The President of the Family Division has reissued the Practic Direction on Domestic Violence in the light of Re B (Children)  UKHL 35, to clarify that a fact-finding hearing is part of the process of trying a case and is not a separate exercise.
The amendments serve to emphasise existing best practice rather than to radically change anything: where a case is adjourned following a fact find for further hearing it remains part heard. The PD confirms that this principle applies equally in private law and public law family cases.
Where the court has made findings of fact on disputed allegations, any subsequent hearing in the proceedings should be conducted by the same judge or, in the magistrates’ court, by at least the same chairperson of the justices. Exceptions may be made only where observing this requirement would result in delay to the planned timetable and the judge or chairperson is satisfied, for reasons recorded in writing, that the detriment to the welfare of the child would outweigh the detriment to the fair trial of the proceedings.
The designation of a matter as 'part heard' of course has implications for continuity of advocates as well as the judiciary, as issues of professional conduct apply when managing diaries and prioritising part-heard diary bookings.
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