Updates from the Bench

Local wellbeing consultation

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

HHJ George has today published a draft local practice guidelines which are intended to improve the wellbeing of those working under pressure within the family justice system.

The guidelines can be downloaded here.

HHJ George invites responses to the proposed document, which is currently under consultation. Any responses should be addressed for the attention of Justine Blackwell at family.leicester.countycourt@justice.gov.uk before 6th September 2019.

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Wellbeing, working groups and witness services: HHJ George’s June 2019 Newsletter

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Leicester DFJ HHJ George’s latest Newsletter contains essential reading for all family justice practitioners.

Her Honour anticipates the introduction of a Local Working Practice Protocol in respect of wellbeing in the coming months, which will be welcome news for all. Nevertheless, Leicester still falls well behind the national average for time taken to conclude care proceedings, so a new 100-Day checklist has been introduced to enable the Court and parties to identify potential delays – and hopefully address them – at an early stage. The checklist will be available for download from our INFORMATION CENTRE.

Local practitioners will also be buoyed by the news that the Citizen’s Advice service will soon be launching a dedicated witness service for those who have experienced domestic abuse and who are facing the Family Court unrepresented. Volunteers will be available daily at Wellington Street to advise and assist litigants in person, who can also access a separate waiting area if necessary. Requests for assistance can be made on the day of the hearing, or referrals may be made in advance. Further information, including a referral form, may be accessed here. The service will be available from 1st July 2019.

The Newsletter also helpfully collates the President’s recent practice guidance in respect of short-form orders, reporting restrictions and Special Guardianship Orders.

The Newsletter can be downloaded in full here.

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President’s Guidance on use of Short Form Orders

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has issued new guidance on the form of orders to be used in family proceedings, to take immediate effect.

Entirely unsurprisingly, following the release of the standard form orders 12 months ago, it has transpired that the production of lengthy court orders on every occasion is taking both lawyers, judges and legal advisers an inordinate amount of time. The orders have also proved impossible for litigants in person to use. Despite agreeing with the “laudable intentions” of the previous President in introducing the standard form orders, given the extreme pressure on the Family Court system at present, the standard form orders are no longer required.

The standard form order will still be required for the first hearing only. Thereafter, the order may take the “old style” short form, to include the following information only:

  1. A record of who attended and their representation;
  2. A recital of the issues determined at the hearing;
  3. A record of any agreement or concession made during the hearing;
  4. A recital of the issues that remain outstanding; and
  5. The text of any orders that were made.

The full text of the President’s Guidance can be downloaded here.

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HHJ George’s Inaugural Newsletter

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Happy New Year to all our members! And welcome to HHJ George as newly-appointed Designated Family Judge for Leicestershire.

Practitioners can anticipate the DFJ ringing the changes in 2019 to ensure that our average time for disposal of care and private law cases is reduced, quickly and significantly. The steps which the Family Court will expect all practitioners to take are set out in HHJ George’s first newsletter, which focuses on the need for everyone involved to remain as pro-active as possible in ensuring readiness for effective hearings. This applies to all stages of proceedings, but readers will note the renewed emphasis on the need for Issues Resolution Hearings to be as meaningful as possible.

The newsletter can be downloaded here; the extension of time proforma here and the President’s Allocation Guidance here.

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Bundle Warning

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Practitioners and court users should note that a revised PD27A will come into effect on 23rd July 2018.

 

The bundle practice direction remains largely unchanged, however there are some significant amendments which relate in particular to a new page limit being imposed on certain categories of documents by the new para. 5.2A.  The limits are as follows:

 

5.2A.1 Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, and subject to paragraph 5.2A.2 below, any of the following documents included in the bundle shall be limited to no more than the number of sheets of A4 paper and sides of text specified below:

Case summary 6
Statement of issues 2
Position statement 3
Chronology 10
Skeleton argument 20
List of essential reading 1
Witness statement or affidavit (exclusive of exhibits) 25
Expert’s or other report 40 (including executive summary at the beginning of no more than 4 pages)
Care plan 10

 

Plainly, permission may be given for documents to exceed this length where necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly.  What is not clear, however, is whether such permission should be sought in advance of the document being prepared and filed, or whether permission can operate retrospectively.  How will parties know in advance how long the as-yet unprepared document is likely to be?  What will be the effect of a refusal to grant retrospective permission for a statement or report to exceed the stated page limit?  Will the statement or report be excluded altogether or will it need to be amended or redacted in some way?  And how will the practice direction apply to documents which have already been filed in current proceedings which are not yet subject to the new rules?  All remains to be seen.

 

Practitioners are reminded that experts will need to be informed in advance of the requirement that their report and executive summary not exceed 40 and 4 pages respectively.

 

Please also take note of the following:

 

Penalties for failure to comply with the practice direction

12.1 Failure to comply with any part of this practice direction may result in the judge removing the case from the list or putting the case further back in the list and may also result in a ‘wasted costs’ order or some other adverse costs order.

 

Don’t say you weren’t warned…

 

The revised Practice Direction can be found here and will be uploaded to our INFORMATION CENTRE in due course.

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Order! Order!

  |   Events, Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Following consultation earlier this year, the President of the Family Division has released numerous comprehensive draft standard orders for use in all family proceedings.

 

It is important for practitioners to note the Practice Guidance issued in respect of the use of the orders.  Use is not mandatory, but it is strongly encouraged.  The most lengthy standard orders (orders in financial remedy proceedings and directions orders for private and public law children cases) are intended to be seen as precedents, from which practitioners ought to select the relevant sections to compile an appropriate order.  Amendment is permitted, where the case requires it.

 

The orders can be downloaded as a Zip file here.  In due course, we will upload the most common orders to the Information Centre.

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Newsletter May 2018

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Our local Circuit Judge “team” of HHJ Handley, HHJ George and (our newest addition) HHJ Godwin have today issued a joint Newsletter, updating practitioners on performance and issuing a few timely reminders of best practice.

 

Of particular note is the need for advocates to be ready to deal with Issues Resolution Hearings as effectively as possible, to ensure compliance with the PLO expectations.  Issues should be refined in advance at an advocates’ meeting and witness requirements and availability must be provided for the IRH, together with a realistic witness template.

 

The Newsletter can be downloaded here.

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