Dear Sam: Family court judge writes letter to teenager

Judge explains to boy why he ruled against his wishes

A senior family court judge in the UK asked to make decisions about the future of a 14-year-old boy has produced a written ruling in the form of a letter to the teenager.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has published the letter on a legal website (read the full letter here).

He has not identified the youngster but given him the pseudonym “Sam” in the published version of the letter — which is written on headed paper.

The judge said he had heard evidence from the teenager at a family court hearing in July.


The judge said the boy had left to go on a school trip after giving evidence and had not stayed to the end of the hearing. The judge said he had read out his decision to the boy’s parents in court. He had handed the letter to a solicitor who passed it on the teenager.

Normally judges’ rulings begin with an outline of the case before going on to outline relevant law, weigh evidence and give decisions.

But Mr Justice Jackson started his ruling with a date and the words “Dear Sam”.

“It was a pleasure to meet you on Monday and I hope your camp this week went well,” the judge wrote.

“This case is about you and your future, so I writing this letter as a way of giving my decision to you and to your parents.”

Mr Justice Jackson said the boy’s separated parents had been embroiled in a dispute about where he should live. The boy lived with his mother and stepfather. His father wanted to take him to live in Scandinavia — and the boy said he wanted to go. But Mr Justice Jackson decided against the move.

The judge wrote in the letter: “Sam, I realise that this order is not the one that you said you wanted me to make, but I am confident that it is the right order for you in the long run.”

He ended his ruling on a light note. “Lastly, I wanted to tell you that your dad and I enjoyed finding out that we both love the film My Cousin Vinny, even if it might be for different reasons,” the judge wrote.

“He mentioned it as an example of a miscarriage of justice, while I remember it for the best courtroom scenes in any film, and the fact that justice was done in the end.”

Mr Justice Jackson signed off by saying “kind regards” and added his handwritten signature.