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Dame Joyanne Winifred Bracewell DBE QC FRSA (5 July 1934 – 9 January 2007) was the most senior judge of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice at the time of her death, after the President of the Family Division.
Bracewell was born and raised in Manchester, the daughter of Jack and Lillian Bracewell. Her father worked in textiles. She was a child actress in two comedy films made in Manchester in 1948, Cup-Tie Honeymoon and Holidays with Pay. She after being educated mostly at home, she studied at Manchester University (LLB, LLM).
She was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1955, was in pupillage at the Bar 1955-56 and a Member of the Northern Circuit from 1955 to 1990. She was a Recorder of the Crown Court between 1975 and 1983, and was appointed QC in 1978. She was a Circuit Judge on the Northern Circuit from 1983 to 1986, moving to the Western Circuit from 1986 to 1990.
In 1990, she became the fifth woman to be appointed as High Court judge, after Elizabeth Lane, Rose Heilbron, Margaret Booth, and Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. As is customary, she was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She became well known as Hon. Mrs. Justice Bracewell. She was largely responsible for drafting, and oversaw the introduction of, the Children Act 1989, serving as Family Law Division Liaison Judge in the Royal Courts of Justice from 1990–97; she was also Chair of the Children Act Advisory Committee from 1993–97.
She was involved in many high-profile cases. In 2004, she was praised by Fathers4Justice as "one of the more enlightened members of the judiciary" after she gave a residence order to a father whose former wife repeatedly refused him access, in defiance of earlier court orders. In February 2006, she ruled that two children should live with their mother's former same-sex partner, after the mother took the children to live in a different county, in defiance of a shared residence order. Her order was upheld by the Court of Appeal but overturned by the House of Lords.
She was awarded an honorary LLD by Manchester University in 1991, and was appointed Fellow, Royal Society of Arts in 1994. She was a consulting editor for Butterworth's Family Law Service from 1989 until her death, and editor in chief of The Family Court Practice from its first publication in 1993.
She died of cancer on 9 January 2007, aged 72.
- Who's Who, 2006 edition
- Death in Service - Mrs Justice Bracewell, Press release 4/07 from the Judicial Communications Office, 10 January 2007
- Tribute paid to family court judge, The Lawyer, 10 January 2007
- Family court's top judge dies, The Times, 10 January 2007
- Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2007
- Obituary, The Times, 16 January 2007
- Obituary, The Guardian, 25 January 2007