I’ve written a piece for the Guardian Law website today, about yesterday’s launch, by the new Institute of Family Law Arbitrators, of a scheme of binding family law arbitration. The scheme itself doesn’t worry me: I’m sure the IFLA’s arbitrators are all more than competent family lawyers who’ll do a good job. I am a bit worried, though, about the fact that, apparently, someone can just decide to start a service like this on their own initiative.
If family lawyers can just decide to set up a scheme like this and expect to make arbitration awards binding, why can’t others set up their own schemes? What’s to stop a religious body doing so, and deciding cases according to religious principles, such as sharia? … I doubt the Archbishop of Canterbury or Lord Phillips, the current president of the supreme court, would be alarmed at the prospect. Those of us concerned about religious threats to equality under the law may feel differently.
I do think this is a suitable case for some sort of statutory control – and that MPs should do something about it.
You can read the whole piece here.