What Mr Justice Coleridge really said

A couple of weeks ago, much was made of a speech by a judge on the family circuit who was, so journalists told us, banging on about the breakdown of the family and how society is going to hell in a handcart. I managed to read a transcript today, and it’s in fact about:

“the way in which the Family Justice system in this country has been and is being mismanaged and neglected by government…And when I say the family justice system I do not just mean the forensic process involving lawyers, judges and courts. I mean the whole range of professional expertise and experience which is routinely required and deployed in the preservation of family life and resolution of family disputes.”

He talks about the chronic shortage of social workers and the rising costs of care orders; the fact that Cafcass can’t meet the demands upon it, and the fact that those using the courts can’t get legal aid because it has been:

“killed off by government by the simple expedient of reducing or not increasing the financial threshold to such an extent that almost no one qualifies”

He points out that local authorities are:

“unable to fund proper residential assessments to enable the critically important questions about removing children from their parents to be properly considered”

To be sure, I think he may be painting a rather melodramatic backdrop when he talks about the ‘corrosive’ effects of family breakdown, but he’s entirely right to say that more lives are touched by the family justice system than by criminal justice. It’s a thought-provoking read – and far more meaty than the press reports suggest.


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