Supporting rules: the interim report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group

Supporting rules: the interim report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group

The interim report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group (CVWWG) has been published setting out its initial recommendations and its intention that proposed rule changes should be in place by January 2015.

What is the CVWWG?

The CVWWG, chaired by Hayden J and Russell J, was set up by the President of the Family Division following the major family law reforms in April 2014. The CVWWG was tasked with the following aims set out in the 12th  View from the President’s Chambers:

  • to review the Family Justice Council’s April 2010 guidelines for judges meeting children who are subject to family proceedings
  • to review the Family Justice Council’s December 2011 guidelines on children giving evidence in family proceedings
  • to address the wider issue of vulnerable people giving evidence in family proceedings including the inadequacy of the procedures in the Family Court for taking evidence from alleged victims

Initial recommendations and proposals

The CVWG has made recommendations as to the progress of reform, aimed at equipping judges to identify and handle vulnerable parties and witnesses, and advocates to handle and question such parties and witnesses, including:

  • that the reforms should apply to all Family Court cases from the outset
  • there should be a new mandatory rule in respect of children and vulnerable witnesses and parties supplemented by practice directions and guidance approved by the President
  • the term vulnerable witness should remain in use as it is not desirable for the Family Court procedure to become distanced or uncoupled from the practice and procedure as it has developed in the criminal justice system - the term needs to be extended to cover the parties as well as witnesses
  • the rule/s should be inserted in the Family Procedure Rules 2010  (FPR 2010) at the earliest point of the rules to emphasise the importance of the role of the child and the need to identify

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About the author:

Claire is a member of the LexisPSL Family team and has almost twenty years of experience as a family solicitor. She specialises in all aspects of private family work, including resolving issues relating to property, money, and children arising on relationship breakdown between married and unmarried couples.

Claire worked as a family solicitor at Hart Brown solicitors in Surrey. She was an accredited specialist with Resolution with particular expertise in the areas of advanced financial provision and pensions. She was also on the Law Society Family Law Panel.