Access to justice – during office hours only

Our local court recently re-circulated the contact details and instructions for the out of hours emergency court service - a mobile number that is kept on when the court is closed, so that really urgent hearings can be convened at evenings and weekends, when genuinely necessary.

In our field of work that is likely to be where there is an abduction or some high risk situation involving a child - stuff that really can't wait.

But the number is "strictly for legal professionals only" and isn't available to litigants in person.

Clearly it's important that the system isn't abused with people ringing in to try and secure urgent hearings that aren't really urgent - but is it justifiable to withhold this route of access to the court from litigants in person now that they make up such a significant portion of court users?

I don't know what the answer is really, because I can see it could be a total disaster to give this number out. And in the majority of urgent scenarios legal aid would probably be available, so there is likely a limited need for this service. But it's an illustration of how we've yet to fully adapt to the new order of things.


P.S.11 May : The Royal Courts of Justice DO have an out of hours number for high court matters, that is available to the public. See here. It is possible that contact to this number in cases of suspected / imminent abduction will result in contact being made with a local court or with  an urgent hearing being convened in the High Court, possibly by telephone. It shouldn't be forgotten that if you are worried about abduction you may well qualify for legal aid. Thanks to the lovely twitterer who reminded me of this (but whose tweets have now disappeared so far down my timeline I can't find them)...

12 thoughts on “Access to justice – during office hours only

  1. @Amuminrecovery

    I love your blog – I spoke to you briefly last year about acting as a LIP, and we spoke of the guest blog but then the then the case picked up – I wanted to say thanks – and you’ve inspired me to write my first blog post since. Keep up the great writing and work you do! It makes such a massive difference to mums and dads in the family courts, it’s priceless really.


    • Aw, thanks. Glad to be of service. 🙂

      • Any insight on occupation order how to fight ex partner made Alegation of dv but had nfa from police

        • NFA from police does not necessarily mean that a non molestation or occupation order can’t be made. Family Court works on civil not criminal standard of proof (balance of probabilities not beyond reasonable doubt). And actually an occupation order doesn’t require proof of violence (although that is often the basis for such an order being made). It is based on the balance of potential significant harm depending on whether the order is or isn’t made (slightly different depending on marital status and occupation rights).

  2. @Amuminrecovery

    This is going to lower the tone a bit, however …. if Carlsberg did LiP Family Law legal advice….

  3. What an appalling way to behave. HMCTS cannot operate a justice monopoly with lawyers, they are paid by the taxpayer and server the taxpayer.

    Freedom of Information request I think.

    • Asking what?

    • Well here’s what HMCTS say:

      Refused under section 31(1)(c) disclosure would prejudice the administration of justice.

      “There are established routes for the public to contact HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS). Disclosing this information to the general public could lead to misuse of the system and restrict those who do require urgent court business. Any urgent applications can be dealt with in normal court opening hours by contacting or visiting the local court.”

      “The urgent court business scheme was set up to deal with urgent work only defined as injunctions, Children Act applications e.g. Emergency protection order; and other urgent applications, where an individual’s personal safety, well-being, business or assets may be at risk. The telephone numbers are already disclosed as part of the scheme to the following professional services; Police, Local Law Society, Local Authority Social Services Department and Local Bar. They would be the first point of contact and they would then contact the court on behalf of the person if urgent court business is then required.”

      The Local Law Society and Local Bar are now emergency services? So how does a desperate parent call their Local Bar in the middle of the night?

      Apparently urgent for Litigants in Person means normal business hours, whereas urgent for lawyers is any time of the day or night.

  4. Brian Wareham

    Well…room for improvement straight away! How about a national CTS out of hours number with a prerecorded answering introduction stating this number isn’t for idiots asking about their eviction notice, go through to a meagrely paid civil servant who finally vets the call who then contacts the relevant regional duty judge with all the details. No discrimination at all. Not even ‘professionals’ get the duty mobile phone number (probably no reception in the countryside where the mobile phone will more than likely be at!).

    • see my PS…

      • Brian Wareham

        Seen…I see that the night security at the Royal courts give value for money when they have their feet up on the desk staring at the CCTV perimeter monitors!
        I’ve noticed it’s for the High Court. What about us skivvies whose justice can only really be expected to be dispensed at the “Conveyor-belt bargain basement” County Courts? (Rhetorical Question!)

  5. […] This is a bit of a rant, it was in response to a great article called Access to Justice on the Family Law blog ‘ Pink Tape’. ….. […]

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