I was reading today some comments in the Guardian from Lord Justice McFarlane, the new President of the Family Division. He says that trying to keep up with the demands on the Family Court system is like trying to run up a ‘down’ escalator. That is certainly true. Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice show that demand has increased (this is due mainly to a rise in domestic violence cases – this rise followed a landmark ruling in the Court of Appeal to the effect that a victim of DV can procure Legal Aid without evidence). Be that as it may, the bottom line is that there is pressure on the system.
Fortunately there is a simple solution. And it’s not to bring back Legal Aid (the same MoJ report shows that cases where the parties represent themselves get resolved quicker than when parties are represented by lawyers).
But how about this: If judges did their jobs properly, many court applications would be unnecessary. In contact and ‘change of residence’ applications, the courts tolerate repeated infractions from litigants – judges do nothing when their Orders are ignored or when recalcitrant APs again fail to show up for hearings. Cases are adjourned. There are endless ‘reviews’, and a lot of ‘hoping’ from the judges. If judges were robust (like Mrs Justice Parker and HHJ Gordon-Saker, HHJ Lochrane and a few others) a clear message would be sent – ‘The Courts will not tolerate contempts of court, like lying, disobedience, false allegations, and ignoring court orders.’
Then, parents denied contact would get contact and they wouldn’t have to keep bouncing back to court to try to enforce contact. Court time would be halved, or better.
My message to the learned Judge is simple – ‘It’s the fault of you and your Brethren – sort it out!’