Welcome to the second of my emails to the Membership, which will be fortnightly from now on. Many of you will not have the time to read all of this until later, so may I start by issuing another reminder that Alison Russell QC will be sworn in as a Justice of the High Court Family Division this afternoon in the Lord Chief Justice’s Court (RCJ Court 4) at 4.45 pm, followed by a welcome in the President’s Court (33) at 5 pm. I hope very much that as many members of the Association as possible will be there, preferably robed in the LCJ’s court.

This email is much longer than you can expect of future emails as it covers membership issues which are not standard subject-matter for fortnightly bulletins.

 

The Regions

I am anxious to ensure that members in the Regions are fully engaged with the Association directly and through regional activity. Some Regions are much more active and engaged than others. I am concerned that where there is little or no regional activity members of the Association may feel distanced from it and that they have no voice.

Under the Constitution, clause 11(d), the election of a regional Chairman, along with a Treasurer and Secretary, if such additional officers have been elected, is subject to the same rules as for the Officers of the national committee: it must take place every two years.

According to our records there has been no regional election within the last two years in the following regions: West Midlands, East Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire (Leeds), North West excluding Manchester (Liverpool & Chester), North East, North Wales & Chester, South Wales East, South Wales West, Wessex.

It is in the interests of the Association and its members that all members are given the opportunity to become regional officers. The Chairman of each regional committee is co-opted automatically onto the national committee and is expected to attend all meetings; attendance by telephone is usual for those out of London. In between monthly meetings there is much email traffic about the various consultations and events that are being dealt with. Each Region is entitled to a grant from the main committee each year, as a contribution to specified regional activities.

It is only with the introduction of new members onto the national and regional committees that we refresh the Association with new blood and new ideas.

I am calling for nominations for Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary in all of the above listed Regions. No formal document is required but attached to this email is a document that you may find of assistance. Please note that any person nominated or nominating must be a paid-up member of the Association. It is not necessary that these posts are held by senior members of the Association. If you feel that you have a contribution to make and also wish to reap the benefits of more direct engagement with the Association then ask two fellow-members of the Association in your Region to propose and second you. Please either scan the nominations to the Association’s administrator, Darren Moss, on DMoss@BarCouncil.org.uk or post them to The FLBA Administrator, Offices of the Bar Council, 289, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7HZ, to be received by 4 pm on 31st January 2014.

There is no reason why existing regional officers should not put themselves forward if they are willing and able to be active regionally and engaged nationally. If more than one person is nominated for any post we will have a secret ballot. Once this exercise has been completed I will arrange a meeting of officers of all regional committees pursuant to clause 11(g) of the Constitution.

 

Co-options to the main committee:

The Constitution (clause 5 (d)) allows for the co-option to the committee of up to seven other members of the Association for a maximum of one year each. At least three of the co-options must be available for members of the Association who are tenants in sets of chambers which do not have an existing member of the Committee. I bring that point to your attention, as it evidences the concern of the Association that the Committee should not be dominated by the large London sets and we actively encourage a greater diversity of membership. At least one of the co-options must be available for employed members. There is no prohibition on the same member being co-opted again in following years. Hari Kaur of 36, Bedford Row was co-opted last February and has proved herself to be a valuable member of the committee. There are six vacancies. There is no formal election process. If you feel that you would like to take part in the work of the national Committee email me: jacklin@1gc.com If you know a member of the Association whom you consider to be a potentially valuable member of the Committee but unlikely to put him/herself forward, please encourage that person to do so. Please may I have nominations by 4 pm on 31st January 2014. The Committee will decide on whom to offer the co-opted places at the February meeting.

 

The Modernisation programme:

The current expected date for implementation of the Children & Families Bill (“CFB”) and the Crime & Courts Act (“CCA”) is 22nd April 2014.

In the next few days the President will issue for consultation the draft revised Practice Direction regarding court bundles. I lift the core point from the President’s 6th view: “in the overwhelming majority of cases the bundle will contain, at most, no more than 350 pages in a single lever arch file.”

I doubt that anyone disagrees with the intention to reduce bundle size but it is crucial that we agree with the MoJ/LAA how the early consideration of disclosed documents, essential to the reduction of them into a single lever arch file, will be remunerated. Having received no communication from the Government since submitting our response to its consultation regarding the necessary restructuring of the remuneration schemes consequent on the Modernisation Programme, on 8th January we requested a meeting between all interested parties and the MoJ/LAA with a view to discussing and hopefully agreeing a way forward. The Bar Council Remuneration Committee have followed suit and we are urging other interested parties to do likewise. As this FLBmail goes out we have received no response. We will keep you informed.

Children:

There is much concern that, as currently drafted, clause 11 of the CFB will give parents the impression that they are entitled to an equal share of their children’s care. In December 2013, when the Bill was at report stage in the Lords, the NSPCC and Coram Children’s Legal Centre produced a briefing document regarding clause 11, which can be found on the website http://flba.co.uk/blog/2014/01/11/documents-concerning-parental-involvement-and-children-families-bill/   along with a study from the University of Warwick regarding how section 8 orders made in County Courts in 2011 were used to achieve meaningful involvement of non-resident parents in the lives of their children, including in cases involving domestic abuse.

The following amendment to clause 11 was tabled by Baroness Butler-Sloss, Baroness Hughes and Baroness Howard on 17th December 2013:

”2B) Involvement is any kind of direct or indirect involvement that promotes the welfare of the child; it shall not be taken to mean any particular division of a child’s time.”

Peers voted by a majority of four in favour of that amendment.

For those who would like more detail here is a link to the Coram CLC website and a brief note of what happened on 17 December 2013 in the House of Lords: http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=children_and_families_bill

and a link to the Hansard official report of the day’s debates:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/lhan89.pdf

You may also find of interest the final report by Liz Trinder, Joan Hunt, Alison Macleod, Julia Pearce & Hilary Woodward on Enforcement contact orders: problem solving or punishment?:

http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/Enforcement%20report%20final%20Dec%202013.pdf

 

Liaison with other representative bodies:

The FLBA has links with many organisations and agencies involved in the family justice system. For example, CoramCLC (see above).

I attended a meeting of the Cafcass Legal Liaison Group towards the end of last year. Other attendees besides Cafcass were representatives from the ALC, Resolution, the LAA and the Local Authority Lawyers’ Group. These meetings take place on a quarterly basis, the next one being in February. If any of you have issues that you wish to be raised at this group please email me: jacklin@1gc.com

Data was provided about the Cafcass workload. In short there has been a significant increase in the private law workload since April, which is partly due to a spike in applications issued before the coming into effect of LASPO. It remains to be seen whether this will be sustained and Cafcass is monitoring the situation.

The public law figures show that there is a reduction in the stock of cases reflecting the significant reduction in case duration. Cafcass hopes that once the existing cases that are being dealt with under the pre-pilot PLO are concluded, this will result in greater capacity and less pressure for their practitioners.

In light of the spate of guidance cases issuing from the Court of Appeal, in particular Re B-S, a letter was sent out jointly by Cafcass and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services to practitioners explaining the implications of those judgments for social work analysis. The letter can be accessed here:  http://flba.co.uk/blog/2014/01/10/letter-from-director-adcs-ceo-cafcass-re-social-work-case-analysis/

We are in discussions with Resolution about matters that concern both of our professions. Please do email me with any issues which you consider need to be raised with Resolution. We are planning a series of joint events to consider the future of Private Law applications (children and financial) within the Family Court and in light of the Child Arrangements Programme. We are aiming for early March. More news on this will follow shortly.

 

Fees and Funding:

I have already referred to the proposed restructuring of Family Remuneration Schemes above. The new Chairman of the Fees and Funding sub-committee is Ian Bugg, who, in addition to being the new Secretary of the Association, is also Co-Chairman of the Bar Council Remuneration Committee. He has many years’ experience of funding issues, public funding in particular.

The Client and Cost Management System has been subject to a pilot for some time now. The Government stated its intention to roll out CCMS nationally from 20th January 2014. This generated much concern among those involved in the pilot who have experienced serious problems with the operation of the scheme. On 9th January 2014 the Chairman of the Bar sent a letter to the Chief Executive of the LAA urging him to delay roll-out as chaos is anticipated for clients and civil legal aid providers if the it goes ahead on 20th January. The LAA appear to be taking these concerns seriously and we are hopeful that roll-out will indeed be delayed. The Chairman’s letter can be accessed here: http://flba.co.uk/blog/2014/01/10/letter-to-laa-re-national-rollout-of-ccms-scheme/

 

Education and Training:

Here is a message from Geoffrey Kingscote, kingscote@1hc.com

for all members of the Association of 7 years’ call or under:

Call for applications for financial assistance to attend events of an international character:

The FLBA is a sponsor of the International Professional and Legal Development Grant Programme. The programme offers financial assistance for barristers of 7 years call or less to attend legal events and/or conferences of an international character (whether in the UK or abroad). The aim of the programme is to allow junior members of the bar to take part in activities that give them an international perspective on legal issues.

Please see the forms (particularly the guidance and application form) available here: http://flba.co.uk/blog/2014/01/11/call-for-applications-for-financial-assistance-to-attend-events-of-an-international-character/

for more information on how to apply. Please note the particular references to the FLBA in the guidance document at 2.1 and 3.2

The link to the relevant website is

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/for-the-bar/international/opportunities/international-legal-and-professional-development-grants-programme/

Applications should be sent to Geoffrey Kingscote at Kingscote@1hc.com. The deadline for the next round of applications is 31 January 2013.

Cumberland Lodge weekend is from 9th to 11th May 2014. Please put this date in your diary. The weekend is always full of interesting lectures and discussions, keeping attendees well up to date with all that is happening in family law. The President will be there, open to discussion and constructive feedback about all aspects of family law. Cumberland Lodge also presents an excellent opportunity to meet practitioners from around the country and exchange experiences of how courts are operated in different regions. We are working on the programme and I intend that it will be available by the end of the month, as least in provisional form. I can tell you now that it will include a session on Transparency in the Family Court.

The annual Bar Council Remuneration Conference will be held on Saturday 19th November 2014 in London.

The National Conference will be held in Newcastle on Saturday 22nd November 2014

Social Events:

Cumberland Lodge and the National Conference are partly social too! But they carry CPD points.

The only purely social event is the annual dinner, which will be on Friday 28th February 2014 at Middle Temple Hall. Details will be sent out shortly.

The Garden Party will not take place this year. It is an expensive event for the Association and the Committee decided that, in this time of austerity, with publicly funded practitioners suffering a steady diminution in their income, such an expense could not be justified.

 

Susan Jacklin QC

Chairman