Mr Justice Coleridge caused quite a stir with his widely-reported comments about family breakdown at Resolution's annual conference last week. Laws of Love did a piece on it yesterday, and I certainly agree that the judge made some good points, especially about the lack of funding for the family justice system and the failure of successive governments to “face up to the need to reform the substantive law of divorce, financial ancillary relief and the law relating to cohabitants". However, I can't help but wonder just how qualified he is to comment upon family life in this country. What does Sir Paul James Duke Coleridge, son of a Major and educated at Cranleigh School (motto: 'From Culture comes Strength') know about the realities for the vast majority of people? No doubt he has come across many things during his illustrious career, but has he ever rubbed shoulders with those who are forced to live in the ghettos where so much of the "youth crime, child abuse, drug addiction and binge-drinking" takes place? I'm not saying that he doesn't have a right to comment - of course he does - just that he is not necessarily the best qualified social commentator.
The other point I wanted to make about the speech is one already picked up by Charon QC - the language he used, which at times reached a level of absurd hyperbole. Talk of a "cancerous" increase in broken families is straight out of the Daily Mail, and of a “never ending carnival of human misery - a ceaseless river of human distress” is just a little bit of an exaggeration. However, to compare the effects of family breakdown to those of global warming (if, indeed, there is such a thing) is plain inanity. An increase in crime and unhappiness levels in this country hardly compares with the destruction of the planet's ecosystem.
[Update: The full text of the speech can now be found here. (PDF)]