Children's Hearings and Deemed Relevant Persons: T v Locality Reporter

AuthorAlyson Evans
Date01 May 2015
Published date01 May 2015
<p>The question of who is a “relevant person” for the purposes of the children's hearings system is one which has attracted much litigation<xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn1"><sup>1</sup> </xref><fn id="fn1"><label>1</label> <p>The issue has occupied both the Supreme Court (<italic>Principal Reporter v K</italic> <a href="">[2010] UKSC 56</a>, 2011 SC (UKSC) 91) and the Inner House (<italic>Authority Reporter v S</italic> <a href="">[2010] CSIH 45</a>, <a href="">2010 SC 531</a>).</p> </fn> since the term was first introduced by the <a href="">Children (Scotland) Act 1995</a> (“<a href="">the 1995 Act</a>”). A relevant person is someone who has the right – and obligation – to attend a children's hearing,<xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn2"><sup>2</sup> </xref><fn id="fn2"><label>2</label> <p><span class="vid_spn">Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 ss 74(2)</span> and 78(1)(c).</p> </fn> the right to receive information in advance of the hearing,<xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn3"><sup>3</sup> </xref><fn id="fn3"><label>3</label> <p>The <a href="">Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011</a> (Rules of Procedure in Children's Hearings) Rules 2013, <a href="">SSI 2013/194</a>, rules 27, 30, 31, 34, 39–44.</p> </fn> and the right to appeal decisions made.<xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn4"><sup>4</sup> </xref><fn id="fn4"><label>4</label> <p><span class="vid_spn">Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 ss 154</span>, 160–162.</p> </fn> The <a href="">Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011</a> (“<a href="">the 2011 Act</a>”), which entered into force on 24 June 2013, changed the definition of relevant person, introducing two mechanisms by which a person can now be treated as a relevant person. The appeal brought by two parents in <italic>T v Locality Reporter</italic> <xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn5"><sup>5</sup> </xref><fn id="fn5"><label>5</label> <p><a href="">[2014] CSIH 108</a>, 2015 GWD 1–23.</p> </fn> provided the Inner House with its first opportunity to examine one of those mechanisms, which allows a children's hearing or pre-hearing panel to “deem” an individual to be a relevant person.<xref ref-type="fn" rid="fn6"><sup>6</sup> </xref><fn id="fn6"><label>6</label> <p>2011 Act s 81(3).</p> </fn></p> THE LEGISLATION

If a person holds parental responsibilities and rights, or parental responsibility for the child, or is the child's parent, then the person is a relevant person by definition.7

S 200(1).

In addition, and this is the provision with which the Inner House in T v Locality Reporter was concerned, if a person meets the test in section 81(3) of having, or having recently had, a significant involvement in the upbringing of the child, then that person must be deemed a relevant person. There is no discretion afforded to the children's hearing or pre-hearing panel. All relevant persons, no matter the legal basis on which they are recognised, have the same rights and obligations in relation to a children's hearing

An appeal about a deemed relevant person decision can be made to the sheriff,8

S 160.

and if the sheriff is satisfied that the decision is justified he must confirm the decision.9

S 160(3).

If not justified, the sheriff must quash the decision.10

S 160(4).

Again, the lack of discretion is to be noted

The appeal to the Inner House was brought by the parents of two children against the determination of Sheriff McCulloch at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court that a decision of a pre-hearing panel to deem the children's foster carers, Mr and Mrs R, as relevant persons was justified.11

The sheriff's decision is reported as AG v Principal Reporter 2013 SLT (Sh Ct) 125, 2013 Fam LR 100.

In July 2013 the children's father requested a review hearing12

S 132(3).

and this was arranged to take place in August 2013 under the 2011 Act, which had only just entered into force. Mr and Mrs R had cared for the children since February 2012, and had been relevant persons under the 1995

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