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.