Family courts need more resources

A shortage of judges is creating delays in the family courts, the President of the Family Division has warned.


Sir Mark Potter, delivering the Hershman/Levy memorial lecture in July, said resource restrictions in the Courts Service and new developments in the law, have increased the workload of High Court judges. This has caused a “cascading down” effect, increasing the burden on county court judges and district judges. He expressed support for the campaign by lawyers against the Legal Services Commission (“LSC”) proposed cuts to the family legal aid budget.

Many solicitors’ firms and barristers have either already cut down on or abandoned publicly funded family work, he said, and those who could command private work tended to be the more experienced. The less experienced tended to be the less efficient at case management, and consequently, lack of representation would lead to more litigants in person and more delays.
“I feel bound to observe that there is a discouraging lack of realism in the apparent determination of the LSC to disregard these warnings,” he said. “Since the time of Lord Carter’s Review the LSC has ignored his recommendation that in children cases a graduated fee scheme was necessary in light of the difference in complexity of the infinite variety of such cases ...”

He said the proposal that the fixed fee for interim hearings be paid at a lower rate than for final hearings was the one that most concerned the judiciary and would have a “chilling effect” on the readiness of advocates to take on such work.

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