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Don't shoot the marriage messenger

By Mal Fletcher - posted Friday, 20 December 2013

News that Sir Paul Coleridge, High Court Judge, has stood down, after being reprimanded for his comments in support of marriage, suggests that we may not value marriage as highly as we might.

The implied suggestion that Sir Paul may have acted in a way unbecoming of a Court official, simply by sharing his frustration at the breakdown of marriages and the impact this has on children, is tantamount to an admission that so-called 'traditional' family may no longer be considered a norm worthy of protection.

Whilst Sir Paul could have continued in his position with the High Court for another five years, he has said that his position is now untenable. He could not, he says, properly fulfil his duties if he felt he had to constantly look over his shoulder.


It is outrageous that a judge should be reprimanded for speaking up for one of the major foundations of our social order. Surely if judges are allowed to speak about anything, it should be the defence of the social order they are installed to protect, through the wise application of the law.

Dealing with the fall-out of marriage breakdown week in and week out must be tremendously frustrating for family court judges, most of whom, I dare say, are compassionate people with a strong sense of social responsibility.

Sir Paul is one such official who decided to channel his frustration in a positive and proactive way, by working to strengthen families before they arrive in his court.

He set up the Marriage Foundation think-tank, which aims to reduce divorce rates and the number of people drawn into the family justice system - at present, around half a million people per year.

The think-tank estimates that broken relationships currently cost the British economy £44 billion per year. The long-term emotional cost to children in particular is immeasurable.

The organisation seeks, it says, to 'influence the way individuals, couples and society as a whole think about forming, maintaining and ending relationships.'


Things would be different if Sir Paul, as a High Court judge, was launching an overtly political campaign or attack.

Yes, he has criticised the Government for focusing on same-sex marriage plans rather than putting enough resources into the 'crisis of family breakdown'. In this respect, he has perhaps sailed close to the wind. Yet I doubt that his comments were intended to be overtly political.

If they are judged as being political, it may be because some advocacy groups have shifted the middle ground on issues like marriage or divorce - or they've given the appearance of having done so, through a skillful use of nudge marketing.

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This article was first published on

Mal Fletcher's latest book, FASCINATING TIMES: A Social Commentary, is now available on Amazon Kindle worldwide. For more information, including the movie-style trailer, radio interviews and Amazon links CLICK HERE.

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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