Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Family Law ~ Catch up notes

The Family Justice system is working toward the implementation of the new Family Court for England and Wales.  On this see post of 12th May 2012 and the Crime and Courts Act 2013 Part 2 (along with Schedules 9 to 11).

The President of the Family Division has said - 'It is some forty years since such a court was recommended by Sir Morris Finer and he, alas, did not live to see his recommendations bear fruit – such is the snail-like pace of so much legal reform in this country. When it opens its doors, the Family Court will include, wherever possible sitting under the same roof, judges from every tier of the judiciary: High Courts Judges, Circuit Judges, District Judges and Magistrates. And it will benefit from unified systems of administration and listing.'   The Single Family Court: A Joint Statement by the President of the Family Division and the HMCTS Family Business Authority’ issued in April 2013.

Views from the President's Chambers:

The President of the Family Division has issued the sixth in his series of Views from the President's Chambers - HERE.   Earlier 'Views' are available.  The Sixth view offers a succinct catch-up on a number of developments.  For instance, the praises of the 'Triborough Pilot' are sung loud and clear.  The pilot scheme, which covered three London Boroughs, sought to reduce delays in care proceedings.  The evaluation of the pilot scheme is HERE.

There is clearly considerable pressure to secure the completion of care proceedings within a 26 week timetable and the 6th View looks at the revised Public Law Outline which aims to achieve the 26 week objective in all but exceptional cases. 

One aspect of transparency in the Family Courts is the Publication of Judgments and this has been the subject of draft guidance which was issued in July 2013 - Guidance (pdf).  The finalised version of the guidance will be issued by the end of 2013.  The draft guidance begins:

This Guidance is intended to bring about an immediate and significant change in practice in relation to the publication of judgments in family courts and the Court of Protection. In both courts there is a need for greater transparency in order to improve public understanding of the court process and confidence in the court system. At present too few judgments are made available to the public, which has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the judges in its name. The Guidance will have the effect of increasing the number of judgments available for publication (even if they will often need to be published in appropriately anonymised form). 

The draft (para 14) applied the guidance to family court (and court of protection) judgments delivered by Circuit Judges, High Court Judges and persons sitting as Judges of the High Court.   The impact should be that most judgments in public law proceedings are published unless there are compelling reasons not to do so (see para 16).  However, there are some judgments which may be published but do not necessarily have to be (para 17).

At the time of writing, it is not clear to me where the many judgments are being published.  (Update: On this see the comments below).  Obviously, judgments involving questions of law will often reach the law reports (including Bailii) but many judgments in children cases are applications of the law rather than decisions as to the law itself.  Without readily available public access to some source for such judgments, the transparency initiative seems unlikely to succeed as well as it should.

The Family Lore blog publishes interesting roundups of family law news - e.g. Family Lore 13th September.


  1. They are all to go on Bailii (para 22)although unclear whether magistrates' cases are included. If not, many cases will remain unpublished. The main problem is that there will be so many cases it is difficult to see how the reader would identify helpful information.

    1. Thank you for referring me to this. Para 22 states: Where a judgment to which paragraph 16 applies is approved for publication it shall as soon as reasonably practicable be placed by the court on the BAILII website by sending it to publish@bailii.org

      My reading of para 14 is that this does not apply to Family Proceedings Courts. Does anyone know differently?