Civil & Family Law
Citizens Charter. Announced by John Major in July. The earliest
of a series of individual charters were those for the Health Service,
and contained pledges of guaranteed performance targets and greater
information for patients, quickly expanded to cover most public
services and local authorities.
Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act.
Child Support Act. Central legal concept is that of the
‘qualifying child’. A person only counts as a ‘child’ if under 16,
or under 19 and receiving full-time non-advanced education, or under
18 and registered for work or youth training while the parent is
claiming Child Benefit in respect of the child. In Scotland, a child
aged 12 or more can apply for a maintenance assessment under §7
of the Child Support (Scotland) Act.
Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act. Under Scots Law
(in contrast to the law in E&W), young people have full (or
‘active’) legal capacity at 16 years, but the court may ratify or
set aside transactions by those under 18 if it is considered ‘prejudicial’
(defined in the Act as one that an adult acting with ‘reasonable
prudence’ in the same set of circumstances would not have entered
into). The court can set aside such a transaction until the young
person reaches 21 years of age. There are 4 main exceptions to the
general rule: a child under 16 may enter into a transaction ‘commonly’
entered into by persons of that age (e.g. buying sweets or railway
tickets) but not unusual contracts (such as the purchase of a bike
or computer); a child aged 12 or over can make a will; the consent
of a child aged 12 or over is required for an adoption order to
be made in his/her respect; a transaction includes giving any consent
giving legal effect (such as consent to medical treatment). A child
of any age has ‘passive’ capacity, for example, the right to own
heritable and moveable property. The Act also had the effect of
replacing the term ‘minor’ with ‘age 16’ in certain statutes.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Parenting set up.
Revised Code of Practice to Mental Health Act 1983 published.
Sets out the principles under which under-18s should be treated,
including keeping them fully informed; having the right to make
their own decisions when they have sufficient ‘understanding and
intelligence’; and that any intervention should be the least restrictive
possible with the least possible segregation from family, friends,
community and school.
National Lottery Act (§12)/National Lottery regulations
(SI 1994 No. 189). Under-16s prohibited from buying lottery tickets.
Parliamentary Hearings on the Family.
Air Navigation (No. 2) Order SI 1995/1970. Under-16s may not
act as a pilot of a glider, and under-17s may not hold a pilot’s
Report of the Gaming Board for Great Britain recommended
raising the minimum age for the legal purchase of lottery tickets
to 18 years.
Looking to the Future: Mediation and the Ground for
Divorce White Paper published. Proposed to abolish fault in
divorce and greater use of mediation.
Children (Scotland) Act. Defines child as a person under 18.
Parental responsibilities under the Act supersede analogous common
law duties imposed on parents but do not replace specific statutory
duties. Parental rights end when the child reaches 16. Parental
responsibilities or duties end also end at that age except the
responsibility to give a child guidance, which lasts until a young
person reaches 18. A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibilities
and rights in relation to her child. It does not matter that she
was never married to the child’s father and her age is irrelevant.
A child’s father automatically obtains parental responsibilities
and rights only if he is or was married to the child’s mother at
the date of the child’s conception or at any time thereafter. On
reaching 16, a young person can choose his or her own religion,
while parents only maintain the responsibility to guide their child
on such matters. Parents have a prima facie right to consent to
medical treatment on their child’s behalf in fulfilment of their
responsibility to safeguard and promote their child’s health (but
the exercise of this right is subject to the welfare principle).
When a child reaches 16, s/he can consent or refuse on their own
behalf (under Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991), but they
may also have capacity before the age of 16 under the same Act.
§25 provides authority to assist homeless young people. The Local
Authority has a potential duty towards homeless 16/17 year-olds
provided that it appears that no-one has parental responsibility;
that the child is lost or abandoned; that the child’s carer is prevented
from providing suitable accommodation or care (§25 only states that
the accommodation is expected to be provided for more than 24 hours
continuously). Local authorities have a power, but not a duty, to
look after young people to safeguard or promote their welfare. §22
defines aspects of the welfare provisions for children and replaces
§12 of the SW (Scotland) Act 1968. There is now a duty to safeguard
and promote the welfare of children in their area who are in need;
and, so far as it is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing
of such children by their families. It is made explicit that Local
Authority services which can be accessed through §22 include ‘assistance
in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash’ where conditions
may be imposed by §22(4). §12 of the 1968 Act has long been used
to provide cash in dire emergencies to homeless young people who
are destitute and where there are problems getting Severe Hardship
Payments. Child retains the right to consent or withhold consent
to medical examination or treatment (§90 and §2(4) of the Age of
Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act). A new section added to the 1991
Act states that any child under 16 years, if s/he has sufficient
understanding of the nature and consequences of the proceedings,
now has legal capacity to instruct a solicitor in connection with
any civil matter. A Parental Responsibility Order means that LAs
now have to initiate proceedings in court to take parental responsibilities
and rights (under the 1968 Act the transfer of parental rights was
achieved by means of an administrative resolution of the Local Authority
Social Services Committee). The right to act as a child’s legal
representative is one of the rights and responsibilities which prima
facie parents have in respect of their children, §1(1)(d) and 2(1)(d).
Young Volunteer Development Programme. Funded for 2 years
Utting Report (People Like Us) on looked-after young people
published. (see also 1988) Ministerial Group on the Family announced
at Labour Party Conference (Chaired by Jack Straw, Home Secretary).