Should children give evidence in family proceedings? – Halsbury’s Law Exchange

‘The case concerned a five-year-old boy. The appellant, his father, had applied for contact. The mother had opposed, alleging violence and so a fact finding hearing was ordered. The mother wanted her 13-year-old daughter, from a different relationship, to give evidence about some of the alleged incidents. That child had never been asked about the incidents and had to date given no account, whether by an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview or otherwise. The judge ordered Cafcass to meet with this child to explore matters further – in particular, whether that child should answer questions put to her in writing and/or give live evidence at the hearing. The father appealed that decision. After the hearing and before the father obtained a stay, Cafcass met the child. Cafcass recommended that the questions should be reworded and reduced in number and also that the child “should not be compelled to provide live evidence” and/or “subjected to live cross-examination”.’

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Halsbury’s Law Exchange, 6th August 2014