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  • Jack Straw sticks to promises on family courts reporting reforms
  • By Camilla Cavendish
  • The Times
  • 09/07/2009 Make a Comment (1)
  • Contributed by: Daveyone ( 29 articles in 2009 )
Jack Straw sticks to promises on family courts reporting reformsCamilla Cavendish: Behind the story

Jack Straw is sticking to his guns and doing what he promised The Times he would, in response to our campaign to open up the family courts.

Removing all the layers of secrecy will take time. But the latest changes mark an important step towards getting justice, and telling the public what is being done in their name, when the State breaks up families.

This has been a long road. For my own part, it took me a year to become convinced that the stories I was hearing about the power of unaccountable expert witnesses, the stormtrooper behaviour of some social workers and the gagging orders put on families were true. I then discovered that it was illegal for me to write almost anything that exposed this secret State. There are at least ten different statutes on reporting restrictions in the family courts.

Even when we reported on appeals in which judges had criticised councils for having wrongly taken children into care, we could not name professionals or the local authority.

The story that I was trying to tell was hard to believe. It was about children being placed with strangers because a court decided they were at risk not of physical harm or sexual abuse, but of “emotional abuse”, a crime that has no clear definition in law. It was about children being deprived of their mother before the case was overturned on appeal.

Getting others to listen was a real challenge, exacerbated by my so often being able to tell only one side of the story. We faced furious opposition from many in the social work, legal and medical professions. It was the overwhelming response of Times readers that pushed us on.

In June last year we won a small victory in the High Court, when the President of the Family Division decided that it was in the public interest for me to be able to tell readers about a stepfather who had been imprisoned for helping a boy to get back to his mother and flee abroad.

Later that summer I had my first, very constructive, meeting with Mr Straw. He still faces a daunting task. But letting the media report the substance of proceedings is an important shift.


    By:Daveyone from Still in a State!, United Kingdom on July 21, 2009 @ 2:14 am
    Beware this could be whitewash as it is the only thing Straw has done ( which is one more thing then his predesessor Lord falconer!)The judges are the obsticle they could quite easily say Child A or B or Family XYZ but they won't as it shows their shortfalls!

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