Triumph of process over form?

Please visit Suesspicious Minds for a consideration of the issues raised by an article in the Gazette about DJ Crichton’s views on the PLO. It articulates some of the concerns I know many share (myself included), and some of the ambivalence that we feel about the new PLO pilot and proposed statutory reform. It is rare to hear such non-conformist views these days, and even when they are articulated they are often drowned out by the roar of the rushing cascade from the President (pun intended) and the constant dripping of authority from the Court of Appeal about the importance of intellectual rigour in adoption cases. For we have all seen cases where delay has run wild, and a grave injustice is done. And I think if we are honest, we may now appreciate that there was a real need for a major shake up of the way we approach delay, and for the imposition of some form of constraint or structure. Professionals were lazy and late. Lawyers did take the piss. Judges eyes were sometimes off the ball. BUT. But but but. I can think of a number of cases where there has been unnecessary delay caused by parties other than parents or children and where in order to reach a fair and right outcome it is necessary to postpone a conclusion until beyond 26 weeks (culture change amongst lawyers and social workers is not yet complete). And I can think of a number of cases I have dealt with where rehabilitation has been possible but which under the new regime would be highly doubtful. And I can think of a number of frightening stories of misinterpretation at FPC level of the 26 week rule – where in essence we make it as fair as we can within 26 weeks, but if it hasn’t been done or can’t be done (for whatever reason) in time for 26 weeks thats tough. End of.

Its a difficult balance. It would be easier to identify and argue for those adjournments where on the merits an extension beyond 26 weeks is justified if we were not still dealing with cases where 26 weeks is rendered necessary by poor case management or preparation by the parties. The last two final hearings I’ve dealt with have been adjourned because they were not ready – if IRH’s were being properly utilised this should be a rare occurrence.

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3 thoughts on “Triumph of process over form?

  1. “Professionals were lazy and late. Lawyers did take the piss. Judges eyes were sometimes off the ball.”
    These are children’s futures. There is no excuse for being complacent where children are concerned, it’s not just a job, it’s peoples lives and the most vulnerable, innocent lives at that.
    These delays still happen regularly in Private Law and the causes are the same. When will Private Law be reformed in line with Public Law I wonder?

    • Brian, I don’t think its about complacency – but that as in any system people come to believe that the way they do things is the best or only way it can be done.
      Private law is due for a shake up – we are expecting Cobb J to report to the President on his private law proposals this month, and the Children & Families Bill is almost through Parliament. That of course will complicate the landscape further – implementing substantive statutory reform of the CA 1989 with the introduction of the Single Family Court and the 26 week time limit.

  2. Well said!! The LA and the Family Court don’t seem to be considering both the child!! Neither the respondent. Obviously the Child is Paramount!
    In the case I am talking about I shall not not mention the length of the case by weeks but I shall say over one year?
    Which ended in the Repondent being bullied by all parties as if he/she was a criminal, having to represent themselves. Basically being ripped to shreds. No consideration given to the emotional consequences of the Child! This was not even mentioned apart from by the Respondent! No evidence could could be obtained from the Local Authority, the Guardian, the Assessor (LA) of course? The Judge allowed the Respondent to be attacked by all parties in the stand. The respondent didn’t stand a chance! The welfare checklist may as well of been missing!
    Never mind the discrimination to the Respondent.
    The length of the case did nothing but formulate such a bond, that naturally the Child will be damaged! The time was used to dig up any dirt or allegations (non Factual) and build a case using this?
    Then it was suggested to the Respondent to keep going to contact until the Forced Adoption! Again raises the point of the Childs Welfare? Both physically & emotionally. Am thinking that at this point the Respondent being brave enough to say this is cruel to the Child because of the child’s age & recognising that this is not the way forward as the Child was the Respondents paramount concern! The Judge & all parties excluding the Respondent continually said that The Child – will not remember? Or suffer Seperation issues or emotional and Physical Trauma! Apparently Adoptive parents are perfect and don’t feud Ever? Thus Seperation from the Childs Family and heritage would be in the Childs best interest? Nothing to do with Adoption Targets. Adoption Targets play a pivatol roll in Adoption Cases which is denied! Courts & the LA should be held accountable & named and shamed for failing Children and denying that the Child shall not suffer?
    As pointed out in my earlier comment of Continue your Contact until Adoption!!! Especially as that could make the Child being around 18 months! When there has been no physical or emotional concerns against the Child! Just Well it could happen?? What is this country coming to? This time and money could of been spent on a child where abuse of some form had been suffered by the Child. Not What if? Does not form a case! More like hurry up before this child can speak!! Another reason, there is feuding within the family? That would apply to most cases in the Family Court and it was one argument which was not even a face to face argument? Showing that clearly the Respondent would not act in such a way with the child present? The case is now over so it is good to be able to release some steam!! Anyway one wishes as long as its not in the press! Heaven forbid I should mislay the case on a bus or train! That would be awful! For the LA or the Family Court. A word of advice to all of those facing Representing themself in Court, be prepared to be ripped to shreds and being treated like a criminal! Not someone who has shown nothing but love & commitment and then told to inflict the Child with more Love before they go to Perfect Adoptive Parents! Which I am sure do not exist!
    Anyway Lucy keep up your Good Work as I do enjoy yor blog I only wish that more people like you would stop conforming and expressing genuine concerns! It seems that the Family Court is full of lost souls fighting a loosing battle!! Take care.

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