Litigants in Person in Family Courts

Lucy Reed made this Freedom of Information request to Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service

The request was successful.

From: Lucy Reed

Delivered

Dear Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service,

You kindly replied (via the Ministry of Justice) to my earlier Freedom of Information Act request on this topic (your ref 72653) on 28 October 2011. In that response you provided me with tabulated information concerning family proceedings as at 30 July 2011. Your response indicated that the same data as at 30 September 2011 would be published via the Ministry of Justice website on 12 January 2012. The quarterly court statistics have now been published but do not contain the full range of data for this date.

Please would you provide the same data provided under FOI reference 72653 for the date 30 September 2011? If more up to date information is available I would be grateful if that could also be provided.

I am pasting the full response which incorporates my original questions and your responses at the foot of this letter (it seems I am unable to paste the tables themselves but you can see the full letter with tables at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/87... ).

Many thanks in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Lucy Reed

7.20,
102 Petty France,
London
SW1H 9AJ

T 020 3334 3091
E [email address]

www.justice.gov.uk

Lucy Reed

E: [email address]

Our Ref: 72653

Date 28/10/2011

Dear Ms Reed

Request for information

Thank you for your email of 1st October, in which you asked for the following information from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Please provide me with the following information:

“ 1 How many private law children cases and ancillary relief cases
were being dealt with by
a) Family Proceedings Courts
b) County Courts
c) The Family Division High Court
d) Other higher courts
as at the date of this response? If you cannot provide a breakdown
between courts please provide the overall figure.
Private law children cases are cases under parts 1-2 Children Act
1989. Ancillary Relief cases are cases under Matrimonial Causes Act
1973.

2 How many public law children cases were being dealt with by
a) Family Proceedings Courts
b) County Courts
c) The Family Division High Court
d) Other higher courts
as at the date of this response? If you cannot provide a breakdown
between courts please provide the overall figure.
Public Law Children cases are cases under parts 3-5 Children Act
1989.

3 Of the cases listed in question 1 how many involve a party for
whom there is no solicitor on the court record?

4 Of the cases listed in question 1 how many involve no parties for
whom there is a solicitor on the court record?

5 What is the average duration to date of the cases falling into
each of the categories identified above? i.e. For how long on
average have the cases described at 4 been running? For how long on
average have the cases described at 3 been running? For how long on
average have those cases not falling within 3 or 4 been running?
For how long on average have cases being dealt with at the date of
this response been running?

6 How many private law children cases were being dealt with by any
level of court and in how many of those cases has a guardian been
appointed?”

Your request has been passed to me because I have responsibility for answering requests which relate to family law statistics and has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

I can confirm that the Department holds some information within the scope of your request. However, I am sorry to inform you that from my preliminary assessment of your request, it is clear that to answer the whole of your request would exceed the appropriate cost limit.

Section 12 of the FOIA makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for central government is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days in determining whether the Ministry holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

As information on cases at other higher courts is not held centrally, providing this information would involve the manual inspection of individual case files held at the courts. Due to the number of files we would have to examine, I estimate that it will take us in excess of 3.5 working days to determine appropriate material within the scope of your request, and locate, retrieve and extract that information.

However, outside the scope of the act, and on a discretionary basis, I can provide the following information.

Tables 1 to 3 contain information relating to questions 1, 3, 4 and 5 of your query. Table 4 provides information relevant to question 2 and Table 5 relates to question 6. In looking at the tables please note the following:

1. The data have been taken from HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s FamilyMan case management system.

2. Cases are defined as still outstanding if they have not been flagged on the system as closed. This does not necessarily mean that an order, or other type of disposal, has not been made in these cases.

3. In the legal representation categories, ‘All’ refers to cases where all recorded applicant/respondent parties had a recorded representative. ‘None’ refers to cases where no recorded applicant/respondent parties had a recorded representative. ‘Some’ refers to cases where at least one recorded applicant/respondent party in the case had a recorded representative, but another did not.

4. Mean refers to the traditional type of average where all of the values are added up and divided by the number of values. The median refers to the middle value when the values are sorted from largest to smallest. I have given both as the median can be more ‘representative’ in cases like this where there is a bulk of values at the smaller end of the distribution. This is because the mean is affected by the small number of larger values in the tail of the distribution.

5. Figures have been given as at 30th June 2011 as that is the latest period for which statistics on the work of the family courts in England and Wales are currently available. Data up to 30th September 2011 will be published by the Ministry of Justice on 12th January 2012.

Table 1 – Private law Children Act cases still outstanding in Family Proceedings Courts in England and Wales, as at 30th June 2011

Table 2 – Private law Children Act cases still outstanding in County Courts in England and Wales, as at 30th June 2011

Table 3 – Private law Children Act cases still outstanding in the High Court in England and Wales, as at 30th June 2011

* Please note that due to a low number of cases in one category, the average times for that category have not been provided.

Table 4 – Public law Children Act cases still outstanding in courts in England and Wales as at 30th June 2011, by tier of court

Table 5 – Private law Children Act cases still outstanding in courts in England and Wales as at 30th June 2011, by tier of court and whether an appointment of a guardian ad litem was recorded for the case

* Please note that these figures have been rounded to the nearest 10 and that the totals may not add up due to rounding.
** A guardian ad litem is someone appointed by the court, in cases involving child protection concerns, to independently assess what course of action would be in the child’s best interests and act as a spokesperson for the child.

It should be noted that a number of the outstanding cases with no guardian ad litem as at 30 June 2011 may subsequently have one appointed as the case progresses. Also, although the FamilyMan case management system does have a field for recording the appointment of a guardian ad litem, recording this information on the system is not mandatory for court staff and we believe the data may be incomplete. Further information on the appointment of guardians ad litem may be held by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) who are responsible for making these appointments.

Please note that the Ministry of Justice publishes quarterly data on Children Act proceedings in the quarterly bulletin “Court Statistics Quarterly” and annual data on Children Act proceedings in the annual “Judicial and Court Statistics” report. The latest editions of these reports can be accessed at the following web addresses:

www.justice.gov.uk/publications/statisti...

www.justice.gov.uk/publications/statisti...

There are also imminent plans to publish the final report of the Family Justice Review. This review of the family justice system was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, and the Welsh Assembly Government. Several research reports will be published alongside this, one of which involved the analysis of a sample of closed public and private law cases in England and Wales. This analysis included the issues of case length, legal representation and the appointment of Guardians. The research reports will be available on the Ministry of Justice website, at the following web address:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/r...

As part of our obligations under the FOIA, the Ministry of Justice has an independent review process. If you are dissatisfied with this decision, you may write to request an internal review. The internal review will be carried out by someone who did not make the original decision, and they will re-assess how the Department handled the original request.

If you wish to request an internal review, please write or send an email to the Data Access and Compliance Unit within two months of the date of this letter, at the following address:

Data Access and Compliance Unit
Information Directorate
Ministry of Justice
1st Floor, Zone 1C
Post point 1.41
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

e-mail: [email address]

If you remain dissatisfied after an internal review decision, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner’s Office under Section 50 of the FOIA. You can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at the following address:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Internet: https://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/contact_us...

Yours sincerely

Helen Williams

Statistical Officer
Family Court Statistics Branch
Justice Statistics Analytical Services
Ministry of Justice

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From: Williams, Helen (ESD)
Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service


Attachment FOI 74666 Acknowledgement Letter.doc
63K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Reed,

Please find, attached, a letter acknowledging receipt of your recent Freedom of Information request and explaining how we will deal with it.

Yours sincerely

Helen Williams

Statistical Officer
Family Court Statistics Branch
Justice Statistics Analytical Services

7.20, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ
020 3334 3091

This e-mail (and any attachment) is intended only for the attention of
the addressee(s). Its unauthorised use, disclosure, storage or copying
is not permitted. If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy all
copies and inform the sender by return e-mail.

Internet e-mail is not a secure medium. Any reply to this message
could be intercepted and read by someone else. Please bear that in
mind when deciding whether to send material in response to this message
by e-mail.

This e-mail (whether you are the sender or the recipient) may be
monitored, recorded and retained by the Ministry of Justice. E-mail
monitoring / blocking software may be used, and e-mail content may be
read at any time. You have a responsibility to ensure laws are not
broken when composing or forwarding e-mails and their contents.

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From: Williams, Helen (ESD)
Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service


Attachment FOI 74666 L Reed FINAL.doc
138K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Reed,

Please find, attached, a letter giving our response to your Freedom of Information Act request.

Before you look at the letter there are two things I should mention.

Firstly, I am sorry for the long delay in providing this response. This was due to the protracted technical problems encountered whilst extracting some of the data from the case management system.

Secondly, please note that we have made improvements to the way we identify and count outstanding cases since our response to your previous request in October. These are explained more fully in the letter giving our response and mean that the figures provided in this response are not directly comparable with the figures provided in response to your previous request in October.

I hope you will find the information useful.

Yours sincerely

Helen Williams

Statistical Officer
Family Court Statistics Branch
Justice Statistics Analytical Services

7.20, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ
020 3334 3091

This e-mail (and any attachment) is intended only for the attention of
the addressee(s). Its unauthorised use, disclosure, storage or copying
is not permitted. If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy all
copies and inform the sender by return e-mail.

Internet e-mail is not a secure medium. Any reply to this message
could be intercepted and read by someone else. Please bear that in
mind when deciding whether to send material in response to this message
by e-mail.

This e-mail (whether you are the sender or the recipient) may be
monitored, recorded and retained by the Ministry of Justice. E-mail
monitoring / blocking software may be used, and e-mail content may be
read at any time. You have a responsibility to ensure laws are not
broken when composing or forwarding e-mails and their contents.

show quoted sections

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Lucy Reed left an annotation ()

I've written about this FOI response on my blog here: http://pinktape.co.uk/courts/litigants-i...

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