Today is the day when our most senior Family Judge and President of the Family Law Division, Sir James Lawrence Munby, retires and the job is taken over by Sir Andrew Macfarlane.

Never could it be said that Sir James shied away from difficult and controversial topics and the challenges they present.

In his last major speech on 24th July 2018, Sir James acknowledged that he had failed to correct a grave injustice in the family courts. It would be illegal in the criminal courts, but in the family courts the alleged perpetrator can cross-examine the alleged victim. So there we have it, the alleged perpetrator grilling the alleged victim without the judge being able to stop the process. Having witnessed as a Judge this type of cross examination time and again, Sir James’s view is that this process is no more than a continuation of the abuse.

Having championed the cause to stop this injustice and having made some progress politically, Sir James’s advances were dashed and set back earlier this year when the Justice Minister said that there would be no new legislation to stop this type of cross examination.

Perhaps our politicians are too tied up with Brexit and their own self-preservation to attend to the needs of those most vulnerable in our society, who are powerless to protect themselves from what would appear to be legitimised abuse on the part of the family law system. Let us hope that Sir James’s successor continues the fight for a change in the law.


Caption: Andrew Brooks, Partner and Head of the Family Law Department

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