Excerpt: Lawyers, judges etc need to ensure that report writers follow the standards set by the Family Court
The Monthly and ABC Background Briefing covered a number of different issues some of which have been addressed in response to Senator Heffernan’s [and Senator McKim's] question, at the hearing on 9 February 2016, AE16/017.
Chief Justice Bryant AO has acknowledged that the reports caused alarm. In response, Her Honour took the opportunity to:
- remind the profession, through the Family Law Section Executive and Legal Aid Commissions, that counsel appearing, in particular independent children’s lawyers, as well as judges have an obligation to ensure that the reports from experts that are being admitted are consistent with the Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessments and Reporting (February 2015). A copy of these Standards is available at: www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/policies-and-procedures/asp-family-assessments-reporting The Court would like to draw the Senate’s attention particularly to item number 18 and indeed the entire section on ‘Children in family assessments’.
- remind the profession and judges of their obligation to carefully scrutinise expert reports and satisfy themselves that a report will stand up to close analysis. If not, further enquiries of the expert may need to be made or another report obtained. Once proceedings have commenced and cross-examination of the expert is occurring, it is again the responsibility of those appearing and the judge to ensure that adequate scrutiny is given to the reports and that any departure from what is regarded as best professional practice queried.
Where cases are still before the Court, they will obviously be dealt with in the judicial process and Senators will understand that heads of jurisdiction would not, and should not, in any way interfere with the judicial process.
Ms Diana Bryant 18 Oct 2016