The Children Act : Ian McEwan

I wasn’t going to read this book, fearful of the same galling disappointment when Silk (in series 3) started to lose its sense of realism and go off into flights of legal fancy.

But then I read Ian McEwan’s piece in the Graun on Saturday about the coming about of the book and decided to trek up to my local bookshop with kids in tow to buy this in anticipation of a long train journey. And here I am less than a week later and I’ve polished it off in two sittings. And I don’t have that sinking feeling I had by the end of Silk Series 3. It was pretty accurate as to law I think and as to the legal environment (insofar as I am familiar with the life of a High Court Judge). Familiar to even those of us at the lower end of the food chain are those nights when you just have to park your argument with the other half – no matter how serious – and turn away to prioritise the prep for tomorrow. Those moments when tough judgment calls spill over into your personal life, resonating in uncomfortable ways. Those cases that bother you. I found it reassuring to feel as I read that those tensions between home and work are felt by many of us, and to think that through this book other people might see the humanity behind the Family Court (even though most of us are a world removed from Fiona Mayes, the protagonist).

I treated Ian McEwan’s Guardian article as a sort of introduction to the book, and read it through that lens. Unsurprising then that what struck me the most was the use of judgments and the focus upon different forms of writing from poetry to letters to judgments, all crafted carefully, all with the humanity of the writer poured into them. There is a craft to a judgment, a significance in the route and the tone and not just the final destination. The sympathetic rendering of a party in a judgment may make an unwelcome decision more bearable, more workable, more just.

For those of you who wish to compare some of the judgments that appear to be referred to or drawn heavily upon in The Children Act, take a look at Re G (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1233 (04 October 2012) and Re A (Children) [2000] EWCA Civ 254 (22 September 2000), a decision of a Court of Appeal comprising Brooke LJ, Walker LJ and Ward LJ, whose anecdote and guidance has clearly been so influential on this book.

You can read a substantially more informative review of the book here.

No Surprises There Then

Took a trip to London this week and in the process missed both the evidence given on behalf of the family bar by FLBA Chair Susan Jacklin QC (and others) to the Justice Committee in the course of their LASPO enquiry and a chance to attend the open court hearing of the Ashya King case.

Ah well.

You can catch up with the evidence given by the FLBA and others on Parliament TV here, and read about the concerns expressed by – well, all of them – in a raft of articles in the Gazette and elsewhere. In short, it’s been a bit of a disaster since LASPO. As I say – no surprises there then.

And as for Ashya King – I have blogged about some of the issues raised to a limited extent on the Transparency Project blog (as has Suesspicious Minds) and I don’t propose to say any more. Far too much media frenzy and misinformation already…