Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs Sixth Report

1  Introduction


1. Between September 2004 and March 2005, the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee in the last Parliament conducted a comprehensive inquiry into the workings of the family justice system, focusing on issues relating to child contact and produced a report entitled Family Justice: the operation of the family courts.[1] Particular concerns included the delays inherent in the family court system, the lack of transparency of the family courts and the need to move people away from the adversarial court system and into mediation or educational programmes to resolve their differences.

2. The Government responded to the Committee's report in March 2005 and legislation relating to the enforcement of child contact (The Children and Adoption Bill) was introduced into the House of Commons in November 2005.

3. We decided to take evidence on some of the recent developments in areas which had been examined by the Constitutional Affairs Committee in the last Parliament from Rt Hon Sir Mark Potter, the President of the Family Division. An oral evidence session was held on 2 May 2006, and Sir Mark was accompanied by Hon Mr Justice Munby, District Judge Nicholas Crichton and Audrey Damazer from the Justices' Clerks Society. Following that evidence session, the Committee decided to produce a short report to review the evidence given and consider what progress has been made. Relevant correspondence between the Committee, the judiciary and the Department is appended to this report.

1   Constitutional Affairs Committee, Family Justice: the operation of the family courts, Fourth report of session 2004-5,
HC 116-I 

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Prepared 11 June 2006