Mr Justice Coleridge made a speech this morning to the Association of Lawyers for Children. In it he expressed his concern that there is a creeping tendency towards disrespect for court orders in family proceedings especially in so far as they relate to contact with children. As we might expect from Mr Justice Coleridge he wasn’t shy in putting forward innovative solutions to this disturbing trend. Whilst Judges re-donning their robes might sound like a backwards step and removing carpets and houseplants from courtrooms would suggest he hasn’t visited my local County Court, his “three breaches and the child transfers place of residence” could have a certain resonance. He also criticised the extent to which the wishes and feelings of the children themselves are taken into account reminding the audience that the court, not the child, must make the decision.
“Times demand more open discussion and debate,” he insisted.
I do believe that the learned Judge has a point. So,if a suggestion box is called for and we’re aiming for a nostalgia trip, let’s start it off here and now:
- On the basis that Parenting Information Sessions are being increasingly embraced, let’s add to them with defaulting parents being asked to do detention and copy out “lines” from their last session.
- If the excuse used for a lack of contact relates to the child suffering from a cough, cold or other minor ailment, three spoonfuls of cod liver oil sounds like an appropriate remedy; for the parent that is and not for the child who will of course have made a miraculous recovery, once the due hour for collection has passed.
- If men in suits, or even Judges’ robes aren’t deemed frightening enough, let’s add open court hearings with a baying public gallery, horsehair wigs and even gavels for sound effects.
- Oh and what about throwing away the cushioned seats and bringing back all those hard wooden benches that used to adorn our courts? Especially useful if we return to waiting 3 or 4 hours for a case to be called.
- Scope for deportation to one of our former foreign colonies on the other side of the world? Maybe not, after all the line will have to be drawn somewhere.