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A Hearing

A Hearing is a lay tribunal of three members. It must not be wholly male or female and should have a balance of age and experience. The Hearing consider and make decisions on the needs of the child or young person before them. The “needs” include addressing any “deeds”.

The Hearing can consider cases only where the child or young person, parents or other relevant person accept the grounds for referral stated by the Reporter or where they accept them in part and the Hearing considers it proper to proceed.

Where the grounds for referral are not accepted or the child does not understand them, (unless the Hearing decides to discharge the referral) the case is referred to the Sheriff to decide whether the grounds are established. If the Sheriff is satisfied that any of these grounds is established he will remit the case to the Reporter to arrange a Hearing. In certain specified circumstances a child or young person may be detained in a place of safety as defined in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 by warrant pending a decision of a Hearing for a period not exceeding 22 days in the first instance.

The Hearing or the Sheriff in certain court proceedings, may appoint an independent person known as a safeguarder. The role of the safeguarder is to prepare a report to assist the panel in reaching a decision in the child’s best interest.

Attendance at a Hearing

A Hearing is usually held in the child or young person’s home area. The layout of the room is informal with the participants generally sitting round a table. Normally, the child or young person must attend. They have the right to attend all stages of their own Hearing. The Hearing may suggest that they need not attend certain parts of the Hearing or even the whole proceedings – for example, if matters might arise that cause significant distress.

It is important that both the child’s parents or other relevant persons should be present when the Hearing considers the case so that they can take part in the discussion and help the Hearing to reach a decision. Their attendance is compulsory by law, and failure to appear may result in prosecution and a fine. The parents or other relevant person may take a representative to help them at the Hearing or each may choose a separate representative. The child or young person also has the right to choose a representative but this does not exempt them or their parent or relevant person from attending the Hearing. In certain cases a Hearing may appoint a publicly funded legal representative to the child.

The parents or other relevant person and their representatives can be excluded from any part of the Hearing for the views of the child or young person to be obtained or if the child may be distressed by their presence. However, the chairman must explain the substance of what has taken place in their absence.

Although proceedings at Hearings are private, the press is entitled to attend the Hearing but may be asked to leave the room if the Hearing consider it necessary for them to do so to obtain the views of the child or where the child may be distressed by their presence. In any subsequent account of the proceedings the press is not allowed to disclose the identity of the child. Other persons who may be present are members of the CPAC who monitor the role of panel members. Representatives from the Scottish Committee of the Council on Tribunals also have a right to attend. No one is admitted unless they have a legitimate concern in the case or with the panel system or have the agreement of the chairman for the Hearing and the child’s family. The Hearing is, therefore, meant to be a small gathering able to proceed in an informal way and to give the child and his parents the confidence and privacy to take a full part in the discussion about what needs to be done for the child.

The Hearing has to decide on the measures of supervision which are in the best interests of the child or young person. It receives a report on the child and his social background from the Social Work Department of the local authority and where appropriate a report from the child’s school. Medical, psychological or psychiatric reports may also be requested. Parents and where appropriate, children are provided with copies of these reports at the same time as panel members.

The Hearing discusses the circumstances of the child fully with the parents, child or young persons and any representatives, the social worker and the teacher, if present. As the Hearing is concerned with the wider picture and the long-term well being of the child, the measures which it decides on will be based on the best interests and welfare of the child. They may not appear to relate directly to the reasons that were the immediate cause of his appearance. For example the Hearing may decide that a child or young person who has committed a relatively serious offence should not be removed from home, because his difficulties may be adequately met within the treatment resources available in his home area. Whereas a child or young person who has come to the Hearing’s attention because of a relatively minor offence may be placed away from home for a time if it appears that his home background is a major cause of his difficulties and the Hearing considers that removal from home would be in his or her best interest.

Supervision Requirements

If the Hearing thinks compulsory measures of supervision are appropriate it will impose a supervision requirement, which is subject to annual Review until the child becomes 18. The Hearing has a wide scope to insert any condition in a Supervision Requirement, and the local authority is responsible for ensuring that it is implemented. In most cases the child will continue to live at home but will be under the supervision of a social worker. In some cases the Hearing will decide that the child should live away from home with relatives or foster parents, or in one of several establishments managed by local authority or voluntary organisations, such as children’s homes, residential schools or secure accommodation. A Hearing does not have power to fine the child or young person or his parents. All decisions made by Hearings are legally binding on that child or young person.

Appeals

The child or young person or his parents may appeal to the Sheriff against the decision of a Hearing, but must do so within 21 days. Once an appeal is lodged it must be heard within 22 days. Any Safeguarder who has been appointed also has the right of appeal against the decision of a Hearing. Thereafter on a point of law only, Sheriffs’ decisions may be appealed to The Sheriff Principal or the Court of Session.

Legal Advice and Legal Aid

Prior to the Hearing, legal advice is free or available at reduced cost under the legal advice and assistance scheme to inform a child or his parents about their rights at the Hearing and to advise about acceptance of the ground for referral. Legal aid is not available for representation at the Hearing other than in certain cases but may be obtained for appearance in the Sheriff Court either when the case has been referred for establishment of the facts or in appeal cases.

Legal Representation at the Hearing

Since February 2002, legal representation will be provided free of charge for a child where members of the children’s panel consider it likely that there may be a recommendation of secure accommodation, or where the case is legally complex etc. Children’s legal representatives are members of special panels maintained by the local authorities. All costs are met by the Scottish Government. At the time of publication, the Scottish Government is working with the Family Law Association and the Law Society of Scotland to design an appropriate training course for lawyers who wish to engage in this area of work.

Review Hearing

The Hearing has to review a supervision requirement within a year otherwise it lapses. The Hearing may specify an earlier review date. At a Review Hearing, which is attended by the parents or other relevant person and normally the child, the supervision requirement may be discharged, continued or altered. A child, parent or other relevant person may request the review after three months. The social work department may recommend a review at any time. The Reporter has a duty to arrange Review Hearings.

Locations of Hearing Rooms

Reporter to the Children’s Panel
SCRA,
35 Carrick Street,
Ayr KA7 1NS
Carrick Buildings
Henrietta Street
Girvan
KA26 9AL

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