This is a slightly unusual award for judge of the week (not because we have not given Judge of the Week to District Judge Crichton before but because it is not for a decision in any one case), yet we make it for many decisions Judge Crichton himself has made whilst working in the Family Drug and Alcohol Court.
The Family Drug and Alcohol Court, affectionately known as FDAC has been implemented in the UK and managed by District Judge Crichton and has been very successful. It has doubled the number of ‘returns’ of children to their biological mothers and has saved the government money. It is progressive, ahead of its time and because of that, sneered at on occasion by less imaginative legal minds, which is exactly what happened on Radio 4’s Law in Action podcast this week.
At Researching Reform, debate is very important. We encourage it, not only on our site but in other projects we work on but the quality of that debate is what makes the difference between an interesting discussion and one that has very little merit. We were very disappointed by Joshua Rozenberg’s rather superficial foray into the Court and its implications and even more disheartened by the way in which he chose to end his interview by saying “The admirable Judge Crichton as I like to think of him, demonstrating that a man with a mission can make a real difference to children’s lives, so long as you don’t mind a judge playing the role of a social worker”. Mr Rozenberg’s nasal sarcasm is hard on the ear at the best of times, redolent of public school boy chicanery, but when coupled with banal commentary, makes for painful listening.
District Judge Crichton on the other hand, remained unflappable in the face of albeit weak criticism (the best the programme could do by way of critique was accuse the judge of blurring the lines between social work and the judicial role) and made very valid and poignant points about the largely misunderstood benefits of the Court and why it operates well within procedural guidelines. Another criticism levelled at Nick Crichton, although indirectly in commentary, was that rolling out the scheme to other parts of the country would be impossible due to varying standards of judicial competence across the country and as such the model might fall prey to judges misunderstanding their roles – but surely, we can apply this to any model the system rolls out, including the current structure we see before us?
Yes, the whole programme was disappointing, from analysis of the Drug and Alcohol Court to the way in which the court’s work was covered, but perhaps the greatest disappointment of all was the seemingly uninterested presenter who failed to understand the very special and important work the Family Drug and Alcohol Court do and its place in the future of family law.
For being so gallant in the face of small-minded commentary and criticism, and for his ground breaking work at FDAC, District Judge Nicholas Crichton is our Judge of the Week.