Review of Children's Rights in Scotland (Cleland & Sutherland)

Alison Cleland and Elaine Sutherland


ISBN: 9780414015906

PRICE: £45 

The first edition of this book was written before the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 had come into force – not that long ago (some of us feel). This, the third edition, was published in 2009, only 13 years later, but it is starkly apparent how much the world has changed in relation to children’s rights in that time.

There isn’t a chapter that doesn’t mention international law, and that is just one of the things that makes this book a great addition to any busy family lawyer’s bookcase: it’s not easy keeping up to speed with relevant developments in European law or in relation to the various UN conventions, and this book makes sure that you have the necessary basic principles and overview.

Another thing that makes it very valuable is the breadth covered – it ranges from new perspectives on traditional topics: child abduction, adoption, and education (handled in typically lucid style by Shona Smith, Janys Scott QC and Lesley-Anne Barnes, respectively), to highly specialised new subjects on which it would not be easy for a high street family practitioner to get information without access to a law library: freedom from sexual exploitation, the child and the media, and immigration, asylum and the child (considered respectively by Alison Cleland, David Goldberg and Diego Quiroz-Onate).

Even in chapters on “traditional” topics, like that on “Children’s Voices in Legal Proceedings”, by Alison Cleland, there are new angles that are not just of academic interest, but of real practical application for court practitioners. The section on the right to legal representation has a valuable analysis of whether the approaches currently taken by the courts and SLAB are compliant with our international (and now national) obligations. Ms Cleland is typically (and charmingly) direct when she considers whether the Law Society of Scotland is doing all it should be when accrediting child law specialists – challenging the current position as “representing an abdication of the responsibilities which the Law Society should exercise in relation to child clients”. She also challenges us, as practitioners who act for children, to examine whether we have the requisite training and experience.

With family law being a constantly moving feast, it is useful to find consideration of some recent developments like permanence orders: Ken Norrie’s chapter, “The Child’s Right to be Looked After”, is a very well written exposition of the complex interaction between the private and public law aspects of protecting children. He deals with the need to strike a balance between the duties of parents and the state (the latter encompassing both the duty to support parents in the fulfilment of their responsibilities and also that to protect children if the parents are not fulfilling those responsibilities). What is especially useful here is the clear and concise way in which the relevant aspects of the UN and European Conventions are considered, along with relative case law. There are a few thought-provoking and practical paragraphs on some of the European/international law issues that may arise in relation to permanence orders, which practitioners in this area would be well advised to think about, and act upon, in their day-to-day practice.

Space has permitted me to mention only a few of the 16 chapters in this book – there isn’t a bad one among them. The variety of subject matter is this work’s real strength. It is a timely, useful and thought-provoking read and I commend it to you.

  • Rachael Kelsey, Sheehan Kelsey Oswald Family Law Specialists

Suggestions for future books

The Book Review Editor is David J Dickson. Books for review should be sent c/o The Law Society of Scotland, 26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7YR

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