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Judges ready to jail parents / Jail possible for family court order breaches

Two articles from New Zealand newspapers…
The Dominion Post
23 April 2008

Judges ready to jail parents
By Lane Nichols

The Family Court is getting tough, planning to crack down on people who breach protection and parenting orders, its top judge says.

The move follows concerns the court has become so informal that people no longer fear the consequences of breaking the law.

Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier unveiled yesterday a series of changes to formalise court proceedings - and indicated he was prepared to jail parents who did not respect the law.

Judge Boshier has asked the Justice Ministry to investigate having police prosecute people who breach parenting or protection orders to help drive home the message that legally enforceable court orders must be obeyed.
Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier said
I think if people understand that breaching court orders results in interaction with police they might think it is very undesirable.

One of the complaints that's made by users of the Family Court is that sometimes there's no proper consequences if a person breaches an order, so they wonder what the point of coming to court is.

I think it's legitimate that people, by the time they get to the court order, should expect it will be implemented - no ifs and no buts.
To formalise Family Court proceedings, judges would resume wearing robes, courts would be made bigger and lawyers would have to stand to address judges.
In a speech to a public law seminar earlier yesterday Judge Boshier said
I also wanted better courtroom security, because I "drew breath" every time someone opened a briefcase in court.
He indicated that he would not hesitate to jail parents if they broke the law during custody disputes.

Kay Skelton was jailed for 13 weeks for contempt of court after refusing to divulge what she knew about her six-year-old son's whereabouts. Jayden Headley was snatched from a Hamilton library in August 2006 before being returned to his father in January last year.
Judge Boshier in his speech said
I guess … she got the message. We're trying to say to people: `This is a court where you are entitled to expect consequences and you'll get them.

I think there's the risk that we've been so informal it's led to a misunderstanding of consequences.
The Family Court deals with 66,000 new applications each year, covering cases such as custody disputes, protection orders and mental health orders.

But it has come under fire from aggrieved fathers, who picketed judges' homes in 2006, claiming the court was biased toward mothers and cloaked in secrecy.
Judge Boshier yesterday said
The court had taken "a battering".

Fundamental changes had been required to make it more credible and efficient.

The Family Court Matters Bill, now before a select committee, would allow more media scrutiny of cases, promoting openness.

There were also moves to reduce delays and promote more efficient justice for Family Court users, though tensions remained around granting protection orders based only on allegations without all the facts. The court cannot guarantee to always get it right.
Auckland barrister Catriona MacLennan said
I favoured more informality in the Family Court. People are dealing with the most intimate and most stressful issues of their lives and I think you want them to be more relaxed and able to deal with that.
Ms MacLennan said the court had more pressing issues to deal with than judges' robes, such as appalling domestic violence statistics.
The New Zealand Herald
23 April 2008

Jail possible for family court order breaches

Parents who breach Family Court orders could now face jail time, its top judge says.

Judge Peter Boshier yesterday revealed a number of measures designed to formalise court proceedings following concerns that the Family Court has become so informal parents no longer fear breaking the law.

Judge Boshier has asked the Justice Ministry to look into having police prosecute people who breach the court orders, in order to push the message that the orders must be followed.

"I think if people understand that breaching court orders result in interaction with police they might think it is very undesirable," he told The Dominion Post.

"One of the complaints that's made by users of the Family Court is that sometimes there's no proper consequences if a person breaches an order, so they wonder what the point of coming to the court is."

In other changes announced by Judge Boshier yesterday, judges will return to wearing robes, courts will be made bigger, and lawyers will have to stand to address judges.

There will also be improved courtroom security.

Family Court rulings were tested two years ago after Kay Skelton was jailed for 13 weeks for contempt of court for refusing to say what she knew about her six-year-old son's whereabouts after he was snatched from a Hamilton library.

Judge Boshier said he expected she got the message.

"We're trying to say to people 'this is a court where you are entitled to expect consequences and you'll get them'."

- NZPA

Last edit: by OneRingRules


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