Scottish Government to fund research into barriers to children being heard in the family justice system

Written by Jenni Davidson on 4 June 2018 in News

The research will feed into reform of the 1995 Children’s Act and the Scottish Government’s family justice modernisation strategy

Child holding parent's hand - Image credit: Stephan Hochhaus via Flickr

The Scottish Government is to fund two research projects to improve understanding of barriers to children’s views being heard in family law cases.

The first project, ‘Children’s Participation in Family Actions’, will look at the implications for children’s rights when the child’s voice is not heard.

Led by Dr Fiona Morrison of the University of Stirling, the researchers will be guided by a group of young people with first-hand experience and will also consider how the approaches of other countries could be translated into a Scottish context.

The second project, ‘Domestic Abuse and Child Contact’, will focus on legal professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse and its implications in child contact cases, as well as the interaction between the criminal and civil justice systems.

It will be led by Professor Jane Mair from the University of Glasgow.

Interim findings from both research projects will be included in consideration of next steps following the Scottish Government’s consultation on potential changes to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. They will also feed into development of the Scottish Government’s family justice modernisation strategy.

Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said: “We want to improve people’s experience of the family justice system and these research projects will help us to understand the changes needed to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.

“It is important that we address the barriers to children’s involvement in family law cases and build a greater understanding of the impact of domestic abuse proceedings on the handling of child contact cases.

“Findings from this research will also inform next steps following our consultation on a review of family law in Scotland.”

Fiona Morrison said: “The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 has played a vital role in advancing children’s rights in Scotland but despite this, it is recognised that practice around children’s rights to participate in family actions could be improved.

“Our study comes at an exciting time. The act is under review, and our work will provide evidence on how law and practice might change so that children are better able to take part in the legal decisions that affect their lives.”

Jane Mair said: “In Scottish legal policy, reform and practice, we talk a lot about justice, and in particular end-to-end justice, thinking about pathways through the justice system for those who have experienced abuse. But what about side-to-side justice?

“In this project we will explore the extent to which learning gained in the context of criminal justice is being transferred sideways to family justice.”

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