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Lawyers defend Family Court rulings

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/04/2017

New Zealand's lawyers say accusations that they and Family Court judges are leaving women and children vulnerable to violence are not true and disappointing.

It comes one day after the Family Court's top judge also took the unusual step of publicly defending his court.

The Law Society's Family Law chair Michelle Duggan said Judge Laurence Ryan had been right to reject claims by lobby group, Backbone Collective, that judges and lawyers were unprofessional.

The collective has sent politicians and court officials a list of 160 questions, which included claims court rulings placed children in danger from abusive men and that women were not getting a fair hearing.

But Ms Duggan said the Family Court acted fairly and impartially and did not aim to please everyone, but rather protect the interests of children.

"The Family Court process is a fraught and combative process and often there are no winners - just exhausted participants," she said on Thursday.

She said the collective's questions and survey were not scientific and depicted Family Court judges and lawyers unfairly.

"Many questions are not in fact questions; they are statements which make assumptions and then ask respondents to agree," she said.

"Any resulting report will have little credibility."

Claims by the collective that the court was secretive were also not true because its decisions are available online and can be appealed to the High Court, while the media is also able to report on cases, she said.

The Law Society also continued to advocate for change to the Family Court, such as raising concerns about how people can access legal aid, counselling and mediation services.

Formed in March, the Backbone Collective's about 550 female members aim to reduce rates of violence against women.

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