New clause 1 - Interviews with children

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 17 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Labour/Co-operative, Sheffield, Heeley 4:15, 17 Ionawr 2002

I was about to say that the CAFCASS officer is there to consider the child's needs. Officers see the child in different circumstances and base their conclusions on observation of the child in a number of situations. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, in addition to everything else that the CAFCASS officer has to take into account, such as ensuring that they develop a relationship with a child and that they interview them in appropriate circumstances, they should also become an expert on audio equipment? Is he suggesting that they should carry that equipment around with them, so that at some point someone is able to play back everything that the child has said and make a judgment on the conclusion reached by the CAFCASS officer? The courts generally have a great deal confidence in the CAFCASS officer and usually respect the fact that they have reflected on what the child has said and the circumstances in which they said it.

It is beyond belief that anyone could think that the new clause provides an answer. The issue is enormously important, and it is difficult to get it right. However, experienced court officers are expected to set out in their reports the tensions and difficulties—especially in the case the older children whom we have been discussing—of what the child is trying to express, as well as how they have reached their view and the circumstances in which they have spoken to the child.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight may be ubiquitous, and seems fairly ambitious. He may be proposing the measure with certain situations in mind, but people should reconsider it, because it is not sensible.