When I heard recently that two criminal barristers had been appointed as district judges, I was reminded that suddenly being thrust into civil law, including family cases, is no joke.
I was also reminded that for many decades, those who presided over criminal law gave the impression that civil and family were somehow inferior. This was brought home to me when, as an assistant recorder, I sat at lunch with an elderly judge who immediately poured scorn on me when I admitted that I did not do jury trials.
Again, on the first occasion when interviewed for appointment to the circuit bench, an aggressive judge on the panel put me right on the spot by asking: ‘Suppose you were asked to do nothing but crime for two years?’ My less than convincing reply probably sealed my fate.
Having spent 15 years as a recorder, much on civil trials and most of the rest on family, I would venture to suggest that this is not something you can mug up in a textbook.
This was brought home to me when, having retired, an old colleague called me for advice. She had been served with a family order made by a new judge (with no previous civil experience) ex parte giving leave out of time to appeal an order on the basis of a letter from the appellant which had not even been copied to our side ﬁrst.
I set out the multiple points of objection to this in a note to our leading civil judge, who was appalled. The order was quickly quashed. My point is made I think.
John Greenwood, retired recorder, Chippenham, Wilts