Family Law Blog

Lawyers speaking plain English, and now a Judge ruling with emojis

Posted by Carli Heald on 4 Oct 2016

We pride ourselves on speaking in plain English to our clients – after all, lawyers are often guilty of appearing to speak in tongues – forgetting that everyone else doesn’t necessarily understand the terminology specific to our sector (aren’t most professions guilty of the same thing?). One UK High Court Judge has taken speaking plain English to a whole new level in a recent family matter.

In a sign of the times, and an admirable effort to make the facts of the case understandable for the children it involved, Justice Peter Jackson, took a novel approach in passing down his judgment– replacing dry legalese with layman’s terms and emojis. 

Published online, the ruling is thought to be the first in English legal history to use a symbol – specifically a smiley face – to breakdown the relevant points.

The 17-page document outlines complex issues including domestic abuse, religious fundamentalism and terrorism. 

Justice Jackson hopes that the children involved in the matter, aged 10 and 12, will read the judgment themselves. The language used aims to explain in terms that the children can easily comprehend, why they are to have limited contact with their father who allegedly wanted to remove them from the country.

Comments regarding the parents’ personalities and testimony from others in the case were included, with the Judge stressing to the children that “The only reason to take children away is because they need protecting from harm.”

Justice Jackson elaborated; “If children are taken away, judges will always try to return them if that is safe. 

“Another thing is that children are not taken away from their parents simply because the parents have lied about something. Even if they do tell lies they can still be good enough parents. 

“People can tell lies about some things and still tell the truth about other things.

“Also, children are not taken away because parents are rude or difficult or because they have strange views, even if those views offend people.”  

The ruling outlines the father’s troubled history including conversions to different religions and examples of extremism, objections to his children’s education and vaccinations (he has since been convicted for trying to purchase guns and ammunition). 

Although a novel approach, it has certainly attracted praise from many online. With an increasing focus on plain English by the legal sector, are we likely to see emojis appearing in rulings here? Time will tell… :)