Stop family breakdown, says judge

Banbury Cake: A top judge has warned about the breakdown of family life A top judge has warned about the breakdown of family life

A judge who was chastised after airing his views on marriage made a call for "the tide" of family breakdown to be stemmed as he retired from his job in the Family Division of the High Court.

Sir Paul Coleridge - who was Mr Justice Coleridge - said judges who presided over family courts had "unique experience" and should not be afraid to speak out.

He said he knew the value of a "good marriage" and had been unable to watch "misery" day after day and do nothing.

In December he was given a "formal warning" by the heads of the judiciary after airing views in a newspaper article.

Sir Paul told fellow judges and lawyers at a retirement ceremony: "I know how consoling and good a good marriage can be and how it gets better over the years and also how ghastly family breakdown can be.

"Something can and should be done to stem the tide of family breakdown.

"Family judges have a unique experience of this and therefore a unique contribution to make. We should not be afraid to speak out."

Sir Paul said he wanted to "give something back" and went on: "I cannot sit here day after day watching misery and doing nothing."

He made his comments during a farewell at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family judge in England and Wales, paid tribute to his work.

Sir Paul, who became a High Court judge in 2000 after working as a barrister specialising in family law, is the founder of an organisation called The Marriage Foundation, which champions "long-lasting, stable relationships within marriage".

He has aired views on marriage in the media a number of times.

Last year he told Catholic newspaper The Tablet that ''hundreds'' of judges were afraid to back his foundation because they believed it would harm their careers.

Earlier, in an interview with The Times, he referred to Government plans for gay marriage as ''a shambles''.

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