Public Family Law cases in the context of Miscarriages of Justice

Lauren Devine, Stephen Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public family law decisions in English courts are ostensibly made to serve the best interests of the child, whose interests are given paramountcy under the Children Act 1989. Hence, there is little recognition of the capacity for decisions to constitute miscarriages of justice. This issue is of concern as research suggests that some family court decisions can have devastating long lasting consequences. This article considers the reasons why the ‘best interests’ narrative has dominated discussion in this area and asks, by considering the process of public family court decisions, whether less restrictive thinking is indicated. It is concluded that the public family law process lacks the checks and balances of the criminal justice system in its decision making, however the consequences of a decision, although made on a lower standard than that of a criminal court, are as severe for the child, the parents, wider family and for society generally if decisions are flawed but not recognised and addressed in the context of a miscarriage of justice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalArgument and Critique
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

This is the author's accepted manuscript version of a paper published in Argument and Critique, licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 license [].


  • Child protection
  • family courts
  • best interests
  • public family law
  • miscarriages of justice


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