Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, held a press conference on 29 April 2014 to discuss reforms to the family justice system which came into force on 22 April, including the introduction of a single family court to link the three tiers of magistrates, county and High Court, mediation, and timetables.
The main points raised by the President include:
- The suggestion that divorce should be taken out of the hand of judges and instead be treated as an administrative matter to be dealt with by registrars.
- That judges have to take on a more inquisitorial approach due to the increase in litigants in person.
- That the cuts to legal aid will not undermine the family law reforms.
- There will be an increase in mediation in coming months partly because under the reforms it is going to be compulsory to at least consider mediation.
- Two issues need to be overcome in relation to transparency: (a) how one goes about the process of having a more informative court list; and (b) how to deal with the issue that much of the court process is based on pre-reading of documents that are not available to the media.
- Finally, the President is aware that there is tension that stems from the fact that whereas the Supreme Court says that adoption is the last resort, the Government says that local authorities should get away from the idea that adoption is the last resort, and that it is for Parliament to change the law if they disagree with how judges are interpreting it.
The full transcript of the press conference is available to download here.