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As citizens of the UK we are each entitled to a number of fundamental rights and freedoms under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). The recent case of Re C (No.2) (Children: Welfare) highlights the importance of two of these rights – the right to a private and family life (under Art. 8) and the right to a fair trial (under Art. 6) – and how these rights must be promoted within Care Proceedings.

The case was concerned with the long-term placement and education of two children whose mother opposed the local authority’s care plan. The mother had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and underwent an assessment within the proceedings to determine what reasonable adjustments could be put in place to help her engage with the hearings and how best to approach her cross-examination.

It was recommended that the mother should be asked a series of written questions and allowed to type out her responses during cross-examination from the witness box, all whilst wearing headphones and listening to white noise in order to prevent her from becoming overwhelmed.

Cross-examination, and the answers given by a witness, can often vastly alter the outcome of a case, so it’s important that witnesses with additional needs are as comfortable as possible. And as the evidence given during cross-examination cannot be as carefully crafted as a written statement, it means that the party’s position cannot be protected within the proceedings. The exact questions posed are not known in advance and the answers given by the witness are instantaneous reactions. It is therefore crucial in any case that reasonable adjustments are put in place, where possible, to ensure that a party’s access to justice is not impeded upon.

That being said, it is clear that a careful balancing act was undertaken to ensure that, in this case, the adjustments did not undermine the effectiveness of the cross-examination. His Honour Judge Moradifar expressed that there had been much anxiety surrounding this innovative approach, but he determined that overall this had been a positive experience for the mother. It was noted that she was ale to concentrate for longer periods and required less breaks during the hearing.

It is unclear whether Re C will have far reaching consequences in future Family Law Proceedings. However, this case is an encouraging step forward for parents with additional needs.

For more information on the subject, please contact Jasmine Wright (jasminewright@aldersonlaw.co.uk), Trainee Solicitor at Alderson Law LLP specialising in child care representation.

Originally from East Yorkshire, Jasmine moved to the North East to study Law at Northumbria, graduating with a First Class Honours and a Very Competent in the Bar Professional Training Course. Before joining Alderson Law Jasmine specialised in RTA Fraud in a Personal Injury firm.

She joined our team as a Family Law Paralegal in 2018, after which she undertook the Legal Practice Course at the University of Sunderland and became a Trainee Solicitor in March 2020. In her spare time Jasmine likes visiting the beach and watching live music.

Julie is a highly experienced property solicitor. Born and bred in the North East, Julie worked at national and international firms prior to joining the team at Alderson Law in 2017. She works alongside her clients, advising on residential and commercial property development, property investment, portfolio management, property finance, landlord and tenant, easements and restrictive covenants.

Fiona is a specialist private client lawyer providing advice and assistance with wills, trusts, tax planning, probate & estate administration, lasting powers of attorney, court of protection and elderly client work. Having previously worked with a number of Newcastle-based firms listed in The Legal 500, Fiona brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. She is a full member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners), the association for specialists in family inheritance and succession planning.

Fiona grew up in Northern Ireland and studied law at Durham University, and has remained in the North East ever since. She enjoys spending time with her family at their cottage in Northumberland.

Mark Hipkin, partner at Alderson Law LLP, has been involved in advising motorcyclists and motorcycle businesses for over 25 years.

Mark is a biker himself (currently riding a 1981 Triumph Bonneville) and offers full legal support for all motorcycle-related matters, including personal injury, business/employment, family/matrimonial, and child law. Mark is committed to running even the most complex cases to the end and getting the best results.

At Alderson Law we run a dedicated claims department tailored specifically for bikers who have been involved in an accident. We deal with your legal expenses cover (and can be appointed as a panel solicitor on your case, providing you call us first before contacting your insurer) and offer a sympathetic, responsive, and informed legal advice line for bikers, scooterists and cyclists.

Having worked in family law for over 25 years, Julie is a highly accomplished specialist in her field. She has a vast body of experience in dealing with family law, from divorce and related financial issues to complex child-related cases. Julie was the first person in North Tyneside to achieve the status of an accredited advanced family law specialist, and is a member of the Law Society Advanced Family Panel, which demonstrates her experience in complex contested family cases and other subject-specific matters.

Though multi-talented and highly experienced, Julie’s particular speciality is in complex ancillary relief (financial settlement) claims and complex residence and contact disputes.

In her spare time Julie enjoys relaxing and spending time with her family and three grandchildren. She attends clients at our Whitley Bay and Blythe offices.

Tracey is one of our Partners and qualified as a solicitor in 1997. Throughout her career she has had a varied caseload undertaking matters in most areas of civil and private client law. Tracey can assist clients in a wide range of matters including: Wills, Probate, Powers of Attorney, Debt Recovery, Residential and Commercial Conveyancing as well as Licensing and Landlord and Tenant matters.

Tracey is one of our most senior practitioners with over 20 years of local experience, having graduated from both Newcastle University and Northumbria University. When not in the office she enjoys walking, cycling, and cooking with her family.