Mediation success in family disputes in Britain

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 17 Sep 2006

Butler-Sloss: Says it’s cheaper in thelong term

KUALA LUMPUR: Mediation has shown a good rate of success in dealing with family disputes, particularly in child disputes in England, said retired British judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. 

She said its advantage over conciliation appointments, which are court ordered, is that mediation was voluntary and outside the court procedures.  

“Our main problem in England is lack of resources and Government funding,” said Lady Butler-Sloss yesterday.  

She was speaking on “Current Developments in Family Law” at a public lecture organised by the Asean Law Association of Malaysia and the newly-launched Malaysian Inner Temple Alumni at the Royal Lake Club here. 

Lady Butler-Sloss, who was recently appointed coroner for the inquest into Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s deaths, was the President of the Family Division from 1999 until her retirement last year. 

“It would be cheaper for a government in the long term to put money into mediation and get successful results than money into judges and courts,” she said later in an interview.  

Asked about the use of restorative justice practices, Lady Butler-Sloss said: “It appears to be at its most successful with teenagers. Teenage criminals facing the person they have either injured or robbed can be brought to understand the effects of what they’ve done. 

“Within the family field, the emotions run so high in domestic violence that to suggest the victim faces the perpetrator is asking too much.” 

On domestic violence, Lady Butler-Sloss said the most dramatic change has been in the approach in the detection and prosecution of serious cases of domestic violence even where the victim had refused to co-operate.  

While allegations of violence may be dealt with as criminal offences in the criminal courts, she said the same could also come before a family judge or a county magistrate for the grant of non-molestation or other family orders.  

“There is a pilot scheme near London where the same court hears both the criminal charges and the family allegations. 

“It’s an unsatisfactory system to have people moving from court to court. It’s hard on the victim and also the person against whom the allegations have been made.” 

Touching on child abduction and transnational jurisdiction, she said that while not all countries had signed The Hague Convention on Child Abduction there had been two meetings in Malta to promote closer ties between those that had and those that had not. 

“We explored the extent to which the philosophy of the Hague Convention was compatible with the Constitution and the application of Islamic Syariah law in the Muslim countries which attended.” 

Malaysia was represented at the conference this March.  

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