Faults found in old version of Form E1
Faults affected version used between April 2011 and March 2012
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice, has written to the Chair of the Justice Select Committee to inform him about a calculator problem in a past version of Form E1.
Investigations have found that the faulty formula was present in the version of Form E1 that was available on the HMCTS Form Finder website between April 2011 and March 2012.
Form E1 is the form that parties must use to disclose financial information in certain kinds of financial proceedings, including proceedings for financial provision for children that fall outside the statutory maintenance scheme. Form E1 is used in a much smaller number of proceedings than Form E.
This fault meant that the automatic calculator in the form calculated the wrong total for an individual's net assets by failing to deduct certain liabilities.
HMCTS has conducted a search on a set of 459 cases that have a record of a financial application or a reference to Form E1 having been filed during this period. Where Form E1s were found, they were checked to see if they were the HMCTS version containing the calculator error, and if so whether the error was present. Three Form E1s have been identified as containing the calculation error.
Whist the MoJ is confident that the trawl has captured the vast majority of cases that could have been affected by the error, anyone concerned about their case can write to the Ministry and their case will be checked. Following the Form E error coming to light, HMCTS established a dedicated email address which people could use if they were concerned about their own case: formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk . Those who wish to contact it about Form E1 should use this same email address.
The Ministry says that although the faulty form was used in these cases, it will not necessarily have had any effect on the ultimate outcome. Form E1 is only a part of the material used by the parties and the court and is used at an early stage, so the information is often disputed or superseded by further information introduced during proceedings.
The Secretary of State has instructed HMCTS to write to all parties in the three cases identified.
The letter will set out options available to people involved in these cases. They may wish to do nothing, if, for example, they know that the error was corrected during the proceedings or they do not wish to re-open their cases. If they think they have been affected by this error then they can apply to the court to vary or set aside their order. HMCTS officials consulted the President of the Family Division about the court rules and procedures that would apply to such applications or for any other proceedings that might be open to the parties. Officials are also consulting the President on the development of a specific form for such applications. will A link will be provided to the new form in the letter to the parties, as well as guidance on how to complete the form.
No court fee will be charged for making this application, and this will also be made clear in the letter from HMCTS.
The current version of Form E1 has the correct calculator functionality and the MoJ will also consider the future of Form E1 as part of our broader court reforms.
Tony Roe, solicitor and arbitrator based in Reading, commented:
"What is surprising is that before Christmas, HMCTS were on the record as saying that Form E1 was wholly unaffected, problems only being confined to the divorce Form E, yet only now do they say they were wrong. Michael Gove's statement does not address this u-turn, nor does he say why it has taken HMCTS two months to spot this additional problem."