The Court of appeal has called for ‘fresh attention’ to the fundamental principles of good case management in care proceedings, especially as our workload continue to grow.
Many Judges are concerned that in order to protect children there needs to be a serious reduction in the amount of time the Court gives to each hearing, as this could delay the children’s welfare if a decision is not made in efficient time.
One way of avoiding this is by limiting the number of hearings that take place. Some judges are deeming fact finding hearings to be unnecessary in certain cases as they argue that even if the allegations of abuse was litigated, this would not affect the proposed care plans. Fact finding hearings can take up lots of the Court’s time however, they can be necessary in determining any allegations of abuse.
In some cases where these decisions have been made, the local authority have appealed on the basis that they were unfair and go against the principle of good case management. But how can we find a balance between ensuring that children are protected, and also ensuring that we are practicing good case management? It is argued that lawyers should look at case management differently by having a ‘culture shift’ and leaving behind the philosophy of trying every possible cause of action to achieve a desired result, which may cause delays in the Court process.
During the appeal process, it has been argued that as long as the law is approached correctly, if all arguments are heard, and that all the relevant factors are taken into account, then this is a good and reasoned case management approach. A decision such as this would only be deemed unfair if the matter is approached too narrowly, if not all relevant matters are taken into consideration, and that assumptions are made at the beginning of the case that would affect the end care plan.
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