Wednesday 13 November 2019

Ian McEwan legal novel 'has wrong title', says judge

Ian McEwan's novel was labelled 'excellent' by a High Court judge
Ian McEwan's novel was labelled 'excellent' by a High Court judge

A novel about a fictional High Court judge who specialises in family cases has the wrong title - according to a real High Court judge who specialises in family cases.

Mr Justice Mostyn says Ian McEwan's 2014 book The Children Act - a story about a judge asked to decide whether a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness should have medical treatment against his wishes - is "excellent".

But he says legal proceedings relating to the teenager would not have been launched under the 1989 Children Act. He says an issue relating to whether someone aged 17 should have medical treatment forced on them would have come to court via a different legal avenue.

And he says the book is "in fact incorrectly titled".

The judge has mentioned McEwan's novel in a footnote to a ruling on a case about whether a child should have medical treatment against his parents' wishes.

"In my opinion, a question of whether a medical procedure should be forced on a 16 or 17 year old should be sought solely under the High Court's inherent jurisdiction, and not under the Children Act," says Mr Justice Mostyn.

"It is for this reason I think that Ian McEwan's excellent novel The Children Act (Jonathan Cape 2014), which is about a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness refusing a blood transfusion, is in fact incorrectly titled."

A synopsis of The Children Act novel on the website describes the plot.

"Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court," says the synopsis.

"She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of 30 years is in crisis.

"At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful 17-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith?

"In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital - an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both."

Mr Justice Mostyn said the case he handled involved a 10-year-old boy who had cancer. The judge said the boy's parents were frightened of the consequences of surgery and did not consent. He concluded that surgery would be in the boy's best interests.

The judge had analysed the case at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He mentioned the novel in a section of his ruling in which he analysed legal issues.

The family involved was not identified.

PA Media

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