The International Family Justice Judicial Conference was hosted by Lord Justice Thorpe at Cumberland Lodge between 4 and 8 August. Present were over 50 judges and experts from 22 different common law and Commonwealth jurisdictions.
Over the course of the conference delegates presented and participated in talks on a range of international family law issues, ranging from inter country adoption to judicial activism.
The drafting of the conference resolution on the final day in a room full of eminent judges and legal experts was a meticulous process. However this was expedited by a gentle reminder from Lord Justice Thorpe that the sooner conference could agree a resolution, the sooner the delegates could enjoy the warm summer evening in Windsor Park.
As well as resolving various ways of assisting each other, the conference agreed to the establishment of a Common Law and Commonwealth Judicial Network. Participating jurisdictions shall nominate a representative judge or judges and their contact details will be held at the Office of International Family Justice in London. The Network shall hold a conference tri-annually, with the next in 2012.
After the conference I asked Lord Justice Thorpe what differentiates the new Network from the existing International Hague Network of Judges.
"That's a good question and we considered at length whether it would complement, perhaps rival the Hague network or to create an alternative. But we recognise that there are a number of regional judicial networks around the world. For us, of course, we have the European Judicial Network that supports the Revised Brussels II Regulation and there are similar networks in the Far East and in the Americas. And experience is that the regional networks actually feed into and augment The Hague Network over the course of time.
"Now the network we are creating is not a regional network, its beauty is that it is global and that it embraces nations that share the common law and perhaps the continuing commonwealth affiliation. But at the same time embrace a wide range of ethnicities, religions and cultures. So we have within our network nations that are representative of the African customary laws, nations that are representative of high Catholicism, nations that are representative of Islam.
He continued: "So we believe that the network would complement the Malta process which has been so valiantly mounted by The Hague permanent bureau over the last five years and will provide for some of the reticent non-Hague jurisdictions a stepping stone which may encourage them by stages to move into the Hague network".
Lord Justice Thorpe said he welcomes specialist practitioners and trail judges in England and Wales who have a problem in a specific case that can only be tackled by cross border communication or by some other judicial collaboration, to contact the Office of the Head of International Family Justice in London. "