Have a question?
033 3772 0409


Breaking the Barriers – A progressive Judiciary (17 August 2017)

Date: 17/08/2017
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Breaking the Barriers – A progressive Judiciary

Any practitioner of Law will have, undoubtedly, encountered a Client (or two…) who feels the Judiciary is simply not representative of them; disconnected. Arguably, there are many contributory factors – whether it’s the use of Latin terminology in Court Proceedings, the garb adopted by Counsel and the Judiciary in Criminal matters or the domination of the bench by white privately educated males.

Steps have been taken to not only make the Judiciary more ‘human’ but also more diverse and representative. Between April 2016 and 2017 there has been an increase in female Judges from 18% to 24% in the Court of Appeal and 18% to 22% in the High Court. Judges from the BAME community have increased from 6% to 7% - which is still disappointing given the increase in the BAME community in the UK; at the very least this is indicative of progression. Another recent positive development is the appointment of Lady Hale as the Head of the Supreme Court.
The subject of this piece is that of Mr. Justice Peter Jackson, a Judge in the Family Division of the High Court who has recently been appointed to a position in the Court of Appeal.

Judgements handed down can be intimidating for individuals involved in litigation; they often employ legal terminology and detail that may sometimes be above a litigants understanding. This is more so if the litigant is a vulnerable victim of Domestic Abuse or has learning difficulties. It is understandably very difficult for Judges to balance the need to ensure their Judgements are appropriate in satisfying legal tests to prevent appeals being brought, whilst also speaking directly to the litigants concerned.

Mr. Justice Peter Jackson has, in two Judgements, demonstrated the human face of the Judiciary. The first, in Lancashire County Council v M and Others [2016] EWFC 9, a Judgement issued in a matter at the Liverpool High Court attracting widespread media attention for his use of a ‘J’ (smiley); alongside language which was simple, effective and non-verbose. In another Judgement, Re A (Letter to a Young Person) [2017] EWFC 48, more recently issued, he wrote to a 13-year old child under the pseudonym of ‘Sam’ concerning his application to live in Scandinavia with his Father.

Uniquely, his Judgement in the latter case was produced in the form of a detailed letter to ‘Sam’ which covered both the Law and the thinking he employed to reach his decision. If one spends a few minutes to read and consider the Judgement, you will find it imbued with an unmistakeable sense of humane down to earth understanding of the child’s predicament. Mr. Justice Peter Jackson, through his letter, broke down all barriers and connected with the child directly as an individual – who would undeniably feel a sense of disappointment with his Judgement and the dismissal of his application.

Throughout his letter, the Judge re-assures the child that his views were heard, that he was impressed with his evidence and believes the child has a bright future – but that he strongly felt the child should take advantage of his opportunities in the UK. The letter is sensitive, calm and connective. I cannot help but note that whilst the child will be upset with the decision, as he develops into a young adult, he will grow to appreciate the way in which Mr. Justice Peter Jackson considered his matter and ensured his best interests were maintained.

I find the final paragraph of his Judgement most poignant, wherein he makes reference to an old legal comedic film called ‘My Cousin Vinny’ – referring to it as his favourite film, something the Judge has in common with the child’s father.

The letter acknowledges the child as his own individual, with his own thoughts, feelings and ambitions – whilst delicately manoeuvring the challenge of expressing concerns about the influence of the child’s father upon the views of the child.

Is this a viable future for the handing down of Judgements?

Time will tell as to whether Judges take the steps to communicate their Judgements in a more diverse manner, connecting with the litigants who come before their Court. But it goes without saying that the decision of Mr. Justice Peter Jackson is most welcome, progressive and will have an unmistakable positive impact on ‘Sam’ for many years to come.

The Judgement can be read by visiting: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2017/48.html

The author Alexander Henderson is a trainee solicitor in the Duncan Lewis Family & Childcare department. He specialises in Injunctive Proceedings and undertakes his own Advocacy with respect to Ex Parte and Return Hearings, with a focus on Domestic Violence.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors

If you have a family or childcare matter that you believe Duncan Lewis Solicitors may be able to help you with, you can contact us on 033 3772 0409.

Call us now on 033 3772 0409 or click here to send online enquiry.
Duncan Lewis is the trading name of Duncan Lewis (Solicitors) Limited. Registered Office is 143-149 Fenchurch St, London, EC3M 6BL. Company Reg. No. 3718422. VAT Reg. No. 718729013. A list of the company's Directors is displayed at the registered offices address. Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority . Offices all across London and in major cities in the UK. ©Duncan Lewis >>Legal Disclaimer, Copyright & Privacy Policy. Duncan Lewis do not accept service by email.