Section 32 Reports
The 2012 referendum on children’s rights brought about changes to the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964. A new part V was inserted, consisting of two new sections, 31 and 32.
Section 31 provides guidance to the courts in establishing what is in the ‘best interests’ of a child in the course of cases under the Act, and it lists factors and circumstances to be considered by the court in its decision making.
Section 32 provides that the court can direct that an expert report be obtained on any question affecting the welfare of the child. It also allows for the appointment of an expert to determine and convey the views of the child.
Who is an “expert” for the purposes of S.32 reports?
In January 2019, regulations came into force which regulate who can act as a child’s view expert. The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 (Child’s Views Experts) Regulations 2018 3 (1) state that for the purposes of section 32(1)(b), the following people can be appointed to determine and convey the views of a child It is important to note that the experts described are defined for the purposes of Section 32 reports only. See our information on Court Reports for standards that apply to other reports.
Psychiatrists who have practised child and adolescent psychiatry for a relevant period; Psychologists who have practised child and adolescent clinical psychology for a relevant period, Social care workers who have provided social care services to children, for a relevant period, Registered teachers who have taught children for a relevant period.
(A relevant period is 5 years or more, in the preceding 10 years)
What standards do the experts work to?
There are standards which the experts must adhere to in performing their functions when they are gathering information and writing their expert reports for the court. These are set out in the legislation as follows:
- They must act independently, that is, they should not be on the side of one or other of the parties to the case, or act on behalf of any other person involved.
- They must, unless it is not in the best interest of the child to do so, or unless instructed by the court not to; tell the child why they have been appointed, and what the child is being asked about.
- They must facilitate the child to express their own views freely.
- They shall establish whether, in their view, the views of the child have been unduly influenced by another person and, if necessary, will facilitate the child in expressing their own views.
Experts appointed by the court must have their own professional indemnity insurance.