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?”
You can see the poll on Twitter.
Ed Nixon said:
This is a really helpful ‘snap shot’ of views and the comments are informative. The substantive issue is trying to balance the judgement on protecting children(safeguarding) with the rights of parents for what they understand to be a ‘fair’ hearing.
Over many years we can remember the press highlighting ‘failure’ of statutory agencies failing to save children’s lives whilst, sometimes even in the same paper/journal/report, other stories suggesting they have acted prematurely. A ‘Gordian knot’ with no universally accepted means of ‘untying’.
Thank you for raising the matter.
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I missed this poll Natasha but my thoughts are what steps can be taken to first put together what amounts to a business case, to the powers that be, for the grounds to be changed to reflect beyond all reasonable doubt, would it be possible to gather information on what the benefits to both children, families, social services and the family justice system would be if grounds for removal were changed to reflect the criminal courts? For example, would it reduce the pressure on the courts, could it be somehow proved to be in the interests of children’s wellbeing? With this insight an informed case could be made and communicated to our MPs etc, especially if it included comment from respected experts in the field of child protection and mental health. If These individuals were identified we could consider approaching them to research their opinion regarding how changing to beyond reasonable doubt would impact children and families and associated institutions.
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Prisoner in the UK said:
I am sad that I missed this post as I would have overwhelmingly voted for the ‘beyond reasonable doubt method’. I have been taken to court 18 times by my abuser, who has made false allegation after false allegation which has then been believed by every judge bar 1! If the system was a beyond reasonable doubt rather than a can I charm this judge into believing my lies I would not be living this life of hell!
One person made the comment ‘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.’ but this comment works the other way, despite me having evidence to convict him of the abuse it was completely ignored because the judges can currently choose whatever they feel like choosing that day. The current system actually works against mothers who are suffering from abuse through the courts as judges just see us as emotional wrecks, if it was a case of beyond reasonable doubt our mental health at the time just wouldn’t factor into it, also if it did we could then provide the evidence to show that the abuse was being caused by the court and the abuser so that court would not be able to turn against us without giving us grounds to appeal their decision.
Ian Josephs said:
Yes, One person made the comment ‘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.’
Why should this “one person”(above) be a judge ?Can a mere belief (usually by a complete outsider) be enough to break up a family? Enough to deprive the child of its mother?
Family courts should be replaced by criminal courts or at least be bound by the same rules as criminal courts; Guilty only beyond reasonable doubt and freedom to protest and tell all (including names) to the media who should then be free to publish.Definitel “NO PUNISHMENT WITHOUT CRIME” and no “suppression of free speech.”
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Prisoner in the UK said:
Yes, suppression of speech is only adding to the abuse which is not in the child’s best interest, it is abusing the child.
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When a social worker makes a court order request there is ally of wasted tax payers money being given out on legal aid etc when no matter what you do or say you cannot win lies missed timescales constantly changing social worker never hearing the children face to face its so traumatic if I’ve done wrong so bad that my kids get taken I’m never to be seen again why haven’t criminal charges been brought on me why am I loose in the public because there has got to be something barbaric I’ve done that I can’t possiblyhelped to resolve issues its crazy a criminal even a child murderer has to be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt I knw my kids been taken is define tly harming them but can I take them bk to court no