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Judiciary to design new online consent course for family judges

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary is to prepare an online resource for family judges dealing with issues of consent and stereotypes in sexual cases.

The move follows widespread criticism of HHJ Tolson’s “outdated” views in the case of JH v MF.

Judge Tolson’s judgment was criticised by Ms Justice Russell as being “so flawed as to require a retrial”. The case is to be reheard by a different judge.

Over 130 family lawyers and women’s rights groups subsequently sent an open letter to the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and the President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane last week calling for new training for family court judges alongside a demand for Judge Tolson’s continuing cases to be reviewed.

The judiciary has now responded to the letter, saying: “The Lord Chief Justice and President of the Family Division have asked Lady Justice Rafferty, Chairman of the Judicial College, to oversee the preparation of an online resource for the use of family judges dealing, in particular, with issues of consent and stereotypes in sexual cases.

“The induction and refresher course [that judges already undergo] will be adjusted to ensure these topics are fully covered.”

The spokesman also drew attention to the forthcoming report from a panel of experts, including two serving judges, established by the Ministry of Justice in 2019 to review how the family courts deal with domestic abuse and other serious offences.

The report is “likely to look at the role of all professionals engaged in domestic abuse cases. Its recommendations, including any relating to training, will be of importance.”

Adam Carey

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