Further progress on fair trials in the family courts
story in the Daily Mail reports on This case (Re NL (A child) (Appeal: Interim Care Order: Facts and Reasons)
where Pauffley J has looked at the issue of a case in the FPC where the Justices basically rubber stamped a document from the local authority. Another important case is Re C (A Child)
where the president of the Queens Bench supports a call for proper procedure to be followed in terms of dealings in the court of first instance.
The President of the Queen's Bench Division:
- I agree with both judgments. Having seen the judgments in draft, Ms van der Leij has expressed concern about the comments at paragraphs 10-11 of Macur LJ and paragraph 36 of Aikens LJ dealing with the e-mail exchanges subsequent to the hearing. She observes that "it is by no means unusual for practitioners in the Principal Registry to e mail district judges directly seeking clarification of matters raised in a hearing". It is one thing, if invited, to make submissions in relation to the terms of an order provided that every communication is copied to every party; it is another to express dissent and seek to engage in further argument. If that is not unusual, it is important that the problems which it generates should be recognised and that the practice should cease. First, it suggests (even if it is not the case) that advocates can go behind the scenes to resolve issues in favour of their clients and, as Macur LJ observes, will give rise to allegations of 'stitch up'. Secondly, it will encourage litigants in person (who do not have the same understanding of the law or practice) to adopt a similar approach thereby disrupting the finality of the judgment of the court and generating continued uncertainty.
Progress is being made. If we can stop corrupt legal advisors and advocates from undermining their own clients that would help as well. However, a key to this is getting evidence that is reliable. (as I say in the Daily Mail article).