Robin Tolson, a family court judge who sparked a national outcry for telling a rape victim in court she was responsible for her assault, has stepped down. The comment was made in December 2019, during a hearing for the case.

The development comes after several MPs said the judge should be barred from handling domestic violence and rape cases.

Tolson announced his departure in an email he sent to Central Family Court users, calling the job “thankless’, and said he made the decision with “considerable regret”. He also stressed that he had stepped down for personal reasons, and because he wanted “a life better suited to his personal circumstances.”

In the statement, he said:

“Having been instrumental in having the post of DFJ [Designated Family Judge] re-graded to senior circuit judge level, I decided late last year not to apply when it was re-advertised. I must stress this was for personal reasons and had nothing to do with any other factor. Although the president was kind enough recently to stress his confidence in me as DFJ here, the role is arduous and, at times, thankless; and I desire a life better suited to my personal circumstances. It is as simple as that.

You the court users will glimpse, perhaps more than glimpse, some of the difficulties we – judges and staff alike – have faced here in court and behind the scenes at the business end of a family justice system which, if I may offer a personal view just for a moment, seems increasingly incapable of meeting the needs of its users: not enough time or money for the necessary and deserving; and a tendency to concentrate resources on the unnecessary, complicating the simple and pandering to agendas which are at odds with reality or a diversion at best.”

Tolson’s judgment in a case involving a contact order for a child garnered national media coverage at the beginning of the year when he incorrectly told a mother who had said she had been raped, that the assault by her abusive husband hadn’t constituted rape because she had not fought back.

The comment, along with several other flawed interpretations of law and process by the judge led the High Court to conclude that Tolson’s views were obsolete and that his handling of the case was “so flawed as to require a retrial”. Ms Justice Russell allowed the case to go to appeal, and commented in her reasoning that Tolson’s views were outdated.

Members of Parliament, including Louise Haigh and Tulip Siddiq condemned the judge’s views on rape, while a letter signed by 130 lawyers and campaigners called for immediate action to ensure family judges were properly trained to deal with rape cases.

Tolson will leave his judicial position on 21st August.

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