The Sixth View from the President’s Chambers has been cascaded upon us, like a refreshing rain shower. Apart from the standard 26 week / Single Family Court fare there are actual concrete promises on private law. There will be recommendations by 8 November. Not recommendations we will see or that will be implemented by 8 November mind you, but recommendations nonetheless. And since Cobb J is heading up the Private Law Working Group there every likelihood they will be considered and sensible recommendations (although even Cobb J can’t work a miracle). So hurray for that. ‘Bout flippin’ time.
In other good news. We don’t get reported to the Bar Council for use of an ordinal possessive. Yet. Phew. We all misunderstood View 4, which just goes to show how careful you actually DO need to be with your words….Oh the irony… However, we are expected (by implication) to have an ipad or laptop at court, as manuscript tailor made orders are OUT and prescribed electronic templates are IN (or will be soon). Down with Biros, harbingers of delay and inefficiency!
Personally I try to go paper free repeatedly, but revert to manuscript drafting after every abortive and frustrating attempt to draft using my laptop – it cannot and will not work* until there is free wifi in all court buildings (court premises appear to either exist in 3G blackspots or are constructed so as to dampen any 3G signal to the point where you can only send an email if you hang your ipad out the window so wifi is the only way). AND there will still be a need for HMCTS to accommodate printing of hard copies. I for one prefer not to hand my laptop over to opposing counsel with unpredictable clients, complete with all sorts of confidential data on it, so they can take their client through an order.
The President is seeking feedback on assorted issues, in particular transparency and bundles. Bet his secretary is pleased.
* I know I know: it can work it must work it will work.
This is a guest post written by Allan Norman (@CelticKnotTweet). Allan is a registered social worker and a solicitor at Celtic Knot – Solicitors and Social Workers.
[Update from Lucy : Today judgment in this case was handed down (see press summary). The parents' appeal was dismissed. Some comments which were held back pending judgment have now been published.]
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will give judgment In the matter of B (a Child).
It will be less than four months since Lady Hale observed,
It is some indication of the importance of the issues that the apparently simple words [of the legal threshold for the making of a care order for a child] have been considered by the House of Lords and the Supreme Court in no less than six cases… [ J (Children), Re  UKSC 9 (20 February 2013) at paragraph 3]
This will be the seventh. And possibly the most important. The Supreme Court is once again considering when the State can remove children from their families. A number of the earlier cases have dealt with issues around the nature and burden of proof, problems arising from the fact that unlike the criminal courts, we are dealing with protecting from future harm, rather than punishing for past harm. Unquestionably important, but dry.
First of all the ALC website reported Ryder’s apparent acknowledgment at the NAGALRO conference that the 26 week limit was only currently achievable in about 30% of cases. And then it disappeared. Except of course you can’t disappear something you’ve published on the internet “juslikethat”, Tommy Cooper stylee. Family Law Week had already reported it. And so there was an odd void on the ALC website for a period. A post with no content…Begging the question.
Now it has been replaced with a post that says (I paraphrase) “this is what we reported was said, this is what the Judicial Office say was in fact said, and just for good measure here is Ryder J’s rider “for the avoidance of doubt”.
This is what was originally reported:
“Practitioners from different parts of the country raised concerns about courts rigidly implementing the 26 week timetable. One child care lawyer asked Mr Justice Ryder if he was aware that in the experience of many lawyers, the 26 weeks requirement had been written “on tablets of stone” – even if it led to a denial of justice for children and parents. Ryder J responded that the 26 weeks was not written in stone, that it was aspirational, and that in his view it may be achieved in two years’ time.
Both he and McFarlane LJ were very clear that there was “no missive from on high”, and no direction given to impose 26 weeks. The family modernisation programme did not have the status of a practice direction. Ryder J went on to observe that early data being collected from courts showed that the 26 week timetable was only achievable in about 30% of cases.”