Legal Advice and Representation
1. INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE OF SERVICE
The Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown (Civil Team) provide legal advice and representation to the Health and Social Services Department in matters relating to children.
General legal advice and on non children matters (e.g. employment issues, general litigation, contract disputes and adult mental health) are dealt with, in the first instance, by the Legislation and Litigation Section of the Strategy, Policy and Engagement Directorate of HSSD who will, if required pass the matter onto Chambers.
On all new queries, please contact:
Crown Advocate Rupert Sewards
Director, Civil Litigation
The Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown
Tel: 01481 723355; e-mail: Rupert.Sewards@gov.gg
If Rupert is not available, you can contact his P.A. Cris Bourgaise and she will make arrangements for the matter to be allocated to one of the teams' lawyers:
Cris Bourgaise, Chambers of the Law Officer's of the Crown
Tel:01481 723355; e-mail: Cristina.Bourgaize@gov.gg
Advocate William Simmonds deal's almost exclusively with legal matters relating to children and when urgent legal advice is required, he can be contacted directly. William splits his time between The Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown and Perruque House:
tel: 01481 259016 (Perruque House), 01481 723355 (Chambers)
If William is not available, please contact his acting P.A. Charlotte Edmonds (at Perruque House - tel: 01481 256923; e-mail: CEdmonds@hssd.gov.gg or in her absence, Cris Bourgaise at the Chambers of the Law Officer's of the Crown (01481 723355 or e-mail: Cristina.Bourgaize@gov.gg ).
In an urgent matter where you cannot contact any of the above, please contact The Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown (tel: 01481 723355) and ask for a lawyer in the Civil Litigation Team.
Scope of Service
When a practitioner consults a lawyer about a particular matter in the course of their employment, they do so on behalf of the Department and not in an individual capacity. It is the lawyer's job to advise about the relevant law and what legal options are available. It is for the Department then to make decisions based on that advice and to instruct the lawyer accordingly.
Although the Department is not bound to act on the lawyer's advice, it would be unusual for that to happen. In the event of a dispute, the risk of not following the advice should be made clear by the lawyer and wherever possible, (i) the Director or an Assistant Director advised of that fact and (ii) the position confirmed in writing, e.g., an e-mail.
The lawyer will not automatically accept instructions from an officer, which would seriously prejudice the Department's own position. Where a lawyer perceives this to be the case, he may have to refer the matter to senior officers within the Department, to achieve a resolution and in exceptional circumstances, consult the Director of Legal Services, (or a Law Officer).
In cases of child protection, where the chances of success on an application are not clear cut, it is often better to make the application in order that an independent Judge can decide if it is in the child's best interests to make the order than to not proceed.
It is crucially important that the distinct roles of lawyer and practitioner are respected and Social Workers and Managers are not to seek validation of social work decision from the lawyer (and visa versa).
The Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown provide an out of hours service on children matters. Guidance on how this service operates is set out in detail in the Out of Hours Duty Pack. That guidance makes clear that urgent applications (e.g. for an Emergency Child Protection Order or Recovery Order) should whenever possible be made within court hours. Out of hour's applications, particularly those which have become urgent because they have not been pursued sufficiently promptly, should be avoided.
Procedure for seeking legal advice
Wherever possible, it is expected that a practitioner will discuss any application with their supervisor/manager before a lawyer is contacted.
The 'Out of Hours' duty lawyer should only be contacted if an application is to be made or urgent legal advice is required, which cannot await office hours. If in doubt, the Department is encouraged to err on the side of caution and seek legal advice. In very urgent cases, there should be no delay in contacting the lawyer.
Wherever practicable, staff must use the 'Request for Legal Advice/Representation' form for all new requests for legal advice and representation (other than in emergencies, when it is good practice)
The form has three main purposes:
1. To assist in the allocation and prioritisation of legal work;
2. To ensure that KEY information is provided at the outset to avoid delays and to ensure that legal advice is given on accurate and sufficiently detailed information;
3. To identify why a lawyer is being asked to attend a meeting.
The form is divided into two parts A & B. Part A is to be completed in all cases but Part B need only be completed when the information set out is not otherwise set out (clearly) in the supporting documents you send to the lawyer (e..g an Initial assessment may contain the information required in Part B, in which case you can send that rather than complete Part B).
You can contact the lawyers directly in an urgent matter, although it is preferable wherever possible to send through the attached form as it will speed up the giving of legal advice. Where the form cannot be completed at the time, please follow up an urgent request for legal advice (e.g. by phone/face to face) with a copy of the form.
Informed legal advice is dependent on clear instructions and reliable information. The practitioner is expected to provide the lawyer with as full and accurate information as possible, including correct names, dates of birth and the identity of those with parental responsibility for the child. Wherever possible, relevant background information should be provided e.g.:
- Concise chronology
- Recent case conference minutes
- Any relevant police report
- Any relevant medical report
In existing cases (that are already allocated), staff need not send a form and should continue to liaise directly with the allocated lawyer.
Advocate William Simmonds
Chambers of the Law Officers of the Crown
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities