Anyone glancing at the front page of The Times on February 1 could be forgiven for thinking that the courts had made an important ruling on the status of Islamic family law. "High Court opens the way to Sharia divorces" was the headline. The story — still available on the Times website — begins: "The prospect of divorce cases being settled by Sharia and religious courts has been opened up by a landmark legal decision."
That assertion was based on a comment attributed by the newspaper to one of the lawyers involved in the case of AI v MT. Tellingly, the lawyer made no mention of Sharia in the press release that his firm sent out after the Times story had appeared.
No surprise there. As reporters rapidly spotted, Mr Justice Baker's judgment was nothing to do with Sharia. It was not even a precedent as lawyers understand the term, being merely an explanation of the judge's reasons for approving a consent order.
The case involved an orthodox Jewish couple who were married in 2006 and divorced in 2012. The former husband, from Toronto, was 29 when the ruling was made last year. The former wife, from London, was 26. Their first daughter was born just over a year into their marriage and their second daughter was born in 2009. That was the year the marriage broke down and legal proceedings were launched both in England and in Canada. It was in the following year, 2010, that the couple agreed that their differences should be arbitrated by a rabbi in New York.