AB v Principal Reporter and another; In the matter of XY [2020] UKSC 26


UK Supreme Court, 18th June 2020

The Supreme Court delivered this judgment in two appeals, heard together in November 2019, concerning the rights of siblings to be involved in Children’s Hearings.

The Supreme Court found that the children’s hearings system, “if operated in a practical and sensible manner and in compliance with the guidance given by the Principal Reporter and Children’s Hearings Scotland”, was compliant with the right to family life.

ABC v Principal Reporter and another involved a 14-year old who wanted to be involved in decisions made about his brother at children’s hearings. This did not happen due to the way the legislation was worded which made it almost impossible for brothers and sisters and others with established family life to participate fully in decision making.

XY is a 24-year-old with three younger sisters who are all subject to CSOs. XY applied to be deemed a relevant person in relation to each of his siblings and was briefly granted this status. However, following a series of decisions by children’s hearings, sheriffs and the Sheriff Appeal Court, XY is no longer deemed to be a relevant person in relation to any of his siblings. XY argued that the provisions of the Children’s Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011 governing the grant and removal of deemed relevant person status (sections 81(3) and 81A(3)) are not compatible with his rights to a fair hearing and to respect for his family life.

The Supreme Court ruled that, following adaptations to children’s hearings since the start of these proceedings, the requirements of Article 8 ECHR were met in relation to siblings and other family members.

It emphasised that to make effective the rights of brothers and sisters, it was necessary for the relevant public authorities to be aware of those interests and that siblings be informed of the nature of proceedings concerning their brother or sister and their rights in relation to those proceedings. 

This is the first time the Supreme Court has explicitly recognised the rights of siblings. The judgment is of great significance in highlighting the importance of sibling relationships and the need for brothers and sisters to be involved in decision making. The Supreme Court acknowledged that it is because of these legal challenges that the system has developed over the duration of the cases, rendering it Article 8-compliant. 

Clan Childlaw represented ABC and issued this press release following the judgment

Read more about ABC v Principal Reporter on the Supreme Court website here.

Read more about In the matter of XY on the Supreme Court website here

Read the judgment here and a summary here

Watch Lord Hodge delivering the judgment here

Further reading: https://www.clanchildlaw.org/abc-v-principal-reporter-and-another-further-reading

Disclaimer: Please note these summaries are intended for your assistance, but are neither exhaustive nor definitive. For a full authoritative report of a summarised case, please go to the official case report via the web link provided.