Family Court under fire for forcibly removing children from homes

  • 08/08/2017

A Family Court practice has come under fire for barbarically removing children from homes.

A Newsroom investigation has exposed the practice known as an "uplift"- which allows police to remove a child with force if it's necessary.

No prior warning has to be given, and in some cases, the child is in no imminent danger.

The practice is being slammed by anti-violence advocates for putting the courts first and for putting children through unnecessary trauma.

In a video filmed by a mother, her child screams, resists and tries to hide behind the couch as she is forcibly taken from her home.

Kicking and crying as she is lifted away by three police officers she screams that she is going to vomit, and one of the officers calls her grandfather an "idiot".

Police were able to remove the five-year-old because a Family Court parenting order said she was supposed to be with her father.

If an order is breached, an application can be made to the Family Court by the parent or guardian for a warrant to take the child and return them to where they should be - using reasonable force if necessary.

Professor Mark Henaghan, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago, said Family Court judges would feel differently about issuing the orders if they could see footage of how distressing uplifts are.

Deborah Mackenzie, co-founder of Backbone Collective - a group run by, and for, survivors of violence against women told Newsroom the practice was “state-sanctioned abuse. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.”

She said they’ve heard from women around the country that the police are being used in situations where children are in no imminent danger at all.

President of the Police Association Chris Cahill says uplifts are tough on police.

“Police are often used pawns in the wider game between the parents. The children are used as pawns as well," he told Newsroom.