This week I attended a lecture by our new Designated Family Judge here in Bristol, His Honour Judge Wildblood QC, to inform the legal community about modernisation, the new PLO and how things will be in the new world order. Although some of the lecture dealt with local approach to particular issues, the majority of it will, I think, be illuminating for those practising further afield. So below are my notes of that lecture. Lawyers beware.
- Collaboration (team work)
- Change (recognise and accept)
New PLO due out 24/6/13, under Pt 36 FPR.
Family Justice Review noted that in Mar 11 average care case duration was 53 weeks. By time of final report an average of 56 wks (61 in care centres).
Ryder's role - guiding judiciaries response to the proposals NOT implementing Government policy.
Case Management system continues amended. Bristol stats : Cty Ct 34 weeks, Bristol FPC 30.4.
We MUST make it work.
FJR considered whether courts should be involved at all. This is the last chance for the court system. Time for debate about 26 weeks is past. Its happened. It is the law. Treat it as in force no. Do our utmost to implement overnight.
PLO in force 1 July - 26 weeks = deadline not target.
Family Court will be up and running by December 2013.
Gloucester issues 1100 private law cases, Bristol 1600 (p.a.?) - DFJs to draw submit proposals for structure for the local area by 14/6 - strong argumetn for keeping Gloucester as an issueing court.
New PLO - Day 1 LA to file and serve chronology, threshold, care plan, genogram, assessment and statement. Usually 2 years worth of neglect in a chronology is sufficient.
Thresholds - short with 5-6 allegations maximum. Separate particulars if necessary.
Social work statements - analysis not evidence (I have written "not evidence" in my note, I'm not sure that was said - I think it was my sardonic note to self)
Pre Proceedings Protocol being drawn up for Bristol area - aware some research is not supportive but this is based on mutuality, discussion and agreement. Expectations on both court and LA.
Pre Proceedings work will not be duplicated in proceedings unless necessary.
- 1st Case Management Hg Day 12 (FDA).
- 2nd CMH (if required)
LA compliance essential. Importance of pre proceedings work - but must ease path of overworked social worker.
Day 2 evidence (serve not file) with application. Minutes and records by list - disclose on request. Only last 2 years.
Must be sympathetic and realistic with LAs.
Allocation vital. In Bristol there will be a daily team meeting, and monthly meeting with Designated Family Judge (HHJ Wildblood QC) and Nominated Family Judge (HHJ Marston). Any appeals will go to DFJ or NFJ but they are hardly likely to arise.
Draft allocation criteria.
Magistrates - key role in private and public law. For real. Not less interesting work. A proper proportion of both public and private law, a significant amount of public law. In Bristol 23% care work is magistrates court. That will increase. They must be supported and helped by lawyers and judges. It's no good complaining if you (we?) are not prepared to get stuck in and help. Can't expect them to perform as lawyers without training.
1st CMH - deal with experts under Pt 25.
Oral information and CV NOT ON. Comply with the rules if you want to be heard. If you don't I will take it out of the list or list it at 4.30 and that will ruin your day.
In Bristol at CMH we will list final hearing and IRH. We will not list final hearings at IRH stage as in some other areas. We will keep it under review. I acknowledge Bristol research concluded listing early didn't speed up - but that was under the old PLO. Here we will list at 1st CMH. Do best we can. If don't eye off ball. (note unclear).
Has been suggested IRH can be after week 20 - NO. It doesn't allow for an effective IRH. IRH by week 18 if possible.
The DFJ and NFJ's view is wholehearted support for v strong body of research re delay and impact on child. (note unclear - speaker referring to slide I could not read)
CMS was amended April 1 2013. Judges responsibility to record reasons. Please remind the judge.
Listing is a judicial act NOT an administrative act. If it is left to the parties please nominate one person only to communicate with the court.
Self reporting direction - is now default.
E-filing must be within 48 hours. If you need more time ask at the hearing or within 48 hours. If in default the party responsible will be called to attend court and explain. Just ask
CoA guidance expected (Munby) shortly. TG  EWCA Civ 5 makes clear necessary is a significantly higher hurdle than reasonably required. Also:
- strong case management
- control of evidence essential part of it
- particular responsibility re experts
- support for 1st instance judges - robust but fair
- Hoffmann in Piglowska v Piglowski re exercise of discretion. Appeals - generous ambit. You won't be overturned unless the decision falls outwith the generous ambit.
Recently discussing with HHJ ? whether a psychologist be report should be limited to 5 or 10 pages. Put what they want in annexes. But need a condensed summary of conclusions.
If you want your head to remain on your shoulders follow local police protocols. Police disclosure may be reason for 2nd CMH.
People must come to IRH knowing what their case is and ready to record what the issues are at FH.
If listed at 10 you must be IN COURT at 10. It is not for the usher to find the parties. Ask for time.
You must be at court when ordered.
Production orders - be realistic about timings.
Placement - there is often a problem with parents who can't be found to be notified of adoption proceedings. Standard direction at conclusion of care proceedings - parents must keep LA informed of address for purposes of adoption proceedings.
Final hearings - case summaries essential 48 hours before. Position statements required from all parties. Including G.
Bundles proposals - compliance is essential.
Guardian not seeing child and parents cannot be the basis of decision on welfare.
on LiPs and how to achieve justice. LiPs are not a subculture - they are as entitled to justice as the represented. It is for us to ensure they get it. When I gave evidence it was exhausting, frightening and disempowering.
DJ Watkins - financial remedy subgroup
DJ Howell - private law
Late transfers from FPC - I may send it back.
Email - until the system is changed for judges in Bristol only - send all emails to J and court office. Must use secure email only. Data protection concerns. Subject line to include name of case name of judge and date of hearing.
Email - ONLY send case summary, skeleton, position statement, reports (not statements) which have been received within 7 days of the hearing, and other documents required by the judge.
Email is not a substitute for filing or hard copy. Don't assume printing by the court. Do not send docs to J on morning of hearing. Send by 12 noon the day before at least. The court won't print except a small number of pages in an emergency only. Any misuse of the system by any person will result in the facility being withdrawn and the email will be deleted and not read.
Thus endeth the lesson.