Re W (Children) [2010] UKSC 12

On 3 March 2010, the Supreme Court handed down judgment in an urgent appeal, relating to the evidence of children in court proceedings. Judgment was given one day after the case was heard at the Supreme Court and in time for a fact-finding hearing for care proceedings concerning a family of five children. At issue was the decision of the trial judge to refuse the father’s application to have live evidence called (by video link) from his 14 year-old step-daughter, whose allegation of sexual abuse against him had led to the children being taken into care. The Supreme Court found that the current law erected a presumption against a child giving live evidence in family proceedings. This could not be reconciled with the approach of the European Court of Human Rights, which sought to strike a balance between the right to a fair trial and the right to respect for private and family life. The essential test was whether justice could be done to all the parties without further questioning of the child. As the judge in this case had started from the wrong
point, the question was remitted to her to decide at the start of the fact finding hearing the following week.