The President of the Family Justice Division, Sir James Munby, has issued a new practice direction and the revised Public Law Outline.
The pilot will run until 1 April 2014 and enable courts in specified areas to implement the proposed 26-week time limit to care proceedings.
Areas are to join the pilot on a phased basis between July and October 2013. Courts will choose from one of four dates: 1 July; 5 August; 2 September; and 7 October.
Practice Direction 36C – Pilot scheme: care and supervision proceedings and other proceedings under Part 4 of the Children Act 1989 supplements FPR Part 36, rule 36.2 (Transitional Arrangements and Pilot Schemes).
The revised PLO includes an outline of: the order of the different stages of the process; the matters to be considered at the main case management hearings; and the latest timescales within which the main stages of the process should take place in order to achieve the aim of resolving the proceedings within 26 weeks.
The document contains:
- The Public Law Outline: Pre-proceedings; Stage 1 – issue and allocation; Stage 2 – case management hearing; State 3 – issues resolution hearing;
- Flexible powers of the court;
- Compliance with pre-proceedings checklist;
- The timetable for the child and the timetable for proceedings;
- Extensions to the timetable for proceedings.
Publication comes just weeks after Sir James stressed, in his second View from the President’s Chambers, the crucial role of local authorities’ compliance with the revised PLO.
The President said the key principle was very simple: “The local authority must deliver its material – the right kind of material – on Day 1. If that does not happen, the entire timetable will be thrown out.”
The judge also set out his view on what local authorities must deliver, and what he meant by ‘the right kind of material’.
Sir James also urged local authority lawyers to get involved earlier – advising and assisting their social work clients – than is often the case.