Reflecting on 21 years of the Children Act 1989
Lord Wilson, judge of the Supreme Court, delivered the closing plenary at a seminar reflecting on 21 years of the Children Act 1989 in an event held on campus last week.
Addressing an invited audience of judges, practitioners, and academics, Lord Wilson drew upon his experience as a judge, initially in the Family Division, deciding cases under both its private and public law provisions.
The two-day conference on 12-13 October - which was sponsored by the Modern Law Review and hosted by the Law School’s Centre for Responsibilities, Rights and the Law - included sessions on key principles and concepts within the Children Act 1989: welfare, parental responsibility, residence and contact, significant harm and working together.
In these sessions, delegates listened to presentations from, and participated in debates with, leading Family Law academics, architects of the legislation, practitioners and members of both the Family Division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Professor Jo Bridgeman, Director of the Centre for Responsibilities, Rights and the Law commented: “Lord Mackay, then Lord Chancellor, described the Children Act as ‘the most comprehensive and far-reaching reform of child law ... in living memory’. It revised many of the principles that governed decisions about children and introduced new concepts and fundamental principles that were to guide judicial and other decisions about children’s lives.
“Thousands of cases are decided every year in which these devices, principles and concepts are used, interpreted and applied to resolve disputes about children’s lives. The aim of the seminar was to reflect upon the development of these important legal provisions.”
Co-organiser and Senior Lecturer in Law, Craig Lind added: “The principles and concepts of the Act have been subject to judicial interpretation which has sometimes clarified the Act and sometimes added glosses to its meaning. Furthermore, the Act has also been amended over the years to accommodate the changing array of people who have been recognised as appropriate adults caring for children.
“Children’s rights are now much more important in the domestic law context whilst there has also been a growing discourse around family responsibility. In the seminar we examined the original aims of the Act, the evolution of key concepts and principles of the Act and considered future challenges which may confront it.”
Further information about the seminar, organised by Professor Bridgeman, Professor Heather Keating, and Craig Lind can be found on the Centre’s website.