Children win right to free legal representation

Children now have the right to state-funded legal representation
at children’s hearings following a change in the law.

The new law was forced on the Scottish executive after a child
took the principal reporter to the court of session last August,
and won the right to legal aid within the terms of the European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The court’s decision was that a child had the right to
legal representation in cases where secure accommodation was likely
to be the decision, where the child was unable to understand
proceedings, and where the case was unusually complex.

Cathy Jamieson, minister for education and young people, said:
“This is a positive development for children and for the children’s
hearings system. The court judgement last year recognised that the
children’s hearing system was broadly compatible with the ECHR, but
that, in certain circumstances, free legal representation should be
provided. The scheme meets this requirement within the existing

* The number of children permanently excluded from school fell
by 11 per cent in 2000-01, according to the latest Scottish
executive statistics.

School exclusion is often a first step to a referral to the
children’s hearing system and supervision order administered
by social work departments. Some 322 pupils were excluded
permanently in 2000-01 compared with 360 the previous year.
However, of the 21,598 excluded temporarily in the same period, 6
per cent were excluded five times or more, the main reasons being
bad behaviour which included acts of violence.

In the league tables covering all Scottish authorities, children
were most likely to be excluded in West Dunbartonshire followed by
Renfrewshire and Glasgow.

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