The Family Justice Knowledge Hub. Sounds modern dunnit?
It's not really. It's a newsletter in word format with a boxy design, which collates details of recent and current research bearing upon matters of family justice.
Boxy but useful. Like a volvo.
You can subscribe to it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Not that you'd know because there isn't any information about it on justice.gov.uk (a search for "knowledge hub" brings up various things, but no direct information about the hub or where to find it).
In the introductory wording the Feb 13 issue of the Bulletin says :
"A number of recommendations in the Family Justice Review related to the need to better disseminate relevant research and good practice throughout the Family Justice System. The Government Response to the review accepted these recommendations and committed to work with the Family Justice Board to facilitate the provision of social research evidence to family justice practitioners and wider stakeholders.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Analytical Services is supporting this through developing the Family Justice Knowledge Hub.
One aspect of this is to collate and disseminate the latest research news, whether conducted on behalf of government departments, local authorities, research bodies or other organisations. Recipients of this bulletin are welcome to forward to others to help facilitate the dissemination of knowledge across the Family Justice System."
Having obtained access to the
bulletin hub only because an academic forwarded it to me on request, I emailed the knowledgehub@... email address to see when they were going to make the hub accessible via a website. I thought it a little odd that as a stakeholder in the Family Justice System, and one with a keen interest in developments, neither myself nor my colleagues had been sent information on how to access the thing, but assumed this was because they were busy getting the hubby bit of the hub ready. The nice lady who replied said a website "is not something we are planning to do in the near future" and "We distribute the Bulletin to stakeholders in our mailing list".
Silly me. Thinking a "Hub" would function as, you know, a "hub". Or that efforts would be made to help people know about, er, the knowledge.
Are litigants in person "stakeholders"? The FJB Action plan says that by 2013 they will have "Established a Knowledge Hub to aid the dissemination of research on key aspects of family justice to stakeholders and professionals across the system" [my emphasis] which suggests an appropriately broad definition. Of course LiPs are stakeholders, it was a silly rhetorical question. And yet how are they to know that this material is available (apart from via this blog post)?
Should litigants in person have access to the same materials provided to "stakeholders" such as lawyers and judges (and by extension represented parties)?
A little principle called equality of arms suggests they should. It might be tedious to find litigants in person quoting actual research, as opposed to being on the receiving end of lawyers or judges wielding that research like an evidence-based cosh with which to subdue their irritating emotion-based submissions*, but I don't think we can derogate from article 6 on this basis. These are tools that the Ryder Modernisation Programme has set great store by - part of the bundle of reforms that will cut cost and delay associated with expert instruction. One presumes it is expected they will be relied upon.
Are we equipping some with tools but not others? Could we do better as the era of lawyerless courts looms ever closer?
*that's sarcasm, before you lot all write in and tell me I'm being terribly rude about LiPs.