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Mr Justice Ryder’s comments on 26 week timetable at NAGALRO conference15 October 2012
On Wednesday 17th October 2012, the following news item appeared on our website:
“On Monday 15th October 2012, the NAGALRO conference was addressed by Mr Justice Ryder and Lord Justice McFarlane.
Practitioners from different parts of the country raised concerns about courts rigidly implementing the 26 week timetable. One child care lawyer asked Mr Justice Ryder if he was aware that in the experience of many lawyers, the 26 weeks requirement had been written “on tablets of stone” – even if it led to a denial of justice for children and parents. Ryder J responded that the 26 weeks was not written in stone, that it was aspirational, and that in his view it may be achieved in two years’ time.
Both he and McFarlane LJ were very clear that there was “no missive from on high”, and no direction given to impose 26 weeks. The family modernisation programme did not have the status of a practice direction. Ryder J went on to observe that early data being collected from courts showed that the 26 week timetable was only achievable in about 30% of cases.”
Following exchanges with the judicial office for the family modernisation team, we understand that the following revised note has now been agreed by McFarlane LJ and Ryder J as a more accurate account of their remarks:
"The NAGALRO conference on Monday 15 October was addressed by Mr Justice Ryder and Lord Justice McFarlane. Practitioners from different parts of the country raised concerns about courts rigidly implementing a 26 week timetable. Lord Justice McFarlane, recollecting the recommendations of the Family Justice Review panel of which he was a member, said that 26 weeks was aspirational and that the review anticipated it may take a period of time to implement. Mr Justice Ryder confirmed that there had not yet been primary or secondary legislative change nor was there guidance which had the effect of a 'missive from on high'.”
Mr Justice Ryder would add:
“Proposals for legislative change have already been published by Government and the period that we have before their projected implementation allows us (i.e. judges and practitioners alike) to prepare for those changes in the way that was anticipated by the Family Justice Review. Courts already have an obligation to timetable each case and the timetable for the child may anticipate proceedings being completed in up to 26 weeks or more dependent on the facts of the case. That is why the Case Management System records the timetable for the child which is set by the court. Data will continue to be collected so that we obtain a better understanding of the duration of cases and the reasons for delay."