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31 AUG 2006

Alistair Macdonald : The Voice of the Child: Still a Faint Cry?

Alistair Macdonald, Barrister, Co-Chair, Association of Lawyers for Children, St Philips Chambers, Birmingham
The phrase 'I know my rights' is becoming a ubiquitous response on the part of the general public to perceived personal injustice. It is often instructive to note the silence that ensues when that response is met with the question 'What exactly are your rights?'. Carl Wellman, the American moral philosopher argues in respect of what he terms the 'proliferation of alleged moral rights' that an inflation of rights devalues the currency and that the assertion of ungrounded rights discredits the ones that are genuine (C Wellman, The Proliferation of Rights: Moral Progress or Empty Rhetoric? (Westview, 1999)). As Professor Jane Fortin concludes by reference to this view and in the context of rights accruing to children and young people, we must thus be careful not to claim rights for children that are difficult to substantiate and which devalue the currency of rights talk ('Children's Rights: Substance or Spin' [2006] Fam Law 759). The right of children to be heard on issues affecting their present or future circumstances is not a difficult right to substantiate in general terms. But in examining whether, and if so to what extent, the voice of the child is still a faint cry we must start by being clear what we mean by that equally ubiquitous phrase 'the voice of the child'.

For the full article, see July [2008] Family Law journal.

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