Understanding The Children’s Hearing Panel

Children’s Hearings
Some of the most important decisions regarding children are regularly made at Children’s Hearings. At Rollos, we can represent parents, step-parents, kinship carers, siblings and most importantly, the child, at hearings. Our team are available to assist matters ranging from pre-hearing panels to the Sheriff Court.

What is a Pre-Hearing Panel?
A pre-hearing panel (PHP) is the hearing that is called to make decisions about who can attend children’s hearings. For example, if the child has an older sibling the panel can make a decision on whether they have a right to attend their sibling’s hearing. There are different legal tests for relevant persons and participation individuals therefore it is important to speak to a lawyer if you think you meet these tests.

Who is involved in Children’s Hearings?
The children’s hearing will always have 3 panel members who are the decision makers at the hearings. These are lay-people who have gone through specific training to become a panel member. Therefore, your panel could consist of a teacher, a fireman and a shop assistant. One of the panel members will be called the ‘Chair’ and they are responsible for the general running of the hearing.
There will also be the Children’s Reporter. They are an employee of SCRA (Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration) and they are the person who has organised and called the hearing to take place. They will also be the person who has drafted the grounds of referral. The child’s social worker will also attend children’s hearings and produce a report with any updates for the panel to consider. This will include background about the child’s family, schooling and any other information that may be relevant to the panel. There may also be solicitors in attendance. At children’s hearings, relevant persons, persons afforded the opportunity to participate and the child are all entitled to instruct a solicitor at the hearings.

What happens at a Grounds Hearing?
At a grounds hearing, the child and relevant persons go through the statement of grounds with the panel and state whether they agree or disagree with them. The grounds are the written reasons as to why a referral has been made to a children’s hearing. If everyone agrees with the grounds, the child can be placed on a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) which can last up to 12 months. This can include measures such as where the child lives and who they have contact with. If people disagree with the grounds, then they are referred to the Sheriff Court for a Sheriff to hear evidence on them and make a decision.

What happens at Court?
When the grounds are heard at court, the Sheriff has the important task in hearing evidence and determining what the grounds should contain. The Sheriff will hear evidence from all interested parties, usually relevant persons and/or the child, and make a decision based on the evidence they have been given. If they decide that the statement of grounds are true, then they will refer the matter back to a children’s hearing for further orders to be made by a panel. However, if they decide that they are not true, then the matter will be dismissed and there will be no further hearing.
If you are involved in a Children’s Hearing and think you may need assistance from a solicitor, you can contact the court team at Rollos.

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