12:17, December 17 442 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-17 12:17:03
Other lives  Julie Exton obituary

My sister, Julie Exton, who has died aged 59 after suffering from motor neurone disease, was a past president of the Association of Her Majesty’s District Judges. Her proudest achievement in the legal field, however, was the family drug and alcohol court, which she created and presided over in Gloucester, only the second of its kind in the country. The court enables parents with drug and alcohol dependence to keep their children if they can maintain abstinence.

Julie’s priority was to keep families together whenever it was in the best interest of the children, but she also believed in giving the parents another chance to get their lives on track. She hated bureaucracy and waste and could never understand why there were not more FDACs in the UK, as they not only keep families together but are more cost-effective than putting children into care.

Born in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, to Basil Exton, a painter and decorator, and Doreen (nee Harris), a legal secretary, Julie grew up in the north Cotswolds, attending Chipping Campden comprehensive school before studying law at Leicester University.

She moved to Bristol as an articled clerk at the solicitors Burges Salmon and upon qualification in 1983 moved to Veale Benson (now Veale Wasbrough Vizards). She was made partner there in 1988. Julie was appointed a deputy district judge in 1993 before becoming a district judge in 1999, sitting at the Bristol civil and family justice centre. In 2014 she was appointed president of the Association of Her Majesty’s District Judges.

She also wrote for the Law Society Gazette and for Family Law, and for many years was a tutor training new district judges. Shortly before her death she was named the 2017 recipient of the Bristol Law Society’s president’s achievement award.

Law, however, was just part of her passion for life. In addition to raising a family she also sang with Bristol’s Cabot choir for many years and scrupulously documented every bird observed on annual twitching pilgrimages to the north Norfolk coast.

An avid traveller and Francophile, she spent a year as an au pair in Paris before university, had visited the country countless times since and was still taking French classes in her late 50s.

She is survived by her husband, Stephen Roberts, her daughters, Izzie and Jess, from her previous marriage, to Michael Hardy, which ended in divorce, her stepsons, Paul and Chris, her parents and her two brothers, Mark and me.