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  • Sorry, we've failed
  • By Don.Mackay@Mirror.Co.Uk
  • 02/04/2004 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 100 articles in 2004 )
A HIGH Court judge yesterday slammed the family justice system saying it "failed" a dad who has not been able to see his daughter for more than two years.

The man, who cannot be identified, has been forced to give up his five year battle for access to his seven-year-old girl after 43 court hearings.

His ex-wife has continued to ignore orders allowing him contact with the child.

Mr Justice James Munby, a respected Family Division judge, said the courts were making "victims" of some fathers.

Apologising to the man, he said: "We failed them. The system failed them. It is very disheartening. I am sorry there is nothing more I can do."

He called for short jail sentences of up to three days for mums who do not comply with contact orders and said sweeping changes were required.

Judge Munby attacked the "sheer length of the proceedings" in the case and the number of different judges - 16 at 43 hearings - who heard it.

Proposing allocating cases special timetables that could be measured in weeks or months, rather than years, he said a sole judge, or at the most two, should hear complex cases.

Children should get separate legal representation and skilled social work intervention, he added.

Mr Justice Munby said: "There is much wrong with our system and the time has come for us to recognise that fact and to face up to it honestly. If we do not we risk forfeiting public confidence."

He said the system made victims of the fathers more often than the mums.

The couple had separated in 1998, but almost immediately there were problems with visits and since October 2001 the dad's only contact had been through letters and cards. The mum was jailed for two weeks in 2001 for ignoring court orders.

Judge Munby's remarks came on a national day of protests in Family Court offices by fathers.

Matt O'Connor from civil rights group Fathers 4 Justice said: "It is a jaw-dropping judgement. Twelve months ago such a judgement would have been unthinkable.

"Let no one forget the outcome was still the same. Another father has lost his child."

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