Cuts warning over family courts

Rachel Shields
Sunday 29 November 2009 01:00
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A senior judge warned yesterday that family courts are near "breaking point" and are being undermined by heavy budget cuts. The courts already face lengthy delays, a scarcity of expert witnesses and strains caused by increased media access – pressures that could jeopardise child welfare, Mr Justice Coleridge said.

"We don't need anything further done to increase the fragility of the family justice system, which is already near breaking point," said the High Court judge. The warning came as he chaired the annual conference of the Family Bar Law Association (FBLA) yesterday. "We've just been told that our budget has been cut by 8.5 per cent in real terms; there will be cuts across the country."

On Friday, senior judges met officials from Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS) to discuss proposed court budgets for next year, which will be announced in March.

At the FBLA conference. Mr Justice Coleridge highlighted the pressures that increased media access could put on the courts: "We're looking at increasing delays, which means jeopardising children's welfare."

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