Judge Judge Judges

The LCJ shares his views on the family justice system with the Justice Committee. I don’t have the energy to deconstruct this one – it’s been a shockingly tiresome day (don’t get me started on that). May I be so bold as to summarise my thoughts thus: gross oversimplification of the issues. Separate out the cases where there are “no allegations of child abuse”? Ok, so in fact that probably reduces the total number of cases by about 0.5%. Brilliant. Problem solved. We could practically pay back the deficit with the scale of savings made there.

I think I got out of the wrong side of bed. I had better go back to it before I get proper mardy.

Willy Wonka’s Spending Review

At the risk of becoming monotonous, news of the demise of family legal aid is not greatly exaggerated. The headlines yesterday were full of 30% MoJ cuts, with the heft of those cuts falling to be met by shrinkage of the legal aid budget. We will wait until Wednesday to find out quite how bad it will be, and whether reports of compulsory mediation are correct or not (such moves, if announced this week in advance of the Family Justice Review report rather tend to undermine its purpose and credibility).  In the meantime, reproduced here is a distillation of my random musings on the motorway this morning.

greasy dial courtesy of country_boy_shane on flickr

Greasy Dial courtesy of country_boy_shane on flickr

I have a mental picture of the family justice system like some kind of Wonka-esque intricate pressurised system of pipes and valves. You can shut off a particular release valve, but at some point the pipes begin to clank and steam will escape from the weakest point in the system with a shrill whistle. You need to constantly readjust the system, and release the pressure in a managed way in order to stop the whole thing from overheating or going kaput. It’s not a very good analogy, but that’s why I’m a lawyer and not a novelist. And since in the world of family justice we are coming to terms with the barely functional it will do.

It is easy to say that parents who are in dispute about their children should not benefit from legal aid to help them perpetuate those harmful conflicts. But whilst I frequently have to refrain from banging my client’s head together with that of his/her ex out of sheer frustration for how pathetically lacking in perspective they are, I know from experience that by and large the parents caught up in these disputes are confident that they are doing the right thing, even if most reasonably objective observers would be horrified. To say that we should leave these people to get on with their petty disputes without wasting public funds on them is to fail to properly think through the consequences of that withdrawal. Withdrawing support and advice does not create insight, does not lift the fog of emotion and hurt, does not enhance the ability to make sensible decisions. People who behave like idiots in court are unlikely to behave immaculately out of it. People who struggle to accept sensible advice are unlikely to behave sensibly in the absence of any advice.

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