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The Children's Panel - life changing

Going to Court

Sometimes at a hearing, grounds of referral (the reason for a child being at a hearing) are read out and young people or your parents or carers have to say whether you think the reasons are correct or not. This is usually at your first hearing. 

If you do not agree with the reasons for the hearing, or if you are unable to understand the grounds of referral, perhaps because the grounds of referral are complicated, then the panel members can’t make a final decision. The panel members might ask the Children’s Reporter to send the case to a Sheriff Court so that a Sheriff can decide if the reasons are correct.

In Scotland a Sheriff is a judge in a court. The Sheriff will listen to what is said about the reasons. If the Sheriff decides that the reasons are correct, then the matter will be sent back to another children’s hearing. They will then decide what would be the best way of giving you whatever help or support they think that you need. If the Sheriff decides they are not correct, then there won’t be another children’s hearing about the matter.

SCRA has made a short film about going to court. Watch the film here.

Do I have to go to court?

Normally yes. However the Sheriff may decide that you do not have to go as it might make you upset. If you do need to attend, courts do everything they can to make children and young people feel at ease. Even if the Sheriff says you do not have to attend you may still go to court if you want to.

You will get sent a letter from the Children’s Reporter telling you when and where you and your parents/carers need to attend court. You have the right to have a lawyer to speak for you in court and there will be information about that in the letter. Sometimes the Sheriff can ask a person called a Safeguarder or a ‘Curator ad Litem’ to come to court to look after your interests.

How long will it take?

The Children’s 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 you and your parents/carers to come to court within 28 days from the date they are contacted by the Children’s Reporter.

The length of time court takes varies. Sometimes the Children’s Reporter or the lawyers, may need more time, and the Sheriff might agree that the case can continue until 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.

Who is in the courtroom?

The Sheriff, the Children’s Reporter, your lawyer/s and sometimes a Safeguarder/Curator ad Litem. There will also be someone called a 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.

What will happen?

Sometimes the lawyers acting on your behalf and the Children’s Reporter discuss the grounds of referral and can reach an agreement about what is correct or not. They would let the Sheriff know this and the Sheriff might decide that the case be sent back to a children’s hearing.

If the lawyers and the Children’s Reporter cannot agree what is correct, the Sheriff will have to decide. To allow the Sheriff to make a decision, he/she might have to hear from witnesses. A witness is a person who has information about something and may have to tell the court about it. The Children’s Reporter will have witnesses who they think show the grounds are correct.

The lawyers may have witnesses who they think show the grounds are not correct. The Children’s Reporter and the lawyers will ask the witnesses questions so that they can tell the Sheriff what they know.

Sometimes the young person will need to be a witness. The Children’s Reporter will always try to make sure that a young person does not have to be a witness unless it is absolutely necessary. 

The Scottish Government has written a booklet to help children who have to go to court to be a witness because of a children's hearing. Read the booklet here.

SCRA have also produced a short film about going to court. Watch the film here.

What can the Sheriff decide?

Once the Sheriff has heard from all the witnesses they can make a decision.

The Sheriff could decide that the grounds of referral are correct and send the case back to a children’s hearing so that the panel members can make a final decision. This is sometimes called establishing the grounds and remitting them back to a hearing.


The Sheriff could decide that the grounds of referral are not true and that would be the end of the matter. You would not have to attend another children’s hearing unless the Children’s Reporter makes another referral to a hearing.