Republic of Ireland
Where the matter concerned the "special and possibly unique category" of children, who were not represented at hearings, the Supreme Court proceeded to hear a case in order to clarify the law on child protection.
The Applicant was the mother of five children who were removed from her care by social workers on foot of an order from the District Court. The Applicant argued that her children's detention was unlawful as she had not been informed of the basis on which her children were being detained nor as to their whereabouts. The Applicant also argued that the relevant legislation had not been followed correctly. The High Court held that the children's detention was unlawful. The notice parties (including a social worker and the Eastern Health Board) appealed this decision to the Supreme Court but indicated that they would not seek the children's return to them should they be successful.
The Supreme Court recognised that cases concerning the care and custody of children were in a special category and proceeded to hear the case.
O'Flaherty J recognised the strictness of the doctrine of mootness. However he held the view that children's rights are in a "special and, possibly, unique category". He stated "it is proper that this Court should give a decision which will be as helpful as possible to all those concerned with the welfare of children, including parents, social workers, Gardaí, other members of the judiciary, and the legal profession in general".
Points of note
It is significant that the Supreme Court was willing to consider a technically moot point in order to clarify this area of law to guide those working in children's welfare. The extent to which this reasoning could be applied beyond its own facts is unclear, particularly as children were described as a "special and possibly unique category". Nevertheless it is worth noting that it was lack of representation before the Courts which made them unique and not simply their age.