High volumes of work in the family courts could mean judges, lawyers and staff may have to ‘cut corners or risk burnout’, the head of the Family Division has said.
In his first A View from the President’s Chambers newsletter since taking over from Sir James Munby, Sir Andrew McFarlane said: ‘In these highly pressured times I think that it is neither necessary nor healthy for the courts and the professionals to attempt to undertake business as usual.
‘For the time being some corners may have to be cut and some time limits exceeded. To attempt to do otherwise in a situation where the pressure is sustained, remorseless and relentless, is to risk the burnout of key and valued individuals in a system, which is already sparsely manned in terms of lawyers, court staff and judges.’
He accepted that family lawyers and judges always ‘go the extra mile’ for the sake of the children concerned, but said he wanted to ‘acknowledge publicly that we are currently in a situation that cannot be accommodated simply by working beyond what can reasonably be expected every now and again’.
He recalled how the system under his predecessor had been ‘working flat out’ and stated that had been before the 25% workload increase in 2016/17.
‘My aim in now saying what I have is to give each of you, as the psychologists would say, “permission” to have a sensible discussion with each other and establish a dialogue between local professionals and the local judiciary in order to develop sensible parameters and guidelines on what can, and what should not, be expected from those appearing before and working in the courts.’