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Paul J Watson Solicitor - 116 Borough Road - Middlesbrough - TS1 2ES - T: 01642 293427

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Appearing in the Magistrates Court (Adults) – 10 things you should know.

If you need help advice at Magistrates Court from our specialist Criminal Solicitor in Middlesbrough, call us for free advice on 01642 293427 or 07949 186589 out of hours. We can talk to you about your case and whether you would get legal aid, free of charge.

Our Criminal Defence Solicitors writes;-

1) What to do first:-

Usually it is not a good idea to attend without first taking legal advice from a specialist Criminal Defence Solicitor.

Your Criminal Solicitor can advise you whether it would be a good idea to have legal representation at Court.

Your Criminal Solicitor will also advise you whether you qualify for Legal Aid in the Magistrates Court.

Your Criminal Solicitor will need your National Insurance Number to help you apply for Legal Aid.

2) What to do next;-

Make sure you know where the Magistrates Court is and how to get there. Most Magistrates Courts are in the town or city centre, so parking is often a problem, although public transport is usually readily available.

3) On the day:-

Make sure you are at Court on time to meet your lawyer and appear in Court, otherwise you might breach any bail granted to you by the Police. If you are answering a Summons, then you are not on bail but it still helps to be on time. Do not ignore the proceedings: they will not go away.

4) What not to do:-

When in the Court room itself, DO NOT;-

  • Wear a “hoodie” or other headgear.
  • Chew.
  • Have your hands in your pockets.
  • Back chat the Magistrates

At different times, you will be asked to stand up or sit down; do it. Take the proceedings seriously. If you do not do these things, you will only make things worse for yourself.

5) How long will it take?

Usually longer than you might think. There is always a lot of waiting at Court for you and your Criminal Defence Lawyer, so take a newspaper, I-Pod, book or a friend with you. You might be at Court all morning or all afternoon – be patient! “Kicking off” just gets you thrown out by security.

6) Will it all be over in one go?

Not unless it is a Guilty plea for a minor offence; otherwise you can expect to go back to Court at least once more, either for a trial (if you plead “Not Guilty”) or to be sentenced (if you plead “Guilty” or are found guilty after a trial).

7) Is there a crèche?

Not at Teesside Magistrates Court, or most other Courts in the North East. Try not to take the kids at all (unless they are appearing in the Youth Court).

8) Can I get food and drink there?

At Teesside Magistrates Court, a cafe is open from 10am to 2pm every weekday. Good quality food and drink at low prices! Outside those hours, a machine is available.

9) I work, can I have my hearing on a Saturday?

No, not unless you have been arrested on a Friday night and you are the subject of a Police application to remand you in custody.

10) Will there be any publicity?

There could be, depending on how interesting the Media think your case might be. They can report what takes place at Court and publish your name and address; however, they must be careful not to prejudice your right to a fair trial (if you are pleading “Not Guilty”). Only Defendants under the age of 18 cannot be named (without the special permission of the Court).

The Government is talking about a new law to prevent the publication of the names of anyone accused of rape, unless they are convicted. No date has been fixed for this new law to be brought it and we do not know yet whether it will apply to all sex offences.

Article by Paul J Watson, Principal Solicitor.

What happens at a Child Protection Conference?

Our Family Solicitor in Middlesbrough explains what happens at a Child Protection Meeting;-

The child protection meeting will be led by the Chair; this is an independent safeguarding officer who makes sure that the meeting follows the correct schedule.

There will also be a minute-taker at the child protection meeting, who writes down everything that happens, to allow a report to be provided to everyone involved.

At the meeting it has to be decided whether the child is at “continuing risk of significant harm”.

The test for this is in three parts;-

1. The child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, and the professionals believe that this is ongoing or is likely to continue

2. The professionals believe that the child is likely to suffer ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect;

3. The child has suffered neglect.

If the child is identified as being at risk, then the professionals at the conference will decide if the child;

a. Should be made the subject of a child protection plan;

b. Should be considered as ‘a child in need’;

c. Should be neither of the above and no action is required.


What is a Child in Need?

A child can be a “child in need” without being subjected to a Child Protection Plan. This is usually the case if the level of concern is not high or if there have already been improvements within the family environment.

If a “child in need” plan is needed, it will be drawn up at the meeting and it will then be reviewed every 6 months.


What is a Child Protection Plan?

A Child Protection Plan is an agreed plan which states how matters should progress and what action should be taken. This could be action required by the parents, carers or professionals, and this allows for interagency help.

If a Child Protection Plan is needed then the Chair will determine the category or categories of abuse, which are detailed below.

The conference must agree on the appointment of a key worker, and decide when the first Core Group Meeting will take place. A Core Group Meeting allows the family and professionals to meet on a regular (monthly) basis in a more informal setting, the aim being to monitor progress and to offer support. These meetings usually take place at the parents’ home, the child’s school or sometimes at the local Social Services’ office.

The Plan will agree upon the duties and responsibilities of the Core Group members and the family.

Categories of abuse

When it has been decided that a Child Protection Plan is needed, the Chair of the CPC will decide on one or more of the following categories by which the child will be made subject of the Plan;-

Definition of Neglect; Persistent or severe neglect of a child, failure to protect from danger or extreme failure to carry out aspects of care resulting in impairment of child’s health or development, including non-organic failure to thrive.

Definition of Physical injury; Actual or likely physical injury to a child or failure to prevent injury or suffering.

Definition of Sexual abuse; Actual or likely sexual exploitation of a child or adolescent. The child may be dependent and/or developmentally immature.

Emotional abuse; Actual or likely severe adverse effect upon the emotional or behavioural development of a child, due to persistent or severe emotional ill treatment or rejection. This is only used as a category where it is the sole or main form of abuse.

In some circumstances, the child may need to be made the subject of a plan, due to the severity of the situation. It may not always appear that the category reflects the situation, but the category nearest to the situation will be used, because one must be chosen.

Involvement with Social Services can be a very worrying time and you might have been told that you do not need a solicitor. It is very important that you do seek independent legal advice before agreeing to a working agreement or placement. We offer free no obligation initial appointments to everyone and during that appointment we will assess you for legal aid.

If you would like legal advice or help with your family case, please contact our Family Team who will work hard to get you the best possible result in your case.

Read our reviews – Our Child Protection Solicitor Pam Kandola is a highly recommended Solicitor.

You can complete our contact form requesting a call back, call us on 01642 293427 or send a private message to us on Facebook.

Child Law – What is the ‘welfare checklist’?

Family Solicitors

Our Middlesbrough Family Solicitors explain;-

When a court is considering any decision about the well-being and upbringing of a child then the child’s welfare should always be the priority of the judge. The welfare checklist sets out for the court and the professionals all the areas that must be considered when making a decision about a child, whether this is about child contact, child residence or other orders.
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Do I have to attend mediation?

Our Middlesbrough Family Solicitors explains;-

The only circumstances where parties considering a divorce will not be required to attend mediation prior to commencing proceedings will be in serious circumstances where there are allegations of domestic violence or child protection. However, even in these circumstances if both parties do want to try mediation rather than issuing court proceedings, special arrangements can be made for what is called ‘shuttle mediation’. This is when both parties attend mediation together but the session takes place in separate rooms. There will usually be two mediators in this circumstance and they will go from room to room to try and reach an agreement. The two parties will not be required to meet face to face unless they both request to do so.

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Legal Advice at the Police Station

criminal-solicitor-middlesbroughShould you have a Solicitor with you when you are interviewed by the Police?  Even if it's just to "come in and have a chat"?

The short answer is “Yes”, whether it is a voluntary attendance or you have been arrested or are returning on bail and these are the reasons why;

  • It is Free of Charge. If you are arrested or asked to attend for a voluntary interview, you should ask for Paul J Watson Solicitor to be contacted.  This service is free of charge to everyone at any time of day and is not means tested.  Whatever your financial circumstances, you do not need to pay for a Solicitor's advice at the police station.
  • It is your right to have free and independent legal advice before answering any questions from the police.
  • Anything that you discuss with our solicitors is confidential.
  • When our Criminal Defence solicitors arrive at the police station they look at the custody record to ensure that you have not been mistreated by the police. From the moment you were arrested, we will endeavour to ensure that you are treated properly by the police until you are released.
  • The only way of ensuring that you are dealt with fairly and correctly by the police is by using a solicitor.
  • In order to know your full rights whilst at a police station, it is best to use a solicitor
  • If you ask for a solicitor, the police have to provide that solicitor with the full details of any allegations against you. We can then tell you this information before the interview, making sure that you are fully prepared prior to the interview taking place. The solicitor will also advise on the best course of action for you to take during that interview, such as whether or not you should answer the police questions.
  • A solicitor can stop the interview at any time if, for example the police are unduly pressurising you, or in order to provide you with further legal advice.
  • Being arrested can be a daunting experience for anyone. By taking up the opportunity of having a solicitor, you will be advised of each step of the procedure, and what is likely to happen with you, whether it be a charge, bail or no further action. Having this understanding will go some way to putting you more at ease.
  • Police may attempt to persuade you not to use a solicitor/legal representative. This is only because not having a solicitor present may be better for the police. It is certainly not better for you to go ahead with the interview without obtaining assistance from a solicitor.
  • Police often say that you will be released from the police station quicker without a solicitor. This simply is not the case; “Research has found that the police sometimes use the prospect of further delay to persuade a suspect to agree to being interviewed without having received the advice the suspect initially wanted.” (Defending Suspects at Police Stations, the practitioner`s guide to advice and representation, sixth edition, 2011, Ed Cape)

Choosing our Criminal Defence Lawyers;-

  • Our clients consistently recommend us because we offer a high quality service, with very experienced Criminal Solicitors who give honest advice you can trust. Read our reviews to see what our clients say.
  • Our Solicitors are in easy reach of any of the police stations in the North East and can be with you quickly.
  • At Paul J Watson Solicitor, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience of representing clients at the police station. We cover all types of criminal offence, from complex fraud and conspiracy to supply, to kidnapping, firearms offences and sexual offences, and have done so for many years.


For free legal advice at the police station:

Complete our Contact Form or call us for free advice on 01642 293427 or 07949 186589 out of hours

children-solicitor-middlesbroughAdoption Process Guidance & FAQs -Our Family Solicitors in Middlesbrough explain;-

In order to be adopted, a child must:

  • be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made;
  • not be (or have ever been) married or in a civil partnership.
  • The child’s birth parents

Normally, both birth parents have to agree (consent) to the adoption, unless:

  • They cannot be found
  • They are incapable of giving consent – e.g. due to a mental disability
  • The child would be put at risk if they were not adopted
  • Who can adopt a child?

You may be able to adopt a child if you are aged 21 or over (there is no upper age limit) and are either:

  • single;
  • married;
  • in a civil partnership;
  • an unmarried couple (same sex and opposite sex);
  • the partner of the child’s parent.
  • There are different rules for private adoptions and adoptions of looked-after children.

Do I have to live in the UK to adopt a child?

You do not need to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but:

  • At least one of you must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK (or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man);
  • Both of you must have lived in the UK for at least one year before you begin the application process.
    Early stages of adoption

To adopt a child you can go through either:

  • The adoption agency that is part of your local council
  • A voluntary adoption agency

The adoption process

The basic process is as follows:

  • You contact an adoption agency – it will send you information about the adoption process.
  • The agency arranges to meet you – you may also be invited to a meeting with other people wanting to adopt a child.
  • If you and the agency agree to carry on, the agency will give you an application form.
  • The time it takes to adopt can vary – but it normally takes at least 8 months.

Adopting a stepchild

If you want to adopt your spouse’s or partner’s child, you need to tell your local council. You must do this at least 3 months before applying to a court for an adoption order.

  • The child must also have lived with both of you for at least 6 months.
  • The adoption assessment
  • The process to adopt is similar to an assessment through an adoption agency.
  • The assessment is used to help a court decide if you can adopt the child (rather than being sent to an independent adoption panel).

The court will ask your local council to provide a report on:

  • Your partner
  • The child
  • The other birth parent
  • The report will be prepared by a social worker and will be used to help the court make a decision.

If granted, the adoption court order gives you parental responsibility for the child – along with your spouse or partner.

The order also takes away parental responsibility from:

  • the child’s other birth parent
  • anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child

An adoption order cancels any other type of court order, e.g. how, and when, the child’s birth parent can visit the child.

Birth parents: Your rights

For another couple (or person) to adopt your child, you normally have to agree to it.

Once your child as been adopted, you no longer have parental responsibility for them.

Depending on the child’s situation, you may be able to stay in contact with them. This is often done using letters and photographs (and sometimes meetings) through the agency responsible for arranging the adoption.

Fathers’ rights

As the child’s father you’ll be asked to agree to the adoption – but only if you have parental responsibility.

If you were never married to the child’s mother or named on the birth certificate, you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order to get parental responsibility.

Trying to stop the adoption process

If the adoption process has started, you should get legal advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice.

To make an adoption legal, a court has to grant a court order.

The agency arranging the adoption must let you know what your rights are – and also at what point the adoption cannot be stopped.

If you do not want your child to be adopted, a court will give you the chance to say why. A social worker, independent of the adoption agency, will visit you and:

  • record the reasons you do not want your child adopted
  • let the court know these reasons – you can go to court to explain them
  • An adoption order cannot be made unless the court thinks it is in your child’s best interests.

Adoption without your consent

A court can decide the adoption can go ahead without your consent if:

  • The Court believes that the child would be put at risk if they were not adopted – it will send you the evidence they have been given, e.g. from social services
  • You are incapable of giving consent – e.g. due to a mental disability
  • Please read all the following information to establish if you are eligible to adopt the child/ren;

Frequently asked questions

I would like my new partner to adopt my child

The first issue that many adults tend to forget is that adoption is about, and for, the benefit of the children. What adults want is relevant but the court will not consider this to be an over-riding concern when it comes to making a decision.

Although it is quite natural for you to feel that your family will only be complete if the child were to be adopted by your new partner there are some who would suggest that there are other legal alternatives to adoption that should be considered fully.

I have recently married my partner

You no longer need to be married to adopt the child/ren of your partner.

Do I have to get the other parent’s agreement to the adoption?

If the other parent is the mother;-

You will need her agreement. A court can dispense with the need for her agreement but there have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

If the other parent is the father and he was married to the child’s mother;-

You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with the need for his agreement but there have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

If the other parent is the father and he has parental responsibility;-

You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with the need for his agreement but there have to be very good reasons for them to do so.

Parental Responsibility is usually only obtained in one of four ways: 1. By obtaining a residence order from a court stating the child lives with them, or 2. By having a parental responsibility agreement, or 3. By being appointed guardian to care for the child if a parent dies, or 4. By adopting the child.

If the other parent is the father, but he was not married to the child’s mother, nor has he obtained parental responsibility for the child.

No. His agreement is not required. Parental Responsibility is usually only obtained in one of four ways: 1. By obtaining a residence order from a court stating the child lives with them, or 2. By having a parental responsibility agreement, or 3. By being appointed guardian to care for the child if a parent dies, or 4. By adopting the child.

Will the other parent have to be involved?

Irrespective of the birth parents’ legal status the court will require a report (Schedule 2) to be compiled and wherever possible the wishes of both birth parents will be ascertained and what role they might intend to play in the future in respect of the child. Your current relationship with him or her, or the amount of contact they have with the child will not remove the responsibility for finding out their views, and reporting them back to the court.

But I do not know where the other parent is?

You will have to provide the court with all the relevant information in order for others to try to contact them. They may also be unable to do so and will complete their report stating that this is the case.

But the other parent has not been in contact with their child?

This is not a reason for the social worker compiling the Schedule 2 report not to try to ascertain their wishes in respect of any application to adopt.

But the other parent has not recently / never paid child maintenance?

This is irrelevant. The court will still need to find out their opinions on the proposed adoption.

But the other parent will never agree to the adoption?

The court can dispense with the need for their agreement but there have to be very good reasons for doing so. When applying for the adoption order you can make a statement of fact on the Form A58 Page 3. Here you will have to give the grounds for this request. These ‘grounds’ should be one or more of the following:

  • The parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving agreement;
  • The parent or guardian is withholding his agreement unreasonably;
  • The parent or guardian has persistently failed without reasonable cause to discharge his parental responsibility for the child; * The parent or guardian has abandoned or neglected the child;
  • The parent or guardian has persistently ill-treated the child or
  • The parent or guardian has seriously ill-treated the child.
  • The information you enter here should not contain your opinion; it should be completely factual and wherever possible, the information should be verifiable by others.

Child Law – What is a Section 37 (s37) report?

Family Solicitors

Our Middlesbrough Solicitor explains;-

When, during any private law proceedings under the Children Act 1989, i.e. proceedings for child contact and child residence, a question arises about the welfare of the child, and it seems to the court that it might be appropriate for a Care Order or Supervision Order to be made, the court will direct the local authority to undertake an investigation into the child’s circumstances and report its findings to the Court.

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Child Law – What is the ‘no order principle’?

Family Solicitors

Our Middlesbrough Family Solicitors explain;-

This is a really important principle that the court must always consider. The court must start from the position that no order shall be made unless the court ‘considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all’.
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Child Law – What is the Children Act 1989?

Family Solicitors

Our Middlesbrough Solicitor explains;-

The Children Act 1989 is the statute (i.e. the law) which states what a court can or cannot do when making orders about children. It covers all different kinds of situations, such as child residence, child contact and changing a child’s name, all the way through to care proceedings and child abduction. Continue Reading