Gillick Competence

Gillick Competence

You can ask our online solicitors for advice on gillick competence using the question box on the front of our website or the following free legal advice guide may answer your questions.

It is widely recognised in school, family life and in the community that children have the right to be involved in decisions that concern them. That said, for certain decisions, an assessment must be made to determine a child’s maturity. For an authority to determine that the child is mature enough to make decisions, they may decide to use what is known as the Gillick competence assessment. 

This is a specific assessment which aims to maintain the welfare and safety of the child while ensuring their rights of inclusion are respected.

gillick competency

Gillick Competency Assessment

The Gillick Competence Assessment was first introduced following a legal case between Gillick and West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority 1986. This case aimed to establish whether a doctor should be able to give patients who were under the age of 16 years advice and contraceptive treatment without consent from their parents. 

This matter set a precedent for legal cases and is now applied to a wide range of situations where there is a requirement to determine the maturity of the child and establish whether they are able to make their own decisions as well as whether they understand the consequences of their choices.

This type of assessment can be applied to many different legal cases when clarity is needed on the competency of a child to make decisions. Matters can range from decisions surrounding sexual activity through to living arrangements and medical treatment as well as financial decisions and in some instances, cases relating to marriage.

Court Decisions

An assessment to determine maturity will be undertaken by the courts and/or protective authorities. The court must be satisfied from the outcome of the assessment that they have the ability to make their own decisions and understand the decision they make. 

This is a complex matter and will be determined on a case by case basis. The courts will need to determine that the child understands the information they have been given to make the decision, they know what decision they are making and the impact their choice will have.

It is crucial that those in authority coordinating these assessments must ensure that they take a tactful approach and strike a fine balance between protecting the safety and welfare of the child while ensuring that assessments are carried out. 

Professionals must look at the bigger picture and ensure that the child is not being coerced into making a particular decision or influenced by someone to decide a certain course of action.

Once the assessment is made, it is up to the court to determine whether the child is competent under the Gillick framework

A tailored approach will be taken with each case being judged on its own merits. Furthermore, the court will take into consideration the life experience of the child to determine whether they have sufficient understanding of the decision that is presented to them and the implications of their choice.

If your child is in any of the situations above and you would like to find out more information about children’s decision making and their rights, it’s recommended that you seek professional legal advice from a qualified solicitor with expertise in this area of law.

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