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File reduction trial

Date:6 SEP 2011

His Honour Judge Altman, designated family judge for London, has issued Guidance in relation to a trial at the Principal Registry of the Family Division (PRFD) regarding the filing and service of documentation within public law cases. The trial intends to reduce the burden on parties to file documents at court in care proceedings with a view to documents only being served between parties. It is anticipated that this will reduce the burden on the parties in respect of the quantity of documents produced and the exercise of having to file documents at court, as well as on the court in receiving and processing documents received at court.

Currently the trial is limited to the applications brought by London Boroughs of Camden, Islington and Westminster, although it is hoped that if the trial proves successful that it will be rolled out to include applications by other local authorities.

This procedure applies to all applications for care or supervision orders from the moment of transfer of a case to the PRFD and includes cases begun in the Family Proceedings Court before 5 September.

Documents that are otherwise required to be filed at court such as court documents, applications, forms, Interim Care Order renewal applications, correspondence addressed to the court, judgments where applicable, etc are not affected by this procedure.

It follows that it is the responsibility of the parties themselves to provide documents on other parties in a timely fashion. It will be assumed by the Court that all service of documents is effected as required. If it is foreseen that this may not be the case then the court should be informed as soon as possible.

The relevant local authority will look after the documents requiring to be served and they will maintain and up to date index of the documents in the case. The parties should be prudent in deciding on the documents to be included in the court bundle, focusing on the relevant documents. It is suggested that the index be used as a comprehensive record of all the documents in the case, rather than only those included in the case bundle.

It is noted that letters addressed to the court by parties regarding issues that arise during the proceedings may have to be more comprehensive than is currently the practice, as the court may not be in possession of relevant documents.

At the conclusion of the proceedings the court should always be asked to direct which documents should be filed with the court for future reference. These will generally include the final care plan, judgement; guardian's and experts reports.

For more information please visit www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk. Any queries should be addressed to one or more of the following:

PRFD: general matters and feedback: dawn.miles1@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Individual issues in particular cases and case progression: caroline.harris@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

London Borough of Camden: paula.wigby@camden.gov.uk / eva.holland@camden.gov.uk

London Borough of Islington: andrewj.newman@islington.gov.uk / peter.coutts@islington.gov.uk

London Borough of Westminster: louise.creighton@creighton.co.uk / dipen.chawda@creighton.co.uk