What are the most difficult decisions we have to make?

District judges talk about tough decisions which can often involve potentially life changing situations.

Transcript of video interviews with district judges

“The toughest decisions we have to make are really those that involve a potentially life changing situation for the litigants. That may be claims for repossession of houses whether they’re mortgage claims or rental homes and obviously those are decisions that may result in the occupier of the house having to leave their home. We also have to make difficult decisions about where children should live. When parents split up they unfortunately, are not always able to reach agreement between themselves as to with which parent the child or children should live, or as to how frequently the other parent should have contact with them, and we have to make those decisions if they can’t.”

“The toughest decisions are the decisions which really involve two elements, first of all the exercise of a discretion, where what you do isn’t cast in stone, you’ve got a choice, and secondly where you know that your decision is going to have a mighty big impact on at least one of the parties, perhaps for ever. Should I in half an hour’s time allow this borrower or this tenant to be evicted by the bailiff from the home they’ve occupied with their families for years.”

“The two areas where the decisions are difficult are certainly in child care cases where the local authority are seeking a care order for a child; it’s always very difficult to make an order removing a child from their family. It’s particularly difficult where there isn’t really fault; where the parents suffer from learning difficulties, mental illness, those sorts of cases and they can’t meet that child’s needs: the child does have to be removed but there’s no sense of fault. Those decisions are very difficult. The second area is a totally different field – in housing law. We deal with emergency applications which are frequently a last ditch attempt for people to stay in their homes, an attempt to stay a warrant when the bailiffs are coming very soon to evict them. Those case are very difficult.”

“The hardest decisions I make are definitely those concerning children. You have two parents sitting in front of you and it’s quite hard to hear what the child is saying over the voice of the two parents, and of course we never see the child, and it’s difficult to know what is in the best interests of the child, so those are very hard decisions. The other very hard thing is when you are considering whether to take a child away from a parent in care proceedings or whether to risk leaving a child in a tricky background. That’s a tough, tough call.”