First of all the ALC website reported Ryder's apparent acknowledgment at the NAGALRO conference that the 26 week limit was only currently achievable in about 30% of cases. And then it disappeared. Except of course you can't disappear something you've published on the internet "juslikethat", Tommy Cooper stylee. Family Law Week had already reported it. And so there was an odd void on the ALC website for a period. A post with no content...Begging the question.
Now it has been replaced with a post that says (I paraphrase) "this is what we reported was said, this is what the Judicial Office say was in fact said, and just for good measure here is Ryder J's rider "for the avoidance of doubt".
This is what was originally reported:
"Practitioners from different parts of the country raised concerns about courts rigidly implementing the 26 week timetable. One child care lawyer asked Mr Justice Ryder if he was aware that in the experience of many lawyers, the 26 weeks requirement had been written “on tablets of stone” – even if it led to a denial of justice for children and parents. Ryder J responded that the 26 weeks was not written in stone, that it was aspirational, and that in his view it may be achieved in two years’ time.
Both he and McFarlane LJ were very clear that there was “no missive from on high”, and no direction given to impose 26 weeks. The family modernisation programme did not have the status of a practice direction. Ryder J went on to observe that early data being collected from courts showed that the 26 week timetable was only achievable in about 30% of cases."
This is what the ALC now supplement that with:
"Following exchanges with the judicial office for the family modernisation team, we understand that the following revised note has now been agreed by McFarlane LJ and Ryder J as a more accurate account of their remarks:
"The NAGALRO conference on Monday 15 October was addressed by Mr Justice Ryder and Lord Justice McFarlane. Practitioners from different parts of the country raised concerns about courts rigidly implementing a 26 week timetable. Lord Justice McFarlane, recollecting the recommendations of the Family Justice Review panel of which he was a member, said that 26 weeks was aspirational and that the review anticipated it may take a period of time to implement. Mr Justice Ryder confirmed that there had not yet been primary or secondary legislative change nor was there guidance which had the effect of a 'missive from on high'.”"
And this is Ryder's rider:
"“Proposals for legislative change have already been published by Government and the period that we have before their projected implementation allows us (i.e. judges and practitioners alike) to prepare for those changes in the way that was anticipated by the Family Justice Review. Courts already have an obligation to timetable each case and the timetable for the child may anticipate proceedings being completed in up to 26 weeks or more dependent on the facts of the case. That is why the Case Management System records the timetable for the child which is set by the court. Data will continue to be collected so that we obtain a better understanding of the duration of cases and the reasons for delay.""
Marilyn Stowe reported it here, saying that
"The 26 week timetable was a key proposal in Mr Justice Ryder’s Judicial Proposals for the Modernisation of Family Justice, published in July. This set out:
“…a timetable track which will presume that nonexceptional cases can be completed in 26 weeks. These will be known as pathways and they will describe in permissory language how to achieve the objective i.e. making the best decision for the child within the welfare timetable set for the child.”
This report, however, does have the status of a practice direction , said Mr Justice Ryder, and in any case, early data suggested that the 26 weeks was only achievable in about 30 per cent of cases."
Marilyn records the Modernisation Programme being described as having the status of a Practice Direction, where an earlier report from Family Law Week stated the opposite (i.e. it DIDN'T have such status) - which I think must be right (perhaps Marilyn has taken her information from FLW and a typo has crept in?). The FLW site has now been edited to remove the original text, and now has the "approved" version as per the ALC website : but unlike the ALC does not record the fact that the item has been amended. Naughty FLW for editing without acknowledgment.
So what's going on?
The statement agreed by the Judicial Office notably omits the 30% achievability remark. It's not clarified or corrected. It's not there at all. There is no assertion that the report was inaccurate.
Meanwhile at Parliament this week the ALC, FLBA and others have been giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee - and they have been very very frank about 26 weeks : "it won't work". They are voicing what the judiciary cannot.