I’m open minded. I went to browse the fathers4justice website today to see what they had to say (be warned the quicktime on this site hangs up my browser, it may do likewise to yours). I was confronted at the outset with the singularly unfortunate quote ‘A Verbal Machinegun’. An epithet to be proud of for an organisation concerned with the welfare of children.
The site quotes an interesting mix of Bentham and Ghandi. They are running a ‘Judgebusting’ Campaign which aims: ‘to either enlighten and educate the judiciary or undermine their positions to the point where they become untenable.’ That sounds to me not a little threatening, and when read in the context of the whole page is unlikely to do much to advance the cause of dad’s struggling to get contact.
The website publishes a list of comments or actions on the part of judges, taken wholly out of context. You cannot sum up a case or a child’s life or family circumstances in one line. The snippets published from these cases might be examples of injustice at work but who knows? – in reality they tell us nothing. They do not demonstrate judicial impropriety or error, although they clearly highlight the difficulties (and possibly the benefits in respect of preventing damage caused by sloppy reporting) of the privacy rule in family proceedings.
They have apparently put together a ‘Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century’ and a ‘Family Justice on Trial’ document which ‘comprehensively decimates every argument used to support and excuse the current secret system of family justice’. I’d genuinely like to read such documents to see what they have to say. Any suggestions about how we should properly balance a child’s need for privacy against the principle of open justice should be thrown into the debate.
But for reasons which escape me Fathers4 justice do not make these apparently important documents generally available. They are available only to members. And since the fathers4justice website publishes a poster reading ‘Family Lawyers (crossed through with a big red circle and line) – stop the family law gravy train’ I’m guessing that I would not be welcome amongst their ranks, in spite of the fact that I spent about 50% of my time representing Fathers to the best of my ability (and getting them results for which they are often thankful).
If fathers4justice really want to campaign productively on behalf of fathers they would do better to disseminate their wisdom widely and freely rather than ask a £30 joining fee before sending their material out to the already converted.
If fathers4justice want open justice – lets have open discussion. Publish the documents so that they can be openly critiqued. Stamping of feet and whingeing about how ‘its not fair’ is not debate.