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Norgrove's family justice service not necessary, Lord Justice Wall says

30 November 2011

Lord Justice Wall, president of the Family Division, has said that a new family justice service, a central recommendation of the Norgrove review, is neither practical nor necessary.

Wall LJ said the setting up of the service would “amount to a new independent bureaucracy” which “would not be cost-effective nor would it benefit family justice (or the administration of justice in general) in the long-term.”

Speaking to the Bar Council’s law reform committee last night, Wall LJ suggested that instead the Norgrove reforms should be implemented by the family business authority (FBA) within the existing courts and tribunal service.

He said the changes “rightly identified” by the Norgove review could take place sooner and with less cost within the courts service. This would involve CAFCASS moving from the Department of Education to the newly merged courts and tribunal service (HMCTS) and not to the Ministry of Justice, as recommended by Norgrove.

Wall LJ said the FBA would be chaired by the most senior HMCTS director with responsibility for family justice and “help me lead a cultural change by judges regarding case management”.

He went on: “It will also play a full role within HMCTS in deciding the family budget and could commission support services for the family courts.

“Equally, it might over time be possible to bring mediation services, expert advice services and the representation for children within an enhanced HMCTS.”

Lord Justice Wall agreed with Norgrove that a “supply of properly qualified family lawyers is vital to the protection of children”.

He said family lawyers did not, in his experience, prolong cases or cause undue expense, and the good family lawyer gave sensible and realistic advice.

“Against this background, it is a matter of considerable anxiety to me that the government propose to take nearly all private family work out of the scope of public funding.

“Family lawyers represent some of the most vulnerable people in society, and often do so at times of great stress. This, of course, comes on top of the 10 per cent cut in fees.”

Wall LJ added that while he strongly supported all forms of ADR, the public funding of mediation would not be enough to resolve the problems of the “myriad of unrepresented litigants who will come before the family courts”.

Categorised in:

Marriage & Civil partnership