What happens at a Children's Hearing court case

Last updated: 24 July 2017

A Children's Hearing court case happens when a decision can't be made at a Children's Hearing, because:

  • the child/young person or their parents/carers don't agree on why the Children's Hearing is taking place (the 'statement of grounds')
  • the child/young person or their parents/carers don't understand the reasons for the Children's Hearing (perhaps because the reasons are complicated)

At a Children's Hearing, a 'statement of grounds' (the reasons for a child being at the Children's Hearing) is read out. Children or their parents or carers have to say whether they think the reasons are correct or not.

The case will be sent to the sheriff court so the sheriff can decide what happens next.

People in the courtroom

The sheriff

The sheriff is in charge of all court proceedings and is an expert in the law. They'll make sure everything is done fairly within the law and that court rules and legal proceedings are followed. They also have a duty to protect the interests of all people involved in the case, including witnesses.

The Children's Reporter

They present Children's Hearing court cases and ask questions so all witnesses can give their evidence. They look after the child's interests, but they don't represent the child.

The safeguarder

This is an independent person who may be appointed to look after a child's interests. They'll sometimes be at a Children's Hearing court case and will try to represent the best interests for the child.

Other people directly involved in the proceedings

This may be the child, family or other relevant people directly involved in the child's case.

Other lawyers

There may be other lawyers in the courtroom on behalf of other people directly involved in the child's case. They may ask questions about a witness's evidence.

Witnesses

A witness answers questions and tells the court what they know.

There are no members of the public or a jury present at Children's Hearing court cases.

What happens in court

Sometimes the Children's Reporter and lawyers will speak to each other about the statement of grounds and can agree on what's correct or not.

They'll let the sheriff know and might decide to send the case back to the Children's Hearing. If the lawyers and the Children's Reporter can't agree on what's correct, the sheriff will decide.

If the parents/carers or the child don't have a lawyer representing them, they'll speak to the Children's Reporter directly.

Witnesses

In order for the sheriff to make their decision, they'll hear from witnesses who will tell the court what happened or what they know.

Sometimes the child/young person the case is about will need to be a witness – but only if it's necessary.

Find information for young people going to a Children's Hearing court case on the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration website.

The length of time the court case takes can vary. Sometimes the lawyers and Children's Reporter may need more time and the sheriff will continue the case on a later date.

What the sheriff can decide

After the sheriff has heard all the evidence, they'll either:

  • decide the statement of grounds are correct and send the case back to another Children's Hearing
  • decide the statement of grounds are not correct – this means there won't be another Children's Hearing

Witnesses may only hear about the final outcome of the case if they're a victim of an alleged offence by a child.