Explaining to children: court should have discretion, says Faculty

28 Jan


EXPLAINING decisions about their future to children should not become a required part of a judge’s duty, the Faculty believes.

The issue was one of several raised by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee as they examined the Children (Scotland) Bill with a panel of witnesses, including Ruth Innes, QC, for the Faculty.

Ms Innes said the Faculty’s view was that explaining decisions should be discretionary rather than mandatory.

“In principle, we agree it is a good thing to explain decisions to children. Whether it can be practically done in every case…sheriffs will have a number of child welfare hearings in the one day, how are they practically then going to explain the decision to the child quickly enough, before the change in the arrangement takes place which might happen the next day, the next weekend?

“Do the judiciary have appropriate training to do this? Do they feel comfortable doing this? Should it be done in writing…face to face?”

She added: “We are also concerned about the fact that at the moment the Bill provides that it is only the sheriff giving the explanation or a child welfare officer who may not be present at the hearing and therefore would not know what the reasons are.

“We think there should be greater discretion and flexibility in explaining decisions to children.”

The evidence session can be viewed here