A few pieces of information that weren’t necessarily known before, that emerged from a talk he kindly gave in my neck of the woods. I arrived late, so if I missed any announcement about Chatham House rules, I’ll obviously take this down.
1. There is a judicial review lodged about the LSC and whether they were reasonable in a particular case in refusing funding. From the very little that was given away, it seems to be a case involving private law, and parents who could not afford an assessment deemed important by the Court, so the report was commissioned and the costs directed to the Guardian’s public funding certificate. No timescales for when this will be heard. The Judge was obviously very circumspect, and appropriately so, and did not discuss any detail or view of the case, but merely passing on that such a case was in the pipeline.
2. In drug and alcohol cases where longer testing is required, they might be able to exceed the 26 week limit -BUT it would be after the Court had inspected the evidence and considered that the timetable for THAT child warranted the case going beyond 26 weeks.
3. They have been discussing what to do with family and friends who present as viable but come forward very late in the proceedings; one possibility being actively considered is whether the Care Order be made (with the Court effectively determining that the child won’t live with parents) and then the Placement Order/SGO/residence application be ‘uncoupled’ from the care proceedings and dealt with after assessments are done.
4. The judiciary are alive to the idea that when Parliament constructs the statutory framework for 26 week time cap, the exceptions need to not be based solely on complexity – the particular example given was of a first time teenage mother who just needs a longer period of monitoring and testing and learning, and whilst that wouldn’t be complex, there could well be a need for the case to go beyond 26 weeks. The suggestion was that the Court would need to consider and record on the orders why the timescale for that child went beyond 26 weeks. In order to present a balanced picture to the legislators, Justice Ryder was suggesting that Courts should ideally be recording that sort of thing on orders now, to build up a proper framework of what sort of cases genuinely need more time.
5. It did sound like the LSC might be having second thoughts about the Pandora’s Box of prior authority, and the senior judiciary are talking with them about possible solutions.
It was an interesting talk, delivered well, all questions given proper answers, and even my cynicism wavered slightly. It does honestly sound as though they mean it this time – change is a’coming.