Children's Rights Judgments Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Law and Social Justice


The Children's Rights Judgments Network will support the collaboration of up to 50 children's rights scholars from across the world in revisiting existing legal cases and re-drafting them from a children's rights perspective. The rewritten judgments will help to illuminate the conceptual and practical challenges of securing children's rights within judicial decision-making and will explore how developments in theory and practice can inform and (re)invigorate the legal protection of children's rights. Each judgment will be accompanied by a commentary explaining the historical and legal context of the original case and the rationale underpinning the revised judgment including: the particular children's rights perspective adopted; the extent to which it addresses the children's rights deficiencies evident in the original judgment; and the potential impact the alternative version might have had on law, policy or practice.

This very modern, applied approach to legal scholarship is inspired by similar highly successful projects, such as the Feminist Judgments Project (2010). The Children's Rights Judgments Project is unique in that it illustrates precisely how children's rights can be integrated into judicial reasoning across a range of legal areas including health, administrative, education, immigration, family, child protection and criminal justice. Moreover, it explores this in a number of jurisdictional contexts, looking at how children's rights can inform deliberations in different national courts across the world, as well as in the international courts (the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the International Criminal Court).

Leading children's rights academics will work alongside early career researchers to produce the judgments and commentaries. Judgment writing is a challenging and skillful process, demanding a balanced consideration not just of the rights and interests of children, but of other parties implicated in a particular case. Thus, the network will draw on the experience and guidance of two judges, and early drafts of the judgments will also be subjected to the scrutiny of other legal practitioners, representatives from the NGO sector and children and young people with a view to testing their feasibility and comprehensiveness. Other interested parties who are not participating in the network can follow progress on a dedicated Children's Rights Judgments website, which will include a reading list of seminal children's rights literature and good practice examples of existing children's rights judgments.

The judgments and commentaries will be published as an edited collection which will be launched at the annual Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference in April 2017.

Planned Impact

Demonstrating how children's rights norms and theories can inform judicial decision-making is the key rationale underpinning this network and is central to generating impact. In addition to the academic beneficiaries referred to in the previous section, non-academic beneficiaries will include judges, lawyers and children's rights campaign NGOs operating at domestic, European and International level. Ultimately, the outputs from the project will impact upon children and young people also.

The network will impact on the beneficiaries in four main ways.

First, the process of judgment writing will fill an important gap between academic and applied law. It will illustrate to those charged with applying and interpreting the law how the intelligence we have gained about children's lives, perspectives and rights, generated through a rich body of research, can be brought to bear more effectively on judicial reasoning.

Second, the network will add a new dimension to the emergent legal method of judgment writing, demonstrating its application in an entirely new theoretical and normative framework.

Third, the interactive format of the workshops supporting the network lends itself to a high degree of exchange between the various participants, and a distinctly collegial approach to the judgment writing. This will help to nurture strong collaborative links between children's rights scholars and practitioners at various points in their career, and stimulate open dialogue with non-academic stakeholders working in children's rights litigation and campaigning. It will simultaneously demystify the academic process as well as the judicial adjudicative process, whilst also exposing some of the stark challenges associated with balancing competing interests of the various parties implicated in cases.

Finally, it is hoped that the production of revised judgments and explanatory commentaries that respond more explicitly to children's rights will demonstrate to the judiciary the possibilities inherent in a child-rights-based approach, inspire more creative, strategic litigation among practitioners and campaigners, and generate longer-term, positive effects for the protection of children's rights.


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Title Original artwork depicting child friendly justice 
Description We commissioned an artist to produce some original artwork for the front cover of and at various points within the book in which the collection will be published. This same art work will also feature on any associated dissemination materials and the CRJ website which we intend to maintain beyond the life of the funding. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact We hope this will enhance the appeal of the key output (the book) to a wide audience and assist in branding the project in a highly distinctive way. 
Description The funding supported 5 workshops and the development of a (60+) strong international network of children's rights scholars and practitioners who have engaged in re-drafting existing judgments of various jurisdictions from a children's rights perspective. 28 judgments have been completed along with 28 accompanying commentaries. The findings were published by Hart in a collection entitled, 'Rewriting Children's Rights Judgments: From Academic Vision to New Practice' w(published in October 2017 and launched at the UK Supreme Court in October 2017). Lady Hale wrote the Foreword for the book and used it as the basis for her keynote speech to the World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights in Dublin in June 2017. We identified from the project 5 factors that constitute a children's rights based approach to judicial decision-making: (i) Explicitly using children's rights principles, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to inform judicial decision-making;
(ii) Drawing on theoretical and empirical scholarship to inform (and challenge!) established notions of children and childhood;
(iii) Applying and advocating child friendly procedures to maximise children's participation in the legal process;
(iv) Placing the child's voice, interests and experiences at the heart of the judgment narrative;
(v) Communicating the judgment in a child-friendly way.
Exploitation Route We have engaged in a number of activities to maximise the reach and impact of the work. First, we presented the key project findings at two conferences to a wide, interdisciplinary audience: The SLSA Children's Rights Stream (A special session was dedicated to the project - 5-7 April 2017); and at the World Congress on Family and Children's Rights, held in Dublin in June 2017. In addition to the project forming the basis of Lady Hale's keynote speech, we ran a special session for the project attended by judges from across the world. As a result, we were invited to offer training sessions and presentations in New Zealand and Singapore (Hollingsworth, December 2017- January 2018). We are engaging in a number of dissemination events with practitioners, particularly judges and child law practitioners across the UK and in Europe throughout 2018 to maximise the impact of the work. There has been particular interest in the notion of 'child friendly judgments' and so we are developing some guidance and further illustrations around this with a view to encouraging judges to apply this to their cases.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

Description The published findings of the project ('Rewriting Children's Rights Judgments: From Academic Vision to New Practice', Hart 2017) have attracted considerable judicial and academic attention. Lady Hale (current president of the UK Supreme Court) wrote the Foreword for the book, used it as the basis for her keynote speech to the World Congress on Children's Rights and Family Law in 2017 (attended by over 400 judges, lawyers and children's rights academics), and hosted the launch of the book at the Supreme Court in October 2017. We have, since then, engaged in judicial training for the Scottish Judicial Institute (Stalford, Dec 2017), and are scheduled to run a workshop for the International Congress of the International Association of Family Law and Youth Judges and Magistrates in Paris (Stalford and Hollingsworth, May 2017). We have obtained some impact funding for further work with judges across England throughout 2018 to embed the principles of a children's rights-based approach to judgment writing in everyday judicial practice. There is evidence so far that at least one immigration judge has adopted the recommendations in the book in relation to writing a child friendly version of her judgments.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Description Citation in an immigration judgment issued by a first tier tribunal judge in England
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Title Children's Rights Based Approaches to Judgment Writing 
Description We have, through the project, identified some core (5) components of a child rights based approach to judgment writing and illustrated how this can be applied by reference to the rewritten judgments included in the collection. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact We are just in the process of finalising the collection for publication, which includes details of the distinctive method to judgment writing. It is, therefore, too early to tell what impact this will have. That said, we have disseminated aspects of the project to practitioners/judges and academics as the project as evolved and know of at least one judge (an immigration judge) who has adapted one of her immigration judgments involving a child to conform with the approach we are recommending following our advice. 
Description Engagement with a range of judges at all court levels, including within the UK Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We have held five workshops on discrete themes and engaged practitioners, students and PhD students in acting as discussants on work in progress. We have also engaged with practitioners and judges who were involved in the original versions of some of the cases being rewritten to gain a deeper insight into the original process and reasoning. This included, for instance, an interview with Cherie Blair who acted as counsel on one of the judgments, Begum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017