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Nagalro Responds to Assault on Family Court Judge

Date:18 DEC 2023
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Nagalro, the Professional Association for Children's Guardians, Family Court Advisers and Independent Social Workers, responded to the violent attack by a Litigant in Person to a Family Court judge in Milton Keynes.

A 40-year-old man pleaded guilty last week to assault causing actual bodily harm and criminal damage following the incident at Milton Keynes County Court. It is understood the attacker was a litigant in person at a closed family hearing. The judge needed treatment at hospital but was home within 36 hours.

Nagalro's response is as follows: 

"Nagalro extends its sympathy to the judge who was assaulted in court by a litigant on 29 November 2023 and hopes that our professional colleague will make a speedy recovery.

Family proceedings are the most emotionally charged of any civil court case. They deal with individuals’ children, relationships, and the homes over their heads. Judges, lawyers, social workers, and expert witnesses may be called upon to take part in a wide range of decisions, including those which will mean that a parent may never see their child again. These hearings may be held in little more than a modestly sized office, with no immediately available security.

Behind the scenes of the court hearings, social workers, children’s guardians, and independent social workers are still going out, often alone, to carry out assessments in the homes of parents who may have been accused of violence or other forms of abuse. Our family justice system has suffered more than a decade of neglect, with crumbling premises, lengthening waiting lists for hearings and a failure to invest in the operation of the justice system."

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It continues: " Since the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, many litigants in the family court are forced to represent themselves and they have no access to professional advice. These individuals are left with whatever material they may find on social media, which, for those who are looking for it, is a well-stocked larder for anyone seeking affirmation that everything and everyone is working against them. The toxic cocktail is fortified by a government far too slow to react when newspapers label judges as the ‘Enemies of the People’.

Nagalro’s Chair, Yvonne Wilson, a children’s guardian in the London family courts said:

“I am aware that professionals working within the Family Court settings are at times anxious and concerned for their own personal safety whilst undertaking their professional duties.  Many have expressed concern that they could be identified and consequently targeted.  Personal safety is a particular concern for those working on their own, particularly when undertaking visits in the community.  Safety is and should be a matter of concern requiring urgent attention for all those involved in public and private law cases and irrespective of their individual role and position in the proceedings.”

Nagalro says that this shocking incident involving a Family Court Judge highlights the security issues which exist for all in Court, especially independent social workers and children’s guardians and that there is an urgent need to recognise and address it for everyone.  This should include the re-introduction of legal aid for parents in private law proceedings to ensure professional advice and timely resolution of disputes for all parents."