THE MARRIAGE WRECKER; as One of Britain's Top Legal Figures, Brenda Hale Has Done More to Undermine Marriage Than Anyone. What Further Damage Will She Inflict Now She's Become Our First Female Law Lord?

Daily Mail (London), November 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

THE MARRIAGE WRECKER; as One of Britain's Top Legal Figures, Brenda Hale Has Done More to Undermine Marriage Than Anyone. What Further Damage Will She Inflict Now She's Become Our First Female Law Lord?


Byline: MELANIE PHILLIPS

THE FIRST female member of the Law Lords, Dame Brenda Hale, held a press conference last week. There, she gave vent to a variety of fashionable but deeply controversial opinions.

She was in favour, she said, of gay adoption, legally recognised gay partnerships and improved legal rights for heterosexual cohabitants, and wanted to see the concept of fault removed from divorce law.

These issues, among the most divisive in our society, are all political topics. They are the subject of heated debate in Parliament and among the general public.

What, pray, was one of our most senior judges therefore doing in making known her own opinions on these matters?

For judges are not supposed to enter the political fray. We should not know what their views are. If they do nail their colours to a particular mast, they will not be viewed as properly impartial when cases touching upon such issues come to court.

What, indeed, was Dame Brenda doing having a press conference at all? She is a judge, not a politician.

The explanation given was that many journalists wanted to interview her as the first woman Law Lord. All the more reason, then, to be especially mindful of her delicate position, and of the need to uphold the distinction between policymaking and law-enforcement upon which our system has traditionally depended.

Dame Brenda, however, appears to regard her new position as a political platform. This is hardly surprising. For despite the fact that she denied she was a hard-line feminist - 'a soft-line feminist' is the most she admits to - the fact is that she is the most ideological, politically correct judge ever to have been appointed to the highest court in the jurisdiction.

As such, she will be bringing this destructive perspective to bear upon binding legal decisions over some of the most difficult and contentious issues around.

But for the past two decades - first as a legal academic, then as a law commissioner and a judge in the Court of Appeal - she has been one of the most powerful backroom influences over the development of family law.

The disturbing truth is that she has taken it consistently in an antifamily and antiman direction.

Dame Brenda was the principal architect, for example, of the Children Act, which, by giving children 'rights', has helped destroy the authority of adults and made it impossible for teachers, social workers or even parents physically to restrain children from mischief without the child reporting them to the police.

Dame Brenda was behind a Bill in the Nineties - which was eventually withdrawn - which would have given live-in girlfriends who had left the mutual home the right to win a court order to move back, or even have their boyfriends evicted from their own property.

And Dame Brenda was behind the ultimately doomed attempt to remove the concept of fault from divorce law, which would have given the marriage contract less significance than buying a second-hand car. Public opinion - led by the Daily Mail - put paid to that particular initiative.

However, as she announced last week, she still wants to see no-fault divorce introduced. But what is really worrying is that as a judge, Dame Brenda is advocating a change in the law.

This is quite wrong. If judges want to take sides, they should remove their wigs and stand for election to Parliament.

But then, Dame Brenda is used to influencing the development of policy.

For nearly a decade, in the Eighties and early Nineties, she was the driving force behind the Law Commission, the law reform body which takes a consistently radical line and whose proposals frequently turn into legislation.

This body has been consistently hostile to marriage over the years, pushing for easier divorce and for cohabitation rights. …

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THE MARRIAGE WRECKER; as One of Britain's Top Legal Figures, Brenda Hale Has Done More to Undermine Marriage Than Anyone. What Further Damage Will She Inflict Now She's Become Our First Female Law Lord?
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