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In our final article in the series of updates, we look at the new PLO. Following the pilot and consultation period, we now have the new Practice Direction 12A - Public Law Outline. Some tweaks and adjustments but its (hopefully) correct to say that most of the big surprises (like the 26-week deadline) have been around for a while.
In a nutshell:
On 1 July 2013, a pilot Public Law Outline for care, supervision and other Part 4 proceedings was introduced. The pilot ran until 31 March 2014 and now following consultation we have the new Public Law Outline with clear checklists, specifics on timetabling and interpretation.
22 April 2014
The Statutes and Statutory Instruments that make the changes:
Following on from the interim version of the revised PLO which came into effect on 1 July 2013, we now have the final PLO which was revised following feedback from the pilot and consultation stages.
From the outset, the key stages are clearly identified together with a pre-proceedings checklist of documents to be attached to the application and filed with the court.
The issue and allocation section outlines what needs to happen on days 1 and 2 of issue. This will include the court considering jurisdiction in a case with an international element. Paragraph 5.6 of the PLO highlights that the court must give consideration to cases with an international element when considering the child's timetable.
The Case Management Hearing (CMH) and Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH) phases are similarly broken down in terms of timescales and required elements. The CMH must be listed not before Day 12 and not later than Day 18, allowing more flexibility and some relaxation of the timescale. The Further Case Management Hearing (FCMH) if required, has been moved back to take place not later than Day 25, but should still be listed as soon as possible. A FCMH should not be regarded as a routine step in proceedings as the expectation is that the case management should take place at the CMH.
Clearer guidance has been given in relation to the listing of Emergency Protection Order (EPO), Interim Care Order (ICO) and other urgent hearings. The court has flexible powers once proceedings have been issued and at any stage thereafter. It can cancel or repeat a hearing. Where a hearing is required for the court to give immediate directions or facilitate case management issues to be considered at the CMH or to decide if an ICO is necessary, the court may list a hearing before the CMH.
Clause 14 of the Children and Families Act 2014 introduced the statutory time limit on the determination of care, supervision and other Pt 4 proceedings by providing that matters should be concluded without delay and within 26 weeks (a reality that we have all been getting used to since last summer). The 26-week limit can be extended by up to 8 weeks at a time only if the court agrees the extension is necessary to resolve proceedings justly. Extensions are to be viewed as the exception, not the rule. The court must announce its decision for refusing or granting an extension, together with a short explanation of the impact the decision would have on the welfare of the child. There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be granted in a particular case.
The application form C110A has been revised to accommodate changes in the PLO and make it more user-friendly for the applicant, respondents and the court alike. It has also been further revised to include applications for emergency protection orders.
There is an interpretation section and whilst much of the terminology will be familiar by now, there is also some helpful clarification for example in relation to ‘Day' which means ‘business day'. ‘Day 1' is the day of issue and ‘Day 2' is the next business day following the day of issue of proceedings. ‘Day 12', ‘Day 18' and ‘Day 25' respectively are the 11th, 17th and 24th business days after the issue of proceedings (Day 1). '26 weeks' means 26 calendar weeks beginning on the day of issue of proceedings (Day 1). A new section on parenting capability is also included in the section at Part 7.
Keep a copy of the PLO and accompanying Flowchart handy for quick reference.
Familiarise yourself with the new form C110A and diarise its use from 22 April 2014.
Have a look at the following:
The President's Guidance on Allocation and Gatekeeping for Care, Supervision and other Proceedings under Part IV of the Children Act 1989 and its accompanying Schedule. This deals with allocation and case management in Public law proceedings.
The President's Guidance on Continuity and Deployment (Public Law) which focuses on proceedings being given the appropriate level of priority in the list and appropriate case management with continuity of the conduct of the proceedings.
The President's Guidance on the use of Prescribed Documents (Public Law) identifies documents that are to be in prescribed form comply with the content and standards set out in any prescribed form.
Check out our Family Law Reform page, which is a free resource bringing together everything you need to know about the family law reforms in one place. On that note, the new version of the Red Book will be published soon with the amended version of the Children Act 1989 and FPR 2010, and insightful expert commentary. The Practice Notes in Practice Plus are currently also being updated to be up to date with all the 22 April 2014 changes.
Amy Sanders is a Family Law PSL at Jordan Publishing and was formerly a children and family solicitor practising in London and more recently in Devon.
She can be contacted on Twitter: @Amy_Sanders1
The Red Book is the acknowledged authority on practice and procedure