Family court judges fear for their security from parents in courts

The family court judges across England have raised concern over lack of security from being attacked by angry or disturbed parents as often the security provided at the courts were dangerously inadequate.

Though judges have raised such concerns it is very rare for them to be openly critical about the security at the principal registry of the family division in central London and also at district courts around the country.

The concerns have been rising stemmed from the fact that in an incident a female judge was seriously injured in an attack and instances when parents shouted threats at them as well as throwing books and cups.

Speaking to Guardian on anonymity a judge had said that an angry father stood up and shouted anti-semitic threats at him. Another father had thrown a cup of water across the courtroom and another had thrown a book but fortunately the judge was far away from its reach.

Another judge said that he was constantly exposed while working as there was no security in the courtroom and sometimes he was alone with a parent. Generally they sit with a clerk who is mostly an elderly woman and vulnerable herself to make any defence in case of an attack.

He added how they were exposed while moving in corridors between the courtrooms, entering and leaving the building, going to toilets when they are to pass through a public area.

A third judge who has worked in the PRFD and courts across London said most district judges, even those doing highly charged family law cases, do not have courtrooms at all but hear the cases in their chambers with the public sitting around the table, and they don’t have anyone in the court room at all.

Judges said county courts often do not have a courtroom and a retiring room for district judges. This forces them to hear cases in their chambers, with those involved often sitting uncomfortably close, while the lack of a retiring room means judges have nowhere to go to go if it became necessary to escape an aggressive parent.

If anything happens only way of escape is through an adjoining door between the judges’ couirt and that of the other district judge said a family judge in London.

District judge Nicholas Crichton, founder of the family drug and alcohol court at Wells Street family proceedings court in central London, who was given a CBE in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list, said it was a “recipe for flashpoint” to compel judges to walk through public areas and share corridors. Crichton said it was unfair to put anxious parents under the added stress of close proximity with the judge ruling on their case.

It was a hot spot where emotions run high with parents coming to court feeling criticised about their treatment to their children and possibility of their children being removed from them.

A spokesperson from her majesty’s courts and tribunal’s service said HMCTS took the security issue of judges within courts extremely seriously. And the security system was continually monitored to ensure that it was effective and proportionate and mitigates against risks faced.

Offshore holiday homes become a millstone in the necks of divorcing partners due to falling value of the property

Family lawyers have warned that the Euro crisis has had tumbling effect on property values across the EU leading to holiday homes becoming into a toxic legacy for couples who are in the midst of divorce.

Number of cases that are currently on the pipeline centre around the question of which partner would be taking on the villa in Spain, Greece or Italy rather than who would not.

One family lawyer described the task of dividing the assets between warring couples who own a holiday home as like a game of pass the bomb.

Case notes in one separation being negotiated currently include discussions about how to deal with a ‘dead duck’ villa in Spain which has lost its value but still has a hefty mortgage to service and little prospect of being sold.

Another case has a couple who are wrangling over what to do with a house in Cyprus which was now worth £53,000 less than its original value, and after calculating currency exchange issues and steep local taxes to transfer ownership.

In other cases, the added complexity of disposing of a property abroad has become a weapon used by one side or the other in already acrimonious splits.

One British divorcee is being forced to go through a lengthy legal challenge in France to recover proceeds from the sale of their former home, awarded to her by an English court but being withheld by her ex-husband.

A partner of family law solicitors firm said that fighting over overseas houses had become one of the biggest headaches in divorce proceedings in the last year.

The firm estimates that at least one in six of its cases involve the division of domestic and foreign property.

When everything is going well in a family it feels really great to own a property abroad but as soon as the relationship becomes rocky the same assets become a disaster the lawyer said.

The lawyer said that she always encouraged her clients to get rid of property abroad or let the other side have it because they are more trouble than they are worth. They become millstone around the neck of a divorcing partner’s neck.

She added that the majority of people who’ve got these second homes in places like France and Spain, were not the super-rich they but just normal middle class families who could managed to purchase a holiday home.

Another partner of the firm added that some divorcees who received Continental homes before the financial crisis have attempted to “unpick” the terms of their settlements in light of the crisis but were rebuffed by the courts.