Going to Court
At the first Hearing, the statement of grounds (the reason for a child or young person being at a Hearing) are read out and the children or young people, and parents or carers have to say whether they accept and understand them or not.
If you or your child do not agree with the reasons for the Hearing, or if you are unable to understand the statement of grounds, Panel Members might ask the Reporter to send the case to a Sheriff Court so that a Sheriff can decide if the reasons (or ‘statement of grounds’) are correct.
In Scotland a Sheriff is a judge in a court. The Sheriff will listen to what is said about the statement of grounds. If the Sheriff decides that the statement of grounds are correct, then the matter will be sent back to another Children’s Hearing. The Panel Members will then decide what would be the best way of giving your child whatever help or support they think that they need. If the Sheriff decides the statement of grounds are not correct, then there won’t be another Children’s Hearing about the matter.
Children and young people have the right to attend. The Sheriff may decide that they do not have to go due to their age, vulnerability or ability to understand. However, if your child does need to attend, Courts do everything they can to make children and young people feel at ease.
Children and young people will be sent a letter from the Reporter telling them when and where they and their parents/carers need to attend Court. The child/young person and their parents/carers have the right to have a lawyer to speak for them in Court and there will be information about that in the letter. Sometimes the Sheriff can ask a person called a Safeguarder to come to Court to look after the interests of the child or young person.
The Reporter must contact the Sheriff Court within seven days of the Children’s Hearing taking place. The Court then has to arrange a date for the child and their parents/carers to come to Court within 28 days.
The length of time Court takes varies. Sometimes the Reporter or the lawyers may need more time, and the Sheriff might agree that the case will be heard at a later date. The Sheriff will try and make a decision as soon as possible, but sometimes this may mean you all have to go to court more than once.
The Sheriff, the Children’s Reporter, your lawyer and sometimes a Safeguarder. There will also be someone called a Sheriff Clerk who looks after the court’s papers and a Court Officer who is responsible for helping the Sheriff and other people in the Court. No members of the public are allowed into the Courtroom.
Sometimes when the lawyers and the Reporter discuss the statement of grounds they reach agreement on what is correct and what is not. They tell the Sheriff and the Sheriff may then decide that the case be sent back to a Children’s Hearing.
If the lawyers and the Reporter cannot agree on what is correct, the Sheriff will have to decide. To allow the Sheriff to make a decision, he/she might have to hear evidence from witnesses. A witness is a person who has information about something and may have to tell the Court about it.
The Reporter and the lawyers may have witnesses they cite to give evidence. The Reporter and the lawyer will the witnesses questions so that they can tell the Sheriff what they know.
Sometimes the child/young person will need to be a witness. The Reporter will always try to make sure that a child/young person does not have to be a witness unless it is absolutely necessary.
Once the Sheriff has heard from the Reporter and the family’s lawyers, or all the witnesses, he/she can make a decision.
The Sheriff could decide that the statement of grounds are correct and send the case back to a Children’s Hearing so that the Panel Members can make a final decision (see the ‘Going to a Hearing’ section). This is sometimes called establishing the grounds and remitting them back to a Hearing.
The Sheriff could decide that the statement of grounds are not true and that would be the end of the case. It would not go back to a Children’s Hearing.
The Appeals process is different. A child, young person or parent/Relevant Person can appeal against a decision of Children’s Hearing within twenty one days of the date of the Children’s Hearing. If you wish to appeal you must contact a lawyer as soon as possible. They will provide information and advice regarding the appeals process.
SCRA has produced a short film which provides information for children/young people who are going to Court, as part of their Children’s Hearing proceedings. You can watch this film below.
You may also find our Going to Court flyer helpful –
If you want more detail about the timescales for Children’s Hearings Court Proceedings click here.