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Improving Experiences of Family Justice

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Two research projects awarded funding..

Research into the family justice system will helpimprove understanding of the barriers to children’sviews being heard in family law cases.

The Scottish Government is providing funding fortwo projects, to be led by researchers from Stirlingand Glasgow universities.

Guided by an expert group of young people,researchers will identify the challenges and explorethe implications for children’s rights where the child’svoice is not heard in family actions. Researchers willalso consider how the approaches of other countriescould be translated into a Scottish context.

A second project will focus on legal professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse and its implications inchild contact cases, exploring the interaction betweenthe criminal and civil justice systems.

Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said

: “We want to improve people’s experience of the family justice system and these research projects will helpus to understand the changes needed to ensure it isfit for the 21st century.

“It is important that we address the barriers to children’s involvement in family law cases and build agreater understanding of the impact of domesticabuse proceedings on the handling of child contactcases.

“Findings from this research will also inform nextsteps following our consultation on a review offamily law in Scotland.”

Dr Fiona Morrison, University of Stirling said:

“The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 has played a vitalrole in advancing children’s rights in Scotland but despite this, it is recognised that practice around children’s rights to participate in family actions could beimproved.

“Our study comes at an exciting time. The Act isunder review, and our work will provide evidence onhow law and practice might change so that childrenare better able to take part in the legal decisions thataffect their lives.”

Professor Jane Mair, University of Glasgow, said:

“From physical violence to partner abuse andcoercive control; Scots criminal law has made massivestrides in how it understands domestic abuse. Butwhat happens when abuse is raised in child contactdisputes, and does that understanding of abuse transfer from criminal law to family law?

“In Scottish legal policy, reform and practice, we talka lot about justice and in particular end-to-endjustice thinking about pathways through the justicesystem for those who have experienced abuse. Butwhat about side-to-side justice? In this project we willexplore the extent to which learning gained in thecontext of criminal justice is being transferred sideways to family justice.”

Background

‘Children’s Participation in Family Actions: Probingcompliance with children’s human rights’ is a collaborative project between Dr Fiona Morrison, University of Stirling; Professor Kay Tisdall, Centre forResearch on Families and Relationships, Universityof Edinburgh; and Clan Childlaw.

‘Domestic Abuse and Child Contact: The interfacebetween criminal and civil justice’ is a collaborativeproject between Professor Jane Mair, University ofGlasgow; Dr Richard Whitecross, Edinburgh NapierUniversity, and Professor Michele Burman, GlasgowUniversity/Scottish Centre for Crime and JusticeResearch ( SCCJR) .

In May 2018 the Scottish Government published aconsultation on potential changes to the Children(Scotland) Act 1995. Interim findings from bothresearch projects will be included in consideration ofnext steps following the consultation and will informdevelopment of the Scottish Government’s family justice modernisation strategy.

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