The children's hearings system arose out of a set of coherent and rational principles contained within the Kilbrandon Report. In the years since it was inaugurated in April 1971 it has been able to adapt to the many different challenges that have arisen and to changes in society while continuing to deal in a compassionate manner with all children deemed to be in need of compulsory supervision. The move from the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 to the Children (Scotland) 1995 enabled principles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to be incorporated into the system and these will be strengthened by the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and the proposed legislation outlined above.
Some account was taken in the 1995 Act of the need to comply with articles in the European Convention on Human Rights and developments in legal judgments have further clarified or extended these rights.
Perhaps the most crucial decision of the Court of Session in S v Principal Reporter and Lord Advocate is that hearings are independent tribunals. The foundation of the system thus remains stable and healthy so that the process of adapting to changed conditions can continue without fundamental principles relating to the common needs of all children being abandoned.
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