David Jockelson

c/o Miles and Partners

88-90 Middlesex Street

ellLondon E1 7EZ

DX: 124407 CDE



15 June 2012


Sir Nicholas Wall

Mrs Justice Pauffley

Mr Justice Ryder

HHJ Altman

Senior District Judge Waller


Via your DX addresses



Dear Judges

We are writing to you because of the news that Wells St is to close and the Inner and City London Family Proceedings Court (Inner London) is to be absorbed into the PRFD.

We are a group of child care solicitors both in private practice and in Local Authorities as well as Guardians and counsel who work in this court. We are anxious to see how the identity and special qualities of Inner London can be preserved following the transfer; and even to hope that the Registry would be prepared to adopt some of Inner London’s many qualities.

Most people appreciate the enormous strains on the MoJ and court service to save money and that the premises in Wells St must be expensive.

That needs to be put into the balance with the fact that Inner London has rightly been hailed by many people, including international observers, as a centre of excellence. It is a great worry that its strengths and qualities could be lost if Inner London is simply absorbed into the Registry.

The Registry itself has great strength in the experience of the judges and the ability to deal with the longer and more forensically challenging cases. The staff – associates, ushers and counter staff – are helpful and sympathetic although clearly working under great pressure.

However there are qualities of Inner London that people are very keen are preserved following any move and these are some of the comments we received.

Please forgive the detail but we fear some of those who decide these matters will not be aware of the real practical facts that may seem trivial but we, as practitioners, know make a real difference to the quality of justice. To follow a client through the process:

  • At Wells Street clients arrive and security staff screen them and check their details. They refer them politely to the correct court – and refer them to the office or the duty solicitor if appropriate. The duty solicitor system has been functioning for years to the great benefit of clients and the court and at no cost – because the ethos of Inner London encourages volunteers.    
  • The waiting rooms are pleasant and – a very small detail some may think – have magazines on the tables.  
  • There is a pleasant well equipped children’s play room. This compares with the many rather bleak and empty ones at the Registry which do not reflect a child centred approach. 
  • Ushers are polite and helpful. The legal advisers come out and interact with us and can often get cases progressed or even sorted out smoothly. Litigants in person, an ever- growing issue for the court, are properly assisted. The office staff, under enormous pressure, remain polite and helpful.   
  • The magistrates and judges are respectful: receptive, polite and showing a real interest in the cases.   
  • In court the clients sit next to their advocates so they can be helped to understand and feel a part of the proceedings. This enormously aids their comprehension and therefore the legitimacy of the process. That legitimacy is surely central to the purpose of the court? 
  • One highly significant and symbolic matter is FDAC: this is an example of a humane, proactive, creative approach which gives parents a real chance but also puts strong, robust pressure on them so if they fail, they fail quickly – which is in the interests of the children. It has won awards and applause. 

Surely it fits perfectly with the modernisation ethos of powerful case management and swift progression?

Modernisation without resources and without this ethos could produce a mechanistic, crude process which reduces the chances for children of remaining with their parents or wider family in a rush to adoption – in parenting terms a cold, hard, authoritarian model.

Modernisation with the right ethos would in parenting terms be an example of that combination of warmth and firmness that is properly called authoritative.

DJ Crichton was the initiator of FDAC and we have heard it said that it relies largely on his personal qualities. However that argument is belied by the fact it worked perfectly well during the six months he was away when he was ill. .

That leaves aside the immediate questions everyone asks: how can seven courts, with waiting rooms, interview rooms, FDAC rooms, magistrates’ rooms and library be accommodated at the Registry?

Many people feel it is vital that FDAC and the qualities of Inner London survive and flourish at the Registry and we would hope to work with you to ensure this.   We look forward to hearing from you with your response to this letter and proposals for such work.

Yours faithfully


David Jockelson Miles and Partners

Kate Hammond Miles and partners

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