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Are Minors Being Properly Heard?

Posted on September 20, 2020 at 3:15 AM

This is a question which begs a multitude of other questions as well as several opinions which at times can be diametrically opposed. The question, 'Are minors being properly heard' implies that minors are already being heard, which in the case of Maltese courts, this is the case to a certain extent.  Minors can be heard at the discretion of the Court and there is no age limit for children to be heard.

 

 

However, are minors properly heard? That is, are minors' voices and thoughts being effectively heard?

 

 

Over the years children were heard either by the Judge or the Child Advocate. If they were heard by the Judge, a report would not be given to the parties on what the children said. Therefore, although the children would have been heard, the parties would not know what they said. From one end this is done to protect the children's privacy and confidentiality, but on the other hand, if one takes into consideration custody issues, it is imperative that the parties know what the children would have said. With respect to the Child Advocate, the Child Advocate draws up a report which is available to the parties unless ordered not to be by the Court. Sometimes the Child Advocate speaks to the parents as well - that is where I have an issue with, since the parties are spoken not in the presence of their lawyers and sometimes the stronger party puts forward a stronger case in his/her favour.

 

However, now, the role of the Child Advocate has been drastically changed by a new amendment which came into force at the end of August 2020. It is very new and is yet to be tested. The role of the Child Advocate seems  to be now more akin to that of a guardian ad litem, where the Child Advocate will represent the child in court and where it will put forward submissions in favour of the child. It still seems unclear who will ask for a Child Advocate to be so appointed - whether it is automatic or whether it is on request of one of the parties. Moreover, when it comes to alienated children, such children would be perpetuating the narrative of the alienating parent and the Child Advocate would run the risk of putting forward submissions in favour of the child which would be echoing the submissions of the alienating parent and this to the detriment of the alienated parent. Therefore, caution should be exercised in these cases, making sure that the children are truly heard and one should avoid a situation where the children's voice is used as a corroborative voice to the alienating parent.


Article written by Dr Ann Marie Mangion.

Categories: Child Advocate, Child Law, Parental Alienation

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Committed to Excellence 

Recent Events

News

As from 20 September 2020 Mangion Legal will be publishing weekly Sunday articles on various legal aspects.

As from 8 June 2020 the office has reopened from its temporary closure due to COVID-19 and has resumed physical meetings whilst implementing safety and sanitization measures. Anyone coming into the office must be wearing a mask/visor.

As from 13 March 2020 the office is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and this in an attempt to limit the spreading of the virus. However, the office will still assist clients remotely via SKYPE or Whatsapp Video calls.

As from 16 March 2020, the Maltese Law Courts have closed until further notice due to COVID-19. All legal time-limits have been temporarily suspended.

On 20 June 2019, Dr Mangion participated in the Council of Europe exercise on Child Participation, namely the Child Participation Tool held by the Ministry for the Family, Children's Rights and Social Security in collaboration with the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.

On 1 October 2018, Lisa Micallef joined the office as a legal trainee.

On 17 January 2018, Dr Mangion attended the inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Ecclesiastical Tribunals of the Maltese Province at the Archbishop's Palace.

On 13 January 2018, Dr Mangion was a guest speaker on Radio 101's 'Ghazliet' discussing sexual harassment.

On 11 January 2018, Dr Mangion attended a public lecture on gender quotas in Ireland held by Dr Fiona Buckley of the University of Cork, organised by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, at the University of Malta.

On 13 October 2017, Dr Mangion was a guest speaker on FLiving TV, 'Attwali' discussing criminal responsibility amongst minors.

On 4-8 October 2017, Dr Mangion went to a FAIR Project training session on immigrant children's rights access to justice organised by the ICJ at Ferney-Voltaire/Geneva.

On 15 September 2017 Dr Mangion attended Dontilla Mukamana's speech on genocidal rape in Rwanda as part of the Festival of Research 2017 held at the University of Leicester.

On 6 September 2017 Dr Mangion's paper on confidentiality and treatment of young people was published in Kevin Aquilina, Peter Mallia and Bridgit Ellul (eds), Contemporary  Issues in Medical Law  & Ethics: Conference Proceedings 2012-2015 (University of Malta 2017).

On 19 August 2017 Dr Mangion was a guest speaker on Radio 101's 'Ghazliet' discussing juvenile crime.

On 9 April 2017 Dr Mangion was invited as a guest speaker on Radio 101's 'Ghazliet' discussing the family.

On 16-17 February 2017 Dr Mangion attended a two-day training session: "Fostering Access to Immigrant Children's Rights (FAIR) Project organised by Aditus and the International Commission of Jurists.

On 24 December 2016 Dr Mangion along with Johanna Cauchi held the last radio programme from the long-running programme, Il-Ligi u l-Familja on Radio RTK (103 FM).

On 1 October 2016 Dr Mangion was asked to make an intervention on the legal implications of gay parenting on Radio 101's radio programme Ghazliet.

On 5 September 2016 Dr Mangion was invited on Campus FM's radio programme Ghazliet to discuss children's rights.

On 11 June 2016 Dr Mangion was asked to give her opinion on children's views in court during the radio programme Ghandi xi Nghid.

On 21 April 2016 Dr Mangion was invited on TVM's Skjetti alongside Pauline Miceli, the Commissioner of Children and Claire Agius Ordway to discuss children's rights.

On 7 March 2016 Dr Mangion attended a lecture organised by the Chamber of Advocates on Act IV of 2016 - an act to amend law relating to justice reform in the sphere of civil procedure.

On 8 February 2016 Dr Mangion started a course entitled Forensic Science and Criminal Justice as part of her CPD.

On 3 February 2016 Dr Mangion attended a seminar on annulment procedural reforms organized by the Chamber of Advocates.

Articles

Dr Mangion has published a paper entitled, 'Confidentiality and Treatment of Young People: Proposals for Amendment 1' in Kevin Aquilina, Peter Mallia and Bridgit Ellul (eds), Contemporary Issues in Medical Law & Ethics: Conference Proceedings 2012-2015 (University of Malta 2017).

Dr Mangion has publshed the following paper, 'Confidentiality and Treatment of Young Adults. Proposals for Amendments: the Gillick Proposition' in the Journal of the Malta College of Family Doctors, (Vol. 4, Issue 1, May 2015)

Hamid Reza Salehi and Ann Marie Mangion have published an article called, Legal Aspects of Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Science. (Int J Adv Stu Hum Soci Scie. 2014; 2(2):111-115)

Ann Marie Mangion, 'Young Adults Should Have a Say', The Times (Valletta, 5 April 2013)

Radio & TV

Discussing sexual harassment on Radio 101's 'Ghazliet' discussing sexual harassment (13 January 2018 - live).

Discussing criminal responsibility amongst minors on FLiving TV, 'Attwali' (13 October 2017 - live).

Discussing the family of Radio 101's Ghazliet (9 April 2017 - live).

Discussing children's rights on Campus FM's radio programme Ghazliet (5 September 2016 - recorded).

Asked to give her opinion on children's views in court during the radio programme Ghandi xi Nghid (11 June 2016 - live).

Discussing children's rights on TVM's Skjetti (21 April 2016 - recorded).


Seminars & Conferences

Dr Mangion attended a public lecture on gender quotas in Ireland held by Dr Fiona Buckley of the University of Cork, organised by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, at the University of Malta (11 January 2018).

Dr Mangion went to a FAIR Project training session on immigrant children's rights access to justice organised by the ICJ at Ferney-Voltaire/Geneva (4-8 October 2017).

Dr Mangion attended Dontilla Mukamana's speech on genocidal rape in Rwanda as part of the Festival of Research 2017 held at the University of Leicester (15 September 2017).

Dr Mangion attended a two-day training session: "Fostering Access to Immigrant Children's Rights (FAIR) Project organised by Aditus and the International Commission of Jurists (16-17 February 2017).

Dr Mangion gave a talk on Matrimonial Regimes to post-Cana group (4 December 2016).

Dr Mangion gave a talk on Consent, Confidentiality and Disclosure at the Maltese Curia (23 June 2016).

Dr Mangion attended a lecture organised by the Chamber of Advocates on Act IV of 2016 - an act to amend law relating to justice reform in the sphere of civil procedure (7 March 2016).

Dr Mangion attended a seminar on annulment procedural reforms organized by the Chamber of Advocate (3 February 2016).