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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

28 APR 2008

Council of Europe may investigate England's Family Courts

A motion has been tabled for the Council of Europe to consider investigating UK Family Law.

Ten Assembly members, five of whom are from the UK, have signed the motion which is yet to be discussed in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

The text of the motion reads:
"The Parliamentary Assembly recognises that human rights are part of the Council of Europe's key values. It recognises that systems are needed for the protection of children when they are at risk. The Assembly believes, however, that those who are tasked with protecting children need to be accountable for their actions and need to operate in a way which protects the human rights of those people they are dealing with.

The Assembly notes that there is substantial concern that the secrecy of the Family Division of Courts in England and Wales has caused the development of an environment in which practitioners are not properly accountable. It notes that a number of people have emigrated from England because they feel persecuted by the authorities tasked with Child Protection.

The Assembly particularly notes the use of Section 54.4 of the 1999 Access to Justice Act by the Court of Appeal in England which is preventing cases being considered by the Supreme Court in England and the way in which this acts to undermine the rule of law allowing the Family Division of Courts to operate in isolation from the wider body of law.

The Assembly recognises that questions have been raised as to whether the judicial proceedings in England's Family Courts are compliant with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Right to a Fair Trial).

The Assembly also recognises that questions have been raised as to whether the system is also systematically uncompliant with Articles 3, 8, 10, 11 and 12.

The Assembly suggests that the relevant committee of the Assembly starts an examination of the system to which concerned parties can submit evidence of Human Rights abuses in England and Wales."

John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of Justice for Families, said: "This is good news for families in England and Wales. This is the first step towards getting a supranational body to properly investigate the way in which Human Rights for parents are being abused in the UK. This is likely to lead to a proper inquiry that hopefully will allow parents and children to tell the Council of Europe what the UK has been doing to them."

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