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New National Deprivation of Liberty (DoLS) Court to launch for children

The President of the Family Division today announces the launch of a National Deprivation of Liberty (DoLS) court on 4 July 2022.

23/06/22

New National Deprivation of Liberty (DoLS) Court to launch for children

A new court to deal with applications seeking authorisation to deprive children of their liberty is to launch next month, President of the Family Division Sir Andrew MacFarlane has said.

Children in England and Wales can be deprived of their liberty for welfare (risks to their safety), youth justice or mental health reasons, and placed in secure children’s homes, young offender institutions, secure training centres or mental health in-patient wards. An increasing number of children are also being deprived of their liberty in unregistered placements.

When a place for a child cannot be found in a welfare, youth justice or mental health setting, the High Court can use the powers under its inherent jurisdiction to deprive a child of their liberty in an unregulated placement.

The new court will be based at the Royal Courts of Justice under the leadership of Mr Justice Moor.

From 4 July 2022, all new applications seeking DoLS orders for children will be issued in the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ).

The new court will be supported by two Family High Court/deputy high court judges each week and a dedicated administrative team based in the RCJ. Cases will either be retained for hearing within the National DoLs Court or will be returned to circuit, based on agreed criteria.

The announcement added that it is anticipated that, subject to judicial direction, cases will be heard remotely.

“This is important, sensitive work and the continued growth in the number of these applications to the family courts requires the creation of a dedicated listing protocol,” Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division said.

“The national DoLS court will provide the necessary expertise in dealing with these matters.”

The announcement added that Nuffield Family Justice Observatory will regularly collect and publish data from the new court.
Earlier this year, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory published research that revealed that in the three years to 2020/21, these applications increased from 108 to 579 per year – a rise of 462% – and outnumbered applications under s.25 of the Children Act 1989 (for places in secure children’s homes) for the first time. Unlike children held in other settings, children deprived of their liberty under the inherent jurisdiction don’t appear in published administrative data or records.

Lisa Harker, Director of Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, welcomed the opportunity given to monitor, analyse and publish data from the applications that the court will receive.

“The lack of information on DoLs cases – especially about children deprived of their liberty in unregistered placements – is a serious issue, which we have started to address through our research. The new court is an important first step towards improved transparency on this issue.

“However, we also need to understand more about why cases are rising in the first place, and about what can be done to better meet the needs of the vulnerable children involved.”

Read the evidence review ‘What do we know about children and young people deprived of their liberty in England and Wales?’: https://www.nuffieldfjo.org.uk/resource/children-and-young-people-deprived-of-their-liberty-england-and-wales

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