I often feel as if I may come across on this blog as some kind of apologist for the family justice system. Those who know me would chortle at the notion of me as propagandist for The Man, but I am conscious that I often find myself defending the system against a partial or inaccurate attack from the disgruntled, the militant or those with an axe to grind. Not so much because I think the system is flawless or even adequate but I suppose (I have concluded after some self analysis) because of some strangeexte sion of the commitment to equality of arms and fair trial. It’s easy to criticise the system, the judges, the lawyers, the social workers or cafcass officers – harder to accept the realities of relationships, people, personalities, emotions and the financial constraints that both the public and private purse place upon the system and the possible outcomes. And those who are criticised are mostly unable to answer back.
Of course those who complain have some really valid points. Yes, the system fails children, families because of delay, lack of resources, bureacracy, a lack of expertise or poor practice in some cases. And sometimes (although I think less than many would have you believe) the system fails families or parents because of discrimination. Generally I’m of the view that those involved in the system act with the best of intentions, although there are exceptions to that rule.
But you know…there’s no danger of that side of the story going untold. I don’t think we have to worry about a lack of healthy criticism.
So does that mean I have taken on the mantle of self appointed advocate for the family courts or the justice system? Not really. For sure I don’t mind telling you that there are some real anti-family-court cranks and crackpots out there, but I also value those other voices – it’s important that criticism of the system is alive and well (and it is kicking hard) – it provokes reform and discourages complacency (in my pre-bar years I did my fair share of challenging authority, campaigning and gibing voice to the disatisfaction of others by generally shouting loud and making a nuisance of myself – but that’s a story for another day). And in various posts I have done my fair share of criticising the family justice system or describing examples of poor practice (but I too am limited by confidentiality, perhaps in some ways more so than the anonymous parties who tell their stories through journalists or even than the journalists themselves – I can’t resist stating out that I at least feel constrained by the known facts). What I hope I do is to point out the unfair, the inaccurate and the downright misleading – to add an other voice and to contribute to the overall balance of what is ‘out there’ which is often so overwhelmingly negative and demoralising. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I say what I say in the knowledge that I am just one voice amidst a clamour of so many others. For saying my piece I don’t apologise.