In a very unusual step, a High Court Judge (Mr Justice Peter Jackson) has written to a teenage boy to explain why he should not live with his father.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson wrote to 14-year-old ‘Sam’ (who cannot be identified for legal reasons) setting out his judgment which prevented him from moving to Scandinavia with his father following the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. Usually, where a judge has to make a decision regarding arrangements for a child he or she will provide their judgment in a prescribed form which is not always easy to read or understand.
The case came to court after the boy’s father told his mother that he wanted to take him to Scandinavia to live. Sam had lived with his mother since he was born and she objected to the move. Sam himself gave evidence at the hearing and told the court that he wanted to move with his father. Mr Justice Jackson concluded that it would not be in his interests to move abroad with his father and that he would remain with his mother until he had at least finished his education and is old enough to decide for himself where he wants to live.
Despite objections by the father Mr Justice Jackson decided to publish the letter announcing his decision in the case. It’s by no means an easy read, but Mr Justice Jackson himself confirmed that his decision was received by Sam with “apparent equanimity”. The letter, however, is extremely helpful in understanding what Judges need to consider when making important decisions about children – the first consideration always being the child’s welfare. The Judge in this case decided that the welfare of Sam was better accounted for in the UK with his mother.
I certainly hope that more Judges will take Mr Justice Jackson’s lead when dealing with cases such as this. The Family Justice Young People’s Board are a group of over 40 children and young people aged between 8 and 25 years who have either had direct experience of the family justice system or have an interest in children’s rights and the family court. They promote the voices of thousands of children and young people that experience family breakdown. This rare step undertaken by Mr Justice Jackson, I hope, is a step forward in ensuring that the family justice system engages with children and young people who are experiencing family breakdown.
The letter can be read in full here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2017/48.html