A layperson who quit a family committee sponsored by the Ministry of Justice voiced concern at the lack of progress on improving children's participation in proceedings, it has emerged.
Jane Harris was a lay member of the Family Procedure Rule Committee, which makes rules that govern the practice and procedure of family proceedings in the family court and High Court. Members include the president of the family division.
The vacancy left by Harris's departure was discussed at an open meeting of the committee this month.
Minutes for a meeting in October 2018 state that Harris resigned in the summer of last year. The document says: 'Mrs Harris had written to the committee of her decision to step down and to voice her disappointment at the lack of progress made on the issue of children's participation in proceedings.'
The committee was disappointed not to welcome a lay member as hoped at this month's meeting. One member said: 'It has taken a year to find a replacement for Mrs Harris, well over a year as she left in July. We were told we would have someone in place for today. It's a real shame to not have a lay member here today. They make an important contribution.'
A batch of minutes, for meetings going up to July this year, were published on Wednesday, after their absence was flagged up by Transparency Project, a family law charity.
According to minutes for May's meeting, dates originally pencilled in for interviews had to be postponed due to a bereavement for one of the interviewers. Interviews were scheduled for 9 May. June minutes state that two suitable candidates were identified. Advice would 'go forward' to ministers, 'although as this process falls within the Public Appointments guidelines, it is expected to still take a further 6-8 weeks'.
The July minutes said information on the two candidates was with the minister for consideration and 'it is hoped that the appointment will be confirmed for the meeting in October'.
The ministry told the Gazette that it has finished the process of appointing a lay member. The appointment is being agreed with the family division president and the ministry hopes the newest member can attend next month's meeting.