An overview of the Public Law Outline, with local protocol and guidance
Perhaps it is no surprising that from the organization that originally missed the ___ arising from community rehabilitation and punishment orders. I suppose we should not be surprised that the latest Public Law Outline could to be uninitiated in places somewhere in the Middle East. ____ orders were changed; the PLO has not. So that is what we got. At the most basic level we got to ask what is the PLO and at most basic level it is a tool, the aim of which is to encourage it at every level and throughout every discipline dealing with public law work; the efficient and expeditious progress of the cases. We must never forget, however, that it sits within a statutory framework that oversells; all of the details will come on to discuss in a moment. That statutory detail from my point of view and I appreciate that there are other statutes that affect you here but that statutory umbrella from my point is the Children Act and The Children Act makes is perfectly clear that the welfare of the child must be of paramount concern and also we have within that statutory framework the Human Right Act, which enshrines the right to a fair trial and the right to family life. So as we delve deeper into the details of the PLO these three fundamental principles should never be lost sight of.
The next obvious question is why the PLO now? And despite the introduction of the protocol five years ago it became clear about 18 months ago that there were further pressures being applied by government to the public law provisions. Those pressures were primarily, however, they were described in detail financial and they continue to be financial. The two phrases that we all hear; financial and the second one is to avoid delay, for delay read in my view financial. It seems that there are areas in the country where there is significant delay in a significant number of cases and that delay could not be described as purposeful delay. Undoubtedly in Sussex some get through the net; some cases do sneak through the net but I would be very surprised indeed having done a survey over the last 12 months of the cases that have been completed if such a delay in this area could be called significant delay. Hopefully, however there are some and hopefully the PLO will help to avoid even the few and possibly to speed up the process in cases where speeding up the process serves the welfare of the child and respects the party's human rights.
There is a word and I have been to numerous training sessions on the PLO all of which being different but I will come to that in a moment. But there is one word shinning out throughout and that is the word cooperation. The PLO depends on cooperation. It requires cooperation but it is also fair to say it entirely is dependent upon cooperation. There is got to be cooperation from the local authorities, from the Advocates and Solicitors, from Cafcass and indeed from the court. As well as cooperation amongst the parties who are coming into court there is also cooperation across the court. So that the County Court and The Family Proceedings Court are essentially one court and therefore work will have to move between the courts and that is not simply up and it must not use up and down, that is not simply from the Magistrate to the County Court; it is from the County Court back to the Magistrate's Court. There will have to be movement not of the whole case but there can be movement of issues and that sort of cooperation is cooperation that we have been working on quite hard over the last six months.
In addition to that there will be two fully ticketed Public Law Judges; one in East Sussex and that is his Honor Judge ___ and one in West Sussex and that is District Judge, Edwards who will be ticketed to deal with the full case so the final orders as well as directions. Again hopefully over the next 12 months they are going to be used more and more. The problem at the moment is in the hands of administration; it is nothing to do with willingness to ensure the cases can go out from the Care Center to the other areas. One of the training days I went to; it was addressed by Mr. Justice Hedley. What Mr. Justice Hedley said is that basically the High Court is closed; it is full and they cannot take any more so anything other than the most serious cases or cases that have an international element are going to be dealt with here. There is also the message that there is no money for any more judges or any more judge time so the main message has to be that we have to use the resources that we got in the most efficient way. We are very fortunate in the timing of our training. As I indicated I have been to three sessions or I had been to three sessions before the one I took a couple of weeks ago; each one was different. So the PLO has had a number of incarnations and not just different in superficial ways fairly fundamentally different. We are fortunate now, however, that we got the President's practice direction. At the back of the practice direction are some of the forms although there are many more. Within that practice direction are the flow charts that set out the way the proceedings should go ahead both before issue and after issue and I think we are pretty confidant that this is it. No doubt there will be some tweaking but I think this is it.
Trying to teach it is about as dull as you can imagine. Trying to read it is not too bad; it is actually written in language that is intelligible and it is probably worthwhile at some point sitting and reading it from start to finish. I am simply going to pull out certain bits of it that need emphasis or that I would like to emphasize but it does read fairly well.
Can I look at the overriding objectives of the PLO? I think it is worth although the slide does not say it. Looking at the one sentence and that is; the practice direction has the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly having regards to the welfare issues involved that is the paramount principle. We are then given a few more details about how we are supposed to achieve that. So we must deal with it expeditiously and fairly. Well I hope that we all approach it that way and that we would deal with cases in ways that are propionate to the nature and complexity of the issues and I think this is one area where there is going to be quite a lot debate and there is going to be quite a lot of argument before me because one has go to look at the question of experts; one has got to look at the question of expertise within the respective social services department and one has also got to look at not ordering; I should be looking at not ordering experts in circumstances where it is perfectly clear that there is in-house provision. I have a very strong suspicion as I say there is going to be a lot of argument about that and people are going to have to come along and be prepared to argue that there are people within the departments who have got the expertise to produce necessary reports. Those arguments will be listened to sympathetically and obviously a judgment will be made on the merits of the case. I think it is worth stressing that those arguments should be mounted.
You have been ensuring the parties that we are on the need for footing that also goes to the requests for the source of the expertise being placed before the court because again you may have situations where you are removing child number six from someone that is the application. There may be understandable reasons why they cannot see the local authority involvement on an expert basis as objective and the courts will of course take that sort of approach into consideration. Saving expense; I do know how many times I did save this during the course of this afternoon but we have to look at that. It comes in with the question of scrutinizing the expert requirement carefully and allocation is appropriate share of the court's resources. You will see as we go through the outline that there are various stages at which the issues have to be looked at with great care; it is very much issue lead and the idea of allocating an appropriate share of the court's resources is that there simply will not be the time to deal with things that are not appropriate, helpful, relevant in significant issues. So that is the way we will have to be looking at that aspect of the overriding objectives.
So far as the main principles are concerned; again they are expressly set out in the PLO. Some of them are easier than others to achieve and the first one you see there is judicial continuity. It sits uneasily with movement across the court and it sits uneasily with in some circumstance delay. And I think that of course it is extremely useful to have judicial continuity in so far as it can be achieved there are going to be situations where for the sake of the use of resources judicial continuity may to some degree be lost because it may be quicker to have something dealt with in another court rather than having judicial continuity as the mentor. There are sets out within the PLO; the main case management tools that is case management documentation, which is largely going to be the responsibility of the local authority. You have got case management record, which all the parties are going to be requiring to keep and one of the main case management tools is the what is called the time table for the child. I think that we all had some difficulty in working out exactly how; when a case is issued the time table for the child is going to be set when this question has been raised on a number of occasions with the authors of the Public Law Outline. I think the best that we can do is to say that it is something that has to be kept under review at every hearing; relevant dates in the child's life. It would be very easy if you are dealing with a 1-month-old child to say that the time table for the child is that these proceedings must be concluded by the time the child is 9 months old. It is not quite as simple as that and I think what they are expecting us to do is that at each hearing to record the significant dates in the life of the child. So if you look at the Public Law Outline itself you will see that you record _____ and things of that sort. The examples that have also been given are; is a child changing school, is a child going from nursery to big school, dates of that sort or all the sort of dates that are expected to be put in the time table for the child say that anybody looking at the case can see that quite clearly and make directions which as far as possible fit within that.
Again active case management is going to be a watchword of the PLO. Active case management will come from the Magistrate's Legal Advisors and the District Judges and the Circuit Judges and it will be active. That message has gone out loud and clear. The directions will be given and the directions will be chased up and the filing of documentation and the providing of information will most certainly be chased up and that relates to every body. It relates to when the parent file their responses to various things and statements just as much as it relates to the local authority documentation that has to be filed.
Finally on the main principles we have to look at consistency and that is what having all of these meetings and teaching sessions is all about. Hopefully we are going to achieve a consistency of approach. The legal advisors to the Justices were trained along with the Circuit Judges and the District Judges. So from their point of view they have had a consistent approach and I hope that will go right through the whole body of people dealing with these cases. That is enough for me for now. I am going to handover to Adams who is going to give us more thoughts of it.
Adams: Ok now I am going to be dealing with the preproceedings work and preproceeding disclosure. I would claim all the glory to some extent this is the bit which impacts you the most. So there are two aspects; there is preproceeding assessment and there is documentation that needs to be filed with the application. The objective is that the greater the preproceeding work the more efficient and issue specific the subsequent proceedings become and efficiency and the early definition of issues is what PLO is about. A process will promote if not enforce improved and standardized good practice for social workers. The PLO in combination with the revised guidance ensures that all possible alternatives have been explored before proceedings are issued. The PLO provides for comprehensive preproceeding assessment, full consideration of alternatives carers including family members and would also incorporate if appropriate a letter before action or letter before proceedings. The letter before action is being designed to give the parents shot across the bows, explained and what will appear is quite a legalistic document that they need to improve, they need to cooperate otherwise the local authority will be issue proceedings. The letter before action also triggers funding for the parents to be legally advised and I will come on to that in terms of the reality of that in a moment. However, you, I imagine will be thinking well that sounds great but of course there will be situations where we have not go weeks or months to do a vast amount of preproceeding work or assessment and in this respect I echo very much what Judge ___ has said, which is that the PLO is not rewriting basic principles of the Children ACT for basic principles of child protection. If the principle throughout is that the child's interest is paramount and if proceedings need to be issued and child needs to be protected now; should that scenario arise. You need to act quickly and you need to issue.
Paragraph 10.3 of the PLO makes is absolutely clear that it is recognized that in some cases the circumstances are such that safety and welfare of the child may be jeopardized if ___ seen a delayed until all the documents are available. Preparation may need to be varied to suit the circumstance of the case. So although these are expectations in emergency applications or applications where there is not sufficient time for the preproceeding work to be done; you issue. And once you have issued the message, which ____ very clearly at the judicial training is that although you have issued without doing the work you will then be expected to do it very quickly. So at the first appointment there will be very tight time scales in relation to the assessment work and the other bits of preparation. Now if at any stage of this process it fears that things are not working and that you need to issue then you get into the documents that need to be carved with the application.
This is the preproceeding checklist that tells you and sets out that you must follow previous court orders and judgments and reasons. Now again that is not as simple as it sounds because you cannot just file things very nearly from previous court proceedings; you need believe to do that. So it may be that is an issue, which will be dealt with at the first appointment but there are documents that need to identified at another stage. Then you file in court your fantastic assessment work that you have done by that stage and you notice that these are documents that are to be disclosed from the local authority's files so they are will be there ready to be filed.
The initial and core assessment: In Section 7 of 37 report _____ they exist, all relatives and friend materials and then other relevant reports and records. What we are looking at is high level of disclosure before you are actually in court; before even the first appointment has taken place. So you are looking at that single joint and interagency material so stuff from health and education, records of discussion with the family and key local authority minutes including your strategy discussion record, which you will have set out; will file with every body. Then preexisting care plans, which will include the Child in Need Plan and Looked after Child Plan and then no chained social work chronology and then the letter before proceedings, which might have referred to. Then sitting in a preproceeding box; you will file documents which are prepared for the proceedings; the ___ proposed findings which I assume you partner will be finding for you; your initial social work statement, which you will receive at the moment and your care plan and then these new documents, which are always mentioned, the allocation record and time table for the child. These are all standard documents and just to echo what the judges said about the time table for the child; we are looking at _____, change of school, pediatric assessments and also proposed change of placement if that is already part of the plan. So once all that is done you can now issue directive.
Female: Issues and Allocation: I am going to reinforce now; in fact I think that Adams and I would like to double act but I am definitely going to reinforce something that he said because I think it is extremely important; I have reinforced it with boots on to the people responsible for issues or for allocation and that is if you need to get something before the court and if you need to get it before the court as a matter of urgency then you issue; you do not hound and the other side of that is that, as I say I have really very seriously emphasized to the Clerks to the Justices; the Advisors to the Justices that this is not a situation, which allows for and I am not suggesting they are going to do it but just as a shot across the bows that allows for something to be rejected because there is not the necessary document. The protection of children is the most important thing. On my assessment this is going to end up as a 50/50 situation looking at how many cases can be issued with all the background work having been done beforehand is probably and you may want to argue with me about that but I think it is about 50/50. So there is going to be a lot of cases issued without all that relevant background information but the cases where it can reasonably be expected it should be there. So far as issue is concerned it is done on day one after the local authorities have filed their application; it is done on paper by the Advisor to the Justices and it is absolutely essential therefore that all the relevant information that the Advisor to the Justices needs in order to be able to make the appropriate directions is available there. What the Clerk to the Justices, Advisor to Justices is looking for is the presence of the necessary documents or if not when it is coming in. So they may or may not give dates when they expect the preproceeding documents if they are not in to be in. It is unlikely about point; they are more likely to tick to say that they are there or they are not there.
The information that is perhaps the most important and helpful is the allocation information because it is at that point that there has to be a stab at allocating the case and what we have said and this is now going to be common practice is that if a case is likely to come to the County Court it should come over before the first appointment. So it will be extremely helpful if on the allocation form, which by standard directions that they not be sent a direction; gives a lot of detail about the reasons for allocation that needs to be filled in very carefully so that hopefully at the earliest opportunity the case is allocated to the right court or sets of from what appears to be the right court; it may well move back again but sets of.. The Clerk to the Justices will be day three have allocated a children's guardian. The local authority by day three should serve on all the parties the documentation filed so that they parties should have every thing required by day three. So far as the detail of allocation is concerned and I am only going to touch on this because I think that there probably is not time to go into that. As you are all aware we are talking about likely length complexity and also number of experts and whether or not a case has been dealt within one court or another before. There is a local issue that I think I ought to just touch on and that is the issue that affects Brighton & Hove and that is concurrency. At the moment and for the foreseeable future concurrency will continue automatically to be transferred to the County Court and the reason for that is perception. It is extremely difficult I think at times for parents to understand concurrency and I think there is a fear that their perception will be that if a child is placed very early on in a concurrency placement that is the end of their care of the child. So for now the concurrency cases will come straight over to the County Court.
There is also an issue that I think again I will touch on if it appropriate to touch it now and that is the issue of security. It has been, if I can put it this way a hot potato over the last few months because of various areas; there are violent individuals who are sometimes involved in these cases. We now have a procedure whereby if there is a suggestion that there is going to be serious violence and I am not talking about someone ____, I am talking about the sort of violence that they had in Brighton, which was I am HIV positive and I am going to bite you; sort of violence. We now have a protocol which basically provides that those cases will immediately come over to me at the County Court and we will not hear them in the County Court itself but we will hear them in secure environment. So those sort of cases where that sort of fear realistically is present should be identified right at allocation and issue. When the case then comes for the first appointment the objective is to confirm allocation and to give initial case management directions and one of the expectations would be that there might well be a case analysis at the first appointment from Cafcass. I think I will say for the benefit of Cafcass here that having been appointed on day three and coming in for the first appointment on day six; I think courts are going to be realistic and the two analyses that Cafcass will be expected to provide during the course of the proceedings are unlikely to include the first appointment but it may well be that they are able to do so and if they are then that will be extremely helpful.
Each time the case comes before the court on one of these formal case management appointments allocation will be looked at. So having been allocated from the Justices to the County Court and I give that as an example; it may well be that when the matter comes before the District Judge or the Circuit Judge it goes back again because it is actually felt that this is not a case that is appropriately to be dealt with there. What will happen is that throughout there will be a checking of the documentation required and the documentation available and if you look at PLO one you will find that they quite clearly set out when documents are to be filed, if they are not filed why they are not filed etc. These documents, which form part of the case management file will be there at all stages and the bad news for you is that you are responsible for submitting them and then if they are amended submitting them in a perfected form. We had debates about the manner in which that will be done and there will be by the 1st of April; be a scheme which means that you can use the e-mail to e-mail the orders through either to the County Court if this can be set up in time or simply through to the individual judges so the forms can be filled in electronically. But at that first appointment if there needs to be a contested hearing which will be contested in interim that one might have; that is going to be sorted out. There are then case management documents or orders made. Allocation is looked at each case management hearing. Time table for the child is looked at every single case management hearing and as Adams has already said the issue of whether there are other family members has to be raised at each hearing. There are then standard directions which you will see on the forms and it is very much going to be ticking forms and I think we all are going to be sitting there with lots of forms and going through them with great care. They will have to be filed, local authority case summary and parties case summary etc.; I am not gong through the list.
The purpose of those directions and I think that is perhaps the more important part; the purpose of those directions is to ensure that when it comes to the case management conference and the Advocates meeting prior to the case management conference that nobody is in any doubt about what the respective positions of the parties are so the responses to the local authority documents should be in by the case management conference and the position of the guardian by that time by way of analysis will be available. So the purpose of that first appointment is to ensure that you seamlessly move on to the next stage. It says within the Public Law Outline that the case management conference will take place not later than day 45. On my calculation I think it is possible to do it quicker than that and my calculation is that it should be possible to achieve it by day 40 and that is what I should aim to achieve. The other matter that I think should be mentioned in respect to the first appointment is that although it is not slavishly set out in the flow chart there are certain cases where it is absolutely obvious that there needs to be appointed an expert in one field or another and that of course can take place at the first appointment; it does not have to wait till case management conference. Right Adams?
Adams: I am just going to deal with the Advocate meeting that takes place before this now accelerated case management conference. Now the Advocates meeting is to take place two days before the case management conference hearing. We have Advocates meetings before the CMC within the protocol in any event but what the PLO makes clear is that the Advocates meeting cannot take place in court; it has to take place away from the court door and the reason for that is that it is actually going to be quite a complicated exercise. First of all who attends? We know that under the protocol there has been ongoing argument as to whether the social worker comes, does the guardian come; if they come should parents come. The PLO is clear that this is an Advocates meeting; no social worker, no guardian and parents if they are acting in person and also potentially a Mackenzie friend but the court will be involved in that decision. So it means and you probably are wondering why you have not listened about Advocates meeting; it means that the local authority Advocate is going to have to have to a lot of information or alternatively that you are contactable and contactable immediately. I and number of your legal colleagues went to a training arranged by ______, which was a very enlightened day. There were a lot of people from the Ministry of Justice there although they claim it was done under this organization and lot of social workers obviously and they say we have been going into Advocates meetings because decision cannot be made unless we are there to assist for example about interim contact or time table. So they came up with this really good idea that you still come but you would not be in the room and you would be in adjacent room and the Advocates will pop out and check to you while you are relaxing having a coffee and the biscuit, which said enough really about how the Ministry of Justice feels that social workers and their time. So you would be there; you would be in the adjacent room; you may be able to on the end of the mobile phone but the important thing is that the Advocate has a lot of information.
What the Advocates have go to do is to draft the case management order and the message that you hopefully will have got thus far about the PLO is one with substantial front loading in terms of the assessments and the filing of evidence and then once it starts a fairly rapid time table going through the process. So the message that the Judge may or may not view is that if there is timing for filing of statements that is when the court is going to expect them to be filed not a week later because of the pressures of work. So now it is the time to be saying when the timing of your filing so that there is not an agreement in this order that you will be filing your final evidence while you are on holiday so that information needs to be given to Advocate. The order also looks at disclosure of document so the legal teams are going to know what information is required and no doubt the parents and the guardian will be requesting to look at heath education records, face records and contact notes. The message about contact notes is that the court bundle is not going to groaning with a huge binder of contact notes. The court is going to be expecting the Advocates and the parties to identify which contact notes are going to be relevant. So there is going to be a lot of sorting that out and of course what is relevant to the local authority is not necessarily going to relevant to the parents who will want perhaps to show some consistency in pattern of contact but that is going to be something else that will need to bear in minds too.
Now what is going to be the most interesting part of this Advocates meeting is the issue of experts. ___ has already mentioned that the judicial processes is going to be closely scrutinizing the need for expert evidence and the time scale for that expert evidence because it is all very well for someone to decide that the PLO is going to get us the final hearing more quickly but the main contributor to delay is the experts. So the court is going to be asking why expert evidence is necessary and before this meeting the experts are going to have to be contacted and they are going to have to be told they we are looking at much shorter time scales and they are going to have to say when they can file and that is not going to be around the end of February that is going to be a specific date when the report is going to be filed because those are the questions that the court is going to ask because as we know experts cause delay and delay is not PLO compliant. So if I can also say that of course as I mentioned earlier that on the 1st of April not only we got PLO; not only we have got the guidance but we got practice direction in relation to experts, which requires the court amongst this thinking as to whether expert evidence is required. One of the criteria is why the expert proposed cannot get with evidence; cannot be given by social services undertaking a core assessment or by the child's guardian if the court is with their respective statutory duties. So that is going to be an active consideration first of all at the Advocates meeting and then a very significant discussion will take place at the CMC itself.
Now if I can just put a little mention for ours Barristers. Paragraph 16 of the PLO talks about the attendance of the case management conference and the issue resolution hearing and then the final hearing and says that an Advocate who will conduct the final hearing should ordinarily attend the case management conference and the issues resolutions hearing. Now that is because the issues are going to be very carefully managed throughout the process so it is not going to be fragmented. Each hearing is going to be extremely relevant to the final hearing and the issues that will or will not be dealt with the final hearing. So there is going to need a lot of joined-up thinking and as PLO is making quite clear joined-up thinking means the same person doing that work. So it is going to need thought about the magnifications of that not purely saying that this is self interested Barrister of course. So that is CMC and case management conference.
Lady: Yes, the nature of the case management conference is going to change quite significantly from the current case management conferences that lawyers are used to. You have been directed to the draft case management order in the papers that has a number of questions on it that are going to be have to be addressed throughout. To enforce what Adams just said about continuity; there is also going to be a situation where every time the case comes before the court as well as allocation as well as time table the other thing that will be looked at is issues that can be resolved and recorded as resolved. So even at the case management conference when looking at the relevant issues it may well be that it is possible to say is this an issue? no it is not and then there will be a recording of the fact that something or other has been resolved. So what is going to be very difficult if there is not continuity of representation is that someone coming along later may try to undo the issue that has been resolved or there is a potential for that and that is something that the court will not allow; once it has been resolved it is has been resolved. So there will be a very very close scrutiny of the case management order. Again I am sorry to say that it is the representative of the local authority who will be producing that draft case management order which would have been prepared at the case management conference. There will be substantial time taken going through it and going through every single aspect of it in a _____. There is so much detail on it that it is impossible to do it of the toe via head so the form will be gone through by route and there will be amendments made as the case management draft order is gone though. That again will be given back to the representative of the local authority and there will be 24 hours in which to submit the perfected draft case management order or the full case management order by e-mail.
The role of the court during the course of the case management conference will be to look at the care plan; to see if there is anything within the care plan that needs to be expanded upon and to basically scrutinize it with an evil eye. There also has to be and one would hope it has been done at the Advocates meeting but look at the key issues in the case. This is where the really issue-driven approach starts in earnest. It is why as I say where issues are non-issues they will be recorded as nonissues and where they are clearly issues that have to be looked up they will be recorded as such. So far as experts are concerned, Adams mentioned that; there is another feature of our role which has to be reinforced and that is the cost of experts. Not only are we going to be looking at the need for experts to be instructed and listening to argument of respective experts we are also going to be looking at the cost of experts and we will be giving directions before the case management conference that not only require the information about which expert when they can file but we are also going to be scrutinizing cost as well. So that is something else that I think you should be aware of. There is going to be much more time needed for these case management conferences. At the moment it is possible to come in and out sometimes in 10 minutes and people hand in orders and frequently they are entirely appropriate and they take the case in entirely the right direction and I am not criticizing that as a practice at all but it is not going to have like that in future.
It is going to be a much more formalized affair as I say with a much greater scrutiny of the orders and the draft case management order. So case management conferences are going to take I would anticipate at least an hour of court time. At the end of the case management conference there has to be a time tabling through to the issues resolution hearing and to the Advocated meeting before the issues resolution hearing.
Adams: I just want to go back to one aspect of the CMC and that not only we are looking at what aspects may need to be involved at a time scale and how much they cost and whether other people can deal with that expert evidence. We are also required at the Advocate meeting pre-CMC to consider what questions are going to be submitted. So really right at that stage not only do we need them but what we are going to ask them to do. So CMC time table for filing effectively final evidence up to the issues resolution and two days before the issues resolution hearing the Advocates meet. Now to understand what needs to be achieved at the Advocates meeting you need to understand what needs to be achieved at issues resolution hearing. Of course we are going to that in a moment but in effect this is a new beast and what court is going to be doing at the IRH is really trying to identify what aspects of the case need to be dealt with at the final hearing. So for your Advocate the IRH; they will need to know what aspects of the threshold are required to be proved at final hearing; does everything need to be proved or are there things which are not quite so important. So it really is very careful consideration of actually what issues there are and what issues need to be actually dealt with at the final hearing. So jut going back to the PLO looking at the table; what will be happening is that the parties will be considering their respective case summaries, the Cafcass case analysis and recommendation, back to the draft case management order and then notification to the court if there is need for any contested hearing or need for evidence. The Judge of course is going to explain it; we are now potentially looking at specific issues being fragmented from the final hearing but there may be issues which are pivotal to the parent's position or indeed the local authority's position, which mean that they can be dealt with and what we call reflect I think is the ____ on their positions once that evidence is dealt with.
So in reality the Advocates meeting often going through those issues are what are we going to argue that. What actual issues we need to take up court time and once you deicide of that what witnesses are needed to achieve that. I think the message is clear from the judicial training, the PLO training is that the issue resolution hearing is not going to be; parents say they want their children back and local authority says they would not care; so we set it down for final hearing it is going to be like that. It is going to be nitty gritty; what are the issues and the judicial scrutiny at the IRH is going to be intense. Do you need to prove this? Does that really make any difference to any order that I may make at the end of the day. So again in terms of your information to the Advocate you are going to have to be very clear what needs to be forced about and what is not important. So again this is not the morning of the final hearing; this is way before that where you are actually really defining what needs to be resolved and what does not need to be resolved. So that is the job for the Advocates of the IRH.
Female: Having been to as I have already indicated a number of these training programs; the nature of the IRH has changed or its broad nature has changed. The first time I heard about the issues resolution hearing it sounds as though we are expected to go into court and say you have not got chance why do not you give up or something of this sort and that could be turning in any direction. As you can imagine we are all a bit perturbed about that and also we were perturbed about the possibility of saying something that might have given the impression of having prejudged a case and we all voiced that view very loudly because I think no judge is prepared to involve themselves in that sort of situation unless it was by means of a scheme whereby you had one judge doing the IRH but that judge would then be recused from the case if they said something that indicated that they have made up their mind that is not what is wanted. What is wanted is continuity and therefore we are not going to be coming in with no boots and saying he must be kidding or anything of that sort. So it is what Adam has described. We are going to be looking very carefully at what needs to be proved in order to arrive at a situation where a fair and just decision can be made. The matter to which Adam alluded which is possibly having fragmented parts of the hearing could arise in a situation where for instance you have parents who have been to an organization such as Symbol. Symbol has said not a chance. The parents cannot quite accept that without hearing some sort of evidence from Symbol. You might well list or we might well list an hour and a half or two in the following week for Symbol to come along and give their evidence and to be heard and if at the end of that it is clear then obviously that obviously that is an issue that is gone and the expectation would be that the case has taken that particular route because there has been an indication that if the parents heard that they would accept it if they heard it and all the evidence. And if that sort of approach shortens the proceedings then we are quite prepared to embark on that sort of approach.
You will notice that there has been no mention so far of listing the final hearing. Having identified finally the issues; having scrutinized what those issues are going to; having scrutinized what evidence is required to arrive at any decision in relation to those issues that is the point at which these cases are going to listed for final hearing. I feel quite smug or I have felt quite smug when we gone to the earlier judicial training because prior to the protocol you may remember that we did not list until we heard a right at the prehearing review and we said if people are prepared to cooperate with this we will guarantee that we will list within 6-8 weeks of the prehearing review and we did and we saved an awful lot of time. We also saved a lot of anxiety about double listing and triple listing and sometime quadruple listing. This is basically what this is going back to; it is highly unlikely that the cases will be listed for final hearing at the beginning. It is highly unlikely they will be listed for final hearing until this point of proceedings and all the arguments about the expense will not be available etc. were proved to be completely groundless when we had this system before so that system will definitely be coming in. If you are at this point left with issues that you have to deal with they will then be given at the issues resolution hearing the time table that takes the case through to what _____ who is one of the authors of this PLO describes as the final hearing. You have not had the privilege of seeing the video in relation to training for the PLO. Some people who even thought they are getting the video for training for the PLO got a hip replacement operation, which actually made it very difficult when we did the last sort of training when they were supposed to have seen the video in relation to the PLO but if you did get that you got ___ coming to the final hearing and I think I am actually going to adopt that in future. I think it is ___ for final hearing. The final hearing is the final hearing and it will be dealt with. Hopefully these final hearings will be much shorter than some of the final hearings we have been having of late. That is the aim and they should and we should be able to list them with a much more realistic time estimate.
The IRH is going to take more time than any PHR that we are having at the moment so the prehearing review 20 minutes I suspect is another hearing that is not going to turn into an issues resolution hearing of at least an hour. I think in all of it I am just going to repeat when going through the whole of this process. We just have to look at what they had to do. We are all prepared. The judiciary is prepared to drive it along but not to drive it along at the expense of the welfare of the child or justice.