New court rules for child welfare reporters
The Act of Sederunt (Rules of the Court of Session 1994 and Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 Amendment) (Child Welfare Reporters) 2015 (SSI 312/2015) have come into force, bringing changes to both Court of Session and Sheriff Court procedure.
The rules of the Court of Session and Sheriff Court have been amended to reflect the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Justice Council in relation to the appointment of child welfare reporters (previously called bar reporters); provision is also made for the use of local authorities to report.
Under the new rules a court should only appoint a reporter to carry out investigations when satisfied that the appointment is in the best interests of the child, and will promote the effective determination of the issues.
The objective of the new rules is to require careful scrutiny of the disputed issues in the case before a report is ordered.
If the court is satisfied that ordering a report is an appropriate step to take, the rules then require consideration of the terms of the remit to the reporter, the issues which require to be dealt with in the report and the enquiries which the reporter should undertake.
The court will continue to have the option of appointing a child welfare reporter solely for the purpose of seeking the views of the child.
The court must specify certain matters in the interlocutor appointing the reporter. The court may also prescribe the nature of the enquiries to be undertaken, make orders to facilitate the discharge of the reporter’s functions, make directions in relation to provision of copy documents lodged in process and give the reporter directions about the discharge of the function.
In order to assist the court in dealing with such issues, Schedule 1 (Court of Session) and Schedule 2 (Sheriff Court) provide a pro forma checklist to be attached to the interlocutor appointing the reporter which determines and limits the nature of the enquiries to be undertaken.
Interlocutors must specify a date by which the report must be submitted to the court.
This should normally be no less than three working days before the hearing at which the report is to be considered.
The interlocutor must also make directions as to fees and outlays incurred.
It is intended that child welfare reporters will require to undergo compulsory training in order to remain on the list of suitable persons to undertake reports.