Call us today on 0141 552 9193
GLP News

News, Comment & Opinions on the latest legal stories

Glasgow Law Practice White

Practice made perfect

Can I get Legal Aid for a lawyer to attend a Children’s Hearing with me?

The Children’s Hearing System is unique to Scotland and stems from the requirement of care and protection beyond parental control. Decisions are made in the best interests of the child or young person to help and protect them.

Before the coming into force of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 no form of legal aid was available in order allow a solicitor to represent a child or relevant person at a Children’s Hearing. It was available for the associated court proceedings and for advice prior to hearings but not for the hearings themselves. Now in certain circumstances legal aid is available for the hearings themselves as well as any associated court proceedings.

There had previously been a suggestion that the lack of paid legal representation a Children’s Hearings amounted to an infringement of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. When the matter was challenged in court this was found to be the case.

The case of S v Miller 2001 SLT 531 established that the European Convention of Human Rights was indeed contravened by the failure to provide legal aid to the child at a Children’s Hearing in certain circumstances.

The case of K v Authority Reporter 2009 SLT 1019 extended this principle to paid representation for a relevant person at a Children’s Hearing. In this case the inner house described the lack of statutory provisions for legally aided solicitors as an inbuilt systematic flaw in the legal aid scheme.

What is a relevant person?

A person will be deemed a relevant person if the individual has had a significant involvement in the upbringing of the child. The test is of significant involvement in the upbringing of the child, rather than any particular care of, or contact with, the child. Other considerations such as the best interests of the child or the character of the individual are not relevant considerations for being deemed a relevant person. If you fall into this category you can seek independent legal advice in relation to a Children’s Hearing.

However, it should be noted that legal aid is not provided automatically and is only provided at certain types of hearings and in certain circumstances. For more information on this you should contact one of our solicitors who can advise you in more detail.

I’ve received paperwork from the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration, when should I contact a lawyer?

The advice we would give you is ‘yes you should’ and ‘right away’. Our experience is that people often delay and don’t speak to a solicitor right away. They are often unaware that they could benefit from having a legal representative and wait until it is too late and the time during which a solicitor could have been of greatest assistance has already passed. They wait until after grounds have been established before getting touch. If you receive grounds for referral you should seek legal advice right away before deciding whether to accept or deny these grounds. It may be that a brief telephone conversation or meeting is sufficient to advise you or it may be you require the solicitor to be with you at the hearing. Either way it is better to get in touch sooner rather than later.

Contact Glasgow Law Practice Solicitors

We have offices throughout Glasgow and advise clients across the city. We are based near both the High Court and the Sheriff courts and regularly appear in both. For more information, fill out our online enquiry form or call us on 0141 530 7438.