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Posts Tagged ‘procedure’


banana split

trial by banana split (Photo: arboltsef)

To split or not to split? That is the eternal question, answered here by new Prez in new guidance. In short: split only when it serves a purpose. And don’t forget split listing (or not) is a judicial decision. Lord Justice Wall (little known founder of Wall’s Ice Cream) also adds a reminder that splits of the banana variety are absolutely not to be eaten whilst the court is sitting. During the luncheon adjournment only please. (Okay, I made that last bit up, but it was a VERY dull post without it).

Guidance: Split hearings May 2010

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…that Deputy District Judges are now not permitted to deal with most Children Act matters? No, nor did I (a gap in my capacious knowledge, how embarrassing) until arriving at court this morning only to be told that the matter would have to be put back as it had accidentally been listed in front of a judge without jurisdiction.

So I thought I would draw your attention to the Family Proceedings (Allocation to Judiciary) Directions 2009, in force since 16 February 2009, which you can read at your leisure here.

It is worth being up to speed on the question of jurisdiction. Today it didn’t matter much but court staff are not infallible in listing a matter in front of an appropriate judge and a judge who is given a list may not spot the problem. I recall an early appeal against Jacqui of Bloody Relations where I successfully overturned an order for committal made by an over eager District Judge who had no ‘power to pot’.

So, for future reference, a DDJ can deal with enforcement of children act matters only, not including residence or special guardianship. So that’s pretty much nothing. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s straighforward or by consent. It’s an interesting rule in the current climate of downshifting as much as possible to the FPC and trying to spread the burden of cases across the court system as widely as possible, and even more so when one thinks that some of our most experienced but semi-retired DJs are sitting as DDJs.

Still, it is not for me to question, only to inform.

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I came across this article in the Telegraph which deals with the decision to place two young siblings for adoption in preference to leaving them with their grandparents in a kinship placement. Although I don’t know any more about this case than I have read in the article I want to offer a few thoughts on it because – as is so often the case with the accounts given in the media of individuals cases – between the lines those with experience of the system can read far more into what is probably going on than might be apparent to the majority of the readers of it. And I’m afraid that the published story seems highly unlikely to me to be the whole story. I’ve posted before about how the limitations on what information can be obtained and published in connection with family cases tends towards skewed or misleading accounts being presented through the media. And of course the primary reason that this story is deemed newsworthy is because it is an account of a case which appears to demonstrate injustice and which it is strongly insinuated is a demonstration of systematic unfairness and political correctness gone crazy. It is quite likely that if fuller information were made available or the law and process more clearly explained in the article it would be much less newsworthy, and may be deflated to no more than the dual elements of the anger / sadness of those who have lost a child of the family to adoption and an objection to the law that permits adoption by gay couples.

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The ‘recent additions’ feature on bailii.org is useful – it highlights not only recently promulgated decisions but also those that are perhaps a little older but have only recently been made available on bailii. So, for example, listed at the moment is the case of OS v DS (Oral Disclosure: Preliminary Hearing) [2004] in which Coleridge J sets out the novel procedure he devised to short-cut through protracted and costly ‘big money’ ancillary relief litigation, by holding an early cross examination of the husband to enable the parties to assess the troubling issue of alleged non-disclosure and apparent concealment of assets that was likely to otherwise prevent early settlement.

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You can find the decision here. You can find the ‘recent additions’ list here.

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An interesting article by District Judge Crichton (Inner London FPC, champion of the Drug & Alcohol Court Pilot) about enhancing the participation of children in Family Proceedings. He suggests that children of an appropriate age should be routinely asked by CAFCASS about the possibility of meeting the judge and that judges should not be reluctant to meet them in chambers or in the courtroom, in the presence of the CAFCASS Officer, child’s solicitor or court associate / legal advisor. He suggests good practice is that an agreed note of what was said can then be shared with the parties.

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In my experience a child attending court is comparatively unusual let alone meeting with the judge in their case. That is not to say that it should not be considered more often – many children clearly feel disempowered and frustrated or confused that they have no say decisions that affect them. It is a delicate balance between empowering children without burdening them with the responsibility for making a decision or expressing a preference between parents which can be excruciating for children.

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The article can be found in the Hilary Term issue (#39) of The Barrister magazine.

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grrrrr

This may be shouting into a gale but dammit will SOMEBODY PLEASE tell social services legal departments that you cannot obtain a supervision order through a last minute recommendation in a s37 report without issuing a s31 application in the usual way? If my client’s long awaited final hearing on residence is waylaid this week because of a failure to recognise this basic procedural point I shall be most displeased…

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Sorry to anyone who is wondering what I’m ranting about, but I DO feel better now. Back to work….

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Law over the pond

A week or so ago I spent a day observing proceedings at a local County Court in rural West Virginia. It was an interesting experience, that highlighted as many surprising similarities in practice and legal framework as it did differences.

I watched a Circuit Judge swiftly dispatch a raft of motions (applications) covering subjects as varied as road traffic accidents, insurance and contract disputes, criminal sentencing appeals, juvenile matters, and child abuse and neglect investigations. Circuit Judges everywhere are, it seems, expected to know a little of everything. (more…)

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