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Legal challenge to 'named person' fails

Legal challenge to 'named person' fails

A legal challenge to block controversial plans for every child across Scotland to have a ‘named person’ has failed.

Court of Session judge Lord Pentland today refused a petition for judicial review of the provision in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. 

Under Part 4 of the legislation, which was passed by MSPs almost a year ago, every person under 18 years of age will have a ‘named person’ in the form of a midwife, health visitor or teacher from August next year.

However, campaigners behind the challenge are now “considering all options for appeal” amid signs this will only be the first stage in a lengthy legal battle. 

“The issue is not going away, the potential problems are not going away and No To Named Persons will not be going away,” a spokesman for NO2NP, the campaign group incorporating the petitioners, said.

The ‘named person’ proposal is designed to provide a single point of contact so that support can be offered to children and their families earlier and more effectively.

Critics argued that the move runs contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and amounts to interference in families’ right to a private life.

Lord Pentland rejected their petition on all grounds, ruling that the fact the named person service will be provided for almost every child and young person did not, in itself, necessarily mean that there will be a breach of Convention rights.

The Court of Session judge also found that four of the seven petitioners - The Christian Institute, Family Education Trust, The Young Me Sufferers Trust, and Christian Action Research and Education - had no standing to bring the present proceedings as they lacked “sufficient interest” entitling them to seek a judicial review.

Children’s Minister Fiona McLeod said: “Named persons are being introduced because parents and children asked for them, as a single point of contact. They will build on the kind of supportive role that teachers, doctors, nurses and health visitors have long offered to children and parents. The service has been tested and is already working well in several areas of Scotland.

“We know that mothers and fathers are, with a very few exceptions, the best people to raise their children. This policy won’t change parental rights and responsibilities."

Campaigners will continue voicing opposition to the plans at public meetings across Scotland, a NO2NP spokesman added, claiming the proposals are “flawed in conception, drawn up in error, legislated for in haste and will fail the very children this politically correct government claims to be acting in the name of”.

“We are considering all options for appeal," he said. "Our case is strong, as is our resolve.

“We have the opinion of one judge on this matter but it is often the case that when such important and fundamental issues are being considered the matter goes before a bench of three or more.

“We were well aware when we embarked on this campaign that it could be a long and tortuous process involving more than one court case. We are prepared for that and are in this for the long haul.”

Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said concerns over the proposal was the result of a “misunderstanding” of what the proposal would involve in practice.

“Having a primary point of contact available to all children is the formalisation of practice that already exists across the country,” she added.

“However, we must stress that excellent quality guidance will be critical to successful implementation of the Act, and we will continue to highlight the issue and work with partners on this in the coming months.”

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said the outcome was “very disappointing” and offered support to campaigners as they consider options to challenge the ruling. 

“I firmly believe the named person policy remains a huge error of judgement on the part of the Scottish Government,” she added. 

“It is neither necessary nor wanted by the vast majority of parents across Scotland who see it as a completely unacceptable intrusion into family life. It is also a policy which will divert resources away from our most vulnerable children at a time when local authorities are already overstretched."

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