Developing Judgment: The role of Feedback for Judges in the Family Court

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Abstract

The project aimed to examine the current availability and use of feedback by judges handling public law children cases (care cases) in England and Wales; to discuss with judges and researchers the potential of feedback to improve judicial understanding and decision-making; and to explore judges’ use of feedback in other jurisdictions. Four different types of feedback were identified:
1) information about what happened to the children in their cases: individual stories
2) feedback on their performance in court: judicial performance
3) information about the services children receive under court orders: service compliance
4) evidence from research studies or data analysis: aggregate data
A fifth type process feedback, information about the way cases progress through the court system is now provided to judges as part of the monitoring of the 26 week timescale for care proceedings.
• Judges received little or no feedback on individual stories, judicial performance or service compliance. What they received largely depended on happenstance and was more likely to be positive than negative.
Feedback should be an integral part of judges’ training and professional development. Resources should not be expended on providing knowledge about what had happened in individual cases but on helping judges to fill in the gaps in their frame of reference for decision-making and enhancing their skills in the courtroom. Judicial independence means that judges should take responsibility for identifying how feedback could help them be better judges, including reducing unwarranted variation in court experiences and decision-making. Better data about the operation of the family justice system including data on orders by reference to the applications for them, and the number and outcome of appeals would help judges reflect on their own practice and increase transparency.
A research-based guide on the care system should be provided to all judges to increase their understanding of care services and outcomes, and, children’s care experiences of them.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherSchool of Law, University of Bristol
Commissioning bodyFamily Justice Council
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

The research for this report was conducted with financial support from the Family Justice Council and with the support of the Judicial College. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily shared by the Family Justice Council

Keywords

  • Judges
  • Feedback
  • Judicial Training
  • care proceedings

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