News In Focus
Families Need Fathers publishes bar reports user guide
7 September 2012
A "user's guide" to bar reports in Scotland has been published by Families Need Fathers, the organisation that works to maintain contact between children and non-resident parents following their parents' separation.
Bar reports, regularly prepared to provide information for a court about the circumstances of a child and the proposed contact or residence arrangements, contain recommendations that are often relied on by a judge or sheriff in reaching their decision. But, says Families Need Fathers (FNF), there is no clear information available to the parties or their children setting out what the reporter's powers and duties are or how they should go about their work.
Stating that the purpose of the guide is to make the process "more transparent and accessible" to those involved in child contact actions, it adds: "It is not a guide to coach parents through how to get a favourable bar report but, being better informed, it may help them represent their interests and the realities of the relationship with their children more effectively."
The guide explains what bar reports are for, what happens at interview, who pays, what to expect in the report and whether it can be challenged.
FNF is also appealing to ministers to set national standards for qualifications, training, appointment and best practice procedures of bar reporters, with systematic oversight of the standard of reporting. Although reporters are usually legally qualified, Ian Maxwell, national manager of FNF said it was "concerned that some bar reporting falls well below the standard that should be expected in such an important matter".
He added: "We have seen too many reports that contain basic errors of fact, that make unsubstantiated value judgments of the parties and that reveal leading questions put to children of a kind that would not be admitted in any other court proceedings."
With Scottish Legal Aid Board figures for 2010-11 showing a range of fees for bar reports from £598 to £5,073, with an average of £2,734, he commented: "Performance appraisal is normal in most professions but we are unaware of it among bar reporters."
Click here to access the guide.