Justice, speed and thoroughness in child protection court proceedings: messages from England

Jonathan Dickens, Chris Beckett, Sue Bailey

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper reports and assesses the outcomes of a pilot programme in London to reduce the duration of child protection court proceedings. The initiative, known as the ‘Tri-borough Care Proceedings Pilot’, was intended to reduce the usual duration to 26 weeks, ahead of national moves in that direction. The paper locates the issue of court delay in a wider political and child welfare context, highlighting the dilemmas of balancing principles of family autonomy and child safety, support and protection, thoroughness and speed, welfare practices and court processes. It compares the policy, legal and court contexts in the USA and England, showing that what might appear at first sight a local initiative actually relates to a much wider, long-lasting and international debate about how to reach important decisions about children in a reasonable timescale. The paper concludes that there will always be, and must always be, tensions between the courts, national government and local welfare agencies. The pilot shows that greater speed can be achieved by a concerted effort from all the agencies, but at the same time the division of powers and responsibilities is a bedrock for protecting individual rights in liberal democratic societies. Welfare and legal practitioners alike need to appreciate this tension in child protection policy and practice, and resist recrimination when there are differences of opinion. Knowing that other countries face the same challenges can help to promote a more realistic and sophisticated understanding of the dilemmas and the implications for practice, and so help to bring about better decisions for children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Early online date23 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Care proceedings
  • Juvenile dependency
  • Tri-borough pilot
  • Court delay
  • Permanence
  • Adoption

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