Becky's Scenario

You are supporting Becky, aged 14, who has an upcoming Children’s Hearing. This will be the Grounds Hearing. The Grounds for Referral state that Becky has been the victim of a schedule one offence. Becky told a teacher at school that her mum’s boyfriend had been physically abusive towards her on several occasions over the past 6 months. Becky’s mum was aware of this but did nothing to protect Becky. A Child Protection Order was granted, and Becky was placed in foster care.

It is anticipated that Becky’s mum will deny the Grounds for Referral and they will be sent to the Sheriff for Proof. The panel will have to consider whether to make an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order. Becky does not want her mum or her mum’s boyfriend to know the address of her placement. She is concerned that they will turn up at the placement and be threatening and abusive to her and her carers.

Becky also wonders whether her dad will be invited to the hearing. She has not seen him for 6 years after she and her mum left the former family home, fleeing domestic abuse. She does not want him to know what has happened as she thinks that he will try and become back involved in her life. She is very worried and distressed about him finding out sensitive information about her life.

Will Becky's dad be invited to the children's hearing?

Who will receive the papers for Becky's hearing?

What is a non-disclosure request?

What is the test for the non-disclosure of information?

What happens if a non-disclosure request is refused?

Can the address of Becky's placement be withheld from mum and dad?

Anything else I should know? 

Will Becky's dad be invited to the children's hearing? 

Yes.

Even though Becky’s dad has not been involved in her life for many years, he will still be invited to her Children’s Hearings. Sometimes a parent will not be invited because their whereabouts are unknown.

Who will receive the papers for Becky's hearing? 

Becky, her mum, and her dad will receive the papers for the hearing.  This is because Becky’s mum and dad are both relevant persons. Relevant persons have the right to receive the panel papers.

What is a non-disclosure request? 

A non-disclosure request can be made to the panel, setting out why certain information should not be disclosed to Becky’s dad.

The non-disclosure request can be made by the Children’s Reporter, or any other person such as social work, or Becky herself. You can support Becky to make this request. The non-disclosure request should be as clear as possible, specifying what information the request relates to, and why it should not be disclosed to Becky’s dad.

What is the test for the non-disclosure of information?

The Children’s Hearing can only grant the non-disclosure request if they are satisfied that the disclosure of the information to Becky’s dad would be likely to cause significant harm to Becky.

When considering whether to grant the request, the panel also have to take into account the impact that non-disclosure of information will have Becky’s dad’s right to a fair hearing, and his ability to respond, correct or challenge information contained in the papers.

When will a decision about non-disclosure be made? 

The Reporter can arrange a Pre-Hearing Panel to consider a non-disclosure request, or it can be considered at the start of the Children’s Hearing. Becky’s dad will not receive the information before the Pre-Hearing Panel or Children’s Hearing. He will be made aware that there is information that he has not yet seen, and that the panel will decide whether to disclose it to him.

At the beginning of the hearing the panel will discuss the non-disclosure request and will hear the views of Becky and all relevant persons. Becky’s dad will be excluded from the Children’s Hearing whilst the request is being discussed. Becky’s dad will then return to the Children’s Hearing and will be told what the panel’s decision is.

What happens if a non-disclosure request is refused?

The information will be provided to Becky’s dad and the Children’s Hearing will proceed as normal. However, the panel will have to consider whether the Hearing should be deferred to a later date, to allow Becky’s dad time to read the document.

This will depend on how much information is contained in the document, and whether it is crucial to the decision that the panel are going to make.

Can the address of Becky's placement be withheld from mum and dad?

Yes, in certain circumstances.

The Children’s Reporter has a right to withhold the whereabouts of the child or any relevant person if doing so would be likely to cause significant harm to the child or any relevant person.  

In addition to this, the panel can also decide to prohibit the disclosure of Becky’s place of residence. This could be for Becky’s benefit or for the benefit of someone else, such as her foster carer. This is often used by the panel when it is thought that another person may try to make contact with the child and that contact would be harmful to the child if it occurred.

Anything else I should know? 

A non-disclosure request can be made to prevent information being disclosed to the child. The same test applies as with relevant persons, in that the panel must be satisfied that the disclosure of the information to the child would be likely to cause them significant harm.

It is important to remember that it is the information itself, and not its revelation, that must be shown to cause harm. The panel should therefore consider if there is a way to sensitively reveal the information to the child, thereby reducing the harmful effects on them.