Stevenage father tackles deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg over ‘secret’ family courts
- Credit: Archant
A father who says he has been prevented from seeing his daughters “at the biased hands of the family courts” has quizzed the deputy Prime Minister over the secrecy of this division of the British justice system.
In March, the Comet reported how the father-of-two from Stevenage, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is campaigning for a change in the law so fathers are afforded the same rights as mothers and family courts are more open to scrutiny.
He split with his children’s mother six years ago and has been fighting the courts to get proper access to his two daughters, who are both aged under 10.
He alleges his ex-partner falsely claimed he hit her in 2010 and, although police decided to take no further action, the family courts decided on the balance of probability that the allegation was true.
He says he was told in 2013 he has no legal right to see his children until they are 16 unless he signs up to an Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme.
To take part in the programme he would have to admit being abusive towards his ex-partner – which he refuses to do.
He has travelled to Colchester to question deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about the family courts system.
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Addressing Mr Clegg, he said: “A person of good character has been accused of a crime and the Crown Prosecution Service has taken no further action. Do you think it’s ok for a judge in a secret court, with no jury or evidence, to then decide on the balance of probability that that person is guilty of that offence and give them a non-compulsory criminal sentence in order that if the person does not comply with it they will not be able to see their children until they are adults?”
Mr Clegg said: “The issue of how family courts work is an incredibly sensitive issue. On the one hand, people say it’s secret justice. Other people say it’s really, really important to put the children first and to protect the children. That requires a degree of discretion for the family courts, different to other parts of the judicial system.
“We have got to make sure the justice system protects innocent children from the worst excesses of scrutiny and intrusion.”
Speaking to the Comet afterwards, the Stevenage dad said: “I understand children need to be protected, but that doesn’t mean adults have to lose their rights.
“Family courts are so unfair because a reporter can’t sit in there and scrutnise a case. There’s no reason why they can’t retain the anonymity of a child and report the facts of the case.
“Justice can’t be done in secret because people lose Article 6 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a fair trial.”
• What do you think? Should family courts be more open? Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or @thecomet24 via Twitter