Has the 26 week target been snuck in by the back door?
There’s a new computer system for care proceedings in the Courts which tracks a variety of useful pieces of information, and is worth reading, because it has come in for all new cases issued after 2nd April.
The Courts have been given some guidance, which I set out below, and can also be found here :-
Look specifically at the passages about Timetable for the Child, which is all calculated on the basis that the timetable for the child (in which the proceedings should be resolved) is 26 weeks from issue. This is in readiness for the change to the law to make that a hard cap. (but of course we don’t yet have such a cap)
Obviously, this is just guidance to the Court staff on the new system and not legal authority for 26 weeks, but I do suspect that some resistance will be encountered when listing IRHs on new cases that go outside the 26 week period that the computer is setting as a maximum, and it appears that where the Court decide that the case will go over 26 weeks they have to make a formal decision about this and record it on the face of the order.
It’s always nice, when introducing new principles about timing of care proceedings, to bury them in some guidance to court staff as to how to use their new computer system…
THE NEW CARE MONITORING SYSTEM:
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTITIONERS
The new care monitoring system (CMS) is a judicially led management information programme intended to provide accurate ongoing information about case volumes, case progress and allocation. The system will provide the case management information necessary to enable leadership judges and the administration to oversee and manage public law caseloads and the allocation of individual cases in their Care Centres. The programme will also assist judges, legal advisers and magistrates to focus on avoiding delay for children and will help identify the real causes of delay. CMS has been jointly developed by the judiciary and HMCTS and has been written to a judicial specification which looks at both the real progress of a case through the court and the DFJ’s and JC’s responsibilities for all cases within their courts.
The system is being piloted nationwide from the 2nd April 2012 from when all new care and supervision cases will be entered on to the system.
The CMS case summary will provide judges/legal advisers/benches with ongoing information updated for every hearing about the ages of the child or children they are dealing with, the length of time a case has been running (measured in weeks), the number of hearings which there have been, any adjournments of hearings and applications for experts.
TRACKING THE AGE OF THE CASE BY REFERENCE TO THE TIMETABLE FOR THE CHILD
In preparation for the reforms which are contemplated in the family modernisation programme, and for the purpose of this trial, all cases will be given a standard 26 week timetable on issue. The system will keep track of where the case is in the process and whether it is on time to be completed within the 26 week period.
If, at any point, the court decides that the timetable for the child is such that the proceedings will not be completed within 26 weeks of issue then it will make a decision about this. The determination of the timetable for the child must be done at the CMC. This must be done in court in the presence of the parties based on the evidence and information available and what it is necessary to do to conclude the proceedings. The timetable should then be expressed as the expected number of weeks which are necessary to conclude the proceedings. This must then be recorded on the face of the order (usually in the form of a recital). Staff will use that order to input the data onto the CMS.
The timetable for two or more children involved in the same proceedings may be different. Once the expected conclusion date has been set as being outside 26 weeks, it cannot be reset; however this does not preclude the case being completed earlier than the expected conclusion date.
* Re November – it doesn’t quite work out, because 26 weeks is mid-October, but I didn’t think “October, the trees are all bare’ works as well, and also, it reminded me of the brilliant Vic and Bob sketch, where Vic is Craig David, working in a garage shop, and Bob is his manager, rollicking him for not turning up on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc and then Chilling on Sunday. Craig David quits, and is replaced by Wyclef, who cheerfully tells poor Bob that he’ll be “gone till November”