On 27 and 28 October 2016, COPE member Rachel Brett spoke at the Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings conference in Brussels, which was hosted by the Committee of Regions. Rachel’s plenary presentation focused on trans-European perspectives on cross-border justice for children and COPE’s previous collaboration with the AIRE Centre on a joint third party intervention with Action for Prisoners’ Families for H.S. and others v. the UK (2009). She also co-moderated a subsequent workshop looking at how actors can work together to support children in judicial processes. Rachel outlined both the substantive and procedural issues in working together on applications before the international mechanisms, and focussed people’s attention on the practical issues which are vital to consider before embarking on any submissions. For more information, click here.
Given that the event specifically set out to explore the use and application of European and international mechanisms for the protection of vulnerable and separated children’s rights in judicial proceedings, there was only a focus on domestic (in-country) judicial processes to the extent that these are relevant to the European or international mechanisms. Among the points raised was the need for lawyers to be alert to child rights issues and claims where the parent is the main claimant. Third party interventions (lawyers seeking expert assistance from others) may also be beneficial in domestic and international proceedings, where lawyers are able to attach an expert opinion or brief to the lawyer’s own submissions (as opposed to at the European level, where these are submitted separately). It should be noted that NGOs can contact the court directly and request permission to carry out a third party intervention, without having to wait for lawyers to contact them. A further point raised was the value in having several organisations working together to cover different aspects to go into the intervention. For example, one organisation could cover the international standards, another the comparative state practice and another the research results about impact on the child. A point of particular interest that emerged was the benefits of having someone who can communicate the judgment or decision to the child, as often children do not understand why it was made. Olivia Lind Haldorsen of Child Circle referred to a very interesting UK case where the judge made a real effort to do this himself (Lancashire County Council v M and others, 2016).