It was reassuring to read today that the government plans to address the wildly fluctuating standards in the family justice system when it comes to expert witnesses.

In an article on the BBC news website today, the justice department has promised to set minimum standards for psychologists and other experts making decisions about the care of children. Quite why minimum standards weren’t set in the first place, is beyond us. This glaring oversight is yet another very poignant example of how the system has simply run, virtually un-manned and then run itself into the ground along with many of the families and children that enter it.

We are told that “Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly, responding for the government, said minimum standards would be introduced as part of wider reform of the family court system aimed at improving fairness and efficiency, including greater use of mediation”. Mediation itself is in many ways a bug-bear – we’ve written about the need to be cautious with this approach in the past and unless the government understands how all these processes work with each other, mediation, new laws, policies and the like, will really make no difference.

In another twist, the article also goes on to say that, “the main elements will be to raise the threshold for a court to permit an expert to be instructed, where expert witness evidence must be necessary rather than reasonably required.” This seems to us at least, to have echoes of past sentiments made by various judges who would like to do away with experts as much as is possible and make welfare decisions usually left to psychologists and psychiatrists themselves. We’re terribly concerned about that, too.

It’s a really interesting article; most certainly worth a read, we feel.

Life-changing decisions about families are made in the courts (Photo and caption courtesy of the BBC News website)