District Judge Crichton has spoken out publicly recently about the current 26 week timescale within which care proceedings are currently expected to conclude stating that the time limit is ‘at risk of becoming a tyranny’. He further added “we know parties who have successfully had their children return home, but who would have had them adopted under the 26-week timescale’.
There is, of course, a need for proceedings to conclude swiftly to ensure the needs and best interests of the child are met and that further harm is not caused to already vulnerable children. The correct balance must be found between the need for proceedings to conclude and the harm that would be caused should the time limit be strictly adhered to.
Decisions of the court are appealable in certain circumstances and District Judge Crichton has urged solicitors to do so in circumstances where the balance, outlined above, has not been fully considered by the allocated Judge.
In the case of Devon County Council v EB & Ors  EWHC 968 Baker J commented that “there will still be a small minority of cases, exceptional cases, where the investigation takes longer. ….. Judges must be vigilant to identify those rare cases which require longer time. It is, of course, important that these cases are identified as soon as possible at the outset of proceedings and that any delay is kept to a minimum.”
Parents must be sure to fully cooperate throughout the entirety of proceedings in order to demonstrate the beginnings of change. All too often, parents engage with professionals only towards the latter end of proceedings. This is not in the best interests of the child/children and may be considered too little, too late.
The team of family law solicitors at Farleys deal with care proceedings on a daily basis. Should you be involved with the Local Authority, at any stage, and require legal advice as to your position, please do not hesitate to contact one of our solicitors.