about secrecy of family courts – now it shuts the door on them completely. Now families cannot tell their story even under assumed names and without giving any personal details – they are silenced.

Yes, reporting needs to be impartial, yes, children's identities need to be protected. But justice has to be seen to be done – under this law it never can be. It's a life sentence without trial.

Even in serious criminal cases, where the burden of proof is so much greater, victims of miscarriages of justice can speak up, campaign for their rights, gain support and seek justice.

Yet victims of any miscarriage of justice in Family Courts, who can be stripped of parental rights without firm evidence and without a jury, can be cast into darkness and silence, cut off from the world, stripped of their freedom of speech and of any rights to campaign for justice.

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