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President warns of consequences of non-compliance with court orders

Criticism in Re W; Re H reiterated in 7th View from the President’s Chambers

In Re W (A Child); Re H (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1177, the Presicdent, considering two appeals by parents against refusal to grant leave to oppose the adoption of their children, criticised the response of Bristol City Council to orders made by the court.

He said:

"The court is entitled to expect – and from now on family courts will demand – strict compliance with all such orders. Non-compliance with orders should be expected to have and will usually have a consequence.  

Let me spell it out. An order that something is to be done by 4 pm on Friday, is an order to do that thing by 4 pm on Friday, not by 4.21 pm on Friday let alone by 3.01 pm the following Monday or sometime later the following week. A person who finds himself unable to comply timeously with his obligations under an order should apply for an extension of time before the time for compliance has expired. It is simply not acceptable to put forward as an explanation for non-compliance with an order the burden of other work. If the time allowed for compliance with an order turns out to be inadequate the remedy is either to apply to the court for an extension of time or to pass the task to someone else who has available the time in which to do it."

Sir James Munby has returned to the matter in his 7th View from the President's Chambers, published on the Judiciary website.

He says:

"What  .... is for me a real concern  is something symptomatic of a deeply rooted culture in the family courts which, however long established, will no longer be tolerated. I refer to the slapdash, lackadaisical and on occasions almost contumelious attitude which still far too frequently characterises the response to orders made by family courts. There is simply no excuse for this. Orders, including interlocutory orders, must be obeyed and complied with to the letter and on time. Too often they are not. They are not preferences, requests or mere indications; they are orders. This principle applies as much to orders by way of interlocutory case management directions as to any other species of order. The court is entitled to expect – and from now on family courts will demand – strict compliance with all such orders. Both parties and non-parties to whom orders are addressed must take heed. Non¬compliance with an order by anyone is bad enough. It is a particularly serious matter if the defaulter is a public body. Non-compliance with orders should be expected to have and will usually have a consequence: see Re W (A Child), Re H (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1177."

Re W (A Child), Re H (Children) can be read here. The View from the President's Chambers can be read here.