Access to court reports - advice

This advice provides information about the limitations on access to court reports.

Guidance

Court reports can only be distributed to the child or young person who is the subject of the report, the child or young person’s parents and their solicitors and any other person specified by the Court (s. 556, CYFA). The report is to be lodged at court and the parties not less than three working days prior to the hearing (s. 554, CYFA).

Copies of the court report cannot be provided to any other person without the Court’s permission, this includes foster care agencies and non-government organisations. It is good practice to seek the child and parents’ permission to distribute the court report, in addition to the Court.

A person who prepares or receives or otherwise is given access to a report must not, without the permission of the child or young person or parent, disclose any information contained in that report to anyone who is not entitled to receive or have access to that report without the Court’s permission (s. 552, CYFA).

The author is not required to forward the court report to the parties, either in part or full, if they are of the opinion that the information contained in the report may be prejudicial to the physical or mental health of the child or young person or the parents (s. 556(2), CYFA).

Inform CPLO or your divisional legal officer immediately if you wish to withhold access to any part of or all of a court report from any of the parties to the proceedings.

If you do not forward the report to a party, you are required to notify the Court by completing ‘Form 35: Application to restrict access to a report’ which can be found in Court owned forms. The Court may order that the report be forwarded to the excluded party in part or whole.

Inform all parties of the intention to deny access to part or all of the court report and complete the letter ‘To parent re withholding of part/all court report’ which can be found in Letters re Children’s Court and protection orders.

Practice standards and decision-making principles (s. 11, CYFA) require that court reports be discussed with the child or young person and parents prior to their distribution to all parties. This allows the child or young person and parents an opportunity to comment on the contents of the report and this may avoid a contested hearing.

Section 555, CYFA stipulates that a protection report must only deal with matters that are relevant to the question of whether the child is in need of protection. Consult your supervisor and if necessary a solicitor or divisional legal officer regarding the information that you should include in the court report.

A supervisor or team manager must endorse and sign the court report prior to its distribution to the Court, child or young person, parents, CPLO or divisional legal officer, all parties and solicitors.

 

Interstate transfers of protection orders and proceedings

Schedule 1 s. 26, CYFA stipulates that any information collected by the child protection practitioner in the performance of their duties may be disclosed to an interstate officer. This includes information in relation to the transfer of child protection orders and proceedings between Victoria and another state or territory of Australia or between Victoria and New Zealand.

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