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Speech by Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President of Tribunals: The role of the Justice System in decision-making for children


It is a pleasure to be here today. My theme is decision-making. Judges across the country in courts and tribunals make judgments every day. Some are straightforward. Some are non-contentious. At the other end of the spectrum some are highly complex. And some are highly contentious. All are important. Whether the decision is taken in a small, low value claim or whether it is taken in a multi-million pound claim, it matters. It matters to the parties involved, to their families and friends, and to wider Society. Judicial decision-making is an exercise of State power. Irrespective of the nature of the case in which a judge makes a decision, it is and must be the rule of law in action. It cannot be underestimated either in its scope or in the effect it has on all our lives.

It is very often the case that the most sensitive decisions a judge has to make are those that arise within the family justice system, particularly those involving children – those who are very often the most vulnerable members of Society. Since the publication of the Family Justice Review in 2011, the family justice system has been undergoing a systematic programme of reform, the aim of which is to ensure more and better access to justice for children and their families. That reform programme has seen the creation of a single Family Court through the Crime and Courts Act 2013. It has seen the implementation of the Family Justice Modernisation Programme, aimed at ensuring that the family judiciary and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service have the necessary structures, and leadership and management skills to ensure that the new – now no longer so new – Family Court is able to operate effectively.

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