DFJ News News

“It’s your Family Court” – Debate to discuss the workings of the Family Court

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His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, Designated Family Judge for Bristol, Gloucestershire and North Somerset invites you to attend this debate to discuss the workings of the Family Court.

Members of the Public and Professional Court users are invited to join an on-line debate to discuss the workings of the Family Court which will take place on Wednesday 17 November 2021 from 4.30pm to 6.30pm via Microsoft Team.

The Panel:

The debate will be hosted by the Designated Family Judge- His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC with contributions from Guest Speakers:

  • Claire Molyneux – Family Mediator, of Mills and Reeve, solicitors.
  • Jeremy Thompson– Bristol Manager of Support Through Court.
  • Amanda Crutchley– University of Law and LIP scheme co-ordinator.
  • Jerry Fowler – Family Delivery Manager- Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre.
  • Emma Whewell, solicitor, mediator and Senior lecturer in law – UWE.

The topics

The debate will focus on some specific topics to be confirmed but will include:

  • The public’s view on the use of mediation in the Family courts as opposed to attending court. How can we increase the use of mediation and arbitration as a means of resolving disagreements in relation to children, finances and other issues?
  • How do you feel about hearings being carried out remotely (e.g. by Microsoft Teams) rather than by everyone attending a courtroom?
  • How can we improve the support that is available to litigants in person in dealing with the Family Court?
  • How can we reduce the number of cases that are coming into the Family Court? Terms of reference for this debate- please read

The Family Court wishes to hear the view of the General Public and its perception on how the Family Court operates in this area and how we might serve the local population better. So, all comments will be welcomed.

However, the debate cannot consider any issues relating to specific cases that have been or are currently in the Family Court system; not only would it be unfair for such issues to be discussed, it would also be illegal.

We regret to say that if anyone begins to raise issues relating to a specific case, the chair of the debate (HHJ Wildblood QC) will have to intervene.

Further, Judges cannot be asked to comment on political matters or whether the current law should be changed.

Joining instructions:

Click here to join the meeting via Microsoft Teams or by telephone by dialing 020 3443 8791 then enter Phone Conference ID: 436 171 273#

In order to gauge interest in this event, please can you confirm your attendance to the Family Delivery Manager – Jerry Fowler by telephone to 0117 3664880 or by e-mail to jerry.fowler@justice.gov.uk

Dowload Flyer here.

News

Update re possible covid at Bristol CJC

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We have been sent the following update, dated Friday 11 September 2020.

Operational update regarding Bristol Civil & Family Justice Centre

On Tuesday morning (8 September 2020), we became aware of 4 members of staff who have developed symptoms of COVID-19. All were told to have a COVID-19 Test and self- isolate until the results were known.

Currently, two of these tests were returned negative, one is outstanding, and one is still to be undertaken.

We continue to advise all court users who came to Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre on Monday 7 September to monitor their own health and look out for any Covid-19 symptoms such as cough, fever or loss of taste/smell. COVID-19 Public health guidance is available on GOV.uk.

Our current expectation is that Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre will be open as normal during week commencing Monday 14 September.

Yours sincerely

Helen Andrews MBE

Operations Manager

Bristol Civil & Family Justice Centre

News

Notice Re Covid 19 at Bristol CJC

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See below the text of a notice (attached) to court users about covid 19 from HMCTS. It affects anyone who was at the court on 7 September 2020. At the time of writing it does not appear the court will be closed but we will post any update that we become aware of on this site once we have it.

On the morning of 8 September 2020, we became aware of four members of staff who have developed symptoms of COVID-19. All have been told to have a COVID-19 Test and self- isolate until the results are known.

As a precautionary step we will be closing off specific parts of the building to undertake Section 16 cleans.

We advise all court users who came to Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre on Monday, 7th September to monitor their own health and look out for any Covid-19 symptoms such as cough, fever or loss of taste/smell. COVID-19 Public health guidance is available on GOV.uk.

We understand the level of concern this will generate for court and tribunal users and we are taking this situation very seriously. We will respond in a way that is responsible, proportionate and consistent with NHS and public health advice. The measures we have put in place in all our buildings, as part of our COVID-19 risk management arrangements, are extensive and satisfy public health guidelines for a COVID-secure environment; these include social distancing, modified search on entry procedures, wearing of face coverings in all public areas and frequent cleaning. Our buildings are not considered ‘close contact’ settings.

This information is being shared with the local justice partners and professional court users.

Our current expectation is that Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre will be open as normal on Wednesday, 9 September.

DFJ News

 Public law and private law listing arrangements

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Guidance from the Designated Family Judge for this area

[Editor’s note : this site is local not national. Other guidance applies nationally and in other areas. See this post from The Transparency Project for a summary of applicable guidance].

 

1 For the purposes of this document:

i) The contents of this document are referred to as ‘guidance’ and only apply to the Designated Family Judge area of Bristol, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.

ii) This guidance is subject to any national or other guidance issued by higher authority.

iii) ‘Remote’ and ‘remotely’ are to be construed as meaning by Skype for Business, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, telephone (including mobile) or such other means as the judge shall direct.

iv) ‘Judge’ includes magistrates.

v) For the purposes of giving directions as to how a hearing may be conducted remotely, judge also includes a legal adviser nominated for this purpose by the Designated Family Judge.

vi) ‘Judge of trial’ means the judge before whom a substantive hearing or directions appointment is listed.

2 By way of principle:

i) All remote hearings must take place in a way that is consistent with the requirements of governing statutes, statutory instruments (such as The Family Procedure Rules 2010), Practice Directions, Presidential or other Guidance and other requirements of the law.

ii) All parties must commit themselves to maintaining the confidentiality of Family Court hearings in accordance with the above.

iii) It is essential that legal representatives keep the court informed when they are acting for a party to Family court litigation and ensure that all necessary contact details are given and maintained.

iv) Separate guidance has been given in relation to Financial Remedy proceedings.This guidance therefore does not apply to such proceedings.

3 In accordance with the latest Guidance from the President of the Family Division and at the present time, all hearings in the Family court in this area must be conducted remotely unless otherwise ordered by a full-time Circuit Judge or High Court Judge.

4 In relation to emergency, very urgent or ex parte hearings:

i) In public law cases the local authority, in discussion with the court, must make arrangements as to how the hearing is to be conducted..It must do so at the time of issue of the relevant application.

ii) In private law proceedings, the Applicant must make those arrangements, in consultation with the court (and must do so at the time of issue of the application).

5 In relation to public law cases (save as in paragraph 4 above):

i) There must be an advocates’ meeting at least 72 hours before any listed hearing. The meeting must be conducted remotely. Every public law case is deemed to include an order that such meetings must take place and such meetings shall be considered a proper disbursement on the legal aid certificates of legally sided parties. If necessary the court will issue orders to that effect in each case.

ii) At the advocates meeting, the advocates must decide, amongst other things, upon how the hearing will be conducted remotely.

iii) At least 48 hours before the hearing, there must be a telephone directions hearing before the judge of trial. At that directions hearing, amongst other things, the judge will give directions as to how the hearing must be conducted remotely.

iv) It is for the local authority to organise the remote hearings and to ensure that the means devised are:

a) Secure and b) recorded

6 In relation to private law cases:

i) Where the Applicant is legally represented, the Applicant’s solicitor, in consultation with the Respondent, must take responsibility for arranging for the hearing to be conducted remotely.

ii) Where the Applicant is not legally represented and the Respondent is, the Respondent’s legal representative must take responsibility for those arrangements.

iii) Where neither party is represented, the court office must liaise with the judge of trial at least 72 working hours before the hearing and the judge must give directions for how the hearing is to be conducted. In default of specific direction from the judge the court must arrange for such hearings to be conducted by telephone.

iv) There must be a directions hearing before the judge of trial at least 48 hours prior to the substantive hearing at which, among other things, directions will be given as to the arrangements for the hearing.

 

HHJ Stephen Wildblood, DFJ.

23rd March 2020

News

Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre update on listings in the Family Court

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Following on from the guidance given by the Lord Chief Justice and the President of the Family Division today [yesterday] the Judiciary and staff at Bristol are assessing as quickly as possible which hearings can take place using the telephone, skype or video facilities and which hearings will still remain listed as an attended hearing. We will notify the parties in any case in which the current listing is changed. 

 

Can I assure you that we are aware of all relevant guidance  and do not need to be referred to it. At the moment the court staff are receiving so many references to guidance and  requests for information that they cannot possibly respond and it is delaying the process of assessing current listings.

 

We ask you to bear with us during this most difficult of times and only to e-mail/contact the court when it is truly necessary.

 

Regards

 

HHJ Cotter QC

Designated Civil Judge for Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire.

 

PS – we’ve checked. This advice applies to family cases too.

News

HMCTS ADVICE IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS

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We’ve been asked to post the following information by the Court Service.

There is now a published gov.uk page providing high-level advice to court and tribunal users about the HMCTS response to coronavirus :

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-courts-and-tribunals-planning-and-preparation

This page will be updated with new lines as and when the situation develops or when HMCTS has new information.