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.