Terrorism : all the fault of divorcees (apparently)

I read the headline in The Brief this morning as I got in the car to drive to chambers:

Family breakdown causes terrorism, says former judge 

I didn't get much past the headline before I threw the phone on the passenger seat and decided to ignore it. And promptly spent the entire drive to Bristol seething. No prizes for guessing which controversial former judge is pontificating about family breakdown.

I sat in the car park and read the rest of the article, in the hope it was just an outrageously pimped headline. This is what I got :

Family breakdown in the UK has reached epidemic levels and is spawning crime and even terrorism, a former High Court judge has warned...there was a clear link between family instability and terrorism which ministers were failing to tackle through legislative measures. "Terrorists are all from appalling family backgrounds – Donald Trump was right: they tend to be losers with no ties and so they find their identity in groups of like-minded people; or suffer mental breakdown."

Similarly, many people in prison came from broken homes, he said. "Family instability is at epidemic levels and the UK is at the top of the family instability league compared with other developed nations," he said.

Children, he added in an exclusive interview with The Times, were those most severely affected by the epidemic, in which, he said, the collapse of families was at record levels. "Nearly half of all teenagers are not living with both their natural parents," he said. "Teenage mental health issues, child abuse, domestic violence and abuse, the social care crisis, the housing crisis – every one is either primarily caused by or massively exacerbated by the scale of family breakdown."....

This did not improve my mood. But I had to go and do some actual work so, having parked the car, I parked my reaction to this too...

The headline to the linked article is : Sir Paul Coleridge: If I had stayed as a family High Court judge I would have had to keep quiet.

In that article Sir Paul is quoted as saying “If we don’t address the root causes [of family breakdown], we can throw money at family breakdown until the cows come home, but it would be like trying to deal with typhoid and not sorting out the dirty water.”

Now you can call me a snowflake if you like, but it's really really offensive to see the people I work with, not to mention my friends, my family - all described as diseased, as being responsible for making their children into criminals and terrorists by virtue of the simple fact that their relationship has not stood the test of time. The headline may belong to the newspaper, but the words in quotation marks all belong to Coleridge. For a former High Court Judge he is remarkably cavalier with words. The language of disease, the rangy generalisations : terrorists are ALL from appalling family backgrounds? REALLY? I'm pretty sure there is absolutely no evidence base for such a sweeping assertion. This is blatant reverse engineering for the purposes of spin, on a grand and revolting scale.

On this leaping logic we should lock up (quarantine?) all the children of separated parents and all the separated parents themselves. Because they are responsible for all the social ills that beset us.

Ironic then that this former High Court Judge should place reliance upon the opinion of Donald Trump, a man who is thrice married with five children, some of whom hold positions of influence and responsibility in the Whitehouse. Goodness only knows what terrible things these children of a twice divorced man might be capable if we were to accept Coleridge's judgment.


10 thoughts on “Terrorism : all the fault of divorcees (apparently)

  1. He is right.
    The children of the rich and prestigious may avoid the worse effects (because they can pay the legal extortion to achieve a better outcome).
    But the poor are more often destroyed for the rest of their lives.

    • you have clearly never been involved in a middle class contact dispute. for which Larkin could have written “they f*ck you up your mum and dad. they do not mean to but they do…” the absolute worst.

  2. There can be no doubt that divorce affects the children badly no matter what their age. I was divorced myself 50 years ago and my two children with her were badly affected(both now divorced themselves) but have since spent 46 happy years with my second wife and our 5 children (one of whom has alas been divorced).So no magic formula !
    I would however think it a truism that happy families mean happy people and happy people are less inclined than unhappy folk to commit crimes through hate for the happy ones !
    There is no magic remedy for any of this but I do think it unfair to hurl legally framed abuse at a judge who supports marriage ! Marriage has existed for thousands of years in one form or another but for some odd reason anyone like ex judge Coleridge who now praise that marriage gets hate from the liberal elite (and I was a liberal parliamentary candidate in the seventies) and from those couples who are not married because they take it as a criticism of their way of life;
    Somehow incredibly it is is politically correct not to overpraise marriage,not to criticise anyone of any colour except white,not to hold extreme political views unless they are of the left,and never criticise same sex marriage or same sex adoption;
    No I am not a fascist pig,Most of my views are in fact politically correct in fact! I just believe we should tolerate anything but intolerance ! I find it incredible when students of many of our best Universities want to ban speakers who hold what they decide are incorrect poltical views ;My own University (Oxford) is more guilty than most alas………..
    We need more judges like Coleridge !

    • No hate here. For individuals or institutions. I’m married. Marriage fine by me. Cohabitation fine by me. Separation sad and sometimes very destructive – but sometimes absolutely the right thing (eg violence). Over-generalisations not so fine.

  3. I wonder if it is too much of a logical leap to have concerns whether this kind of thinking influenced his judicial decision making.

    Just because he holds these views doesn’t mean he couldn’t shelve them when he came to decide a family case but how could we convince a non-lawyer that he was capable of such a feat?

    I am concerned that this undermines public confidence in family justice.

    • you aren’t the first to raise this concern. the background is actually set out in the times piece I linked to.

  4. You should look at Family Break Up as a tool of social control. See the Transatlanic Slave Trade.

    I am most likely a “snow flake” myself, but the way people are treated at UK courts and by the UK institutions (public, private, semi-private, whatever) in general gives me the impression that somebody really believed at some point, that breeding miserable people makes it easier to govern them.

    The problem in the UK and elsewhere is however not so much down to the simple fact that people do split up – however sad that may be – but that authoritarians get involved. All is governed and messed up by the fear they spread and live of.

    What does one tell a little girl who has not seen her mother in 6 years thanks to an authoritarian UK family court that decided that the mother lied about the fathers abuse and bans the mother from having any more contact? Shall we pray that this girl wont become a psychological basket case? Who’s fault is it? The privatisated “social welfare industry” that created a horrible inhumane rat race for people? The UK court’s? The mother’s? The kid’s? The father’s (a narcist who became like this thanks to a nasty upbringing and likes to continue his own family traditions), the social worker’s who is too overworked and worn out to look closely, CAFCASS, the judge”? No, it is the entire foul system, all of us, each of us who makes this happen. We are all part of this system. Perhaps this is why we are all so depressed, worn out and floating in mid-air presently because we know, we do bad things to each other and ourselves all the time. Our children are a testimony to this simple, sad truth and our systems have become monsters that turn against us. Some do better in this misery, many do worse.

    People like this judge try and find scapegoats. It won’t fix the system to blame the victims.

    Justice and other good healthy things is work, hard work. Populist language appeals to our longing, but it is nothing but releasing slogans into the night.

  5. If that judge who praised marriage had said instead “I support same sex marriage” he would have be praised by the politiclly correct instead of being forced to retire !!

  6. I feel compelled to come to Sir Paul’s defence, at least in part.

    I agree that Sir Paul has overstated his case. Of course you cannot say “terrorists are ALL from appalling family backgrounds”. I don’t think anyone has enough information to make that statement. Although to be fair to him, he doesn’t specify exactly what he means by “appalling family backgrounds” and says they “TEND to be”. I have no idea myself, what, if any, link there is between terrorists and their family background. I suspect Sir Paul has little more information than me.

    But, isn’t your response equally overstated?

    Firstly, Sir Paul doesn’t say that your friends, or anyone, are “diseased”. Your friends cannot have “family breakdown” as a condition. At least on my reading, what he is actually saying that family breakdown is a condition SOCIETY is experiencing?

    Secondly, he is not saying your friends, etc, are “responsible for making their children into criminals and terrorists”. He very clearly says that “family breakdown” is the (or at least ‘a’) cause of children becoming terrorists.

    Thirdly, he is not “placing reliance upon the opinion of Donald Trump”. He is agreeing with Donald Trump on a narrow statement that Trump has made. He shares an opinion that Trump holds, but it is clearly independent of Trump. I can confidently say that he came to his opinion before hearing from Trump and obviously he came to have this opinion for very different reasons from Trump.

    Finally, his logic (family breakdown is a significant cause of certain social ills) does not lead to the conclusion that “we should lock up (quarantine?) all the children of separated parents and all the separated parents themselves. Because they are responsible for all the social ills that beset us.” As I’ve said, he does not blame separated parents children of separated parents for social ills, he blames family breakdown. Many people say that poverty is the main cause of terrorism, but that does not mean that they think all poor people should be locked up. Others say that the Western Imperialism (or at least Western hubris) is the cause of terrorism, but this does not mean that all western people should be locked up.

    • Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. I hope it was tolerably clear that I was expressing the view that the language of disease to describe a “social ill” may be experienced as denigrating the individuals whose relationships have broken down. I think that Sir Paul Coleridge’s comments have to be seen in the context of the organisation he heads (Marriage Foundation) and the values they promote. It may be that the MF does not directly or overtly blame parents for the social ills in question, but the general tenor of the whole foundations output is that couples don’t try hard enough and should put up and shut up, for the benefit of themselves and society – they are talking to individuals about their own life choices. And I’m afraid that on the question of Donald Trump I struggle to hold anyone who places ANY reliance on him in esteem.

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