It’s now clear the children have been scarred by this experience and especially by the long delays and the court’s failure to provide them with relief from what they were experiencing. So much then for the principle that the best interests of children must be the paramount consideration in these cases.
A Child Welfare Hearing is meant to provide the sheriff with an informal opportunity to settle a family case quickly for the benefit of and in the best interests of children. It is meant to avoid the need for a lengthy and expensive proof (a proof, I understand now, is the Scottish equivalent of a trial in England; a hearing on evidence in a civil matter.) In my experience – and largely, I think, because the private practice solicitor appointed was unqualified, untrained and unskilled in assessing welfare and risk – the Child Welfare Reporter’s involvement actually exacerbated, inflamed and confused the matter, causing years of delay.