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wardship


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N.

The jurisdiction of the High Court to make a child a ward of court and assume responsibility for its welfare. The jurisdiction is almost unlimited, although subject to consideration of the child's welfare and, to some extent, the rights of other persons and the public interest. The court exercises detailed control of the ward: it may appoint the Official Solicitor to act as his children's guardian and may order either parent to make periodical payments for his maintenance. Wardship proceedings are heard in private and the usual rules of evidence may be relaxed (e.g. in respect of hearsay evidence). The court may enforce its orders by injunction; breach of this or tampering with the ward may constitute contempt of court.

Circumstances in which wardship proceedings are useful include: where parents refuse to consent to medical treatment and it is necessary to take long-term decisions about the child; where third parties, such as the press, are intruding in a child's life; where a child is about to be kidnapped and removed from the jurisdiction. Wardship offers immediate and effective protection in such a case since the moment an application is made, the child becomes a ward of court, and hence can be stopped at a port or airport.The Children Act 1989 has restricted the use of wardship by local authorities and has considerably reduced the need for wardship in private law proceedings, since individual disputes about a child can frequently be settled by a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order. Cases: Re C (A Baby) [1996] 2 FLR 43 (CA); Re W (Wardship: Discharge: Publicity) [1995] 2 FLR 466 (CA); A v Liverpool CC [1982] AC 363 (HL).

where parents refuse to consent to medical treatment and it is necessary to take long-term decisions about the child;

where third parties, such as the press, are intruding in a child's life;

where a child is about to be kidnapped and removed from the jurisdiction. Wardship offers immediate and effective protection in such a case since the moment an application is made, the child becomes a ward of court, and hence can be stopped at a port or airport.

Subjects: Law.


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