What happens at a children's hearing?
A children's hearing is a legal meeting set up because there are concerns about your wellbeing or the care you are receiving.
At every children’s hearing there are always three volunteers, called Panel Members, and it is their role to understand your circumstances, listen to your views, and then make legal decisions about how to make sure you are protected and cared for.
One of the Panel Members will chair the meeting and will introduce everyone at the start and make sure you know why you are there and who everyone is.
If it is your first time going to a children’s hearing, the Chairperson may read out the grounds for referral. These are the reasons the hearing was arranged. You may be asked whether you agree or disagree with these. There is no pressure to accept anything which you don’t agree with. Just say no.
The rest of the hearing is a big discussion. Everyone will get a chance to speak at your hearing, but the Panel Members will be really interested in what you have to say: You are the most important person there.
What are your rights at a children's hearing?
Your rights are protected under law which means no one can take your rights away from you.
- You have the right to talk and ask questions at your hearing
- You can bring someone along to the hearing with you like a friend or a family member
- You can also bring a legal representative, called a solicitor, with you
- You do not have to agree with the reasons why you are at a hearing - so if you have been asked to attend a hearing because you have committed an offence but you don’t agree that you committed that offence then you can say so
- If you’re not happy with the decision of the hearing, you can appeal against the decision, normally within 21 days. This means you can ask someone to look at your case again and think about making a different decision
- Three months after a decision is made, you can ask for another hearing to look at things again
- You can complain if you are not happy with how you have been treated at your hearing.
To make your hearing easier, you can also ask the Panel Members to consider:
- Speaking to you on your own
- Having one of the same people on your next hearing.
Who can help you prepare for a hearing?
If you have been asked to go to a children’s hearing, you will get a letter from the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration with all the information about when and where it is. This will be posted to the place where you are staying at least a week before your hearing, along with an “All about me” form that we would encourage you to fill in to share your views (you can also fill it in online here). This helps Panel Members know what you think about where you live, your school, the people who are important in your life and, most importantly, what you would like to happen.
If you have any questions before you attend your hearing, there are lots of different people you could talk to, for example, the person who sent you the letter about the hearing (called the Children’s Reporter), your social worker, or your teacher.
They can also put you in touch with Advocates in your area. Advocates are people who can support you to give your views and make sure everyone knows what you think. They can come to the hearing with you and help you decide how you want to be heard – maybe talking to the Panel yourself, by making a short voice recording or video, or you don’t need to speak at all – your Advocate can pass on your views for you.
The Scottish Child Law Centre provides free expert legal advice on children’s rights and child law, if you are under 21 you can call their Freephone at 0300 330 1421.
Children and young people can also speak to someone at ChildLine in confidence by calling 0800 1111, and they have a really helpful website too.
If you are attending a hearing and you want more information about what to expect, you can find lots of information on the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration’s (SCRA) website. Just click one of the buttons below to find out more!