The Law Society has issued a practice note on attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act meetings.
Chancery Lane said its guidance had been sought on the application to local authority Children Act meetings of Outcome 11.01 (not taking unfair advantage of third parties) and Indicative Behaviour 11.4 (not communicating with another party when you are aware that the other party has retained a lawyer in a matter, unless an exception applies) in the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct 2011.
The practice note says: “It has been suggested that if parents have retained a solicitor who is not present at the local authority Children Act meeting, then the local authority solicitor can only attend the meeting with the parents' solicitor's consent. It is the Law Society's view that this is not the case and that giving legal advice to a local authority Children Act meeting should not be construed as 'communicating with another party' when parents are participants at the meeting.
“A local authority solicitor attending a local authority Children Act meeting may fall foul of these regulatory provisions if they were to listen to the discussion at a meeting in which parents are participating but are not legally represented and then were to use the knowledge of that discussion to advantage in the cross-examination of a parent in any subsequent court proceedings.”
The practice note, which Chancery Lane said should be read by all solicitors acting in public law Children Act proceedings, covers:
- Local authority Children Act meetings;
- The role of lawyers in local authority Children Act meetings: if you are representing the local authority; if you representing other parties; if you are representing the child; if you are representing the parents or persons with parental responsibility;
- Exclusion/withdrawal of parents and/or children;
- Further resources.
The practice note, which was developed by the Society’s Children Law Sub Committee, can be viewed here.