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President's Address

Date:11 APR 2006

Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, addressed the Resolution conference in April 2006. The President's overall purpose was, first, to institute and push forward the strategy of cascading down within the unified administration, as recommended by the Judicial Resources Review and accepted by the senior judiciary, so that cases were heard at the lowest level available and appropriate to deal with them. Secondly, it was necessary to achieve greater flexibility in distributing work between the family judges in the county courts, district judges and the under-used family magistrates in the family proceedings courts (FPCs).

In order to achieve the necessary movement of the work down the system, the necessary steps to achieve that were as follows.

  • 1. A judicial working party was taking a critical look at the entire work of the family courts with a view to re-categorisation, where necessary and appropriate, to allow work previously reserved to High Court judges to be heard at county court level.
  • 2. An expansion of district judges' jurisdiction for a number of district judges selected and ticketed for the purpose, to enable them to hear care proceedings as well as giving directions.
  • 3. Encouraging the specialisation of magistrates who sit in FPCs to build up a cadre of practised and confident chairs better able to approach and adopt the judicial method available in a single judge court.
  • 4. Remove the requirement for FPCs to give immediate written reasons for every decision taken.
  • 5. Encourage the use of district judges (magistrates' courts) in family work.

So far as care cases were concerned, the President's proposals were set out in the Thematic Review of the Public Law Protocol (see [2006] Fam Law 237 and www.familylaw.co.uk, Newswatch -The Care Proceedings Review and the Protocol" for the full review) produced in time for submission, to the joint DCA/ DfES Child Care Proceedings Review. Broadly the proposals were for:

  • (1) a pre-proceedings protocol covering the procedure to be followed and work to be done by local authorities before proceedings were issued;
  • (2) the directions hearing itself at which all aspects of the case were, so far as possible, reviewed and assessed in advance, the issues analysed and directions given, based on the agenda of;
  • (3) an overall case plan which the local authority would have been obliged to produce and calculate in advance with the other parties, in relation to which submissions could be made at the directions hearing.

See May [2006] Fam Law for the full news article.