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Preventing duplicate representation at Children’s Hearings
Thursday, May 25, 2017
It can be difficult for the Reporter or us to know in advance of a Children’s Hearing if a child already has their own solicitor of choice or will require a duty solicitor. This is because these hearings take place at relatively short notice and the child may often be distressed about the circumstances they find themselves in.
In an attempt to minimise the situation where two solicitors turn up for the same specified hearing we suggest that you take the following steps:
Solicitor of choice
- Please email or write to the Reporter’s office concerned and inform them you represent a child as their solicitor of choice when you know about a forthcoming hearing.
- If you agree to act for a child we will always try to provide you with a phone number of either the place they are currently residing or their social worker. Please phone this number prior to leaving your office to meet with the child in question to check they:
- do not already have a solicitor of choice
- are old enough to give you instructions
- want you to represent them at the hearing.
A child is not obliged to be represented by a duty solicitor and can turn down your services.
When can a child use a duty solicitor?
The Children’s Hearings Duty Scheme is used when a child, who is old enough to directly instruct a solicitor, is called to one of four specified hearings and it has not been possible to ascertain if they already have their own solicitor of choice. The specified hearings are:
- a second working day hearing
- a S48 application to the sheriff to vary or terminate a Child Protection Order
- a hearing where a child is alleged to have committed an offence and is being kept in a place of safety in the meantime
- a hearing to discuss placement or continued placement in secure accommodation.
As explained above, it is not always possible to ascertain if a child has their own solicitor.
This sometimes leads to a duty solicitor being appointed when the child already has their own solicitor of choice.
It can also sometimes lead to a duty solicitor attending at a Hearing Centre to meet the child only to be told that there is a solicitor of choice who will be representing them.
When this happens, the duty solicitor has to stand down and, while they will still be paid under automatic legal aid for all reasonable work carried out up to this point, which includes any return travel to their office, this is inconvenient and frustrating for the duty solicitor who could have been undertaking other work. It also incurs unnecessary expenditure from the Fund.
For more information please contact Liz Cuschieri, Solicitor: firstname.lastname@example.org
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