I’ve noticed that the MoJ twitter account has a fondness for the hashtag #keepitoutofcourt *.
So they will no doubt be doubly pleased today.
Firstly, because in an innovative new form of Non Court Dispute Resolution that really does qualify for the now out of favour epithet “alternative”, fathers have begun taking justice to the MoJ along with their tents. To be more precise they are setting up camp on the Lord Chancellor’s roof. Keeping it out of court there. And out of doors it seems…
Secondly, because there are some stonking statistics that prove that people are #keepingitoutofcourt en masse. Yes, CAFCASS stats show a 36% decrease in private law applications for this July compared with last. And those of you who are as geeky as me about these stats will not have neglected to notice that this is not entirely a product of the abnormally high figures for last July – if you compare the stats since 2010 the figure of 2928 is substantially lower than any single year since 2010, and still 29% lower than July 2012, which is the last pre-LASPO comparator.
Here’s a thought though : If we’re getting 30% less cases does that represent a 30% drop in legal aid costs or a 30% drop in court resource? Ah reck’n not.
As for legal aid I would guess that a greater concentration of cases involve *one* party who is publicly funded, because the LASPO effect means that the preponderance of cases that proceed involve DV or CP issues. Most of these cases also involve one LiP. Many of the rest involve two. And of those involving a LiP the amount of time spend working out how to achieve fair trial in the absence of legal aid costs time and money to resolve, as recent caselaw demonstrates. Perhaps the overall financial cost has reduced but the level of wasted time and cost arguing about what legal aid will and won’t pay for is scandalous. And how do you factor in the long term social cost in those cases not pursued? How do you quantify the additional cost of mental health and social services to the generation of children whose relationship with their “other” parent has withered or who have been exposed to harm by a parent and who suffer the consequences as adults and as parents?
As for court time, anecdotally many courts are now giving FHDRAs 50-100% more listing time due to the impact of LiPs on their lists – and as for the number and duration of substantive hearings well, my consistent experience is that there is regularly a need for additional hearings with longer time estimates in cases involving LiPs – sometimes they can be quicker but usually not. So, if for every 100 cases that a court previously dealt with it is now dealing only with 70, lets say probably about half of that remaining 70 will require on average twice as much time. Lets say on average each case without LiPs requires 1 unit of time and each LiP case requires 2. So on the old caseload 100 units.
35 x 1 = 35
35 x 2 = 70
= 105 units of time compared to 100 (and that is even without the additional time required to deal with our beloved CAP forms).
Of course there are a number of assumptions and generalisations there, and to some extent I’m working back from my strong sense that whatever the stats say the courts are no less busy and are struggling more than they were say 2 years ago. I know I know. They aren’t even statistics, they are IFTTTs….But you get my point. And that’s the purpose of statistics, right?
Anyway, it’s all about the hashtag folks. So if you are feeling despondent remember : #keepitoutofcourt
And in the unlikely event you are still feeling despondent, you can read this sunshiney summary of all the glorious things that have happened since the Family Justice Review, entitled “A Brighter Future for Family Justice”. I have not yet read all of it, but apart from some minor inaccuracies (only about the law you know) I did notice a reference to implementation in “the autumn” of the parental involvement provisions. According to the Bright Future document, that provision is “to send a…message to parents about the approach which the courts will take” (the one’s who aren’t #keepingitoutofcourt, obviously).
Right. I’m off to devise a system of alternative access to justice that can be achieved in 140 characters or less. The problem is that I got as far as “a child arrangements order naming the person with whom a child is to live and specifying with whom the child should have contact or otherwi” before running out of room…
* Except when it’s adoption of course because then its #getitinandoutofcourtquickerthanyoucansaymartinnarey