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Family Court Abuse, Denial and Discrimination

Family Court self litigants - No rights, No appeal and No justice.

Your article on free speech (18/12) is right on the money with not only journalists being muzzled, so to are self litigants who are everyday people trying to protect their families, hard earned assets and livelihood through possibly the hardest time of their life - family breakdown.

After one passes through the stage of having your finances run dry and experiencing the realisation that your lawyers and the Family Court usually fall short of looking after your families best interests, one usually transforms into a self litigant out of necessity and a quest for what's just and fair.

Many self litigants seem to battle on a daily basis, the brutal effects of a money and power hungry Family Court empire incorporating a feeding frenzy of many unscrupulous lawyers and affiliated parasitic organisations who prey on the breakdown of families. Protecting your rights and that of your children is a constant struggle.

Requests to the Family Court to listen to transcripts are either denied or ignored, as are requests for Reasons of Judgment. My right to obtain vital evidence for a 3-day trial early in the new year was flatly denied without reason. Ultimately, my rights to a fair and proper hearing, due process and natural justice have gone down the toilet.

Family Court Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson and Richard Foster (CEO) have both ignored my letters seeking inter alia, pre-trial administrative assistance, the help of a lawyer and an investigation into matters of fraud, contempt and obstruction of justice allegedly committed by members of the judiciary and court officers. Other matters of concern raised were false imprisonment, system abuse, discrimination, exploitation, failed duty of care, harassment, defamation, slander, negligence and S.121 breaches have gone unanswered.

Furthermore, if a self-litigant stumbles into a courtroom thinking that if justice and fairness don't take place he or she will appeal the judge's decision, think again. Despite statements by CJ Nicholson [The Age 19 July 2002] saying "The court has an appeal system and does listen to men and women who feel decisions are unfair and wrong", for most, an appeal process in the Family Court will be denied.

To proceed to the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia you must consider the intense financial and emotional burden of preparing the paperwork, arguing the technicalities of law before three judges who are not there to listen to idle chatter and of course you must provide a full transcript of the hearing in which you dispute. Not too difficult?

Wait for it, the cost may shock you. At over $9,000 for a four and a half day trial - it is unaffordable for most. Pleading hardship won't get you anywhere either.

However, if you're wealthy enough to afford that, don't then be surprised if the transcript does not reflect a true account of the proceedings. Why are the transcripts edited and by who?

Whether it be the accuracy of the transcript in question or just the simple fact you don't have a spare few thousand kicking around, or are unsure whether to proceed to an appeal, you may wish to just listen to the actual tapes of the transcript. Right? No, you can't do that either.

Of course we can subpoena the tapes and Reasons of Judgement - surely? Hmmm - lawyers can.

Well perhaps you can buy them? No. The Family Court refuse that option too.

For some reason this denial by the Family Court is in stark contrast with the Supreme and Magistrates Courts supplying tapes at $40.15 and $55 per day respectively, in alignment with what the Attorney-General (ACT) stated over 6 years ago on 15 May 1997.

Mr Humphries said: "It is recognised that the cost of Court transcript may have a significant impact on some litigants seeking access to the Court. It is for this reason that the fee charging regime was recently amended to provide that applicants can be given an audio cassette of proceedings at a cost of $30 and the Court has recently purchased high speed dubbing equipment, which will facilitate this service. Auscript also currently provides assistance to litigants by providing reading rooms for them to listen to sound recordings of proceedings and to read the transcript. Auscript does not charge for this service. Both facilities assist litigants to assess whether or not to proceed to an appeal."

Ooops..not anymore Mr Humphries. Under a new contract with with the Family Court, Auscript and Spark & Cannon (court transcript providers) cannot allow listening of transcript tapes. Why?

It seems these common sense and fair practices by some courts fly in the face of Family Court reality for many self-litigants today, as quite clearly, this is a policy the Family Court has failed to adopt. Why?

It seems three years on, passages such as "the right to be meaningful heard", from the Family Court 'Litigants in Person' Report August 2000 by the Family Law Council, are still negated through denial of resources and evidence by the Family Court.

"David Luban argues for universal access to the legal system as a fundamental right. Luban's arguments rely on the fundamental of legitimacy. That is, a democratic system of government rests on treating people equally, and to do so in an adversarial legal system, people need an equal right to be meaningfully heard. This right translates to a right to legal services, and can also extend to a right to alternatives to representation."

Simply, the rights of a self litigant in the Family Court of Australia are almost nil compared with lawyers, despite smoke and mirror attempts by Chief Justice Nicholson and others espousing the rights of litigants in person such as Justice Faulks who in a Family Court report [A Challenge Project Report May 2003], makes statements of "access to justice for all...the goal of justice and a fair go for all, justice and fairness, law services are provided fairly, openly, supporting, informing and helping litigants, and recognising their right to a fair go."

It would appear Family Court business and secrecy come before human rights and democracy. It also seems discrimination and hypocrisy are not only rife in the Family Court but indeed flourishing.

If the governments of the day have a true desire to serve and promote positive family welfare, an inquiry into the Family Court system beyond joint parenting, must begin immediately to lift the lid on crime.

(The above comments reflect the opinion of the writer only, based on past experience)

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