Just Following Instructions? The representation of parents in care proceedings

J.F Pearce, J.M Masson, K.F Bader

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

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This major in depth qualitative study, conducted in 4 court areas in England and Wales, explored the work of lawyers representing parents in care proceedings through observation of hearings (109); interviews with legal professionals involved in care proceedings (61); and focus groups with solicitors, barristers, judges and magistrates’ legal advisers. Sixteen cases, selected to reflect the different circumstances where care proceedings are brought, were followed from an early hearing to completion of the proceedings, with a researcher shadowing a parent’s representative in discussions with their client, with the other parties’ lawyers and in the courtroom. The study provides an in depth account of the task of representation and court processes in care proceedings under the Public Law Outline (PLO). The research identified a common ethos amongst legal professionals acting in care proceedings which eclipsed legislation and guidance about case management, avoiding delay and dealing with cases in a proportionate way. Rather, there was a focus on parents' rights and a belief that allowing parents to contest helped them accept the outcome; agreed solutions were valued and little consideration was given to the child's timescale. Cases were not managed by the judiciary but developed according to the proposals of legal representatives. Lack of judicial continuity, lack of time for judges to read into cases and their traditional reliance on advocates meant that most had were not effective case managers. Changes to the legal aid system were leading lawyers to take on more cases, and as a consequence legal representation was becoming more impersonal.
Translated title of the contributionJust Following Instructions? The representation of parents in care proceedings
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSchool of Law, University of Bristol
Number of pages200
ISBN (Print)9780956838902
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Other: Research report from ESRC RES-062-23-1163


  • care proceedings
  • legal representation

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