The Family Justice Modernisation Programme: Third update of Mr Justice Ryder

Mr Justice Ryder
Mr Justice Ryder's third update on the Family Justice Modernisation Programme has been published. In it, he concentrates on the changes and improvements which the judiciary can bring about in the family courts, and says that he has begun to look at what he calls ‘quick-wins’, i.e. those changes which it is agreed should be made without delay and where changes in legislation may not be necessary.

He details progress achieved in relation to the ten 'workstreams' he identified in his first update, including:
  • That the proposed national Family Justice Board is expected to be launched by Government in April 2012.
  • That he is confident that it will be possible during 2012 to provide reliable data from court hearings and about the volume and type of work that takes place in the family courts (the new data collection and reporting systems will be the object of a national pilot beginning in April).
  • That the government is expected to create a statutory Family Court within the next year.
  • That with regard to case management, he is recommending "evidence-based plain language pathways which set out the expectations the court has of the parties and the expectation the parties may have of the court as to how family cases will be managed". A "statement of inquisitorial principle" is being considered. He also recommends the creation of standard and exceptional case tracks, with guidance in the form of a pathway that describes how some cases can and should be completed within 26 weeks.
  • That he is "working closely with Government lawyers and the Family Proceedings Rules Committee to identify rule and/or Practice Direction changes to give more clarity about when it is appropriate to appoint an expert and to ensure that the work commissioned from experts is necessary and relevant to the issues to be decided by the court".
He concludes with the proviso that "some of these recommendations will develop and change over time".