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Public Law Outline (PLO)

The Public Law Outline is a legal framework put in place by the Ministry of Justice. It aims to provide guidance for the family court on how to manage cases involving care proceedings.

The Public Law Outline is set out in practice guidance for the family court – Practice Direction 12A. It includes timescales for the courts to follow for each stage of the process, up to the final hearing.

Guidance for children’s services requires social workers to go through the pre-proceedings process with a family before starting court proceedings (except in an emergency). The Public Law Outline says the court must check at the first hearing that this ‘pre-proceedings’ work has been done.

The Public Law Outline also makes clear that care proceedings should be completed within 26 weeks. The judge can extend the 26-week deadline. Any extension must be necessary in order to resolve the case fairly; extensions should not be granted routinely.

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