David Norgrove appointed as Chair of Family Justice Review Panel

David Norgrove appointed as Chair of Family Justice Review Panel

David Norgrove has been appointed as Chair of the government’s new review of the family justice system to examine how the current system can be
reformed to better support children and parents.

He will chair a review panel comprising:

  • Mr Justice McFarlane, the Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midlands
  • John Coughlan CBE, Director of Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council
  • Dame Gillian Pugh, Chair of the National Children’s Bureau
  • Keith Towler, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

The remainder of the panel will be made up of three senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Children, Schools and Families, and the Welsh Assembly Government. The panel will look at the
best methods of avoiding confrontational court hearings, and resolving
family disputes outside of the court system, together with management
of the family justice system.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:

‘The appointment today of five independent, highly qualified experts is the vital first step in reforming and improving our family justice system, making it less adversarial and ensuring the needs and interests
of children are at the heart of the system.

‘The panel brings together invaluable knowledge of the current legal system, as well as years of experience from the field of children’s services and best practice from the private sector. Members also have a
wealth of experience in reform and change management, including the
chair David Norgrove who has knowledge of change in both the public and
private sector.

‘Together, these appointments provide the right mix of experience, skills, and commitment to improving the results for children and parents involved in the family justice system.’

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

‘The panel announced today is the right mix of legal and children’s professionals. With their wealth of experience they are best placed to
look at ways to reform the family justice system so that it better
protects the interests of children and gives more help to families
experiencing breakdown.

‘The government is concerned that the confrontational nature of the private law system can sometimes inflame
parental conflict, leading to greater distress for children. That is
why we are asking the panel to explore whether the legal system can
deal with the issues more effectively, for example out of court in
certain cases, and how it can provide more mediation to resolve

‘We are improving the advice and information given to parents about mediation and providing this earlier so that they can
reach an agreed separation arrangement without resorting to the courts.
This will help parents to agree arrangements for contact and continue
to parent cooperatively, which will ultimately lead to better support
for children to get through this difficult time. In our Families and
Relationships Green Paper we are also consulting on what more we can do
to encourage the take up of family mediation, for example making
information sessions on mediation compulsory, before a parent can take
court action.’

Welsh Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, added:

‘I am pleased that the panel will include an independent strong advocate to represent the voice of children through the Children's Commissioner for Wales. I am sure that Keith will maintain his
reputation to ensure that children's best interests are at the heart of

The review was announced as part of the cross-government Families and Relationships Green Paper, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in January. It will include calls for
evidence, focus groups and formal consultation as part of its work, and
will also be seeking the views of children.

The panel will be asked to make recommendations in two key areas: providing better information to promote fair settlements and agreements between family members; and whether improvements need to be made to the
way in which the family justice system is managed. It will be guided by
the following principles:

  • the interests of the child should be paramount
  • the court’s role should be focused on protecting the vulnerable from abuse, victimisation and exploitation
  • individuals should have the right information and support to enable them to take responsibility for the consequences of their relationship breakdown
  • mediation and similar support should be used as far as possible
  • the processes for resolving family disputes and agreeing future arrangements should be easy to understand, simple and efficient
  • conflict between individuals should be minimised as far as possible.

The panel is expected to hold monthly meetings, beginning shortly. The final report of the review panel will be published next year.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.
  2. More information on the Family Justice Review, including the terms ...
  3. Information about the five panel members appointed today.
  • David Norgrove is currently Chair of the Pensions Regulator and the Low Pay Commission and has knowledge of reform and change management in both the public and private sectors. As panel
    chair he will operate independently and objectively with no
    preconceptions about the way in which the family justice system
    currently operates.
  • Mr Justice McFarlane will represent judicial and legal interests on the panel. Currently the Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midlands, McFarlane J has been a family division judge
    since 2005.
  • John Coughlan CBE, Director of Children’s Services Hampshire County Council. John is a respected Director of Children’s Services and was influential in establishing the Association of
    Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) in. He formerly represented
    ADCS on the Ministerial Group on Care Proceedings – the forerunner to
    the National Family Justice Board.
  • Dame Gillian Pugh, Chair of the National Children’s Bureau. Formerly Chief Executive of Coram Family, Gillian is also a member of the Children’s Workforce Development Council, a Board
    member of the Training and Development Agency for Schools and has held
    numerous advisory positions to government departments.
  • Keith Towler is the current Children’s Commissioner for Wales following his appointment in 2007. He has previously worked at Save the Children in Wales and NACRO. He will
    represent children’s interests and will also provide a Welsh
    perspective on the panel’s work.

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