UK Family Law Reform

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Reducing delays in family courts

New measures have been introduced to ensure child care cases are dealt with more quickly and effectively in family courts. This is so children and families are spared unnecessary delays and the cost to taxpayers is reduced.

Under today's changes, the family courts will now be required to:

Restrict expert evidence to that which is only necessary to resolve the case;

Take account of specified factors before agreeing to expert witnesses reports, currently, no factors are specified. In care cases, these include the impact on the welfare of the child; the impact on the timetable for proceedings and whether the evidence which is needed is available from another source such as the local authority; and

To approve the questions that are to be put to the expert to ensure they are focused on the determinative issues for the court.

Until now multiple reports have been commissioned in many cases which can lead to delays of several weeks. The reports are typically commissioned from expert witnesses, for example doctors or specialist psychologists.

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said:

'We are taking action to tackle the unacceptable delays in our family courts.

'The number of expert reports being commissioned at the moment is far beyond what is actually needed to make a considered decision - and is causing delays which can ultimately harm children.

'The new rules mean expert evidence will only be used where necessary and reports will be commissioned more sensibly and sparingly.'

Today's changes are the latest steps in the Government's commitment to ensuring family cases are dealt with within 26 weeks, following a recommendation by the Family Justice Review conducted by David Norgrove

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2013 11:41 PM
Subject: The changes would "put back confidence" in the family justice system?

Lord McNally
House of Lords
020 7219 5443

Dear Lord McNally,

Re: Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told the Today programme that the changes would "put back confidence" in the system, but accepted that the law would have to be drafted very carefully.

Please will you kindly tell me if you still think' the governments current proposals "will put back confidence in the system & why given that Harriet Harman stated in the national press on the 4th of June in 2006 that:

"I have concluded that it is now impossible to defend a system from accusations of bias and discrimination if it operates behind closed doors. Even as Minister for Family Justice, I find the rules make it hard for me to establish what is going on.

It is my job to reassure Parliament that the family court system is working properly. But how can I know? I can't read newspaper reports of cases; I can't just go and sit at the back of the court, as I can - and do - in magistrates' courts. And how can MPs hold me to account for a system they cannot see? Parliamentary accountability for the family courts is wholly theoretical while the system remains closed. How can the influential Constitutional Affairs Select Committee conduct investigations into its workings?

And when we debate family law in Parliament, neither MP’s nor Ministers can really know what we are talking about. We have to legislate in the dark".

There are many problems with how the family justice system works & yet none these 'fundamental floors' have been addressed by the governments current proposals.

I believe we need a Royal Commission into the 'workings of the children's act' since it was introduced in 1989 & would like to know if you will publicly state that you think it would be a good idea?

Yours Sincerely

David Mortimer

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