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President demands compliance with court timetables

Court must be informed "immediately" in the event of any non-compliance

In Re W (Children) EWFC 22, the President has reminded practitioners that parties in cases in the Family Court are not permitted to amend a timetable fixed by the court without the prior approval of the court.

In that case, in breach of a case management order, Bristol City Council failed to file and serve its final evidence and care plan until two weeks after the specified date. The failure caused consequential delays so that it was impossible for the advocates to comply with the requirements of paragraph 6.4 of PD27A (the 'Bundles' Practice Direction). In a letter sent to the President by the local authority, it was explained that at an advocates meeting it had been agreed that the local authority would defer the filing of its evidence beyond the date ordered. However, it did not inform the court or seek the court's approval of the non-compliance.

The President cited several recent cases in which parties have failed to comply with directions given by the court in care proceedings.

He concluded:

"I emphasise the obligation on every party, spelt out (as in this case) in the standard form of case management order, to inform the Court "immediately" in the event of any non-compliance. That obligation is imposed for good reason, though too often, as in the present case, it also is not complied with."