Legislative Framework

Establishment and Consitution

The Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) was established under the The Guardians Ad Litem (Panel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 in accordance with Article 60(7) of the Children (NI) Order 1995. The NIGALA (Establishment and Constitution) Order (NI) 1995, which came into operation on 1st December 1995, makes provision in relation to the constitution of the Agency and the tenure of office of Agency members.

Status

The NIGALA has the status of Special Agency in Northern Ireland under powers contained in the Health and Personal Social Services (Special Agencies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990.

Regulations

The Guardians Ad Litem (Panel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996, which came into operation on 1st May 1996, provide a regulatory framework for the Agency to establish and manage a panel of guardians ad litem. The Family Proceedings Rules (NI) 1996 Article 4.12 outlines the powers and duties of a guardian ad litem in the family proceedings courts.

Amendments in Primary Legislation

On the 4th November 1996, with the commencement of the Children (NI) Order 1995, the NIGALA became fully operational. Prior to November 1996, adoption proceedings were the only proceedings in Northern Ireland in which a guardian ad litem was required to be appointed to safeguard the interests of the child who was the subject of proceedings. The Guardian Ad Litem provisions in Article 66 of the Adoption Order (NI) 1987 were amended to make them compatible with the new Guardian Ad Litem provisions in Article 60 of the Children Order. Article 60(7) and (9) of the Children Order and the corresponding provisions in the Adoption Order ie new Articles 66 (Guardian Ad Litem) and 66A (panels for selection of Guardians Ad Litem) were brought into operation on 19th February 1996 by The Children (1995 Order) (Commencement No.2) Order (NI) 1996.Thus the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency is responsible for the provision of Guardians Ad Litem appointed in any proceedings specified in Article 60(6) of the Children (NI) Order 1995 and under Article 66 of the Adoption (NI) Order 1987.

Additional Provisional Guidance

The then Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) also issued· The Functions of the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (No 1) Direction (NI) 1996· Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (Special Agency) Accounts and Financial Provisions Direction 1996· A Guide to The Guardians Ad Litem (Panel) Regulations (NI) 1996