Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced the second tranche of reforms in respect of the opening up of the family courts, reports the Times. It is no surprise that the government has announced its plan to relax the law in respect of reporting restrictions after the widespread disappointment voiced by the media when it realised that the April reforms were not quite what had been anticipated. What is a surprise is the plan to bring changes into force by this Autumn. This seems a remarkably optimistic timetable for reform of primary legislation and presumably does not envisage further consultation. There is absolutely no consensus on how this should be handled and I wonder if it will really be possible to do this job properly by the autumn? It is essential that it is done properly rather than rushed through, and the announcement gives real cause for concern.
It should go without saying that in the course of the announcement Mr Straw took the opportunity to lob a gratuitous shot at lawyers about legal aid, wheeling out the same old misleading figures. And now it seems he is also having a go at the notion that multiple parties should be afforded representation in children cases. Why not go the whole hog and just scrap the judicial scrutiny of the removal of children from their parents and make it an adminstrative process? Or better still why not let the media report the cases freely, each paper taking on the case for a different party and decide the case on the basis of newspaper sales? Much cheaper and much more transparent – both key goals achieved!
Am I sounding a bit sarky this morning? It’s been a long week…