A leading family judge has made a direct appeal to lawyers to stop clogging up the system with unnecessary applications. His Honour Judge Wildblood QC also made clear that anyone not heeding his warning will be censured and penalised for wasting court time.
In his judgment in B (A Child) (Unnecessary Private Law Applications), the designated family judge for Bristol said was using the ruling to give a direct message to parties and lawyers.
He gave examples of micro-management requests made to the court in the last month alone: one was to ask the court which junction on the M4 to hand over a child for contact, while on another occasion lawyers asked the court how contact could be arranged to take place on a Sunday afternoon.
‘Do not bring your private law litigation to the family court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so,’ he said. ‘You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you.’
The case itself was an order from a legal adviser for the disclosure of five years of medical records relating to a mother in private law proceedings. The order was judged to be ‘unnecessarily and disproportionately invasive’ of the mother’s right to respect for her private life.
HHJ Wildblood explained that by January 2021 the Bristol Family Court was expected to have double the number of outstanding private law cases that it had in January this year. Already the court has 1.5 times the number of such cases since January.
He said that in giving this warning about unnecessary applications, he had the backing of all judges (including magistrates) who sit in the family court in the area. He urged lawyers to steer their clients away from court except where it was necessary.
The judge added: ‘The judges at this court have an unprecedented amount of work. We wish to provide members of the public with the legal service that they deserve and need. However, if our lists are clogged up with this type of unnecessary, high conflict private law litigation, we will not be able to do so.’