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Title: Child-centredness in decision-making in public child law proceedings in England and Wales : perspectives of the judiciary
Author: Lane, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 7331
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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The aim of this research was to identify the core components of child-centred decision-making in public child law proceedings from the perspectives of judges in England and Wales. In the context of this study, child-centredness includes the elements of, transparency, being informative, child-friendly and respectful of children, inclusive, safe and sensitive to risk. This aim was achieved through exploring with judges their perceptions of what represents a child-centred public child law system, by identifying those factors, such as, human, legal, cultural and systemic, which present both enablers and barriers to a transparent child-accessible and child-friendly process and system. Judges' views were also obtained on the principles underpinning legislation that may conflict with child-centred decision-making. This is a qualitative research study and involved carrying out one-to-one semi-structured interviews with 30 judges from the high, county and district courts (now the Family Court) throughout England and Wales. The inclusion criteria for this study was that the participating judges had experience of and were currently involved in presiding over public child law proceedings. The interviews were recorded using a digital voice recorder for the purposes of accuracy and subsequent analysis. Underpinning the qualitative approach chosen for this study, is the paradigm of interpretative phenomenology, the goal of which, in this study, was to describe and interpret accurately the lived experiences and perspectives of judges. Judges in this research were deeply committed to making the right and just decision for children in terms of their welfare and development. The principle of paramountcy guided them in their decision-making. This research found that children's views, wishes and feelings were mainly communicated to the court via proxy accounts of the child's appointed Guardian. For the most part, their direct voice in proceedings was silent, as judges very rarely met with the child. Children's direct participation in their proceedings was neither promoted or encouraged by judges. On the rare occasions it did occur, it was instigated by the child's Guardian. Judges felt that Guardians were spending less time in working directly with the children they represented due to a lack of available time, formal working practices and statutory timescales for the completion of proceedings, all of which impacted on the quality and analysis of evidence and information presented to the court. The research indicates that obtaining the child's perspective of their lived experience and circumstances is not a priority. The centrality of the child's position in their proceedings has been supplanted by legal, procedural and administrative requirements. The system itself has attained the status of paramountcy. The lack of transparency and inclusiveness distances the child from their proceedings.
Supervisor: Stalford, Helen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral