By Emily Morris and Megan Bennie
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Spotlight: David Gauke

By Emily Morris and Megan Bennie

In this week’s spotlight, we take a closer look at the new Secretary of State for Justice and what his appointment might mean for the legal sector.

On 8th January 2018, Theresa May appointed David Gauke MP as the new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor to her cabinet. Gauke has been appointed at a time of heightened instability in the legal system but, on further examination, his background and expertise suggest an appointment that is suited guiding the legal system through these tricky times.

Background

One unexpected result of the recent reshuffle is that May has appointed the first ever solicitor to become Justice Secretary. Gauke’s appointment has marked the end of a run of four consecutive non-lawyers to hold the post.

Unlike his predecessor, David Lidington, Gauke’s past career as a solicitor indicates he has the experience to face challenges specifically related to the legal profession. Although he has not previously mentioned any interest in justice matters, the recent family law developments suggested by Gauke show that he has been pro-active in listening to family law professionals and moving with the times.

Gauke’s viewpoints

Since his appointment, Gauke and May have launched a consultation on domestic abuse, assessing whether stronger powers are necessary to protect and support survivors. This new approach allows courts to impose fresh conditions on abusers, including electronic tagging to monitor the abusers’ activity and ordering compulsory alcohol treatment. These new powers have brought real change the current legal system because there is now better protection for victims with the potential to bring more perpetrators to justice.

In addition, Gauke has strongly suggested that the current fault-based system for divorce may be subject to change. After a campaign from The Times (amongst others), Gauke acknowledged the need for reform and will review the evidence supporting change. Lord Mackay, one of Gauke’s predecessors, embraced the review and recognised that it has been over 20 years since parliament passed a bill removing the need for making allegations of fault in order to obtain a divorce more quickly, but this was never implemented.

Within the legal sphere, Gauke’s recent recommendations have been met with extensive approval from family lawyers. On Twitter, Phillip Marshall QC, who is representing Tini Owens in her appeal to the Supreme Court, responded with the hashtag #hurrah. Whilst Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation, welcomed a ‘full public and parliamentary debate’ on the current system of fault based divorce.

Conclusion

Despite Gauke only recently being appointed, his fresh approach to family law is welcomed, especially as there is a need to reform the traditional family law system to encompass and represent the changing dynamic of modern families. If you want further information on how to successfully navigate yourself through divorce, our solicitors can assist you today.

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