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New guidance on Judges meeting with children on its way...

View profile for Karan Chadha
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On 31 July 2014 the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group published their interim report.

The working group was set up by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, to review the existing Family Justice Council’s ‘Guidelines for Judges Meeting Children who are Subject to Family Proceedings’ following the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Re KP [2014] EWCA Civ 554. In addition the President proposed a review of the ‘Guidelines in Relation to Children Giving Evidence in Family Proceedings’ following the Supreme Court case of Re LC [2014] UKSC 1 and a review of the way that vulnerable witnesses are dealt with in the family court.

The proposals and recommendations of the working group, chaired by Mr. Justice Hayden and Ms Justice Russell state there should be new mandatory rules in respect of children, vulnerable witnesses and vulnerable parties.

The new rules are to be inserted in the Family Procedure Rules 2010  “at the earliest point of the rules to emphasise the importance of the role of the child”. Significantly, the working group recommends “the rule should require that court/ Judge will recognise the role of the children and/ or needs of children at the outset of proceedings either as participants in proceedings who should be given the opportunity of communicating with the Judge; and/ or as witnesses and consider how best to provide for their participation and support”.

It is the aim of the working group that the new rules will be in place by January 2015

There will be wider consultation before the guidance is drafted. Karan Chadha represented the child in Re KP and two of the children at the Court of Appeal stage in Re LC states “how - and to what extent - children participate in court proceedings which determine their future is an ongoing subject of discussion and is something that is constantly evolving to keep up with the changes in our society and the role of children and young people in it. This is a welcome review. Let’s hope that it is a step towards recognising children as social and moral actors in their own lives.”

A copy of the interim report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group can be found here.