Former President calls for action to crisis in family justice

Former President calls for action to address crisis in family justice – Ian Walker

The former President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has warned about a “crisis in private family law”, as a result of sustained criticism of the system.


Heavy and sustained attackfamily law

In a speech that he prepared for a conference on shared parenting in Edinburgh he said that the system was under “heavy and sustained attack” from two very different viewpoints:


Complaints under the first viewpoint included:


Complaints under the other viewpoint included:


On many topics, Sir James said, the system is criticised from those on both sides of the debate. However, he continued: “there is no room for the complacent assumption that if you are criticised by both sides you are probably getting it right. On the contrary, it surely suggests that we are getting it very wrong.”

As an example of this, he referred to a recent case in which a family judge was heavily criticised for finding that a woman was not raped because she took ‘no physical steps’ to stop the man. Sir James said: “Some will say that this particular judgment is not typical, that it is an outlier. Others no doubt will say that it is no more than the very small tip of the proverbial iceberg. Without research, we simply do not know, but I fear that the latter view is probably very much closer to the truth.”


Addressing the crisismother and child - family law

Sir James suggested a number of ideas to address the crisis, including:


Sir James concluded:

“These criticisms are immensely damaging and, unless addressed, and seen to be addressed, with vigour, and with a complete lack of either complacency or sentimental self-protection, will sooner rather later, I fear, bring the system to its knees. Confidence in the system is at an all-time low, and unless drastic steps are taken, it will sink even lower.”

You can read the full speech here.

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