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Tag Archives: 26 week timetable

Sentence first, verdict afterwards

Some extraordinary appeals kicking around – there’s a cracker called Re A, which involves a judge shouting at a 13 year old child and threatening to make costs orders against her personally (but I’m waiting for that to go up on Bailii).

 

In the meantime, this little treasure.

Re S-W children 2015

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/27.html

 

Three children, 14, 11 and 10. They’d been living with grandparents for about a year and a half by the time the case came to Court, because the mother was having problems with alcohol and drugs and was struggling to end a violent relationship.  There had been a period just before issue where rehabilitation looked like a possibility, but the assessment looking at that had been unsuccessful.

It wasn’t an initial hearing where there looked to be great prospects of these children returning to mother’s care, but one has to bear in mind that these were not tiny tots, but children of 14,11 and 10, and who would have their own views to express and be considered.

The Children’s Guardian had made it plain in the initial document that she hadn’t been able to meet the children yet, but knew that all three were saying they wanted to go home to mother, and that this would be an important part of her work.

The first hearing then, was one in which all of the lawyers were in agreement that there was some work to be done

 

i) The local authority would pay for a drugs hair strand test on the mother. This was a matter of considerable importance …….because

ii) the local authority were to convene a Family Group conference in order to see if a way could be found for LW to return, in whole or part, to the care of his mother. It was hoped that if that could safely be achieved, it might act as a break on the disruptive behaviour which was leading to the constant breakdown in his placements. The local authority note of the meeting says “is it just about good enough with mum, may be able to go back.” The timetable was to provide for an addendum to the parenting assessment already filed by the local authority;

iii) Efforts were to be made to trace the father of ES who had not been served;

iv) Neither of the grandmothers wished to be considered as foster carers and therefore Special Guardianship assessments were to be carried out by the local authority with a view to securing the future of those two children by the making of Special Guardianship Orders;

v) It was agreed that a slimmed down number of documents from that listed by the Guardian in her report would be disclosed, but that only one or two of those documents would be placed in the bundle. This would allow the Guardian to carry out a full review of the case whilst ensuring compliance with Practice Direction 27A – Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be applied in the High Court and Family Court)… the Bundles Direction) para 5.1 which limits the court bundle to 350 pages of A4 text; (see also Re W (Children)(Strict Compliance with Court Orders) [2014] EWFC 22);

vi) The matter would be listed for an early Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH) with a view to the case being concluded substantially within 26 weeks.

 

The Judge, His Honour Judge Dodds (who you might remember from https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/07/02/go-on-then-appeal-me-i-dare-you     – they did, he lost)  took something of a robust approach, making Care Orders and ending the case at the first hearing, making that decision within minutes, not listening to anyone, and not giving a judgment.

 

  1. A transcript of the hearing in front of the judge has been made available; it reveals that within a matter of minutes, the judge had made abundantly clear, in trenchant terms, his determination to conclude the case there and then by making final care orders. The judge was fortified in his approach, he told the parties, by the fact that the previous week (30 July 2014), an application for permission to appeal in relation to another final care order he had made at the CMH in a different case had been refused by McFarlane LJ : Re H (Children) Case No: B4/2014/2033.
  2. The judge was scathing of the Guardian’s report and her reasons for requesting further information, saying that “advice about the practice direction that came in on 31st July” (a reference to the new Bundles Direction), would signal the end to what he referred to as “this sort of Victorian detail”.
  3. In relation to LW’s situation he said that whilst he wished LW “every good luck in the world but the Children Act and the court has nothing to do with it”.
  4. All the parties crumbled under the judge’s caustically expressed views, and as a consequence, were unable to explain to the judge that the situation was more complicated than the one the judge clearly saw, and expressed. The judge viewed the case as one in which he had before him three children each of whom had been in care for well over a year, two of whom were in settled placements. The mother he saw had had a recent positive drugs test, and therefore in his mind, the inevitable outcome was the making of care orders. The judge said that all future placement decisions in relation to LW would be made by the local authority through the Looked After Children review process (LAC reviews).
  5. At one stage the judge referred to the mother as looking “upset and bewildered”. It is hard to see how she could have looked otherwise given the course the proceedings were taking.
  6. The judge gave neither a judgment nor reasons prior to making final care orders in relation to all three children.

 

I imagine there was something of a sprint or scissors-paper-stone battle as to which of the parties was going to appeal this first.  Bear in mind that this was a DIRECTIONS hearing, the first hearing in the case and that nobody had been suggesting that the Court should make final orders.

 

The Court of Appeal had to consider whether the Judge might, just might, have exceeded his robust case management powers, and instead made an order which was disproportionate and unfair.

The fact that when Permission to appeal was granted, McFarlane LJ had effectively said to the appeal judges “Bloody hell folks, you really need to check THIS ONE out” was rather telling:-

“In any event, there is a compelling reason sufficient to justify this case being considered by the Court of Appeal. The judge’s approach could not have been more robust. He sought to justify such an approach on the basis that recent family justice reforms and case law. There is a need for the Court of Appeal to consider whether such a robust summary approach is justified and/or required by the recent extensive changes to procedure and case law and, if so, how the basic requirements of a fair trial and judicial analysis are to be accommodated in such a process”.

 

Nicely put.  The  approach adopted ‘could not have been more robust’  – well, not unless the advocates in sequential order had carefully and precisely driven their cars into the Judge’s own car in front of him, moments before the hearing. The Court of Appeal do wonders with their “hell to the power of no, squared”

  1. The expectation is therefore that a CMH will ordinarily be an essential management hearing designed to get the case in proper order to enable it to be ready for disposal, whether by consent or following a contested hearing, within 26 weeks. This is in contrast to the IRH when all the evidence, including expert evidence should be filed and where, unlike the CMH, the rules specifically require consideration to be given as to whether the IRH “can be used as a final hearing” (PD12A Stage 3- Issues Resolution Hearing)
  2. Every care judge will be conscious that, whilst it is in a child’s best interests for their future to be determined without delay, it is equally in their best interests that the management of the case which determines their future should be fair and Article 6 compliant. The danger lies when, as unfortunately happened here, vigorous and robust case management tips over into an unfair summary disposal of a case.

 

The President took up the baton

  1. My Lord has drawn attention to the famous words of Lord Hewart CJ in R v Sussex Justices [1924] 1 KB 256, 259. In the present case it is unhappily all too apparent that no dispassionate observer of the proceedings or reader of the transcript could think that justice was done, let alone that it was seen to be done. It was not.
  2. Vigorous and robust case management has a vital role to play in all family cases, but as rule 1.1 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 makes clear, the duty of the court is to “deal with cases justly, having regard to any welfare issues involved”. So, as my Lord has emphasised, robustness cannot trump fairness.
  3. In the context of case management, fairness has two aspects: first, the case management hearing itself must be conducted fairly; secondly, as I observed in the passage in Re TG to which my Lord has referred, the task of the case management judge is to arrange a trial that is fair. Here, there was a failure in both respects.
  4. We are all familiar with the aphorism that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. But justice can equally be denied if inappropriately accelerated. An unseemly rush to judgment can too easily lead to injustice. As Pauffley J warned in Re NL (A child) (Appeal: Interim Care Order: Facts and Reasons) [2014] EWHC 270 (Fam), [2014] 1 FLR 1384, para 40, “Justice must never be sacrificed upon the altar of speed.”
  5. Rule 22.1 gives the case management judge extensive powers to control the evidence in a children case: see Re TG, paras 27-28. But these powers must always be exercised, especially in care cases where the stakes are so high, in a way which pays due regard to two fundamental principles which apply as much to family cases as to any other type of case.
  6. First, a parent facing the removal of their child must be entitled to put their case to the court, however seemingly forlorn. It is one of the oldest principles of our law – it goes back over 400 years, to the earliest years of the seventeenth century – that no-one is to be condemned unheard: see Re G (Care: Challenge to Local Authority’s Decision) [2003] EWHC 551 (Fam), [2003] 2 FLR 42, paras 28-29. As I observed (para 55):

    “The fact, if fact it be, that the circumstances are such as to justify intervention by the State, … does not absolve the State of its duty nonetheless to act fairly. It is not enough for the State to make a fair decision: the State must itself act fairly in the way in which it goes about arriving at its decision.”

    A parent who wishes to give evidence in answer to a local authority’s care application must surely be permitted to do so.

  7. Secondly, there is the right to confront ones accusers. So, a parent who wishes to cross-examine an important witness whose evidence is being relied upon by the local authority must surely be permitted to do so.
  8. I stress the word important. I am not suggesting that a parent has an absolute right to cross-examine every witness or to ask unlimited questions of a witness merely with a view to ‘testing the evidence’ or in the hope, Micawber-like, that something may turn up. Case management judges have to strike the balance, ensuring that there is a fair trial, recognising that a fair trial does not entitle a parent, even in a care case, to explore every by-way, but also being alert to ensure that no parent is denied the right to put the essence of their case to witnesses on those parts of their evidence that may have a significant impact on the outcome.
  9. Quite apart from the fundamentally important points of principle which are here in play, there is great danger in jumping too quickly to the view that nothing is likely to be achieved by hearing evidence or allowing cross-examination, in concluding that the outcome is obvious. My Lord has referred to what Megarry J said in John v Rees. The forensic context there was far removed from the one with which are here concerned, but the point is equally apposite. As I said in Re TG, para 72:

    “Most family judges will have had the experience of watching a seemingly solid care case brought by a local authority being demolished, crumbling away, at the hands of skilled and determined counsel.”

  10. I agree with my Lady that there can, in principle, be care cases where the final order is made at the case management hearing. But, unless the decision goes by concession or consent, it will only be exceptionally, in unusual circumstances and on rare occasions, that this can ever be appropriate. Re H, to which my Lady has referred, was such a case, but the particular and unusual facts which there justified a summary process need to be borne in mind. Re H is not and must not be treated as justification for any general principle, let alone for proceeding as the judge did in the present case.
  11. Quite apart from the fact that such a ruthlessly truncated process as the judge adopted here was fundamentally unprincipled and unfair, it also prevented both the children’s guardian and the court doing what the law demanded of them in terms of complying with the requirements of the Children Act 1989 and PD12A. I agree with my Lady’s analysis, in particular in relation to care plans and the meaning and effect of the various provisions in sections 31 and 31A of the Act to which she has referred.

 

Now, of course Judges are human beings, and can have a bad day. And of course, there are some Judges who would have read the background and thought “well, this is one that has some inevitability written all over it”. There might even be Judges who would cut back on the timetable proposed by the parties and view this as a fast track case. One could make a reasonable argument for finishing this case in 10 weeks rather than 26.

There might even be Judges who are unable to supress what their eyebrows think of the whole state of affairs.

But if you’re a Judge in a family case who has made a decision which the appeal Courts can describe as ruthlesss, fundamentally unprincipled and unfair, then things have gone very badly wrong.

I don’t practice in this particular area of the country, but I wonder whether any advocate representing a parent could possibly feel that their client is going to get a fair hearing from a Judge who was capable of making a decision of this sort.

 

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Court of appeal sweepstake

Yet more pondering about the 26 week timetable unofficial roll-out a year in advance of the projected Children and Families Bill becoming law, and whether there is a hint in the Family Modernisation second update?

 

 

This continues to trouble me, and I know others. I warned way back in April 2012 that the new Court computer system seemed to have implemented by stealth a presumption that a care case would finish in 26 weeks, and that reasons for not doing so would have to be recorded, and that this was inevitably going to have an impact on the timetabling of cases

 

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2012/04/13/gone-till-november-ill-be-gone-till-november/

 

 

 

And here I blogged  back in October about the issue being raised before MacFarlane LJ and Ryder J at the Nagalro conference, and whether or not it was said that there was no such policy of 26 weeks being the starting point and whether a Judge applying such a policy ought to be appealed. We have never got to the bottom of what was really said

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2012/10/19/ive-got-twenty-six-weeks-to-go-twenty-six-weeks-to-go-or-have-i/ 

 

 

I am aware that around the country, orders are being made, setting out whether a case should be concluded within 26 weeks or not   [not “This case does not require a 40 week timetable and can be concluded by week 26”, but the reverse “This case has issues that require that the proceedings go beyond week 26”].

 

And they are made at a very early stage of the proceedings.

 

Without a doubt, the Court has the power to determine when a case should be concluded, and set a timetable for the expeditious resolution of the case, and the fixing of that timetable is within the judicial discretion. Robust case management is a vital judicial function, and avoidance of drift and unnecessary delay is a commendable goal.

 

And without a doubt, although the law currently (through the Public Law Outline) works to a timetable of 40 weeks, the Court has the power and discretion to set a timetable that is less than 40 weeks, or indeed more, in accordance with the child’s welfare.

 

What troubles me is the importation of a presumption that the starting point is 26 weeks when there is no law to that effect.

 

 This is not a trivial matter. Decisions about whether pieces of evidence, including independent assessments, can be obtained, are made on the basis of whether they fit with the timetabling of the case, and there is a considerable difference between 26 weeks and 40 weeks  (which is our current ‘starting point’, that can, as I have said, be deviated from)

 

The other pivotal consequence of this is that setting a 26 week timetable as a starting point  (before any of the accompanying measures such as pre-proceedings work being improved and CAFCASS playing a larger role in the early stages of the proceedings have been formulated, never mind implemented) means that a parent simply has far less time to demonstrate change, or to accept the need for change.

 

Those 14 weeks, or 3 ½ months, are a period where the parent could attempt to evidence growth in insight and change, or evidence having tackled the problems. If we remove that, there are going to be cases when a parent who would have made use of it will not have that opportunity.

 

What worries me is NOT deciding the case quicker, it would clearly be better for children to have the decisions made for them promptly and that is in accordance with the often quoted but often ignored principle of no delay enshrined in the Act.  No, it is my underlying fear that cases will end up with different outcomes when they are decided in 26 weeks than if they had run for 40 weeks.

 

 

This is the latest glimmer on it, from the Family Modernisation second update. Bear in mind that this is not a statutory instrument, nor a practice direction, nor guidance, nor anything that could be relied on by law, but it is in a sense a marker.

 

 

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Reports/family_implementation_newsletter2.pdf

 

 

This is the passage I am interested in :-

 

One of the key clauses in this Bill is that care or supervision orders should be determined without delay and in any event within 26 weeks beginning with the day on which the application was issued.

 

Although this 26-week time-limit will not be a legal requirement until the Act is enacted (probably in April 2014) the President is keen to encourage those involved in the family justice system to continue to use the interim period before implementation to develop their practices to prepare for commencement. Cases should be managed by judges to reach a just conclusion without unnecessary delay.

 

Courts already have an obligation to timetable each case and the timetable for the child may anticipate proceedings being completed in up to 26 weeks or more dependent on the facts of the case

 

 

I would have preferred this to be far less ambiguous. The first two paragraphs I agree with entirely. The third I find to be unclear  – it doesn’t condemn the practice of setting 26 week timetables a year in advance of this becoming law. It doesn’t say, what one would have hoped, that there is no starting point of 26 weeks, and that whilst it might be appropriate in some cases, the timetabling exercise should not be carried out with that “starting point” in mind.

 

It is nowhere near as strong as the remarks which were reported to have been made by the senior judiciary at the Nagalro conference (though as we know, we shall never really get to the bottom of what precisely was said)

 It is perhaps interesting, and illustrative of the fact that the 26 week target  has indeed been secretly rolled out that the wording is not

Courts already have an obligation to timetable each case and the timetable for the child may anticipate proceedings being completed in 40 weeks or less dependent on the facts of the case

 

but the reverse, that it may be 26 weeks or more.  Is this a tacit endorsement of Courts having in their mind 26 weeks as the goal to aspire to?

Given that we know that the Court computer system is recording the cases that finish beyond 26 weeks and reasons for this, are there performance indicator statistics being gathered from that computer system that shows how many cases ARE going beyond 26 weeks, and have targets been set for what those numbers or proportions should be?   Or am I Marvin the Paranoid Android?

 

We remain in limbo until someone whose client is materially disadvantaged by the mental “starting point” of 26 weeks takes the case management decision to appeal.  We also have, at this stage, no real sense of which way the Court of Appeal will go on that.

 

They could take the strict law approach of 26 weeks being a creature of the imagination and 40 weeks being the starting point set down in actual law, or they could go the judicial discretion, case management powers and avoiding delay approach.

 

 

So, place your bets – will the first appeal be from the North, South, East or West of England, and will the Court of Appeal back the Judge or back the PLO?  The Court of Appeal haven’t shown much love for the PLO to date, but generally in slapping Judges who tried to case manage in accordance with its principles where the Court of Appeal felt that led to unfairness. So on the body of their decisions, my gut is that they should be slapping this 26 week starting point. But I would not put money on it going that way.

 

[I’ll emphasise again for clarity, I see nothing wrong with a Court looking at the individual case and determining that this case should, on the issues and facts, be resolved in 26 weeks, or 19 weeks, or 52 weeks that seems to me to be a perfectly proper judicial decision. 

 

My issue is with an unwritten principle that ‘all things being equal, a care case should finish within 26 weeks, and there would need to be reasons to go beyond that’ when that is not currently the law.  Or even that this is a perception which is being allowed to persist, there not being a clear statement to the contrary. ]

 

finally, something to get our teeth into

The Government have published their proposed legislation to bring about the Family Justice Review.  It’s a lot shorter than one would envisage.

 

You can find it here

 

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm84/8437/8437.pdf

 

 

 

I won’t deal with the private law aspects, since my interest is in the public law side of things.

 

 

Here are the major headlines :-

 

 

An importation of a test of it ‘being necessary to assist the Court to resolve the matter justly’ before commissioning an expert assessment, and some factors to take into account

 

 

 

The factors are:-

(a) any impact which giving permission would be likely to have on the

welfare of the children concerned, including in the case of permission

as mentioned in subsection (3) any impact which any examination or

other assessment would be likely to have on the welfare of the child

who would be examined or otherwise assessed,

(b) the issues to which the expert evidence would relate,

(c) the questions which the court would require the expert to answer,

(d) what other expert evidence is available (whether obtained before or

after the start of proceedings),

 (e) whether evidence could be given by another person on the matters on

which the expert would give evidence,

(f) the impact which giving permission would be likely to have on the

timetable, duration and conduct of the proceedings,

(g) the cost of the expert evidence, and

(h) any matters prescribed by Family Procedure Rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time limits

 

We all knew this was coming.  They have tagged it into the original section 32 of the Act  (yes, that section 32 that everyone talks about all the time and that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind when doing care proceedings. To save you scrabbling for the Act, it is the Court’s duty to set a timetable to determine the case)

 

Here’s what the new provisions say :-

Amend s32 to include

 

 In subsection (1)(a) (timetable to dispose of application without delay) for

.application without delay; and. substitute .application.

(i) without delay, and

(ii) in any event within twenty-six weeks beginning with

the day on which the application was issued; and..

 

So that’s the hard cap, of twenty-six weeks – we then get into the fudging of that hard cap (to mix metaphors terribly)

 

 

Section 4.(3)

 

(Insert in section 32 of the Act, section 32(2) )

 

S32 (3) A court, when drawing up a timetable under subsection (1)(a), must in

particular have regard to.

(a) the impact which the timetable would have on the welfare of the

child to whom the application relates; and

(b) the impact which the timetable would have on the conduct of

the proceedings.

 

S32 (4) A court, when revising a timetable drawn up under subsection (1)(a) or

when making any decision which may give rise to a need to revise such

a timetable (which does not include a decision under subsection (5)),

must in particular have regard to.

 

(a) the impact which any revision would have on the welfare of the

child to whom the application relates; and

 

(b) the impact which any revision would have on the duration and

conduct of the proceedings.

 

S32 (5) A court in which an application under this Part is proceeding may

extend the period that is for the time being allowed under subsection

(1)(a)(ii) in the case of the application, but may do so only if the court

considers that the extension is necessary to enable the court to resolve

the proceedings justly.

 

S32 (6) When deciding whether to grant an extension under subsection (5), a

court is to take account of the following guidance: extensions are not to

be granted routinely, but are to be seen as exceptional and as requiring

specific justification.

 

S32 (7) Each separate extension under subsection (5) is to end no more than

eight weeks after the later of.

(a) the end of the period being extended; and

 

(b) the end of the day on which the extension is granted.

 

S32 (8) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations amend subsection (1)(a)(ii), or

the opening words of subsection (7), for the purpose of varying the

period for the time being specified in that provision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(9) Rules of court may provide that a court.

(a) when deciding whether to exercise the power under subsection

(5), or

 

(b) when deciding how to exercise that power,

must, or may or may not, have regard to matters specified in the rules,

or must take account of any guidance set out in the rules..

(4) In subsection (1) (court.s duty, in the light of rules made by virtue of subsection

(2), to draw up timetable and give directions to implement it).

(a) for .hearing an application for an order under this Part. substitute .in

which an application for an order under this Part is proceeding., and

(b) for .rules made by virtue of subsection (2)). substitute .provision in

rules of court that is of the kind mentioned in subsection (2)(a) or (b))..

 

 

That’s less clear than one would hope, so I’ll break it down.

 

  • When setting a timetable, the Court is now obliged by statute to consider the impact on the welfare of the child and the impact on the proceedings of that timetable.  [They don’t deal with the elephant in the room that sometimes the article 6 right for the proceedings to be fair may clash with the welfare of the child for the decision to be taken in a timely fashion, but ho-hum]  

 

  • If the Court has to revise that timetable, they need to take into account the impact of that revision on the welfare of the child and the impact on the proceedings

 

  • The Court has the power to go beyond 26 weeks, but only if the extension is necessary to enable the Court to resolve the proceedings justly.   [This is the barn doors being flung wide and truly open, and is pretty much how we justify delay now by labelling it ‘constructive delay’]

 

  • Best try and close those barn doors, before all the horses get out, so if the Court is going beyond 26 weeks,  the Court must be aware that such extensions are not to be granted routinely but are to be seen as exceptional  and requiring specific justification       [Oh, we took off the barn doors, but it’s okay, because we have replaced them with doors made out of tissue paper, hooray!]

 

  • Each extension can only last 8 weeks, but the Court can make as many as are required, provided that the criteria for granting an extension are made out. [We’ve got more tissue-paper barn doors in the back, don’t worry]

 

  • The Lord Chancellor can revise the wording of s32 (1) (a) or the new s32(7) – which are the ‘it’s 26 weeks’ and ‘each separate extension is no more than 8 weeks’  and can amend these by Regulations.    [Hey, just in case you were planning to misuse those tissue paper doors, the Government is going to bring in more horrible regulations to stop you if the average case length doesn’t come down to something like 26 weeks]

 

  • And we can set Rules as to how the Court must make the decision about granting adjournments, in case you’re misusing them and applying them to nearly all cases, as the Court will inevitably be invited to do.

 

 

I think this is pretty much what I suspected it would be, having been to the Mr Justice Ryder roadshow  – the judiciary had persuaded the Government to allow them to have discretion rather than a fixed hard cap, and the Government had allowed them that discretion, but made it plain that such discretion will be taken away from the judiciary by new Regs and Rules if it is misused.

 

I’m really struggling to see how any individual case being dealt with by the Court of Appeal where an adjournment is being sought for something that would currently be granted and is refused by Judges applying this new s32 will not be overturned.  Yes, looking at the vast sea of cases as a whole, the Court of Appeal will think that it is right that they are all dealt with expeditiously, but in this particular case, the delay is justifiable.

 

In short, I don’t think there is enough meat on the bones to show why the Court would be right to refuse an adjournment in this case and right to allow it in this other case.  Until we get some solid guidance from the Court of Appeal, there will just be a horrific log-jam of cases where adjournments are sought, refused and challenged (or allowed for fear of an appeal which would delay things further than the actual planned delay)

 

I see no other outcome from this than the Government looking at the stats after the new Act comes into force and saying “right, well you’re nowhere near 26 weeks, so that judicial discretion you wanted is going to have to be taken away, or locked down really tightly”

 

The guidance is interesting on the factors that might justify extension, and are far far far more limited than a reading of the legislation would suggest   

 

51.The factors which may be relevant when the court is considering whether to extend time beyond 26 weeks or beyond the end of a previous extension may include, for example, the disability or other impairment of a person involved in the proceedings, if that means that their involvement in the case requires more time than it otherwise would, or external factors beyond the court’s control, such as parallel criminal proceedings.

 

Interim Care Orders and Interim Supervision Orders to last as long as needed

 

As a Local Authority lawyer, the renewal of ICOs and ISOs in long-running proceedings where they are not being challenged is a dull and pointless process, and I’m glad they’re being got rid of; but losing the tool of ‘short order, until the matter can be litigated’ might be more problematic than the legislators realised.

 

I can also see that with the idea of a 26 week cap, contested ICOs will probably become more prevalent  (you need to have the child in your care at week 26 to have a good chance of a positive outcome since the Court won’t be granting adjournments and extensions to allow for a phased rehab or further work, hence it becomes much more critical where the child is at that 26 week cut-off)

 

 

Get your nose out of the care plan

 

 

The Court now has to look at the ‘permanence provisions’ of the care plan  (whether the child will live with parents, relatives or elsewhere) but nothing else.  But the legislation is worded that the Court is no longer required to consider the remainder of the care plan, and it seems to me that this is not likely to be sufficient to stop Judges who have become well-accustomed to inspecting, dissecting and tinkering with the fine detail of care plans, and counsel who wish them to do so, from abandoning that practice.   It’s a bit peculiar that the ‘permanence provisions’ don’t specifically include contact, but as they say ‘the long term plan for the upbringing of the child’  it is probably wide enough to include anything the Judge wants to take an interest in.

 

 

I think, on the whole, I rather prefer John Hemming’s proposals for reforms.