Do Children Deserve Legal Representation in Family Court Hearings?

Any person accused of a crime requires professional legal representation in order that their best interests can properly be served. I suspect few would disagree with this fundamental principle.

Even a lawyer or a judge accused of a crime would need such represention, notwithstanding their own extensive knowledge of the law. Being personally involved would detract from their ability to present their own case, and could harm their best interests.

Any layperson representing themself in court would seriously harm their chances of attaining a fair and just outcome. Their opposing barrister would surely tear their defence apart, limb by limb. This is precisely why a decent, civilised society will automatically appoint a lawyer for all such defendants.

Imagine, though, if a defendant was permitted to appoint a layperson to represent their best interests in court. Imagine an untrained and inexperienced layperson preparing and arguing your own case in court, and doing battle against trained and experienced barristers!

It sounds horrific! Innocent or not, you’d surely expect to end up in prison!

Such a scenario would never be permitted to occur in a civilised country, I hear you say!

Not so!

In our Family Courts, legal cases for the best interests of children are rountinely prepared and represented in court by completely un-trained and inexperienced laypersons.

Judicial decisions which determine the welfare of these children and which irrevocably shape their futures are made upon reading and hearing the representations of laypersons.

Who on earth are these laypersons who pretend to be lawyers and barristers for children?

They are the parents of those children.

New Zealand automatically appoints lawyers and barristers to represent the best interests of her children. She understands and accepts that her children, the most vulnerable of all her citizens, deserve proper legal representation in court when their best interests are being decided upon.

The same is not true in England. What does this say about our country?

One such litigant-in-person father strongly objected to being asked by the court to legally represent the best interests of his children.

He well understood that he could not effectively serve their best interests in court, and nor could he afford to pay for lawyers.

He requested the court to appoint legal representation for his chidren, in order that their best interests would be properly represented and served.

His request was rejected by Sir Nicholas Wall, the former President of the Family Division, in the case Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50.

The number of litigant-in-person parents is set to rise dramatically in England, following imminent reductions in Legal Aid.

Sadly, England no longer upholds its noble tradition of justice.

Bruno D’Itri

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