New officers to represent children in court

Children’s rights are to be defended through a new system
of legal representation, according to the Scottish executive
following a ground breaking legal ruling.

Jack McConnell, minister for education and children, made the
announcement following a test case judgement at the court of
session. Three judges, chaired by Lord Rodger, ruled that the
children’s hearing system was generally compatible with the
European Convention of Human Rights, but that the absence of any
provision for children to be legally represented was a breach of
their human rights.

Legal representation was judged as a basic human right where the
child may lose his or her liberty, where the case is complex or
where the child cannot understand the proceedings.

McConnell said he welcomed the general finding and the executive
would act immediately to deal with legal representation by
considering the creation of hearings’ rights officers.
According to the minister these new posts would be “publicly-funded
lawyers designated to work in the children’s hearing system
to protect the rights of children and to represent their views at

The executive proposes to consult widely on their proposals. In
the interim, hearings are being advised to appoint ‘safeguarders’
who are also legally qualified in the cases where children need
legal representation.

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