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(NZ) Family Court campaigner calls for independent complaints body

A Hamilton man has today called for an independent complaints authority to hear problems with the Family Court system.

The New Zealand Herald
12 December 2007

Family Court campaigner calls for independent complaints body

A Hamilton man who last year walked to Wellington to highlight the need for reform in the Family Court has today called for an independent complaints authority to hear problems with the system.

Wayne Pruden today appeared before Parliament's social services select committee which is considering the Family Court Matters Bill.

Provisions of the bill include opening the Family Court up more to the media.

Mr Pruden last year walked 18 days from Hamilton to Wellington to draw attention to problems in the Family Court. He also petitioned Parliament and has called for an inquiry into the family court system.

In his written submission to the select committee, Mr Pruden said the Family Court system had become synonymous with "bias, perjury, loose or absent rules of evidence, unacceptable delays, conflicts of interest, unethical behaviour of lawyers, enormous costs and lacking any transparent, independent or testable complaint process".

"Twenty-five years of poor outcomes, ignored complaints, destroyed family relationships and financially ruined parents would suggest Anti-Family Court be a more appropriate title," he said.

Mr Pruden, 45, goes into detail in his submission about his own personal circumstances, saying it took three years for him to get a hearing date at the Family Court.

He appeared before the select committee today to argue a number of points including that equal share parenting should be a starting point in child custody cases.

Mr Pruden also said he wanted New Zealand to adopt the system used in Australia, where couples had to attend mediation before being able to take a case to the Family Court.

There should be mediation between parents that was not led by judges, he said.

"Avoiding the Family Court or the court system altogether I think is in the interests of all families."

With shared parenting as a starting point, mediation would start with both parents having equal rights and responsibilities for their children.

"I think that mediation will in most cases solve the problems."

Mr Pruden also said the bill did not address complaints about Family Court processes or the behaviour of the individuals it employed.

"Complaints to the Principal Family Court Judge, Judicial Complaints Lay Observer and Law Society are largely ignored and the complexity of the Family Court process hides unethical practices and ensures that complaints are rarely dealt with. The bill needs to include an independent complaints authority," he said.

- NZPA
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