Book Review: THE RED BOOK (Family Court Practice 2011)

Many will already have their Red Book by now. But many will still be pondering it, increasingly conscious of the delicate balance between overheads and income. But really, if ever there was a year when you needed an up to date FCP it is this year. 2010 editions are pretty much obsolete as a result of the introduction of the FPR 2010, and for those of you like me who have been getting by on a 2009 edition and the occasional borrow of a 2010 - you really need to take a deep breath and click "buy".

First things first: it's not much bigger. Some things are new or additional, others have become redundant or have been repealed.

The Red Book 2011

Of course it is already out of date, as is the way with any print publication. The FPR have been amended already and the Red Book will not incorporate this. It does however contain the new Care Planning, Placement & Case Review (England) Regs 2010 which replace the Placement with Parents Regs (not in Wales).

The format is pretty familiar: Procedural Guides and then Statutes make up the first two sections. However there is now a separate section for Procedure Rules, and this is set out so as to incorporate the PDs to each part of the rules at the end of that part, rather than in a separate PDs section. This seems a sensible decision and is quite workable. Also in this section are relevant extracts of the CPR, CCR, Mags Court Rules and Supreme Court Rules.

There is now a much smaller section for Statutory Instruments, the most regularly relevant of which are likely to be the CPPCR Regs mentioned above, the Allocation & Transfer of Proceedings Order and the provisions on appeals and international adoptions.

Part V contains all the pre-existing PDs which are not specifically incorporated into the FPR but which are "thought to be still in force at the time of going to press". As may be imagined, many are rather arcane or obscure, but a few are likely to be useful from time to time.

As previously European material is contained in the final Part.

I have been trialling this edition of the Red Book in court for a couple of weeks, but it is difficult without a rather more sustained period of use to assess the index fully. It appears from my limited test drive that the index may be rather more comprehensive in this edition than previously. The utterly useless index has always been something of a bugbear with me, whilst the logical arrangement of sections by type and in alphabetical order has always been something of a saving grace.

There is a reasonable amount of commentary in the notes to the FPR, but perhaps unsuprisingly no answers to questions such as "what is the position in respect of appeals / set asides where no error of the court is alleged?" (or none that I can find). The one clue in relation to that that I have been able to locate is at p2051 in the discussion of costs provisions, where "set aside" and "barder appeals" is listed alongside "other part 18 applications" as a species of financial remedy proceedings, which implies that the editor of that section considered that such applications are still permissible, although it does not tell us how they are to be framed or from where jurisdiction arises.

The Red Book is clearly a mammoth undertaking, particularly since so much of it's contents this year are entirely new. But it is important that it is a trustworthy and reliable repository of core information. It is somewhat concerning to note therefore to note errors in the transposition of the FPR from the Statutory Instrument into the text of this work. For example at p2049-2050 rule 28.3(4) is incorrectly numbered, and a commentary note intending to relate to this rule itself transposes 28.4(3) for 28.3(4). These may be an isolated errors, and in the grand scheme of things do not present too much of a problem, but coupled with the fact that a printing error left me having to return my review copy for a fresh one (having identified that it was missing a large chunk of pages) it leaves me slightly uneasy. Hopefully these understandable difficulties will be ironed out by the time the 2012 edition is published and, as post-FPR caselaw emerges, the commentary will no doubt begin to add more value.

You can buy the Family Court Practice directly from Jordans although you may find it [amazon_link id="1846612810" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]cheaper to shop around[/amazon_link] (saving almost £40 off the £350 cover price).

Book Review: Legal Aid Handbook

Julia Belyavin

This review is a guest post written by  Julia Belyavin, barrister at St John’s Chambers, Bristol.

 

Legal Aid Handbook 2011/12, Ed Vicky Lang & Simon Pugh (Legal Action Group)

LAG Handbook

I’ll be honest, when I was reminded that I’d said I’d review the Legal Aid Handbook 2011/12, my heart sank.  It was definitely a ‘what was I thinking?’ moment.  And it is fair to say that the subject matter is, by its very nature, fairly dry and technical.  However, this guide compresses the need-to-know basics (plus a brief gallop through where we are now and quite where reforms might take us) into fewer than 400 pages.  Compared to the 3 volume LSC Manual, that alone makes it a godsend.  The language is clear, informative and as jargon free as it is realistic to expect in the circumstances.  Certainly from the perspective of a family barrister the information was accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief (if you’ll excuse the lawyer’s pun) and it was also very helpful to get a perspective on the duties (and workload) of solicitors.  Of course, given its length it is not and cannot be comprehensive but salient points are covered and there are useful references to the relevant parts of the Manual/LSC website (the latter particularly helpful, as the search engine rarely comes up trumps in my experience).  However, it gives advice about all stages of client representation, from assessing eligibility, representation (if required) and the small matter of receiving payment.  All in, this is a great starting point for any queries about legal aid, and a useful addition to the library.

The Legal Aid Handbook can be purchased from the LAG online bookshop here.

Book review: The Family Lawyer and the Court of Protection

The Family Lawyer and the Court of Protection

The Family Lawyer and the Court of Protection

In these wobbly and ever changing days, family lawyers in particular are re-appraising their skillset and breadth of practice. Many are wondering if they should be bringing themselves up to speed in respect of Court of Protection work, and this is not lost on family law publishers Jordans, who have a number of titles and who are running a conference on the topic in September (details here). Amongst the speakers at that event will be the author of this book, District Judge Marc Marin. No doubt to some extent his sessions will be a reprise of the contents of the book, with some updating to reflect subsequent caselaw (the book was published in 2010 and there have been a number of reported cases since).

As an entry point into this area of work this book is really helpful. It is unlikely to be sufficient in itself as a core sourcebook for a specialist Court of Protection practice, but it helps the reader to understand the bare bones of the statutory and procedural framework, and developing ethos and practices in this emerging arena. Family lawyers tend to be cognizant of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 only insofar as it provides us with a working statutory definition of “capacity” for the purposes of family proceedings. The reader is taken through this and the wider ranging provisions of the Act; there is much more to the Act than this single aspect.

The Act itself is usefully set out in full in the Appendices, along with the Procedure Rules and accompanying Practice Directions. In that respect it is a handy pocket sized reference guide for core material.

As for the procedure rules themselves, family lawyers will find much that is familiar, both in terms of structure (very similar to the Family Procedure Rules 2010) and spirit (overriding objective, case management powers etc.). There are of course significant differences in approach between the two courts and this book is useful in highlighting some of those potential pitfalls. The author suggests that the Court of Protection is prepared to adopt a far more summary and informal approach to straightforward cases than is often the case in family work. How much this is a reflection of judicial style and practice at the central base of the Court in Archway, and how much it is “rolled out” across the Court of Protection in the regions is unclear.

Helpful for even those lawyers not intending to carve out a practice in the Court of Protection is the clear explanation of the overlapping jurisdictions of the Court of Protection and the Family Courts, and guidance as to how best to choose between or combine the two courts. This is something that all family lawyers should be up to speed with, but I suspect there is in fact a widespread knowledge gap (which in my case this book has gone a long way to remedying).

Unusually, for a practitioner's textbook, the book contains a number of worked through case studies and sample forms, which are helpful in jolting family practitioners out of misplaced assumptions about how things might be done, based on family court experience. I was left wondering slightly how much the description of the Court of Protection’s practice was a reflection of the personal approach of the author himself, but this is probably because the court and its procedures are so new that much of the guidance in this area has had to be drawn from personal knowledge rather than caselaw, which remains pretty thin on the ground. Ultimately though, the guidance of a judge experienced in both jurisdictions has got to be a pretty good starting point. The Family Lawyer and the Court of Protection can be purchased from Jordans for £60.00 here.