A Modern Approach to Judgement Delivery
Mr Justice Jackson was widely praised in the press last week for a judgement handed down in the Family Law Court. What made the judgement so unique was the decision by Mr Justice Jackson to deliver the judgement in the form of a letter to a child subject of the proceedings.
The case Re A (Letter to a Young Person) concerned a 14-year old boy, Sam, who had asked for permission from the Court to relocate from the UK to Scandinavia with his father who was planning to emigrate. His mother objected to the move and ultimately Justice Jackson was in agreement, as he deemed that Sam’s wish to live with his father was made as a display of affection rather than as an informed decision.
However, what is most distinguished about the case is how Judge Jackson decided to deliver his judgement, in a 27 paragraph long letter addressed to Sam himself.
Mr Justice Jackson has been heavily praised in the past for delivering age-appropriate judgements, most notably last September when he delivered a judgement containing an emoji (the first of its kind!). This most recent judgement is not only an approbation of Justice Jackson’s modern and innovative approach to judgements but more importantly, demonstrates the gradual move in the involvement of children in cases where the child has given evidence and the judges increased efforts to make judgements as comprehensible as possible.
Anybody who has been unfortunate enough to be involved in proceedings in the Family Court knows how important it is to have a full access and understanding of the proceedings and any judgements delivered. In this case, not only did Sam’s evidence take a central role in the delivery of the outcome of the proceedings but Justice Jackson actively ensured that the judgement had been delivered in a clear, concise and comprehensible way; taking a formal yet kindly approach to the delivery.
Expressed in simplicity, the importance of Sam’s welfare was reinforced throughout the letter as Justice Jackson journeyed the difficult task a Judge must undertake when coming to a decision in relation to children in family proceedings. The judgement in itself was logical and gave a clear understand of why Justice Jackson came to his decision.
Justice Jackson’s approach to this case has been heavily commended and for Family Lawyers has highlighted the evolving nature of the family judicial system and addressed an important issue of aiming to achieve a wider public understanding of how such cases work. Every day family judges across the UK make important decisions about children like Sam and to maintain public confidence, it is invaluable that judgements are delivered in plain language and the parties involved, particularly children, appreciate and understand that their voices have been listened to.
For many of us, the prospect of ever having to be in a situation like Sam where our family disputes are placed in front of a judge is a frightening one but for individuals who have no other choice than to face this, a modern, more updated approach to the delivery of judgements may be long overdue.
What the impact of this case holds for the future is yet to be seen but for many, it will be greeted as a welcome change and a subtle step in the right direction.
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