The HMCTS is piloting a new case management system in the family courts that will track every public law case issued and will replace the systems which are presently in use.
The new system, which came into effect on 2 April, provides 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, the number of hearings which there have been, any adjournments of hearings and applications for experts.
The national pilot will run for the whole of the financial year 2012/13. It is the first time the family courts will have a record of data that will enable them to understand where public law cases are allocated and what is the consequence in terms of delay of the case management decisions that are made. Every reason for a case management decision made by the case management judge or case manager will be recorded in the appropriate order and logged on the new system.
Mr Justice Ryder, Judge in Charge of the Modernisation of Family Justice, commented: "For the first time we will know why unplanned delay is occurring and we will be able to say so. This ought to influence better management of the overall caseload by judicial management of our own resources ie deployment and listing. It will also inform discussions between Designated Family Judges and local Directors of Children's Services and Cafcass service managers as well as with the judges and magistrates who sit locally and the professionals who appear before them."
The aim is for the judiciary to complete each case within 26 weeks unless it is not in the interests of the child concerned. The new system will allow the HMCTS to determine where and why this deadline is not being met and what can be changed to improve efficiencies.
HMCTS have issued guidance for practitioners which can be downloaded below.