MMU Family Law Conference

Details of an interesting looking conference in Manchester below - complete with the President of the Supreme Court : All Hale Barbara!! #halestorm


We are pleased to write with details of MMU's 2nd Annual Family Law Conference, on 9 March 2018, 10am-4pm. The conference brings together a mixed audience of academics, practitioners and students to discuss current issues in family law in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere.

We are delighted to have Lady Hale, President of the Supreme Court, as our keynote speaker, with her 'View from the Supreme Court Bench'. Dr Frances Burton from Aston University will be delivering a very timely paper about the future of the Family Court. She has been writing and presenting on this topic for some time now and we are sure her paper will provide a fascinating basis for discussion among academics and practitioners. Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution and Head of Family Law at Mills & Reeve Solicitors, will be presenting about his experience of the changing social and political context around no fault divorce. Lucy Crompton from MMU will present a paper seeking to revive 'compensation' for career sacrifice and get it back on the judicial agenda. She will be hoping to muster some enthusiasm for this from, especially, the practitioners in the audience.

Places are limited. You can register at the early bird price of £65 until 26 January, thereafter £85 (£25 for students).

The conference is suitable for CPD for practitioners. 

visit the conference webpage here.

For further information, please contact Lucy Crompton (

2018 off to a great start then

First day back at court today. It has not gone well so far...

Your correspondent is in the robing room quietly stewing, having arrived at nine o'clock for a ten o'clock hearing (halo in hand) that isn't in fact until noon. Courtserve : We Heart You. Hashtag NOT.

In truth it began to unravel long before then as I lay in bed shivering at midnight realising the radiators weren't working because they haven't been bled, and listening to the wind tear bits off my house like a child demolishing a lego build (house still standing this morning but it didn't sound like that at the time - there is a large tree-bush affair next to the garage that thumps loudly on it whenever its windy. It's right next to my window...)

And then even the emergency suit turned out to be too small. Can't imagine how that happened *cough*. I blame Cadbury's Roses.

So all in all my arrival here by 9 o'clock, with papers and wearing a suit that still buttons up was a pretty epic achievement. Needless to say I am overjoyed to find it a wasted journey.

As I sat down in the robing room to get some work done (hurrah for PCU Wifi which is now working in our court building), having carefully stretched my laptop charger across the floor from the in-floor plug bar to the not very close to it desk (especially positioned to create a trip hazard it seems - yes I have left my comment in the comments box pointing this out) an email pinged into my inbox. A DFJ is finding that the LAA are refusing to meet the costs of parents attending hearings unless there is an order directing their attendance. Yes, that is refusing to enable parents (who often have no income because they can't work and their benefits have been stopped when their kids were taken) to get to hearings at which their childrens' whole future is to be decided. Doesn't it make you just furious? Anyway, the solution to this is apparently to include a standard direction in CMOs now saying that parents must attend. This makes me even more grumpy than I ever so slightly was before receiving the email. FPR 27.3 provides that :

Unless the court directs otherwise a party shall attend a hearing or directions appointment of which that party has been given notice.

What is so difficult to understand there? Parents need to be at hearings about their children. They'd need to be there even if FPR 27.3 didn't exist and even if a kindly DFJ didn't try to help out by repeating the rule in all their orders (The LAA's own guidance acknowledges that travel expenses ought to be met by them and not the client - even where the client is a bit hopeless and loses their travel tickets). And that the LAA refuse to acknowledge this (they must know its true really - surely?) is a symptom of how our system has lost sight of the need to do real justice rather than just box tick or offer a ritual daily saving at the altar of proportionality.

Personally, I don't think we should pander to this computer says no mentality. We should challenge this nonsense and say THERE DOESN'T NEED TO BE AN ORDER YOU MUPPETS. Again and again until they get it.

Plus, if the LAA doesn't pay their travel expenses how will they ever get to stroke the stress-dog before their children are adopted?

2018, you suck so far.

Right, grump over. I'm off to write a book...


The Civil Finance Electronic Handbook that I linked to above says this at page 72 (I hadn't spotted it before - I was looking at page 58) :

The rules for payment of funded client travel expenses differ depending on the situation.

  • Attendance at court: The funded clients travel expenses will be paid where it is reasonable for the client to attend court. The guidance states this is as a witness of fact and we would expect to see justification as to why this is considered reasonable. These same principles apply for third parties who are required to attend court as a witness of fact.
  • Travel to attend experts: These are paid where it was necessary for client to attend the expert and where the client cannot afford to pay for visiting the expert (the client is impecunious). When considering whether the costs should be allowed we would need to consider the cost of the travel, distance to the expert and the method of travel.

Where travel costs are payable we should consider the most reasonable form of travel, this is usually public transport. Any travel by taxi will require justification. [my emphasis]

The Costs Guidance referred to is here and that says that the costs of travel to court other than as a witness of fact will be assessed at the end of the case (page 7-8, 26-28). Although in places it appears to suggest that travel expenses other than as a wtiness of fact will never be payable, it does say this :

  1. The usual principles as to reasonableness and proportionality apply. If it was unreasonable for the client to attend the hearing in furtherance of his or her case, for example because the hearing was an interim hearing where the client’s presence was not strictly necessary, then the disbursements would not normally be allowed.

So on that basis the costs of attendance at a hearing other than a final hearing / to give evidence ARE claimable, but they have to be reasonable. There will of course be cases where it really isn't necessary for a client to attend a hearing, but they will be in my view pretty few and far between - which is no doubt why the FPR have, since the year dot, set out a default position that they should come to court.

If this really is a growing problem (and according to the grapevine I know it is) then I would like to think that someone will do something about it and challenge the LAA on their guidance. It's tough for solicitors if they are continually shelling out and then not being paid, but even tougher for clients whose solicitors say they can't afford to take the risk (I've met some of each, I don't criticise either). Perhaps one of the representative bodies can take this up with the LAA?

Right. Now it's time for my hearing.

Happy belated birthday Pink Tape. You’re not dead yet old gal…

Humbug pic courtesy of Ministryofstories on Flickr - creative commons

Confession: I've been paralysed by that tweet that asks people to tweet three of their achievements from 2017. I've just buggered along really. Kept on doing the same old stuff, kept my head above water, just.

As the year draws to a close I've been thinking about all the things I haven't quite got around to this year, all the things that are stuck on my to do list that I never get to. And one of those failures is my chronic neglect of poor old pink tape. I was wincing at the thought of writing that bloody awful year in review post. Except I find when I actually look back at the posts I have written in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised. And yes people, I did laugh at my own jokes (well, some of them). There are some good 'uns after all (so that's one achievement) ...I don't know how I found the time really. And looking at those  post I was reminded me that I did write a book this year (that's two). And I did survive a pretty shitty time professionally too (and three). So I feel a bit better now. I've got my three things. And that's even before I think about all the amazing achievements of my family that I am totally proud of.

Anyway, now I've dealt with my own ridiculous anxieties and self-doubt, here's my favourite post of each month of 2017... I feel I ought to mark this year somehow - I did forget to wish Pink Tape a happy tenth birthday in July. Bad mummy...


Man Flu : God I was poorly. But this post reminded me of that amazing feeling you get when you realise you are on the mend and are grateful for every little thing in the world.


How can you defend a rapist? : We are not an extension of our clients. We are professionals with a job to do.


A little knowledge is a dangerous thing… : My worries about a new Mckenzie friend venture (I did a few posts about McKenzies this year).


Lord Chancellor announces judicial sentencing incentivisation schemes : I love a good April fool!


A decade in the blink of an eye… : another post which reminds me how much we have to be grateful for and the importance of family.


Sauce for the goose and the standard of proof : my thoughts on the standard of proof for disciplining barristers - the BSB later agreed with me (though I confess I'm not yet up to speed on the details of what's happening).


Terrorism : all the fault of divorcees (apparently) : my now annual disagreement with Sir Paul Coleridge. Another Pink Tape tradition...


The backstory : that's my backstory about how I came to become a barrister. Which was fun to write, seems inexplicably to have been enjoyed by some and has prompted at least one other (Barbara Rich's fantastic effort is here).


Social workers should not hide – they are accountable to all of us. A theme I was to return to... (who am I kidding I never shut up about it)


Me too – judicial bullying : tough times, but stuff we need to talk about, and knowing you aren't the only one helps a lot (and see follow up here :  Vicarious Trauma).


The Truth About Social Work Tutor – Part I and The Truth About Social Work Tutor – Part II : posts I worried a lot about but which the universally positive feedback suggests were important to write. I'm sad it has produced no response or engagement from the subject of it, but I've said my piece.


Tough to choose between this : What a load of old Dobbin and a slightly more serious post with a good combination of law and swearing, but I chose this one because it's a proper old rant and that's always been the most fun part of Pink Tape. The silly rants are what most annoyed the stripey humbugs at my previous chambers who hated blogs, so I like to do one every now and again for old times' sake.


Feature pic courtesy of Ministryofstories via Flickr, creative commons - thanks.