Anthony Hayden - The Child as Witness in Children Act Proceedings

06 OCT 2008

Anthony Hayden, QC St Johns Buildings, Manchester.

This article is based on an address to the Child Concern annual conference, Manchester, April 2008.
Although the family courts routinely address allegations made by children against parents or carers, and despite the fact that those allegations are frequently challenged, there is very little case-law assisting the courts as to the circumstances in which it may be appropriate or necessary to hear evidence from the children themselves and more particularly to submit them to cross-examination. The leading case remains R v B County Council ex parte P [1991] 1 FLR 470 where a 17-year-old girl, J, alleged sexual abuse against her step-father. The local authority, in care proceedings, refused to call the girl to give evidence and chose instead to rely on a written statement to the police and oral statements to a child psychiatrist. That evidence was admissible by virtue of r 2(2) of the Children (Admissibility of Hearsay Evidence) Order 1990 (SI 1990/143) made under the Children Act 1989. The local authority also relied on the evidence of a child psychiatrist and a social worker as to the likely harmful effects on the child of giving evidence.

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

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