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National Deprivation of Liberty Court handling applications covering children to be launched next month

The President of the Family Division has confirmed the launch of a National DoLs (Deprivation of Liberty) court on 4 July 2022 that will deal with applications seeking authorisation to deprive children of their liberty.

The new court will be based at the Royal Courts of Justice under the leadership of Mr Justice Moor.

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary said that from 4 July 2022, all new applications seeking these orders will be issued in the RCJ.

The new court will be supported by two Family High Court/deputy high court judges each week and a dedicated administrative team based in the RCJ. Cases will either be retained for hearing within the National DoLs Court or will be returned to circuit, based on agreed criteria.

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It is anticipated that, subject to judicial direction, cases will be heard remotely.

Nuffield Family Justice Observatory will regularly collect and publish data from the court.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division said: “This is important, sensitive work and the continued growth in the number of these applications to the family courts requires the creation of a dedicated listing protocol. The national DoLs court will provide the necessary expertise in dealing with these matters. I am grateful to Lisa Harker and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory who have kindly agreed to conduct research which will enhance our understanding of the nature of this work.”

The data will be published regularly on the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory website.

Earlier this year, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory published research that revealed that in the three years to 2020/21, applications involving children increased from 108 to 579 per year – a rise of 462% – and outnumbered applications under s.25 of the Children Act 1989 (for places in secure children’s homes) for the first time. “Unlike children held in other settings, children deprived of their liberty under the inherent jurisdiction don’t appear in published administrative data or records”, it said.

Lisa Harker, director of Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, said: “We welcome the announcement from Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, that a National DoLs Court will be launched in July – and we greatly appreciate the opportunity we’ve been given to monitor, analyse and publish data from the applications that the court will receive will be heard there.  

“The lack of information on DoLs cases – especially about children deprived of their liberty in unregistered placements – is a serious issue, which we have started to address through our research. The new court is an important first step towards improved transparency on this issue. However, we also need to understand more about why cases are rising in the first place, and about what can be done to better meet the needs of the vulnerable children involved.”

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