2 Procedures for Pre-hearing Panels
Pre-hearing panels make determinations about certain procedural matters before the children's hearing takes place for the child. It is important to remember that a pre-hearing panel is not a children's hearing and panel members must limit the discussion to the specific matter/s which require a decision. (s 79(6))
When a matter has been referred to a pre-hearing panel for determination, the reporter must arrange a meeting of the pre-hearing panel before the date set down for the hearing to which it relates. (s 80(1-2))
If it is not practicable for the reporter to arrange a pre-hearing panel before the date set down for the hearing, the matter referred to must be considered at the beginning of the children's hearing. (s 80)
Notification by the reporter
Wherever practicable, at least 5 days before the intended date of the pre-hearing panel, the reporter must notify the child, each relevant person in relation to the child, any person requesting that they be deemed a relevant person, any person with significant involvement or recent significant involvement in the upbringing of the child, and any appointed safeguarder of the date, time and place of the pre-hearing panel and that they
- have a right to attend the pre-hearing panel but not a duty
- may make representations either orally or in writing about any matter (including whether any person should be deemed to be a relevant person if the pre-hearing panel is to consider this issue)
- may present any report or document to the pre-hearing panel for consideration.
Makeup of a pre-hearing panel
A pre-hearing panel is made up of three panel members including both male and female members of the children's panel. A member of the children's panel selected to sit on a pre-hearing panel may be (but does not have to be) a member of the children's hearing which will make ultimately make a decision for the child.
Persons who have a right to attend a pre-hearing panel
Pre-hearing panels may involve the attendance of the child, the child's representative, a relevant person and their representative and any appointed safeguarder.
Others who may attend are:
- a person requesting that they be deemed to be a relevant person in relation to the child and their representative.
- any person who the reporter considers to have or recently have had significant involvement in the upbringing of the child and their representative. (Rule 45)
A person will not be entitled to participate in the discussion of any other matter unless they are first deemed to be a relevant person. (Rule 45(4))
It is important to note that those having a right to attend a pre-hearing panel do not have duty to attend and therefore if an individual does not attend the pre-hearing panel, there is no need to excuse their attendance.
Persons with a right to attend a pre-hearing panel but unable to attend
If the child, relevant person or any person with significant involvement or recent significant involvement in the upbringing of the child wants to attend but cannot attend the pre-hearing panel, the reporter must take all reasonable steps to allow participation in the pre-hearing panel by way of phone, through video link or by using any form of communication if requested to do so. (Rule 45)
Provision of information to the pre-hearing panel
Where any person wishes to make written representations or give a report or document to the pre- hearing panel for consideration, they should do so as soon as possible and wherever practicable no later than 4 days before the date of the pre-hearing panel. The reporter will thereafter provide a copy of the representations, report or document to panel members no later than 3 days before the pre-hearing panel convenes. Should any person with a right to attend the pre-hearing panel be unable to do so, they may make oral representations to the reporter any time before the beginning of the pre-hearing panel. The reporter has a duty to record the representations and give a copy of this to the pre-hearing panel. (Rule 47)
Matters for determination by a pre-hearing panel
A pre-hearing panel may be arranged to determine any of the following issues:
1. Whether a person should be deemed to be a relevant person-'deemed relevant person status request'.
2. Whether the child should be excused from attending the children's hearing.
3. Whether a relevant person in relation to the child should be excused from attending the hearing.
4. Whether it is likely that a children's hearing will consider making a compulsory supervision order including secure authorisation. (s79)
5. Any other competent matter set down by the Rules.
Procedure at pre-hearing panel
At the beginning of a pre-hearing panel the chairing member must
- Introduce the members of the pre- hearing panel and explain the purpose of the pre-hearing panel to the child, each relevant person in relation to the child and any safeguarder.
- Invite those in attendance to give any representations, written or orally, or to provide any document or information that they wish to give to the pre-hearing panel for consideration.
- In the case of a deemed relevant person claim, consider whether or not to deem a person to be relevant person at the beginning of the pre-hearing panel and before considering any other matter. (Rule 45(3) (c))
If a person is deemed to be a relevant person by the pre-hearing panel, that person may request that the pre-hearing panel go on to consider another procedural issue.
Although a pre-hearing panel cannot be arranged specifically to consider the appointment of a safeguarder, a pre-hearing panel may decide when considering other business to make such an appointment. The pre-hearing panel does not have to actively consider it in every case but panel members should be aware that they can appoint a safeguarder (if one has not already been appointed) and raise the issue where appropriate. If they do decide that a safeguarder is necessary, they must record that appointment and give reasons for it. The safeguarder appointed in this situation would be for the forthcoming children's hearing and not for the pre-hearing panel. (s 2)