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Family Proceedings

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many judges were involved in family proceedings in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; (83253)

(2) how many vacancies for judges in family proceedings there were in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06;

(3) what plans he has to recruit judges in family proceedings.

This information is not available in the form requested. There are 19 Judges of the Family Division of the High Court, apart from its President, and 20 District Judges in the Principal Registry of the Family Division. A further 166 judges are authorised to hear High Court family cases as Deputy High Court Judges. Family cases might also be heard in the Court of Appeal by any of the five Heads of Division, or 37 Lords Justices of Appeal, or on appeal to the House of Lords by any of the 12 Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.

There are currently 446 judges below the High Court with authorisations to hear private law Children Act cases in the county courts (dealing, for example, with contact and residence orders) and 594 judges below the High Court with authorisations to hear public law Children Act cases in the county courts (such as care proceedings).

Not all judges with such authorisations will, however, sit in family proceedings in any particular year. Other judges may deal with other forms of family proceedings including divorce and ancillary relief. Family proceedings other than divorce and ancillary relief are also dealt with by District Judges (magistrates courts) when sitting in the family proceedings courts.

Apart from the Family Division of the High Court and the Principal Registry there has been no fixed number of judges dealing with family proceedings, and so the number of vacancies for judges in family proceedings is impossible to quantify. No posts have been left vacant in the Family Division or the Principal Registry. Judges at different levels are deployed according to the needs of the courts.

The Judicial Appointments Commission is running a selection exercise for the District Bench and this may include judges who will sit in family proceedings. In addition it will be possible to ask the JAC to run selection exercises to fill vacancies in the High Court Bench and Circuit Bench and this may include specific family posts.