Updates from the Bench

Practice Guidance for Social Workers

  |   Latest News, Updates from the Bench

In liaison with legal officers from both of our area Local Authorities, I have prepared the attached Practice Guidance for Social Workers on the preparation of statements, assessments and chronologies.


I hope that the Guidance will assist local social workers in preparing cases for presentation at court as efficiently and succinctly as possible, in accordance with the PLO Guidance.  It should also enable advocates, Judges and court users to navigate their way more easily through local authority evidence.  The Guidance applies with immediate effect.


The Guidance should be read in conjunction with the Public Law Outline and the national Guidance for Completing Social Work Statements.  These documents, together with the Initial Case Analysis and Final Statement templates, can be downloaded from the PUBLIC LAW section of our Resources page.

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Judgment: Leicestershire County Council v T (Care Order: Placement Order)

  |   Case Updates, Latest News, Updates from the Bench

Please take note of the recently published judgment handed down by HIs Honour Judge Bellamy on 3rd September 2014 in the case of Leicestershire County Council v T (Care Order: Placement Order) [2014] EWFC B119.



The case concerns the placement of a child and considers issues of delay and the justifications for delay, expert evidence, alcohol misuse evidence and proper Re: B-S analysis and compliance.



The judgment follows an earlier published judgment in the same case handed down on 4th May 2014 when the proceedings were at 42 weeks [Re T (A Child: Delay – Extension – further assessments) [2014] EWFC B51].



The earlier judgment also considered delay and the justifications for delay in the context of additional expert evidence and assessment, and in the context of a re-emergence of a family member as a potentially viable option.

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Consultation: Transparency in the Family Court

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In August we posted the President’s recent consultation paper which addresses the proposals for next steps in improving transparency in the Family Court.


I understand that any responses ought to be submitted by 3rd October 2014, although it is likely that responses will still be received and considered for some time after that date.  I have provided my own response and would strongly encourage others to do the same.  The consultation paper raises significant issues which require the input of practitioners “at the coal face”.


A copy of the consultation paper, which includes details of how to respond, can be downloaded here.


HHJ Clifford Bellamy

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Rule 16.4 Practice Guidance

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Leicester practitioners are reminded of the importance of compliance with the local practice guidance issued in September 2013 as to the use of FPR 16.4 Guardians in private law cases.  The guidance has been operating well thus far, ensuring that Cafcass are properly consulted before the appointment of a Guardian, and that children are only joined within the proceedings with proper justification.


The Guidance can be downloaded here.

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Practice Note – Listing Issues Resolution Hearings

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Although Leicester has performed impressively within the last year in reducing the average duration of public law cases, and many cases are now concluding within the statutory 26-week time limit, unfortunately court lists and the availability of final hearing dates is hampering this progress.


I have issued a practice note in relation to the listing of the IRH: all parties and the court should aim to list the IRH between week 18-20 wherever possible.  Hopefully this will allow for the earlier resolution of cases which need to be timetabled to a final hearing.


The practice note can be downloaded here.

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Local Practice Note – Timetable Extensions

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It has come to my attention that local practitioners are not correctly seeking, or recording the reasons for, extensions to the 26 week timetable for public law proceedings under s.32 Children Act 1989 (as amended).


Permission for extensions must be sought from the court if the case is going to proceed beyond the 26 week limit.  Each extension may only be made for up to 8 weeks.  Permission for any subsequent extension must also be sought; permission will only be granted for any extension if it is deemed by the court to be necessary to resolve the proceedings justly.  Extensions will not be granted routinely and must be justified with proper reasons.


It is essential that the court is able to keep track of the progress of each case and the reasons for each extension granted.  Advocates must be alive to the need to request extensions in the appropriate way and to properly record the reasons on the face of each order.  I have issued a local practice note which will apply with immediate effect in order to ensure consistent practice and remind advocates of the need to approach each case in this way.


The practice note can be downloaded here and is available in the Public Law section of the Resources page.

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