As President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, gets ready to leave office and make way for his successor Andrew McFarlane, he has invited all family judges to complete a survey and share their views on improving the family justice system.
Part of the letter reads a little like a “Look what I did during my time in office” deal, but we’ll forgive him that.
The programme for family court reform itself is set to finish in 2022, however no one is really sure how long the process will take, because the task is so vast and as yet hasn’t been fully quantified.
In his letter, Munby sets out the current major areas for reform:
Digital Technology – the proposals hope to make family courts fully digital, or paperless, with online systems which make processing cases faster and more efficient.
Estate Reform – family courts are in desperate need of refurbishment and modernisation, as well as a more secure infrastructure for court staff as well as vulnerable witnesses. The reform programme aims to build new courts and create better layouts inside these court houses for employees and service users.
Case Officers – the introduction of case workers, who will act a little like legal advisers, taking on some of the admin roles inside the courts, and in so doing free up judicial time. The scope and remit of case officers has yet to be decided.
Munby suggests in his letter that the Reform Programme, coupled with the current changes inside the Family Court, will lead to lasting improvements inside the system. Any family judges who would like to share thoughts outside of the survey can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps the President might like to hear from service users too?