§ ' .—(1) In any proceedings in which a court is hearing an application for an order under Part IV or V, or is considering whether to make any such order, the court may order the child concerned to attend such stage or stages of the proceedings as may be specified in the order.
§ (2) The power conferred by subsection (1) shall be exercised in accordance with rules of court.
§ (3) subsections (4) to (6) apply where—
- (a) an order under subsection (1) has not been complied with; or
- (b) the order has reasonable cause to believe that it will not be complied with.
§ (4) The court may make a order authorising a constable, or such person as may be specified in the order—
- (a) to take charge of the child and to bring him to the court; and
- (b) to enter and search any premises specified in the order if he has reasonable cause to believe that the child may be found on the premises.
§ (5) The court may order any person who is in a position to do so to bring the child to the court.
§ (6) Where the court has reason to believe that a person has information about the whereabouts of the child it may order him to disclose it to the court.'.—[The Solicitor-General.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Solicitor-General
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The effect of this new clause is to enable a court hearing an application for an order under part IV or part V of the Bill, which relate to care and supervision orders, or education supervision orders and other orders of that kind, to order that the child attend part or all of the proceedings. Such powers must be exercised in accordance with rules of court.
Subsections (4) to (6) give the court enforcement powers in the event of non-compliance. That is another addition to the Bill in the series on procedure and practice in family proceedings in the courts having concurrent jurisdiction. The purpose is to reproduce—in a decriminalised form, I hasten to say—the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. At present, care proceedings are brought in juvenile courts by bringing the child before the court. In future, care will be sought by an application to the court by the local authority or authorised person.
The Bill's principal reforms on representation of the child and court procedure and practice should make it unnecessary for the child to attend the hearing in many cases. I hope that this will be much welcomed and that this point illustrates the points that I made in our longer debate earlier. The presumption that there will be a guardian ad litem for the child reporting to the court and his right of access to local authority records, which we have just dealt 636 with, and the requirements on advanced disclosure of the case, disclosure of documents and preliminary hearings which it is intended to make in rules of court should make it unnecessary for the child to attend. I know that all these new and welcome provisions will be much welcomed by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) who dealt with this informality.
However, the child's attendance will be necessary in some cases. The circumstances of the case may be such that the court would be helped by hearing from the child directly, at first hand, for a number of reasons. There ma .y be contradictions in the arguments that have been put forward either by the legal representatives or by the guardian ad litem which may need to be sorted out. The new clause gives the court a discretionary power to call the child when hearing such applications.
There is also a decriminalising reform of the present model for enforcement. At present, under the 1969 Act, a child can be arrested and detained for up to 72 hours. That is not the kind of thing that we want to repeat, but there is a power that a child should be brought to the court for this purpose should it be necessary. One hopes that it would happen only in rare cases. I commend the new clause to the House.
§ Mr. Hardy
I take the view that, if a child's future is being determined by the court, there may well be a risk that the court will be excessively reluctant to bring the child to the court, but the child may be passionately keen to know what the court is saying.
I am reminded of a case that I know well in which a boy of 11 was attending a case conference where they were telling him about the family that he was to join on the following day. He decided that night that he did not want to wait until he was taken there by the social worker and he went to case the joint himself. He was concerned about the place to which he was to go. I think that he wanted to inspect the two motor cars on the drive. He could not wait. He was concerned about his position and his future. A, child might be in a children's home or some other establishment while a court is determining his or her future and discussing it, as it would under parts IV and V. There may be a risk that the court will be excessively protective.
Therefore, I was concerned to see the word "may" appear twice in subsection (1). I am sure that the Solicitor-General will have noted it. I am worried in case the double "may" in one sentence is evidence that the court will be excessively protective. I am not saying that it should be an invariable practice, but in the case of a relatively mature, tough or worldly wise boy or girl of 10, 11, 12 or 13, the court could be over-sensitive or over-protective if it sought to leave the child in an establishment a few miles away while his or her future was being disposed of by the court.
I am strongly in favour of the right being created but I want the right to be exercised in such a way that, especially if the child wishes, he or she may be involved.
§ The Solicitor-General
What the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) says carries much force. The new clause not only gives the court the discretion and the right to exercise the power to require the child to come to court, but there is no reason why the court should not intimate to the child that it would like it to come and that it is open to the child to come. The child, as a party, is entitled to 637 attend, and that entitlement alone might be brought to its attention. I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I commend the new clause.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.