Mr Justice Ryder has been appointed as the judge who will oversee the modernisation of the family justice system, but who is he and what are his views on the system?

These were the burning questions that warmed the cockles of our hearts here at Researching Reform this morning and thanks in no small part to Family Lore’s John Bolch, we can answer these questions by cutting and pasting great chunks of John’s website onto our own 😛

Mr Ernest, Nigel Ryder embarked upon his professional life as a merchant banker in 1979 and was called to the Bar in 1981, later becoming a QC in 1997. He went on to serve as a deputy judge of the High Court in 2001 until 2004 and became a judge of the High Court (Family Division) in 2004. Mr Justice Ryder is also currently the presiding judge for the Northern Circuit and was involved in the preparation of the Public Law outline in 2007.

But what does Mr Justice Ryder think about the family justice system? Will he be another closed mind or a cerebral rebel? His biography is certainly encouraging; he cites listening as one of his favourite past times and he is also a co-author of what we understand to be the leading text-book on children in public family law matters, “Clarke Hall and Morrison on Children (ed), Child Care Management Practice (2009)”.

And his views on the family justice system seem refreshingly lucid and honest. In 2008, he went on record saying that the system needed an overhaul, that it was out of touch with society and that he was an advocate of giving judgments in public.

In that same year, Mr Justice Ryder also went on to a deliver a speech at the Conkerton Memorial Lecture, in which he expressed some endearingly controversial views. Amongst them were a desire to see the system become more open to accepting diverse forms of ways of life, an increased flexibility within the system in relation to how it works and a less heavy hand when it comes to state interference. We are falling in love with this judge already.

Here are some of our favourite quotes:

      • There should “be a presumption that the child who is Gillick competent in relation to a key issue should be provided with representation or an effective means of exercising their autonomy, for example by making representations to the judge”;
      • That there should be “greater emphasis on alternative and more proportionate dispute resolution mechanisms” with “strong ground rules which can best be provided … by codes of practice or guidance”; 
      • subject to the protection of the vulnerable, “the process and the judgment of the court should be subject to public scrutiny”;

Sometimes, we don’t see the greatest advances coming. Mr Justice Ryder may just be exactly what the system needs to bring it back to life. So, for his spark and his insight and what we can only assume is a forthright quality which is not short of brilliance, Researching Reform awards Judge of the Week to Mr Ryder.

We would also like to give a huge hat tip to John Bolch for the content above – thank you John, you are much adored 🙂