Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Family Justice Modernisation Programme: Implementation Update Number One

The first Implementation Update has been published for the Family Justice Modernisation Programme. The update covers developments in respect of the following:

The Single Family Court ('SFC')
The primary legislation to create the SFC is currently proceeding through Parliament (the Crime and Courts Bill). It is hoped that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in April 2013, coming into force in April 2014. Detailed consideration of secondary materials, including Statutory Instruments, will begin this month.

The Children and Families Bill
Pre-legislative scrutiny of what will become the Children and Families Bill is presently taking place in Parliament.

Judicial Training
This will begin this month.

Family Justice Board
This has been established, with David Norgrove as Chairman. At a local level Local Family Justice Boards (LFJBs) have been set up to bring together the functions previously carried out by Local Family Justice Councils and Local Performance Improvement Groups.

Experts in the family courts
Part 25 of the Family Procedure Rules is to be changed in January so that expert evidence will be restricted to that which in the opinion of the court is necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings, rather than to that which is reasonably required to resolve the proceedings.

The Family Court Guide
"This will be a framework of good practice which will sign post published and peer reviewed research and good practice by reference to the rules and practice directions". The materials have been commissioned from a number of sources with the intention that they are published before April 2013. We are told that 'expectations documents', setting out what the court expects of agencies and other participants in the proceedings, are being drafted by those responsible for their content.

Removal of legal aid in private law children cases
I.e. by LASPO. We are told that: "The MoJ is working with the Family Justice Council on guidance for SRLs [self-represented litigants] in both children and financial remedy cases" and that: "The Law Society and Resolution have published detailed materials for lawyers working with SRLs". Highly commendable I'm sure, but unlikely to make up for the lack of proper legal representation for those currently eligible.

The update can be found here (PDF).

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