The Family Justice Review was commissioned by the Secretaries of State for Justice and Education and also by the Welsh government Minister for Health and Social Services. The Terms of Reference of the Review are set out at Annex A to the report and are considered in this post (below). Interestingly, the Terms of reference refer to certain "guiding principles." These are now considered with my comments in brackets ( ).
the the Marilyn Stowe blog - "The real reason why the Family Justice Review has failed" )
Delays in determining court applications to be kept to a minimum. (Again, existing law has the general principle that delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child. This does not necessarily mean that cases have to be rushed through. Some delay in court proceedings is inevitable but all the available time should be used productively with a view to achieving a specific purpose).
The court's role should be focused on protecting the vulnerable from abuse, victimisation and exploitation and should avoid intervening in family life except where there is clear benefit to children or vulnerable adults in doing so. (The second limb of this sentence appears to emphasise the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life in the European Convention on Human Rights Article 8. The first limb of the sentence appears to be aimed at limiting the scope of formal adjudication in the family courts).
Individuals should have the right information and support to enable them to take responsibility for the consequences of their relationship breakdown. (Few would disagree. However, will it be made available in the present financial climate?).
The positive involvement of both parents following separation should be promoted. (As a general statement this seems acceptable enough)
Conflict between individuals should be minimised as far as possible. (Few would disagree but the hostility can be at an advanced stage by the time the law becomes involved. Nevertheless, there is much to be said for building upon areas - if any - of agreement).
The review should assess how the current system operates against these principles and make recommendations for reform in two core areas: the promotion of informed settlement and agreement; and management of the family justice system. (Thus, the scope of the review was limited to two important areas which can be referred to simply as "settlement" and "management." This reflects the government view that formal adjudication in the courts should be a last, rather than first, resort).
The final report contains an Executive Summary (page 5 to 25) and a list of recommendations (page 26 to 36).
The Review Panel seems to have been constrained in two important aspects. One, by the membership which included representatives of the commissioning government departments. It might have benefited from having more members with detailed knowledge of the day-to-day problems in present-day family law legal practice and procedure. The other constraint was the terms of reference which seem to have precluded a thorough review of the complex law underlying decisions involving children and placed the emphasis on "informed settlement and agreement; and management of the family justice system." Thus, the question of whether the substantive law itself continues to be "fit for purpose" has not had a central place in this review.
Part 2 of this post will look more closely at some of the report's recommendations.
The Lawyer - Lawyers welcome Norgrove report into family justice
Family Law - Family Justice Review published
Marilyn Stowe blog - "The real reason why the Family Justice Review has failed" -