A 16 year-old girl has won the right to be represented by her own lawyer in the family court.
The unidentified teenager wanted to fight against efforts to have her placed in foster care. The local authority had attempted to take her away from home after social workers said they thought she was being physically and emotionally abused.
Although the court had appointed a guardian for the girl, she argued this was not fair. These kinds of guardians are common in cases involving children, but they are not qualified lawyers. They are independent social workers who are supposed to advocate for the child’s best interests. However, the girl in this case wanted her own lawyer to argue her position.
At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lady Justice Black agreed that the case should be reconsidered by a family judge once the girl has had a chance to instruct a lawyer of her own.
When Lady Justice Black announced this decision, she said the teenager was “able, having regard to her understanding, to give her own instructions” and declared that “she should be permitted to do so”.
Earlier this year, the Minister of State for Children and Families Edward Timpson announced plans to assess the state of foster care across the country. Speaking at a conference for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Timpson said the government would “look at how placements are made, and the skills, expertise that foster carers require to look after the diverse needs of children”.
Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice by Ruth Hartnup via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.