Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 2

Volume 2 is a children's hearings handbook, focusing on the problems that some children face, the environment in which they live, their needs and their rights.

5 Fundamental Principles of the Children's Hearings System

The children's hearings system was, from its start, underpinned by principles set out in the Kilbrandon Report. These brought together the law, expertise in providing child care and informed lay judgment in order to reach decisions on what care was needed in the best interests of individual children. The key principles are:

  • children who offend and children against whom offences are committed should normally be dealt with in the same system - but children who commit very serious offences may be dealt with by the courts
  • the system is based on a concern for the welfare of the child, not punishment
  • while the child's needs are normally the test for intervention this does not mean ignoring deeds as to do so would not be in the child's best interests
  • the gatekeeper to the system, the reporter, gathers evidence to support specified reasons for referral to hearings, known as statement of grounds, and also applies the test of the need for compulsory intervention
  • hearings are conducted in private but are open to prescribed public scrutiny
  • decisions in hearings are made by trained lay people, representing a cross-section of the community
  • children and parents have the right to accept or deny the statement of grounds and disputed facts are dealt with by a sheriff
  • hearings consider 'the whole child', that is the child in the context of his or her life
  • the style and setting of hearings is relatively informal to encourage full and frank discussion while legal procedures are observed
  • hearings should attempt to engage the co-operation of families in resolving problems
  • parents are generally the best people to bring up their own children and should be encouraged and enabled to do so whenever possible
  • hearings must seek, listen to and take account of the views of children and their parents in reaching decisions
  • compulsory supervision should be beneficial, with decisions taken by children's hearings being in the best interests of the individual child
  • compulsory supervision encompass protection, treatment, guidance and control
  • children should remain in their own community whenever possible and service provision should be integrated
  • other rights, such as the right to appeal and to review compulsory supervision, are built in to the system.


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