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Adoption and Children Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 136: Persons authorised to act as children’s court guardian

Article 60 of the Children Order (Representation of child and his interests in certain proceedings) provides that, for the purposes of any specified proceedings, a court shall appoint a children’s court guardian (previously referred to as a guardian ad litem (see section 137) for the child concerned unless satisfied that it is not necessary to do so in order to safeguard the child’s interests. A children’s court guardian is to be appointed under rules of court where an application for the making, variation or discharge of a care or supervision order is made, including the related appeals or where the court is considering making an interim care order, a residence order or contact order and related appeals. A children’s court guardian may also be appointed by the court where an application for a child assessment order or other proceedings under Part VI of the Order have been made. Article 60 also provides for a solicitor to be appointed by the court. Article 60(7) provides that the Department may make regulations to provide for the establishment of panels of persons from whom children’s court guardians must be selected. Article 60(9) provides that the regulations may stipulate the constitution, procedures etc. of such panels and qualifications of and training to be given to children’s court guardians. Article 60(10) provides that Rules of the Court may set out what assistance children’s court guardians may be required to give to a court.

Subsection (1) amends paragraph (7) of Article 60 by omitting the provision for the establishment of panels from which to appoint children’s court guardians and instead provides that the Department may by regulations provide that children’s court guardians appointed under this Article must be selected from persons employed or approved for that purpose by such special agency or other public body as may be prescribed. The rationale behind this amendment is to provide for the direct employment of children’s court guardians and will, for example, enable the operation of disciplinary and complaints procedures in relation to their employment to be streamlined.

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