The President of the Family Division speaks formally and informally at many events and conferences up and down the country on a regular basis. Not all such speeches are published. This post is drawn from remarks of The President that have not been published, but The President has confirmed that he is content for them to be publicly reported.
Sir James states that he will be taking some time during the summer recess to think about those Next Steps following the Next Steps Transparency consultation of 2014. The President indicated that in light of the polarised responses to the 2014 consultation, and the “irreconcilable views” within them he would be likely to issue a further consultation (presumably making some further, revised or alternative proposals). We hope therefore to see some substantive transparency news in the autumn.
Referring to the ALC study on some published judgments which raised concerns about the risks of jigsaw identification, the President stated that the researchers refused to tell him which cases they had used for their study in order that he could form his own view. Therefore, he said, although it is possible he has not seen it demonstrated that children are actually able to be identified through judgments. We have attempted to maintain the distinction between concerns about a risk of jigsaw identification (of which there is evidence) and concerns about actual identification (which, like the President, we have not seen evidenced). We wrote about that here : Accuracy of reporting – not just for journalists and on the Justice Gap here : Transparency in the Family Courts evaluated – could do better.
The President also expressed in passing the clear view that the interests of the child are NOT paramount on questions of publication, which does indeed represent the established view, but is a point which is not entirely uncontroversial. In Re W (Children)  EWCA Civ 113 (pas 41-43) McFarlane LJ queried (obiter) whether this was in fact correct.
On the increase in the volume of Family Court work, particularly care work, the President has stopped talking of a “looming” crisis and is now talking frankly about an actual crisis. But, he says “we will not cut corners on care cases” even if that does cause difficulties with statistics. The President said it is “a delusion” to say we can solve the problem through efficiency, efficiency savings already having been made.
We hope that the President has found some time between sipping Sangria, dipping his judiicial toe in the pool and rubbing the factor 50 into Mrs Munby’s back to get on with his Next Steps reforms. We will report back when we hear more…
Feature Pic (steps) courtesy of Chris Blakeley on Flickr (Creative Commons) – thanks!