MP's meeting over family courts openness

Justice secretary Jack Straw will meet North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb on September 13 to discuss concerns about the lack of openness in family courts.

Justice secretary Jack Straw will meet North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb on September 13 to discuss concerns about the lack of openness in family courts.

Mr Lamb took up the issue in the wake of the case of his constituents Mark and Nicky Webster, who had their first three children taken for adoption against their will in controversial circumstances.

As well as demanding an inquiry into the Websters' case, Mr Lamb intends to discuss the wider issues of closed family courts with Mr Straw.

“I will raise all of the issues of concern surrounding the Webster case in particular,” said Mr Lamb.

“But the Webster case has resulted in other people contacting me and saying they have serious concerns about other cases.

“There are a lot of concerns the system is not working and does not seem to be fair.

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“Justice behind closed doors is not satisfactory; I find the level of secrecy extraordinary.

“There are worries about the identification of children, which I understand and support - it is an important principle. In fact I feel there should be strict penalties to act as a disincentive.

“But the way things are at the moment, with the complete opaqueness of the system, things need to change.”

Mr Lamb said the government had been moving towards more openness in the family courts in recent months, but only weeks ago Lord Falconer signalled a change of tack again by declaring that “the media should not be given an automatic right to attend family courts”.

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