Monthly Archives: June 2014

Problem Judges ‘should have real life lessons’?

Problem Judges should have real life lessons was the headline I read last week, although what it actually said was, “ Problem Parents ‘should have contraception lessons’ “ (Independent 11th June 2014).

In context this was one of many comments reportedly made by the current president of the Family Division, James Munby. He was talking more globally about the effective role of courts that are taking a more inquisitorial role in family cases which are heard in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (“FDAC”). He reportedly said that in FDAC courts, “The judge is able to built up a personal rapport with the mother and father.” – “as they meet with the parents sometimes on a fortnightly basis without their lawyers”. And he went on to the reported comment about “contraception lessons” for “problem parents”.

What the article spoke to me about was the acute need for judicial diversity for the legal system to have integrity and effectiveness within our democracy. His comments highlighted the need for judges from different backgrounds from the top to bottom of our judiciary. For those not well versed in who makes up our judiciary – Munby shares the typical characteristics. ‘Sir James Lawrence Munby (born 27 July 1948) is a British judge who is President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales. Munby was an undergraduate at Wadham College, Oxford, where he is now an Honorary Fellow’ (wikipedia). He does of course have the other essential attributes – a white male judge.

Imagine the worlds apart, the potential for rapport with someone who has had such an elite beginning of life for the ‘problem parent’. Is it contraception lessons?, or lessons on dealing with the pain in life of poverty, hopelessness and despair that are needed? Losing a baby and desperately wanting/needing one: is there a lesson out there in that?

It was striking to me that the comment was even made because the case where it’s a lesson in contraception that is needed must be so very very rare. But maybe if I was also of the world of the white, privileged male and an oxbridge graduate with the chums I have I too would share that view and make that comment publicly. (A fuller version of the article can be found here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10889225/Give-contraception-to-problem-families-with-up-to-15-children-top-judge-says.html) Rebekah Wilson (views of this author alone)

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