President of the Family Division Announces Relaunch of the Public Law Outline to tackle delays in Public Law Children Proceedings


Members of our Family Team attended the Public Law Outline (‘PLO’) Re-Launch Event on 16 January 2023.

Speakers at the event included President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane and Mr Justice Keehan with contributions from other key professionals involved in the Family Justice System.


  • Delay in proceedings has become normalised
  • There needs to be a radical change of culture engaging all professionals
  • The average length of public law proceedings is 43 weeks and rising
  • The scale of cases needs to be drawn back
  • In all new cases issued after 16/01 there is an expectation that judges will approach them by rigorously applying the PLO
  • Doing nothing is 'simply not an option'

Keehan J set out 20 bullet points setting out the approach to cases from January 2023:

  • The  recommendations of the Public Law Working Group should be followed in all cases.
  • Assessments carried out pre-proceedings are to stand as evidence in care proceedings and are not to be repeated.
  • Timelines in the public law outline should be adhered to.
  • Urgent applications prior to CMH should only be listed in genuinely urgent cases.
  • Any urgent hearing should not delay the CMH.
  • Gatekeeping order must be complied with.
  • Updating assessments need to be focussed.
  • Part 25 applications should be issued before CMH and there needs to be stringent application of the necessity test.
  • Every hearing must be effective.
  • In all cases at CMH the case must be timetabled to IRH - only in exceptional cases should a final hearing be listed.
  • Split hearings cause delay. They should be reserved for single issue cases.
  • Only list FCMH if necessary.
  • Non-compliance must be notified by any party.
  • Urgent non-compliance will be listed.
  • Parents and carers clear on the date for putting forward alternative carers.
  • Robust case management at IRH - rarely should the court accept that a matter is contested.
  • Narrow disputed issues should be dealt with on submissions at IRH.
  • Expert witness attendance must be justified.
  • Cases should conclude within 26 weeks.
  •  District Judges should agree assessment timetables.

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