Friday, November 20, 2015

IRE - Guardian ad litem reforms 'a step backward' says Council of the Bar of Ireland

Irish Examiner

The Government’s plans to reform the guardian ad litem (GAL) system constitute a “step backwards” and raise serious concerns around compliance with “constitutional and international standards”, the Council of the Bar of Ireland has warned.

GALs represent the wishes and best interests of children in court proceedings, but the system is currently unregulated.

Costs associated with GALs have brought the issue to the fore in recent years.

In 2014, the Child and Family Agency spent €16.5m on GALs, €6m for their solicitors, and up to €1.5m for their barristers.

In its consultation paper on plans for reform, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs states that it is seeking to set up a national service either through a dedicated body, or “utilising existing structures”.

It says “the approach being considered is that the status of the GAL would be that of a court-appointed adviser”, and that “the appointment of a GAL would be at the discretion of the court”.

The paper sets out the set of circumstances when a GAL might be appointed — essentially complex or disputed cases — and states that GALs would only to have access to legal advice/representation as an “exceptional matter”.

The Bar Council of Ireland contends that all children should be appointed GALs, unless there is a reason why they do not need one.

Full story: Irish Examiner

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