A High Court judge yesterday blamed a ‘Hello magazine’ culture to marriage for fuelling a dramatic rise in divorce. Sir Paul Coleridge, who sits in the Family Division, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, argued that family judges had ‘a contribution to make to this debate’.
‘Most of us have watched as the situation has gradually got more and more and more appalling and out of control and there comes a time when it is, I think, irresponsible to remain quiet.’
Sir Paul described the judiciary’s position with doctors ‘who see epidemics going through their surgeries’ who felt that they couldn’t make public comment ‘on the way people are living’. He blamed celebrity magazines such as Hello for creating unrealistic expectations about marriage.
‘What I criticise – what I call the Hello magazine, Hollywood approach – is that there is still…. a completely unrealistic expectation about long-term relationships and marriage in particular, that if you find the right ideal partner that’s all that matters and things will just carry on from there on and you will be divinely happy.’
The judge told the Daily Telegraph that family breakdown was ‘one of the most destructive scourges of our time’. He reckoned that divorce meant about 3.8 million children were caught up in the family justice system each year.
Sir Paul said he wanted the campaign to be ‘the start of a national movement with the aim of changing attitudes across the board from the very top to the bottom of society, and thus improve the lives of us all, especially children’. According to the report he will be backed by the Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks; senior lawyers such as Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former president of the Family Division; Baroness Deech, a leading family academic and chairman of the Bar Standards Board; and Baroness Shackleton, a leading family lawyer whose divorce clients have included the Prince of Wales and Sir Paul McCartney.
Sir Paul said that he was acting because waiting for the Government to take action was ‘merely an excuse for moaning and inactivity’.
Sir Paul (the Telegraph pointed out) was ‘a descendant of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, married at 23 year of age in 1973 and has three children and three grandchildren.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award