I move amendment 81:
In page 10, before section 15, to insert the following new section:
"15.—(1) Where a justice of the District Court is satisfied on the application of a health board that—
(a) an application for a care order in respect of the child has been or is about to be made (whether or not an emergency care order is in force); and
(b) there is reasonable cause to believe that pending the determination of that application the health or well-being of the child so requires,
the justice may make an order to be known and in this Act referred to as an ‘interim care order'.
(2) An interim care order shall require that the child named in the order be placed or maintained in the care of the health board—
(a) for a period not exceeding eight days, or
(b) where the health board and the parent or person acting in loco parentis consent, for a period exceeding eight days,
and an extension or extensions of any such period may be granted (with the consent, where an extension is to exceed eight days, of the persons specified in paragraph (b)) on the application of any of the parties if the justice is satisfied that this is necessary in the best interests of the child.
(3) An application for an interim care order or for an extension of such an order shall be made on notice to a parent having custody of the child or to a person actingin loco parentis except where the justice otherwise directs.
(4) Where an interim care order is made, the justice may order that any directions given under subsection (6) of section 11 may remain in force subject to such variations, if any, as he may see fit to make or the justice may give directions in relation to any of the matters mentioned in the said subsection and the provisions of that section shall apply with any necessary modifications."
Following some concern expressed by Deputies at our last meeting about aspects of amendment No. 81, I have had consultations with the Attorney General and, as a result, I have circulated a substitute amendment No. 81. Before I explain the amendment in detail, it might be helpful if I began by reminding Deputies of the need for and the purpose of this amendment.
Section 11 provides that an emergency care order will remain in force for not more than eight days. As I explained at the last meeting, a number of recent judicial pronouncements seem to indicate that it would not be constitutionally permissible to extend this period beyond eight days. Under the Bill as originally drafted it would have been necessary for a health board to proceed with an application for a care order or a supervision order on the eighth day. As was pointed out at the last meeting, a health board might simply not be in a position to proceed with a full hearing of the case on the eighth day, perhaps because it was awaiting the results of medical, psychiatric or psychological assessments or because it was having difficulties in making contact with the parents of the child. Furthermore, the parents might not be anxious that the full hearing should proceed at that stage if they were, for example, awaiting a second opinion on medical or other tests. The purpose of this amendment is to provide a breathing space for all the parties concerned to complete their preparations before the case goes to a full hearing while allowing the child to remain in care temporarily if the justice considers that this is necessary in his interests.
Subsection (2) deals with the duration of such an order. This was the aspect that gave rise to some controversy at our last meeting. The subsection has been amended in the light of some of the points raised and in order to clarify what is intended the substitute amendment now makes it absolutely clear that an order can be made for a period up to eight days, or if the health board and the parents or personsin loco parentis agree, for a period in excess of eight days. It also provides that the justice may extend the duration of the order on one or more occasions as he thinks necessary and that such extensions may be for eight days or for any period in excess of eight days providing that in the case of a period over eight days the consent of the health board and the parents or persons in loco parentiswill be necessary.
Subsection (3) provides that a health board would be required to give notice to the parents of its intention to seek an interim care order or any extension of such an order. However, the justice would be able to dispense with this requirement, for example, if the parents were missing and could not be found.
Subsection (4) extends the provisions of the new subsection (6) of section 11 as inserted by amendment No. 67 to interim care orders. This means that the justice will be able, either on his own initiative or at the request of the health board or the parents, to give directions in relation to any of the following matters: whether the address or location of the place where the child is being accommodated is to be revealed to the parents or to either of them; the access, if any, that is to be permitted between the child and his parents or any other person; the medical or psychiatric examination or treatment of the child.
I hope the Deputies will support this amendment which seeks to reconcile two issues, on the one hand the legal requirement that child care cases be heard and determined as quickly as possible, and, on the other the practical need to afford the parties adequate time to prepare for the full court hearing.