I have received information regarding the future of the Principal Registry, and it makes grim reading. The facts, as given to a meeting of the First Avenue House Advisory Group on the 5th of March include the following:
- The Central London County Court will be moving into the Thomas More Building. The Court of Protection which is currently in that building will be moving to First Avenue House and will require one and a half floors to provide three courts and six Chambers. This will be on the fifth floor and half of the seventh floor.
- The probate department will not be moving out of First Avenue House but will be compressed as there is wasted space in their department.
- Court 80 on the ground floor of First Avenue House which is currently a very large courtroom mainly used for enquiries will be converted into three new courtrooms.
- The number of family courts available in First Avenue House will be a total of 25. This compares with the current court numbers of 25 at First Avenue House and 7 at Wells Street (as we already know, the Inner London and City Family Proceedings Court at Wells Street is to close, with its seven courts being absorbed into the Principal Registry).
- The rationale behind this reduction is that there will be a new East London Family Court, which will provide 10 extra courtrooms, and there will be a new allocation policy "so that the work that should be heard away from Central London can be".
So, unless the new East London court is ready and the allocation policy is implemented before the changes to the PRFD are carried out, 25 courts will have to do the work of 32.
But that is not the end of the good news. In fact, it is not the worst of it, as the meeting was also told that the number of district judges at the Registry is to be reduced from 20 to 12 (or even fewer).
And all of this as:
(a) Courts are being urged to deal with matters more quickly; and
(b) The courts are about to be inundated with 'litigants in person' (not 'self-represented litigants'), with the abolition of legal aid for most private family law matters on the 1st of April.I think it's called 'planning'.