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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.

Susan was born and bred in the North East, spending all of her working life in Blyth. She qualified in 1981 and, after some years at Alderson Law, began to specialise in family law, covering both private and legal aid. Susan was a member of the Law Society Family Panel and an accredited Resolution specialist, specialising particularly in private children law and domestic violence.

Susan took part-retirement in December 2018 but still works as a Solicitor here at Alderson Law. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, walking, reading, and spending time with her family. She has also been a Brownie leader for over 40 years.

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. She studied Law at Northumbria University and, after qualifying in 2000, went on to work at national and international firms prior to joining the team at Anderson 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 advising businesses and claimants since he qualified as a solicitor in 1982.

Mark’s passion is for representing claimants on two wheels in complex, serious and catastrophic motorcycle, scooter and cycle injuries, but he also has extensive experience of acting for claimants in many other personal injury areas including occupiers and public liability work and accidents at work. He specialises in challenging and complex cases. Mark always puts the client first, looking from the first day of instruction to obtain the best and fairest outcome for a claimant, no matter how long a case may take. He is a fan of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and early neutral valuation as alternatives to litigation. Sometimes, however, litigation is the best option, together with the necessary drive to see every matter through to a fair conclusion.

Mark also, having started his own business, advises business clients, often with motorcycle-, scooter- or cycle-related businesses and also deals with complex commercial disputes, professional negligence cases, and general civil litigation.

Mark likes to spend what free time he has with his family, his faithful sprocket spaniel, and practising Tai Chi and Tang Too Do (Korean karate – in which he is a second Dan).

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.