Judicial Bovver Boots

“Separated mothers must not get away with ‘Catherine Tate justice’ and ignore dads’ rights, says Appeal Court judge”

This is the Mail’s take on McFarlane LJ’s recent speech (The 10th Hershmann Levy Memorial Lecture). Not only do they inexplicably fail to use the mandatory phrase “Top Judge”, but they also miss out a lot of the content of a really interesting speech. However, if you were wondering, they are entirely correct in saying that McFarlane did quote Catherine Tate “am I bovvered?”, saying that this sort of attitude to contact applications will no longer wash (not news to lawyers). The article does not disclose whether his Lordship did the voice. I like to think he did. Badly, no doubt.

Anyway, for anyone feeling a bit “bah humbug” about 22 April, for those who are teetering only the cusp of a meltdown rather than anything more momentous, and who are rather cynical about the significance of CAP and a few new labels – this speech is a powerful argument for it all being about the beginning (revival?) of a substantive cultural and societal change rather than some superficial rejigging of the nomenclature.

What is rather telling of course is the acknowledgment in the speech that the public are not quite on board with this movement, even after more than twenty years – and indeed are largely unaware of it, lagging behind with their newspapers full of stories about “custody”.

This speech, with all its popular cultural references, is explicitly directed not just at lawyers but also at the public. The reference to Catherine Tate has been effective in getting the story reported (and the Mail article has been shared almost 3,000 times) but, entirely predictably, the Mail focuses on the Catherine Tate references and neither links to the speech nor reports fully the wider issues raised – in particular the reassertion of the imperative to put the responsibility back in PR.

McFarlane says the key to the success of the reforms is “Education Education Education” rather than “Enforcement Enforcement Enforcement”. And there’s the rub.

Sadly, the article in the Mail gives the impression its all about judicial bovver boots and enforcement, and the mechanism of judicial speeches as filtered through the mainstream press’s “newsworthy” filter is not the most subtle or efficient educational tool any more than the court is a subtle or efficient tool for fixing families. Wouldn’t it be better if the government, having made substantive changes to the law and process, and wishing to change the behaviour and expectations of families, would fund a proper public legal education campaign (by which I mean more than a couple of websites), complete with tv ads and all? a proper public legal education campaign that finds people rather than waiting to be found when the right search term is entered in google. It really should not be left to the judiciary to divert litigants from the door of the court.

5 thoughts on “Judicial Bovver Boots

  1. robert whiston

    Could it be that the public is not on-board because they have wised-up to the re-labeling as just another veil by the Toffs to hide other changes.
    The public know what custody is and it doesn’t want any watered down version called ‘parental responsibility’ or whatever is the flavour this year.
    No one has yet devised a cogent answer as to why it was necessary in the 1989 Act to abolish ‘guardianship’ for legitimate children. Any takers ?

    • Did you even read the speech?

      • robert whiston

        I didn’t know what exactly to make of your telegraphic reply. So I went back and read your article, the Newspaper article, and then the speech. Tell me what I have apparently missed because I can’t see it.

        • You said “No one has yet devised a cogent answer as to why it was necessary in the 1989 Act to abolish ‘guardianship’ for legitimate children.”
          I thought the speech answered that question rather well, although you are entitled to disagree with how effective the changes will / have been.

          • robert whiston

            The speech was aimed at lawyers and judges, so yes, it explained the excuse and why it had legal – as opposed to parental – advantages. But at the same time, and more poignantly, when discussing ‘parental responsibility’ it had to be conceded (close to the James Munby reference) that measures were then necessary to make it work more effectively.
            I once shared a platform with Allan Levy QC in a presentation, many years ago, to parliament. I rated him very highly in how the law should be applied. As you may know he died in 2004 with regrettably much of his work still unfulfilled. You can change the name, the label, or the colour, but a rose is still a rose. Re-labeling a problem, e.g. custody into residence etc, is not a cure.

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