Category Archives: DFJ News

Newsletters and circulars from the local Designated Family Judge, HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC

DFJ News

Newsletter from HHJ Wildblood QC

Published by:

His Honour Judge Wildblood QC

Designated Family Judge for Avon, North Somerset and Gloucestershire

1. Gloucestershire CC – Many of you will have read that Ofsted has published a report about Gloucestershire County Council’s Children’s Services. If you haven’t, please can I suggest that you read the executive summary, at least. It can be found by following this link and then scrolling down to the link for the pdf version of the report (The file is called Single inspection of LA children’s services and review of the LSCB as pdf).

2. As you will know, I have published a number of judgments on the Bailii website to ensure that the public were aware of difficulties that are similar to those highlighted in the Ofsted report. I also met regularly with the previous management team to explain and discuss the issues arising from those judgments and other issues of practice. I very much hope that solutions can now be found to the difficulties that have been identified and I am grateful to the new management team for meeting with me on Wednesday to discuss how matters will be dealt with in the future. At the start of this year it was arranged that I should sit for one week in every month in Gloucester and, since early last year, District Judge Woodburn has been hearing public law cases there as well. I hope that the increased presence in Gloucester of judges specialising in public law cases will emphasise further the need for change and encourage it. I have asked that any public law cases that involve significant issues of practice should be listed in front of me; please can practitioners and courts in the area ensure that this occurs.

3. Orders – Getting orders drafted and issued imposes heavy demands on all those involved and the first thing that I would want to say is thank you to everyone for running the system so smoothly in this area.

4. It remains the rule that orders should be submitted to the court for issue within 48 hours of the hearing at which the order is made. This is demanding for solicitors and barristers but the demands would not be any different if we imposed any other timescale (e.g. it would not make any difference if we said 72 or 96 hours). On the whole, orders are sent in within 48 hours but please can I ask you to ensure that you do send them in within that time.

5. If the order includes provision for disclosure by the police or other third parties, please can I ask that a separate order is drafted for that disclosure. The order for disclosure needs to be issued as swiftly as possible following the hearing. If a short disclosure order is drafted and issued on the day of the hearing it means that the police, or other third party, are more likely to be able to provide the necessary disclosure within the time provided by the order. There have been a number of cases in which there has been a delay in drafting the long case management order and, as a result, the disclosure provisions within the long order have not been sent to the police until shortly before, or even after, the dates specified for disclosure. If a separate short order is drafted and sent out immediately that difficulty can be avoided. Where a disclosure order is made please can an email be sent immediately to the police, or other relevant third party, informing them that the disclosure order has been made so that they can begin to collate the material.

6. In a suitable case the judge or magistrates may wish to direct, at the end of a case management hearing, that the order may be submitted to the court office for issue without further scrutiny by the court of the drafting of the order. Plainly, there will be some draft orders which have to be scrutinised by the court before they are approved for issue. However there are some instances where straightforward orders are delayed in issue unnecessarily because they await approval following the drafting by the parties. Where the court does so direct, it will be essential that any email sending in the order should state clearly: ‘the court directed that this order should be issued immediately upon being emailed to the court, without being further referred for approval to the judge/magistrates’. Such a direction will be particularly inappropriate where there are penal provisions within the order.

7. Non-molestation orders need to be issued immediately following their making. It is very important that orders made in Bath or Weston-super-Mare, which are to be sent to Bristol for issue, are sent immediately to Bristol following the hearing. Where a tick box form is used by the judge / magistrates that document needs to be scanned and sent by email by the court staff immediately to the Bristol court office for issue. There has to be liaison between the courts involved to ensure that there is no delay in the issue of orders of this kind. Particular difficulties can arise where orders are made on Friday because it is essential that the orders are issued, sent to the police and sent for service before the weekend. If there are difficulties in relation to this, there must be communication with court immediately.

8. If there are urgent private law orders to be issued, emails containing any draft orders must be marked urgent when they are sent in to Bristol. Orders are issued and drawn up in Bristol, even when made in Weston-super-Mare or Bath (this does not apply to Gloucester, of course). Once issued, the order can only be sent to the applicant/the applicant’s solicitor on paper by post or DX, the order cannot be emailed to the applicant/applicant’s solicitor for issue. In circumstances where the applicant needs a copy of the sealed order immediately (e.g. where there is a prohibited steps order following the retention of a child or threatened removal) the sealed order can be scanned by Bristol and sent to Weston-super-Mare or Bath where it can be printed there. However, the applicant/applicant’s solicitor must arrange to collect the order and must liaise with the court to ensure that an agreed system is in place for that to occur. Otherwise, the only other way in which the applicant/applicant’s solicitor will receive a copy of the order is through the post/DX.

9. It is particularly helpful to the court staff if typed orders can be submitted (i.e. not in manuscript) and can also be produced on the right forms (e.g. on CAP forms).

10. Out of hours hearings – Please can I ask that everyone is familiar with the system for hearings that need to take place outside normal court hours. It is too late to try to find out once emergency has arisen. If you don’t know the system please ask the court office to provide you with information about it.

11. Urgent hearings in normal court hours – if a local authority or other court user knows that an urgent application will be made please inform the court as soon as this is known. In particular, if a Local Authority knows on a Thursday that an EPO application is likely to be made on Friday, please can the authority let the court know on Thursday and not leave it until Friday before setting in hand arrangements and applications for a hearing. It is unfair on court staff and judges where applications are brought to the court in a rush on Friday afternoon without warning (e.g. because police protection powers under section 46 of The Children Act 1989 are due to expire over the weekend). If you do apply late and without forewarning you may well find that your case has to be dealt with under the out of hours procedures.

12. Judges seeing children – we do seem to make little use of the procedure that is available for judges to see children (see page 1530 of the 2017 Red Book for a summary of the guidance about this). When dealing with cases involving children please can I ask you to think carefully about whether it would be beneficial for the child to meet the judge. After all, which of us would like a major decision to be made about our lives by someone upon whom we had never clapped eyes?

13. Theatre – I have been working with St Brendans College in Bristol and we have set up a theatre production group to stage scenes showing some of the social issues with which the family court deals. The first production will be on 6 July 2017 at St Brendans College (doors open at 4 PM and the production will last from about 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM). This will be interactive, or forum, theatre in which the actors will play out scenes on stage and then, with the aid of a facilitator, the actors will discuss with the audience what is happening, ask questions of the audience and take questions from them. The first production will cover domestic violence, the removal of a child from a mother in public law proceedings, a comedy sketch about dysfunctional families and a scene involving a father in prison grappling with indirect contact. If you would like to book into this event please do so by accessing the website: www.ticketsource.co.uk and entering ‘The State v The Family : Drawing the line’ in the box marked ‘Search events’. Tickets are free and I do hope that you will be able to support this event.

14. As ever, thank you to everyone for working so hard to keep our very hard pressed system running as efficiently as it does.

SW
16th June 2017.
Download word version of this document.

DFJ News News

ADOPTION DEBATE – THIS HOUSE SUPPORTS NON CONSENSUAL ADOPTION?

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His Honour Judge Wildblood QC (Designated Family Judge for this area) will chair a debate about non consensual adoption on :

April 27th at the Bristol Civil & Family Justice Centre from 4.30- 6.30pm

Four barristers will present the arguments both for and against, followed by brief presentations from a diverse panel of experts. The debate will then open to the floor and at the conclusion all will vote.

Speaking for non-consensual adoption : Kathryn Skellorn QC and Zahid Hussain

Speaking against non-consensual adoption : Frances Judd QC and Lucy Reed

The barristers have agreed to assist in the presentation of the arguments for and against non-consensual adoption as a springboard for discussion, and the arguments they present do not necessarily represent their personal views. The barristers were allocated roles in the debate having agreed to participate.

This event is open to all and is free of charge but places are limited and you will need to book your place in advance here, via the UWE website.

We expect demand for this event to be high. In the event that you cannot make it PLEASE email Emma Whewell at UWE (Emma.Whewell@uwe.ac.uk) so your place can be reallocated.

Please read the GROUND RULES for this event – they are what makes it possible for the organisers to run events of this sort and all participants are expected to stick to them.

DFJ News News

Poem Competition to raise funds for litigants / parents

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His Honour Judge Wildblood QC is running a competition for the best ten poems for children, with the intention of seeing if funds can be raised for the Personal Support Unit and for the provision of early therapeutic intervention for young parents.

If you or someone you know would like to enter the competition please send the poem or poems to Paul Bryson of the Personal Support Unit at Bristol@the psu.org.uk, marked ‘for Paul Bryson, poetry competition’.

Poems can be written by adults or children but should be intended to be read by children aged between five and thirteen. They may be any length and must be the original work of the person on whose behalf they are sent. The closing date is 31st March 2016.

Mr Justice Baker and Ms Helen Andrews (the court manager at Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre) have kindly agreed to judge the poems, after a sift if necessary, and will identify the best ten. We will then see if we can get them published in order to raise funds.

DFJ News News

Designated Family Judge’s Newsletter – June 2015

Published by:

  1. I am sending out this newsletter to ask people please to ensure that they are aware of two things. Firstly, the orders that may be made under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to retrieve children who have gone missing; these are commonly called ‘Tipstaff orders’. Secondly, to give some help in relation to Section 98 of The Children Act 1989.
  2. Under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, orders can be made to assist in retrieving children. Amongst the wide range of orders that are available there are three very specific types of order. They are called collection orders, location orders and passport orders. Each order has two parts. One is the directed to the Tipstaff and directs the Tipstaff to assist in implementing the court’s order. The collection order provides that the child is to be found and placed in the custody of a named person until there is a further hearing before the court (which must take place within three days of the child being found). The order usually permits the Tipstaff to enter premises to retrieve the child and to arrest anyone whom he has reasonable cause to believe has disobeyed or obstructed the order; anyone so arrested must be brought before the court as soon as practicable but in any event no later than the working day immediately after arrest. The collection order also contains other ancillary provisions.
  3. A location order is similar to a collection order but provides for the child to be located, rather than collected. Thus it is a less invasive order. A passport order involves control of passports. All three orders may provide for the surrender of passports and the prevention of applications for further passports in relation to the child.
  4. The Tipstaff keeps draft forms of each of those orders. The drafts may change from time to time and that is why standard draft forms should always be requested from the Tipstaff himself before any such orders are made; they are not held by the court offices and are not for general release. The Tipstaff, Richard Cheesley, can be contacted by the court from the global email address facility or may be reached by telephone – 0207-947-6200. He, or one of his assistants will be available at any time (‘24/7’). There is a brief explanation of his role in Paragraph 7 of PD 12B of The Family Procedure Rules 2010.
  5. These orders can only be made by a High Court Judge (which includes a Circuit judge with High Court authorisation). It is imperative that any orders that are made should be drafted in the correct form. Once made, they are very effective indeed.
  6. Please also ensure that you are aware of the port alert procedure under PD12F, paragraph 4 of The Family Procedure Rules 2010; it is in the Red Book.
  7. As to section 98 of The Children Act 1989, this is the provision that relates to self incrimination in public law proceedings. It does not apply to private law proceedings. A lawyer acting for a client where the issue of self incrimination might arise must give advice to that client about it. I have been asked for some guidance about the possible wording of a warning that might be given. I do so with some hesitation because I need to stress that the guidance that I am giving is not necessarily the correct terminology for all cases and it therefore remains the duty of individual lawyers and courts to consider the case before them and adapt the wording of any warning that is given. However, with that strong caveat, I have attached some possible draft wording that might be used in a public law case.
  8. Please can you consider that wording. If there are amendments that you think should be made to it please inform me. The wording is as follows:

1. I need to explain to you now a rule of law. It is important that you understand what I am saying. If you do not, you should ask me to explain it to you further.

2. As you know allegations are made against you within these proceedings. These are family proceedings and not criminal proceedings and it is not for this court to decide whether you should be convicted or acquitted of any criminal offences. Within these proceedings however, the court will have to decide whether the allegations made against you by the Local Authority are true or not. If those allegations were shown to be true that would mean that, insofar as these proceedings are concerned, you would have committed misconduct of a criminal nature.

3. I have to warn you therefore that, within these proceedings, you are not permitted to refuse to give evidence or file documentation on the basis that to do so might tend to show that you have engaged in conduct of a criminal nature. When and if you give evidence or file documentation, you may not refuse to answer any questions (or refuse to provide documentary evidence) that might tend to show that you or your spouse (or civil partner) have engaged in such conduct either.

4. If you do give evidence that suggests that you have committed criminal misconduct, that evidence would not be admissible in criminal proceedings against you, except in relation to any prosecution against you for perjury. Section 98(2) of The Children Act 1989 states that that is so. If you were to lie deliberately within these proceedings that could lead to you being prosecuted for perjury and what you had said could be put before the criminal court against you.

5. However, it is important that you understand that, if the court gave permission, anything that you do say or file in these proceedings might be released to the police for them to use during their enquiries into any allegations that you have committed any criminal offence (and by ‘any offence’ I am not referring just to perjury). Further, if you were to be prosecuted there could be applications in the criminal court for the prosecution (or any co-defendant) to cross examine you about anything that you had said in these proceedings. It would be for the criminal court to decide on whether they should be permitted to do so.

6. Your lawyers will explain this warning to you further. It is their duty to do so.

His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC

7th June 2015

DFJ News News

Free Family Law Class Postponed

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UPDATE – This event has been postponed due to lack of interest, but it is planned that it will be run on a future date. Please contact Rebecca Cobbin if you would like to attend when rescheduled.

 

At 4.30 p.m. on 20th April 2015 local family lawyers (Ben Jenkins, Lucy Reed & Judi Evans) will run a conference that is open to members of the public in which he will explain some of the basic law and procedure that is applied by the family court. The conference will be held at the Civil and Family Justice centre, 2 Redcliff Street, Bristol and will end by 6 p.m. It will not be possible for the lawyers to discuss individual cases, of course, nor will they wish to express any opinions about whether there should be any changes in the law. The intention of the conference is to encourage a better understanding of how the court currently operates and some of the dilemmas that it faces. There will be opportunities for discussion and for questions to be asked. If you wish to attend please can you leave your name, the organisation that you represent (if any) and your contact details by emailing the Family Delivery Manager, Ms Rebecca Cobbin on rebecca.cobbin@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.

DFJ News

Welcome from HHJ Wildblood QC

Published by:

HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC

HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC

This website makes a very important contribution to the system of family justice in this area. It has been created by a team of lawyers who are dedicated to the promotion of the welfare of those that the family court and legal community seek to serve. The team has worked under the outstanding leadership and guidance of Lucy Reed, a barrister from St John’s Chambers in Bristol, who designed the website herself. Like the members of that team, I am determined to ensure that the system of family justice in this area is both accessible to all and optimal. Therefore it has been my privilege to offer my support to that team, to work with them and witness Lucy’s leadership and drive.

This is a website for the community as a whole, not just lawyers. It is intended, in particular, to help people who may find themselves involved in distressing family disputes. A key feature of it is that it helps people to access legal, emotional and social support which, hopefully, may help them to avoid litigation. Family litigation has to be a last resort because it is both emotionally and financially very demanding. If the demands of that sort of litigation are to be avoided or mitigated people need to have access to as much information and support as possible. It is only in that way that they will know what to expect and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. If the litigation cannot be avoided then we all need to make it as just, intelligible and accessible as we can.

I will use this corner of the website to publish information about the running of the court in this area in my role as Designated Family Judge. I want to do my best to ensure that people know what we are doing and how we are all striving to do our best for the local community in these difficult times. The website is not a court service website (that is, it is not a site that speaks in any way on behalf of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service). It is not a Ministry of Justice website either. It is a website that has been created by the dedicated and independent team that I have described. I pay tribute to them for what they have done and wish to say how grateful I am to them.

HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC
Designated Family Judge for Avon, North Somerset and Gloucestershire