Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division highlighted, in a speech last week, his concern over the subordinate consideration given to the role of the family by Government bodies.
Despite having a multitude of Departments, now even including a Department for Exiting the European Union, our Government does not have a Department for Family. Prosecution of minors comes under the remit of the Ministry of Justice and family matters are controlled by the Department of Education. This appears to underestimate the formative role which family plays in the development of all members of society. Regardless of our relationships with them, our families and our upbringing perform a vital role in our lives, shaping behaviour and our approach to future life events. Munby suggests that the Government is underestimating and perhaps not utilising the positive force that family can have on the formative years.
Munby has suggested that family can play a particularly vital role within the criminal justice system, in relation to the prosecution of minors. He suggested that instead of proceeding with these cases in the criminal court, they could be conducted within the family court. This is not intended as a way to pardon criminal activity because it was committed by children, he acknowledges that there does need to be deterrent punishment for young people too, but rather to address the low rates of rehabilitation rates amongst this group. In 2014, 38% of young people reoffended within 12 months of index disposal or release from custody, this marks a gradual increase in reoffending rates since 2008. Perhaps conducting these proceedings within the Family Courts could change this, with an emphasis on uniting the family to support against repeat offence. Additionally, Munby has emphasised that where a child is already subject to proceedings in the family court, to then process them through the criminal courts underestimates the overlap of these issues and could be a waste of resources. Family law needs to be applied in context and Munby has declared this would be best done by amalgamating the issues plaguing a family into one court.