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Proposed new laws to improve the experience of children involved in family courts have been published by the Scottish government.

The Children Bill follows a consultation which took into account the views of young people.

Ministers say they want to ensure the justice system does not contribute to young people’s distress.

Campaigners said the legislation was “vital” for child victims of domestic abuse.

The proposals are intended to update the 1995 Children Act, to reflect changes within modern families.

Special measures

A child-friendly questionnaire was used as part of the consultation process, to get the experiences and views of children who had been through the system.

The new proposals include allowing special measures such as screens and live video links to be used in Child Welfare Hearings, and to regulate child contact centres.

The Scottish government said it wanted to make sure that during a time of family breakdown, children’s views were heard by the court.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham, said: “We know that family breakdown can be very upsetting for children. It is our responsibility to ensure the family justice system is supportive and does not contribute to their distress.

Domestic abuse

Under the new legislation, child welfare reporters, who may be appointed when the court has been asked to resolve a dispute between parents, would be regulated.

This would ensure reporters are trained to understand and respond to issues such as domestic abuse and coercive control.

The Scottish government said other improvements include prohibiting a party from conducting their own case if there was a vulnerable witness.

Campaigners have welcomed the publication of the bill.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “This piece of legislation will be vital for child victims of domestic abuse, as well as their mothers.

“We have done a lot of work in engaging with the Scottish government so far to make this bill child and women competent and we welcome the news that child contact centres and child welfare reporters will be regulated.

“However, exactly how this happens will be the meaningful part and we will work to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in this.”



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