A Supervision Order application was adjourned in the District Court because no practitioner was available from the Legal Aid Board to represent the father. The father, who was opposing the Supervision Order, had a Legal Aid certificate and wished to have representation.
The judge observed that the social welfare department were being allowed into the house and asked what then was the purpose of the Supervision Order. “We may need medical directions,” the social worker told him and she said it would also assist the social work plan.
The judge said that the Legal Aid Board were more and more frequently telling parents that there was no one available to represent them in court.
He adjourned the application, saying the lack of representation was “a constant feature where the CFA makes an application in accordance with their statutory obligation and
are fully entitled to do so, and where the parents are entitled to contest any order and have an entitlement to be represented in relation to that.
“It is in the interests of the children that the parents make the case they have to make, fair procedures are for everybody including the children.
“The function of the Legal Aid Board is to provide legal representation to the parents, there is a priority list for Child Care Act cases. If I were to proceed with this case in the absence of representation for [the father], that would compromise his rights.
“It is in the children’s interest that this matter be heard as soon as possible, but I don’t know what the result of the hearing would be. I can’t proceed simply because it is in their interests when the parents have a case to present which may say the order is not necessary.”
The judge told the parties that the purpose of the adjournment was so that the father could get legal representation. He said that if there was none there on the next court date then either the CFA could look to proceed with the Supervision Order application anyway or the father could look for a prohibition to say that the judge could not proceed with it.
“In order for the court to make a Supervision Order there has to be findings that (a) the child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused, or (b) the child’s health, development or welfare has been or is being avoidable impaired or neglected, or (c) the child’s health, development or welfare is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected,” said the judge, reading out Section 19 of the Act.
The judge told the father that he had to get his representation for the next court date. “Whatever you’re asked to do – to bring documents, go to the appointments, you have to do all of that. If you don’t do that then it won’t be adjourned again, you must keep going with whatever you have to do,” he said.