Blog: Reflection on the Children's Rights Summer Conference

Friday 21 July 2023

Kate Aubrey-Johnson, convenor of the Children's Rights Team, reflects on the Children's Rights Summer Conference held at Garden Court Chambers on 11 July 2023.

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Garden Court Chambers hosted its first Children’s Rights Summer Conference this month. We packed our seminar rooms with over 80 children’s lawyers – from NGOs and small specialist local firms, to local authorities and national multi-disciplinary practices. The conference showcased wide-ranging multi-disciplinary expertise, from community care to criminal, immigration to family, education and public law – with one thing in common, shared amongst all attendees: we were all children’s rights lawyers. 

When I first joined Chambers over twenty years ago, I was embarking on a career as a barrister. With my background in teaching and youth work, I wanted to specialise in children’s rights, and, having chosen to become a criminal defence barrister, I was eager to specialise in the law affecting children. When people asked me about my work, I’d tell them I was a children’s lawyer and they’d all assume I was a family barrister rather than a junior criminal barrister pounding the streets of London, often on Saturday mornings spending my time between West London, Thames and Stratford Youth Courts.

Over the years, I’ve built a specialism and expertise in youth justice and I advised on the intersection between crime and immigration, crime and public law, crime and civil liberties Similarly, whether duties have been breached in relation to community care, education and civil liberties - all through the lens of children’s rights.

The Children’s Rights Summer Conference was a dream realised for me; bringing together children’s lawyers to learn from our collective expertise, and improve the way we represent the interests of children.

We began with our Kathryn Cronin delivering a poignant keynote on 'Trafficked Children: The Family and Care Jurisdiction', discussing the damage wrought by the Illegal Migration Bill. She stated: "It is safe to assume the Bill will exacerbate trafficking and add significantly to the number of trafficked child victims." 

This was followed by our first panel, 'Duties owed to child victims of trafficking to stop re-trafficking and re-victimisation', chaired by myself with speakers Georgie Rea, Grace Capel, Nicola Braganza KC and Ollie Persey. Our second session, chaired by Gráinne Mellon, was on 'Criminalisation and treatment of trafficked children', included Sonali Naik KC, Gemma LoughranJennifer Twite, Maria MoodieAmanda Weston KC and guest speakers Polly Jackman of Good Law Project and Carolyne Willow of Article 39.

I would like to say a special thank you to Grace Capel for her contribution in putting together the conference's programme, as well as speaking at the event. I would also like to thank all of our other brilliant Garden Court speakers on the panel, as well as our external speakers; Polly Jackman of Good Law Project and Carolyne Willow of Article 39. Thanks to their legal challenge, alongside Amanda Weston KC, the family court ruled that unaccompanied children should not be looked after by the Home Office and should be considered “children in need”. The 'Missing Children' case has been covered extensively in the press, including in the Guardian. Further details can be found on Free Movement.

Additionally, a big thank you to all who attended, it marked the start of something really important in the development of understanding children’s rights using a multi-disciplinary approach. Whether you are a criminal, community care, education, immigration, family or public lawyer, if you couldn’t join us, please feel free to catch up on our YouTube channel.


We are delighted to announce our second half-day conference, Children's Rights Autumn Conference: Children and Detention, which will take place on Wednesday 22 November 2023. Further details about the conference and how to sign up will be circulated in September.

Find out more about our Children's Rights Team here.

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