Specialist child advisers Clan Childlaw have expressed their disappointment at today's UK Supreme Court ruling that siblings should not be treated as relevant persons before children's hearings.
Judges ruled that it was inappropriate apart from exceptional cases to give siblings all the rights, and impose on them the duties, of relevant persons – a status intended for those who have had significant involvement in the upbringing of a child – and that siblings' rights to private and family life under article 8 of the Human Rights Convention could be sufficiently safeguarded by other means (click here for report).
Lucy Frazer of Clan Childlaw, solicitor for ABC, one of the young people whose appeals were dismissed by the court, said: "We are disappointed by the outcome. It leaves a huge amount of discretion to those operating children’s hearings who will have to follow complex procedures to ensure compatibility with a brother or sister’s right to family life. Our experience is that despite these procedures being recently put in place, they are not being followed universally. In most cases judicial review proceedings, which are difficult to access without legal representation, will be the only means for young people to ensure their rights are protected in the hearing system. For those who are unrepresented, it is unclear how they will ensure procedures are followed to protect their rights."
The Children (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament would strengthen the duties in relation to brothers and sisters for care experienced young people. Clan Childlaw said it hoped that today's judgment and the Care Review Promise, which recommends legislative changes, would result in amendments strengthening the rights of brothers and sisters within children’s hearings.
Principal solicitor Alison Reid Clan Childlaw commented: "We will continue to work with others to make sure that young people like ABC have their right to participate protected and to ensure that the system has the welfare of all children at its heart. We hope that this will lead to legislation that gives brothers and sisters ways of protecting their rights, and simplifies procedures required to make the system compatible with the right to family life."