High Court judge Mr Justice Coleridge has received a formal warning from after talking to the media about his views on marriage.
Last year, in an interview with the Times, the Family Division judge claimed the government was devoting too much time to the issue of gay marriage, while in a self-penned article for the Telegraph earlier this year, he also claimed that “case for marriage has never rested on whether married couples make better parents than unmarried couples.”
But the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office, which handles complaints about judges, declared that the articles were not compatible with his role.
A spokesman said:
“Having considered all the facts, including the informal advice given to Mr Justice Coleridge last year, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice consider Mr Justice Coleridge’s decision to give an interview and to participate in the article to be incompatible with his judicial responsibilities and therefore amounts to judicial misconduct. They have issued Mr Justice Coleridge with a formal warning.”
The judge responded to the ruling, the Telegraph reports, saying he thought the warning was “a disproportionate and unfair reaction to a few lines in two newspapers.”
“I strongly disagree with the overall conclusion … which underlies this announcement that my occasional comments on the huge social problem of family breakdown or my public support for the Marriage Foundation amounts to misconduct or brings the judiciary into disrepute. Indeed I think the contrary is true.”
The outspoken judge co-founded campaign group Marriage Foundation last year, to promote traditional matrimony and highlighting the effects of divorce.
Sir Paul has announced plans to step down from the judiciary next year, following opposition to his views.
Whatever one makes of the argument that Mr Justice Coleridge’s pronouncements about marriage are politicised, and at odds with his role as a High Court judge, his decision to step down will inevitably be the judiciary’s loss. Drawing upon personal experience, I have always found Mr Justice Coleridge to be a man of great integrity and honest beliefs. He was a formidable silk, and has been an excellent judge.
When I became the first Chief Assessor of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel, we asked him to act as Chair of our Advisory Panel. He accepted – and made a substantial, hands-on contribution in the role.
Given his energy and drive, I can’t help but wonder if Mr Justice Coleridge’s true place isn’t in the House of Lords. Time will tell.