Saturday, 21 September 2013

Family Court under fire

A University of Waikato PhD student researching how the Family Court treats victims of domestic violence says the court should start assuming anger and aggression are normal human traits rather than the exception.
Former Department of Corrections worker Jalesi Nakarawa has received a $25,000 scholarship to continue his research.
He enrolled at university in 2003 and became interested in the Family Court during his studies.
"When I did my LLB [bachelor of laws] I didn't do family law but when I was doing my masters in law that is when I took up a paper in family law," Mr Nakarawa said.
"When I started looking at Family Court cases I noticed that some judges don't apply the law ensuring the best interest of the child and the protection of victims when dealing with domestic violence."
He said assumptions in the Family Court played against the interests of victims of domestic violence and the profession needed to question the validity of a number of legal theories.
"The Family Court has undergone numerous reforms but the problem is still there."
He argues that the Family Court considers aggression and deception as immoral behaviour but Mr Nakarawa said they should be treated as normal human traits.
"It is a normal human behaviour but it operates on a continuum. Once it goes to the far end it becomes immoral.
"What we need to be looking at is the behaviour that prevents you from escalating. There are no single causes to be identified for those behaviours."
He said Family Court professionals were biased by their own belief and family relationships that could "sway their deliberation".
"Even the professional psychologists, when they are required to make reports to the Family Court, their reports are tainted with bias because they are trying to give the court a solution," Mr Nakarawa said.
Judges and lawyers used "legal fiction" to assist them to come to a satisfactory conclusion, and he is hoping the 10-year reforms of the Family Court will take his research into consideration.
"If you don't look at this in respect of the number of reforms that you do, the problem will remain and the victims of domestic violence - the ones the law is trying to protect - will remain."

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