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Family Courts: Sexual Offences

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice whether the Government plan to introduce independent advocacy for children in family court cases where sexual abuse allegations have been made. (140565)

There are a number of provisions which allow a child to be separately represented in family proceedings.

Research published in 2003 noted that 15 per cent. of care applications had allegations that the child is likely to suffer ill treatment by way of sexual abuse.1 12 per cent. of care applications showed that the child was suffering ill treatment by way of sexual abuse.

Children involved in all public law proceedings, including care and supervision applications, are made a party to proceedings and are represented by an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) and an independent solicitor.

In private law proceedings where it appears to the court that a child ought to be separately represented, it can appoint a CAFCASS guardian, the official solicitor, or some other person. Section 37 of the Children Act 1989 provides for the court, in any family proceedings, to direct the local authority to investigate the child's circumstances where a question over the child's welfare has arisen, and the court feels a care or supervision order may be appropriate. This applies to any questions about the child's welfare.

1 Table 4.4, Significant Harm: Child Protection Litigation in a Multi-cultural setting. Dr. Julia Brophy, Charlie Owen and Dr. Jagbir Jhutti-Johal.