HHJ STEPHEN WILDBLOOD QC
DESIGNATED FAMILY JUDGE
22nd June 2020
Note about Family listing
1.When lockdown started many of us thought that it would only be a matter of weeks, or a few months at most, before everything reverted to normal. We know, now, that we are in this for the long haul.
2. Events over the past three months have placed a huge strain on everybody and I am really grateful for the way in which everyone has pulled together to keep the system running in these exceptional times. However, these events have taken a huge toll on many and, foremost amongst them, are the members of the Family Court listing team.
3. The Family Court listing team members never complain. They have been coming into the court office and working overtime at weekends to keep things going. But this has now reached a crisis point and I need to ask for your help in supporting them.
4. The listing teams has over 720 pieces of work outstanding and the amount of work is increasing. They cannot continue to bear that burden.
5. Therefore, please can I ask you to do the following:
i) Please do not send any emails to the Family listing office unless your email is genuinely necessary.
ii) Please do not make multiple requests for the same thing. The team is working as hard as they can and is doing its utmost to get through the work. But multiple requests clog up the system and cause delay. We cannot have a system where the person who shouts most frequently and at greatest volume gets answered first. Where this occurs I have asked that it is referred to me and I will then take appropriate action.
iii) Where possible, please appoint one person from a case to correspond with the listing office on any point that arises. At present, for instance, the listing team are often getting multiple emails from all parties in public law cases about listing arrangements. Please appoint one person to contact the listing office on any joint issues and then ask that person to cascade the reply among the other parties.
iv) Do not leave the arrangements for remote hearings to discussion with the listing officer. The arrangements for remote hearings (e.g. which platform will be used, who will set up the hearing etc) should all be part of case management and should be resolved at a case management hearing or advocates’ meeting wherever possible. At present the court office gets many emails from parties to the same case making the same enquiries about this. That has to stop. Again, I have asked the listing officer to report to me if this does occur and I will then contact those who are responsible. Therefore, please do not leave a case management hearing (or other interlocutory hearing) without resolving how the next hearing will proceed and recording the arrangement on the face of the order.
v) Please do ensure that you have included directions for an advocates’ meeting when you settle orders for directions.
vi) If you need directions from the court, please consider whether it would be quicker and easier to email the Judge directly. Otherwise your email may be sitting in a backlog of emails in the listing office inbox.
vii) Please do not copy the listing office into emails between the parties (for instance, by using ‘reply all’) except where this is genuinely necessary for the work of the family listing office.
viii) Please keep correspondence about orders to a minimum. I actively encourage legal advisers and judges, please, to seal their own orders. Legal advisers and judges can also help by completing what are called hearing outcome sheets at the end of each day.
6. If we do not take these measures the listing office will fall increasingly behind. There are no quick fixes to this and so we have to do our best with the resources that we have. The listing officers are people and, like all of us, they are trying to do the best job they can whilst still also preserving an overall way of life that is at least reasonable. Please help them. Thank you.
Stephen Wildblood QC.
22nd June 2020