There’s quite a lot in here, and as we know, speeches and views and opinions seem to have a habit of making their way into judgments, so it might be an advance insight.
The one that has already made the news is the President suggesting that consideration be given to taking divorce (as in the dissolution of the marriage, not the financial issues) out of the hands of judges and giving it to Registrars. That one needs a post all on its own (probably tomorrow) – I tend to agree with quite a lot of what he says on this, and the need for proper remedies for people who are not married but have had long term relationships / periods of cohabitation.
Here are the other big talking points
1 . Not helpful to think about adversarial v inquisitorial, but as more and more cases involve litigants in person who would rather be represented, Judges are going to need to play a larger role in the conduct of proceedings
The President says that in cases where there are litigants in person, the Judges are going to have to be more inquisitorial in style, and that sitting Sphinx-like until judgment isn’t going to work. He doesn’t think we are likely to end up with a continental style inquisitorial system, but we are a long way removed from the traditional adversarial system already.
2. Doesn’t think that the cuts will adversely affect the reforms
In fact the thrust of what the President seems to be saying here are that the reforms are vital because of the cuts, and that drive towards efficiency, cost-effectiveness and reducing time taken before the Court will allow for the litigant in person cases, which he accepts take longer
3. Believes that there will be a tipping point for mediation, where when it is sold correctly as to the benefits, more and more people will want to take it up [We are in an almost- crisis situation at the moment but once we get the message across it will be a very attractive option]
He was not keen on the idea of cost sanctions for failure to mediate or engage properly in mediation
4. Next stage of transparency will be greater access to court papers
As he rightly points out – if so much of a hearing is “Can I refer to to page B64, paragraph 6” then a journalist sitting in Court is not able to get any real sense of what is happening, what is being referred to. He says that there are going to be proposals about this in the very near future. He also indicates that because of the way that case numbers are coded, anyone who tries to work them out can quickly decipher that a Case Number refers to a Private Law case in Sunderland, as opposed to a Public Law case in Wolverhampton (He is wrong about the code for Brighton being BH though – for some reason I have never fathomed, it is UQ)
5. He is aware of the tension between what the Government say about adoption and what the Courts say
For me, this was the most interesting question, and indeed answer. It is clear that on the one hand, the Courts are implementing a “nothing else will do” philosophy on adoption, and on the other the Government has a pro-adoption agenda and is measuring Local Authorities on performance and threatening to remove these functions from Councils who don’t meet what the Government have in mind. What the President says, in effect, and much more politely than my shorthand summary, is that Parliament make the statutes, not Governments, and that if Parliament disagree with how the Courts are interpreting statute, then Parliament will need to change the statute. He acknowledges the tension (explicitly referencing that the Government have talked about local councils need to get away from the idea that adoption is the last resort) and says that on the ground, for Directors of Children’s Services, “it must be slightly difficult to know exactly what they should be doing given that tension” (something of an understatement)