12.46If no settlement conference takes place there would still be a conference similar to a directions hearing at which directions for trial would be ordered. The judge could still suggest settlement at this stage. No evidence disclosed at these pre-trial conferences should be admissible as an admission in any subsequent hearing or proceedings, or as part of a transcript or record of the conferences without the consent of the parties.
Flow Chart for new court process
12.47We have designed a Flow Chart at Annex 2 to assist in understanding the recommended new court procedures. The steps set out in the Flow Chart are necessary steps in case management with a time schedule set by the judge in consultation with the parties. The issues conference is similar to the call-over list in which directions are given, though we understand that at present if the parties file a consent summons there is no need for a directions hearing. The advantage of adopting the language of “issues conference” rather than retaining the language of “directions hearing”, albeit with more powers, reflects the fact that the issues conference will also deal with mediation and focus more on the issues outstanding between the parties. The issues conference, like the existing directions hearing, will be a necessary stage of the process. We recommend that the issues conference be substituted for the call-over list.
Part B - Support services for the family dispute resolution process
12.48Previous reform proposals, including those by Leung and the report of the Task Group on a Family Court, were considered by the sub-committee. Leung suggested that a conciliation service was “an essential feature in a real Family Court”.1200 It was the principle of judicial independence that kept judges from descending into the arena to press for compromise. Indeed, there is a rule that the court should not be told that the parties have tried to settle if the case proceeds to trial.
Court welfare service
12.49The report of the Task Group on a Family Court recommended a multi-disciplinary approach in service delivery of support services, except for the final decision-making function of legal adjudication.1201 The court welfare service would be an integrated part of the court system, as it is in New Zealand. The welfare officers would advise and act for the court and have a role distinct from the
1200 “Divorce, what next?” Hong Kong Lawyer, January 1990, 53, 54. Miss Elsie Leung is now Secretary for Justice.
1201 Proposal on the Establishment of a Family Court in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Council of Social Services Task Group at paragraph 4.2.