Almost 70% of those who answered a poll asking the public whether they thought the family courts’ current burden of proof should be replaced with the “beyond reasonable doubt” threshold used in criminal courts, said yes.
A poll that we ran last week, and which received 43 votes, found that 69.8% of those who took part wanted to remove the civil test used by the family courts (“balance of probabilities”) and replace it with the criminal test.
The poll, which also offered a third option in an “other” box for members of the public who thought the tests could be improved or further developed, sparked strong reactions in those for and against changing the burden of proof in family courts.
One tweeter said, “Try telling a child that although you believe a parent is most probably abusing them, because you’re not absolutely sure, you’re not going to remove them from harm’s way.”
Another tweeted commented, “I am passionate about reforming the system and the test for for examining evidence MUST be brought in line with the criminal courts. Additionally the evidence in Family Court must be investigated and confirmed as truth, not just assumed to be so as it is introduced by SS!”
Tweeters also described the problems with the current burden of proof in family courts, which is the same standard used for civil courts across the country.
Family courts are considered unique in that cases that come before them often feature both civil and criminal elements, arguably making these tests not fit for purpose.
One tweeter told us, “Feel very strongly about this. I am testimony that this method is very dangerous. I ended up being falsely accused of the father’s crime of drugging. I was falsely accused of Parental Alienation. The current balance of probabilities [test] is a sick joke.”
A commented on twitter added, “In my relatives’ case the judge didn’t even use balance of probabilities (which is ridiculous in itself) she based her “judgement” on her ASSUMPTIONS. If I could take it to high court they would be disgraced at her findings. Ignored BLATANT EVIDENCE. Why? [Money emojis] Yep, the root of it all.”
Another poster said, “It is hard enough to get justice for and protection for victims and especially children. How will children be better safeguarded by raising the threshold?”