Children's Access to Justice


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Children have many rights and protections under Irish law. Despite this, children and young people continue to experience discrimination or find their rights are not being respected. Access to justice can be delivered to children and their families by making sure they are aware of what legal options are available to them when their rights are not met. We work to ensure that children and those who care for them can access information and advice about their rights. Crucially this includes making sure they can access legal advice about what is the best remedy to use.

Access to justice for children is primarily related to the court system and quasi-judicial legal remedies, but this should be supported by ensuring that children, young people, parents, members of the public and organisations working with the legal system are informed about children’s legal rights and entitlements.

When faced with the justice system, children are thrown into an intimidating adult world which they cannot always understand. Children are vulnerable whether they come into contact with the justice system as a victim, witness or defendant or if an intervention is being made for the child’s custody or protection. We need a robust system which takes into account the child’s needs and rights as the core priority, including their right to be heard.

Our goals for children’s Access to Justice

  • Children have the right to be heard and to express themselves in legal proceedings, and we are calling for systems that allow these children to either speak for themselves directly or through an appropriate representative as is needed.
  • We will ensure that all children have access to free legal advice when it is needed, regardless of their location, status or situation; as part of our new Access to Justice Initiative we will be setting up specialist legal advice clinics for children and young people.
  • We will work to ensure professionals in the legal system having direct contact with children are trained in how to communicate with them at all ages and stages of development.
  • We will inform children, their parents, caregivers and second-tier advice givers about their rights and entitlements and how to use available complaints procedures to access remedies available when they are violated.

Progress updates

  • We are calling for expressions of interest for a Child Law information support initiative.
  • #ReportCard17: Rights in the Family Environment and Alternative Care
  • #KnowYourRights - our guide to children’s rights and entitlements, developed with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
  • Our recent statement on the Guardians adLitem announcement can be read here.
  • We recently held an Access to Justice event to examine the Child Care Act 1991 review
  • In November we hosted a national Conference examining the impact of the Children’s Referendum on realising children’s rights in Ireland 5 years on.
  • In July we successfully challenged plans for the Legal Aid Board to restrict referrals to the District Court providing legal advice and representation for families


Published date: 
Wednesday, December 20, 2017