London, Nov. 29: Record numbers of children are hiring lawyers to fight their parents and their teachers in court in Britain.
Children have launched legal cases over university fees, medical treatment, bullying and punishments meted out in school. The increase in court action has been blamed on poor parenting skills and failures in the education system, in addition to an increased awareness among children of their legal rights.
However, politicians and children's campaigners also expressed concern yesterday that lawyers were cashing in on a growing 'compensation culture' in Britain.
Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's 'children's tsar', said: 'Lawyers are targeting children by advertising their children's law services. My experience is that children don't want to sue a father or mother for money. But some parents use their children in a divorce to antagonise their previous partner. That's where there is a terrible failure in parenting that leaves a child no alternative but to sue for money.'
In one case a 13-year-old girl consulted a lawyer when her parents banned her from having inoculations at school. She was told that she was allowed to make up her own mind as she was over the age of 12.
Another case involved a 14-year-old girl who reached an out-of-court settlement with her school after she objected to a detention.
A seven-year-old boy also engaged a lawyer to tell a sheriff in a custody battle that he wanted to visit both his mother and father.
Morag Driscoll, convener of the Scottish Law Society's family law committee, said there had been a 'steady increase' in the number of cases launched by children aged 12 to 16.
Annabel Goldie, the Tory justice spokesperson in Scotland, said the rise in cases was 'alarming', adding: 'Children have rights and parents have responsibilities, but of course sometimes those will clash. But surely we're not going to shout for a lawyer every time there's a family problem.'
Cameron Fyfe, a litigation lawyer in Glasgow, said he was currently dealing with dozens of child cases. His firm is handling 32 anti-bullying cases, six of which are active, and has successfully sued 12 parents over the funding of further education.