Family Court defends uplift warrants despite outrage

The Family Court's chief judge has defended the use of court orders that take children away from parents who have breached a parenting order.

Footage showing a screaming child being removed by police has prompted calls for a review of the so-called "uplift warrants".

But Judge Laurence Ryan says they're made in the best interests of children.

There are calls to review the warrants after the footage was obtained of the five-year-old being taken away by police from her mother to go back to her father.

The Newsroom website reports the mother had breached a parenting order.

But plenty are questioning whether this is the best way to go about it.

"The desire to enforce court orders, which there is power to do, is overriding what the Act is about, which is the welfare of children," Professor Mark Henaghan of the University of Otago told Newshub.

Family Court reform campaigners The Backbone Collective say their own survey confirms the example of the child being removed in the video isn't a one-off.

"Twenty-seven women told us in the survey their children had been uplifted from their care," Deborah MacKenzie said.

"Since the story ran on Newsroom we have been contacted by another five."

Uplift warrants are on the increase, both in the number applied for by parents and the number approved by the court.

The Ministry of Justice says warrants are a last resort, and family lawyer Kirsty Swadling agrees.

"It is a very high threshold - so you're talking about serious harm, risk to personal safety, undue hardship," Ms Swadling said.

Judge Ryan says those orders are made in the best interests of children and they must be enforced. 

He also says social workers and police do have the discretion not to carry them out if they believe a child is too distressed.

But The Backbone Collective says having police take the children adds to the trauma.

Police management told Newshub they can't ignore enforcement options arising from a court order. 

But the role doesn't sit well with the Police Association.

"Police should really just be there to keep the peace to make sure no one comes to any harm, but a trained social worker should really be used to remove those children to the place of safety or to the other parent if that's what the court rules," Police Association president Chris Cahill said.

Even if there were enough social workers, nothing is likely to take away the tears when courts have to intervene.