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Family analysis: In his final press conference at the Royal Courts of Justice before his retirement after five years as President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby was outspoken tothe last. Here, he summaries his views including on delays toessential reforms, the rights of victims of domestic abuse, divorce law reform and why judges should speak out on social injustices.
In a recent speech tothe Family Justice Young People’s Board, you said you had ‘failed’ toachieve reforms tostop alleged abusers cross-examining their alleged victims in fact finding hearings and toenable children tohave greater access tothe courts. What stopped the reforms, and what other areas would you like tohave progressed if you had more time as President?
I am not going totalk politics, either with a big or a small ‘p’. But law reform in this country is bedevilled by immense delays when even the seemingly most easy and obvious thing takes decades tobe implemented. The speech I gave tothe board was very hard-hitting even by my standards, and unequivocally points the finger of responsibility in a particular quarter. I said the Family Procedure Rules Committee and the President both wished tointroduce a new practice direction toput a stop tothe scandal of alleged victims of domestic abuse being cross-examined by their alleged perpetrators. The government simply says: ‘We agree but we will have towait for a Parliamentary timetable.’
There is also a pressing need tochange the way in which we arrange for children, if they wish, tocome and see the court, give evidence if they want toand meet the judges. The simple fact is that the relevant working group recommended reforms four years ago. The Rules Committee has been investigating it for three years—and absolutely nothing has happened. The Minister [Justice Minister Lucy Frazer] wrote a letter very recently saying that she couldn’t support this. Why had the Family
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