MP calls on judges to speed up ruling writing

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A Liberal Democrat MP has complained about slow justice in civil cases involving families.

John Hemming, who wants reform of family courts, said judges too often took too long to produce written rulings.

He said parties could wait months for written rulings and should be allowed to make their own recordings of oral judgments given during hearings

“If people cannot get the judgment in a written form until months after the hearing I wonder how people can expect to get justice,” said Mr Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley.

“The judicial system depends upon judges explaining how their decisions are in accordance with the law. Without explanation there is no law. To have months and months of delays prevents appeals and stops the system working properly.

“It should not be surprising that many, many parents are leaving the country because they do not believe that they will have a fair trial.”

In May, a woman involved in a family case complained to the Court of Appeal that in September 2011 a county court judge made orders which had “dire consequences” for her children but produced “no reasons or judgments”.

Appeal court judge Lord Justice Thorpe told her that while “preparing” for the appeal hearing he had “found... what appeared to be a transcript of the judgment” at the front of a bundle of documentation.

He said copies of the judgment were made available to the woman - and he refused the woman permission to challenge the county court order following an appeal hearing in London.

Earlier this month, Mr Hemming raised the case in Parliament in an Early Day Motion.

He complained that there had been a “substantial delay” in sending the woman a copy of the transcript of the appeal court judgment.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said the appeal court judgment was “ready for publication” in the “correct time scale”.

Mr Hemming has produced a draft Family Justice Private Members’ Bill and wants the system to be more transparent and accountable.

He says family courts can be “intimidating” and any party should be allowed to have “observers” in court.

Mr Hemming is also calling for grandparents who are not parties to be allowed to participate.

He also wants lists of people imprisoned for contempt of court published by courts on the internet.