Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-01 > 1169294931

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] BRACEWELL: Joyanne Winifred Bracewell 8/1/2007
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2007 04:08:51 -0800

Mrs Justice Bracewell
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 15/01/2007

Mrs Justice Bracewell, who died on January 8 aged 72, was the senior High
Court Judge of the Family Division.

On her appointment in 1990 Joyanne Bracewell became one of only two women
among the 84 judges on the High Court bench. Her translation to the High
Court was a measure of the high regard in which she was held, since it was
then unusual for a circuit judge to be promoted.

Joyanne Bracewell was admired for her commonsense and thoughtful approach;
she sought no publicity and was modest about her abilities. In an article in
2003 she wrote: "In the family cases that I preside over, there is often an
obsession by one parent about the details of arrangements and, as a judge,
you just feel helpless. Such cases, in my experience, are to be avoided
because they are not only financially costly but emotionally ruinous."

In one of her more controversial judgments, Mrs Justice Bracewell decided
that the former lesbian lover of a woman who gave birth by artificial
insemination should spend more time with the children than the biological
mother, although this was later reversed in the House of Lords.

At one stage she attracted the opprobrium of the campaigning group Fathers 4
Justice, which threatened to stage a protest on the roof of the hotel in
Somerset which she owned with her husband. She once said: "There is no doubt
that a lot of fathers feel they are getting a raw deal. I can understand
[their] sense of grievance, but we, as judges, can only give a prison
sentence or a suspended sentence should the resident parent not comply with
an order. I have had to send a parent to prison and it doesn't achieve

In 1994 she ordered two children to be removed from their divorced mother
and sent to live with their father, after finding that the mother had
persistently prevented him from having contact with his daughters. The
father had previously had his case heard by 16 different judges.

Taking the unusual step of explaining her reasons in open court, Mrs Justice
Bracewell said that the mother had "shown an inability to put the interests
of the children before her own", and remarked that there was a public
perception that courts routinely "rubber-stamp cases awarding care of
children to mothers and marginalise fathers from the lives of their
children". Her view was that, where there was an issue over custody, parents
should be sent to see expert "mediators" and consent to a "parenting plan"
that would allow children to spend time with both father and mother.

Joyanne Winifred Bracewell was born on July 5 1934 and was brought up in
Manchester. She received no formal education, and seemed destined for a
career as an actress. As a young teenager in 1948 she appeared in two comedy
films made by the Mancunian Film Corporation: Cup-Tie Honeymoon (the cast
included Pat Pilkington, later to become famous as Pat Phoenix, who played
Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street) and Holidays With Pay, starring Tessie

Instead of pursuing this path, however, Joyanne elected to read Law at
Manchester University, and was called to the Bar (Gray's Inn) in 1955. She
practised on the Northern Circuit, and took Silk in 1978.

She was a Crown Court recorder from 1975 to 1983, then served as a circuit
judge until going to the High Court, when she was appointed DBE.

In 1988 the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, had appointed her to
oversee the introduction of the Children Act, liaising with those
responsible for operating the new procedures when it became law.

Between 1993 and 1997 she chaired the Children Act advisory committee. She
also advised the Judicial Studies Board on the training of judges,
registrars and magistrates handling the cases.

Mrs Justice Bracewell was a consulting editor for Butterworth's Family Law
Service from 1989, and Family Court Practice from 1993. She was elected a
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1994.

She married, in 1963, Roy Copeland, who survives her with their son and

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