Friday, November 21, 2008

Mr Justice Ryder's Vision

Mr Justice Ryder's Conkerton Memorial Lecture 'The Autonomy of the Citizen in the Context of Family Law Disputes' has been published (in PDF form) on the Judiciary website. In it, and not for the first time, Mr Justice Ryder gives his forthright views on the family justice system. He argues "for a family justice model which recognises that there are a myriad of ways of living one’s life in company with others which do not need prescription or validation from the state including the courts". "I suggest", he says, "that the time is ripe for an increasing emphasis on autonomy, social responsibility and flexibility of service delivery including in the legal domain to achieve a real benefit for individuals." In practice, he suggests, this could mean such things as greater legal weight for pre-nuptial and pre- or post-cohabitation agreements, and separate representation of (older) children becoming the norm.

He concludes by putting forward a number of options, including:
  • That, subject to the protection of the vulnerable, "the process and the judgment of the court should be subject to public scrutiny";
  • That there "be a presumption that the child who is Gillick competent in relation to a key issue should be provided with representation or an effective means of exercising their autonomy, for example by making representations to the judge";
  • That there should be "greater emphasis on alternative and more proportionate dispute resolution mechanisms" with "strong ground rules which can best be provided ... by codes of practice or guidance"; and
  • That "where the ground rules have been complied with the court should make available its enforcement powers to give effect to the agreements reached."
[Thanks to Current Awareness for the link to the lecture.]


  1. And when can we expect to see these excellent proposals implemented?

  2. What we need is a thorough review and then non-piecemeal reform of family law, but the political will for such a thing is just not there.

  3. Certainly not in the Labour party. Amongst the Conservatives, possibly.

    Whatever happened to Jack Straw's promised statement on confidentiality/secrecy?


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