Message from the Chairman
Happy New Year to you all.
I am making contact with you early in 2014 to let you know what to expect from the FLBA during my chairmanship. I intend to send an FLBmail every 2 weeks on alternate Mondays commencing 13th January. In between those communications I propose not to send any other emails as I believe that members would prefer to have some regularity in communications and not feel bombarded by numerous emails on an ad hoc basis. I hope that this will encourage you all to read the emails, consider their contents and respond, as appropriate.
If an FLBmail arrives in your inbox other than on an alternate Monday it will do so because it carries important news that cannot await the regular date. If so, please do read it.
May I remind you that I, along with the other officers and the rest of the national committee, are here to represent you and your interests, in the context of what is in the best interests of the families we represent. We cannot do that as effectively as we would wish unless you, the members, communicate with us and respond to our requests for views, experiences and data.
I intend that FLBmails will contain short summaries of issues, pronouncements, consultations and events with links to the website whereby members can access much greater detail. I know that there are some Luddites among you; indeed, I have been one such until recently. But we must all embrace change with all its benefits: I hope that you will get into the habit of using the FLBA website as a crucial source of information.
Today the criminal bar is expressing its rightly held view that the Government’s proposed additional cuts to publicly funded remuneration would lead to the poor representation of those accused of criminal offences and thereby to injustice and severe damage to the high regard in which the UK justice system currently is held around the world.
Some commentators are of the view that the family bar is next in line for severe cuts. I believe that the battleground is different due to the imminent arrival of the (single) Family Court, the expectations already placed upon the family bar by the pilot PLO in care proceedings and changes that are envisaged for private law applications. We addressed this issue in our response to the Government’s consultation: ‘Supporting the introduction of the single Family Court – proposed changes to the Family legal aid remuneration schemes’ submitted on 25th November 2013, which can be viewed on the website here.
In essence, the point is that, in order to achieve the successful streamlining of the family justice system, much is expected of advocates in terms of carrying out tasks between hearings, tasks which are not remunerated under the current payment schemes. A restructuring of the schemes is required in order to remunerate the early and thorough consideration of the evidence; this is required if we are to achieve the objectives of fewer and shorter hearings with court bundles containing only those documents which are necessary for the fair and efficient conduct of the proceedings. We await the Government’s response to the views that we have expressed.
In the next few days we expect that there will be further news and developments regarding the Family Court and other changes attendant on the Children and Families Bill, which will be covered in next Monday’s FLBmail.
In the meantime may I remind you that on Monday 13th January Alison Russell QC will be sworn in as a judge of the High Court Family Division. This will take place in the Lord Chief Justice’s court (4) at 4.45 pm. I hope to see as many of you there to join in giving Alison a warm welcome.
Susan Jacklin QC
6th January 2014.