B-P (Children : adoption Or Fostering), Court of Appeal - Civil Division, September 20, 2018, [2018] EWCA Civ 2042

Resolution Date:September 20, 2018
Issuing Organization:Civil Division
Actores:B-P (Children : adoption Or Fostering)
 
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Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWCA Civ 2042

Case No: B4/2018/1788

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM STOKE-ON-TRENT COMBINED COURT

Recorder Clark

SQ17C00285

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 20 September 2018

Before :

LORD JUSTICE UNDERHILL

Vice-President of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

LORD JUSTICE FLOYD

and

LORD JUSTICE PETER JACKSON

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Between :

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Nicholas Goodwin QC and Christopher Adams (instructed by Staffordshire County Council) for the Appellant local authority

Clare Dillon (instructed by David Foster & Co. Solicitors) for the Mother

Michael Jones (instructed by Moseleys Solicitors) for the Father

Nina Bache (instructed by McGuinness Legal) for the Children

Hearing date: 6 September 2018

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Lord Justice Peter Jackson:

Introduction

  1. At the end of a hearing on 6 September we allowed an appeal from an order of the Family Court refusing a local authority's application for placement orders in relation to three very young children, remitted the application for urgent rehearing, and gave directions to expedite that process. This judgment contains my reasons for concurring in that decision.

  2. The children are Alice, Mary and Isla (as I will call them), three sisters who were at the time of the order under appeal aged 4, 3 and 18 months and were living together in foster care. Recorder Clark, sitting in the Family Court at Stoke-on-Trent, heard the proceedings in relation to them and their two older half-siblings over the course of five days in May 2018. On 9 July, he handed down a reserved judgment and on 26 July made orders. Having ruled out the parents, he made care orders for all five children but refused to make placement orders for the younger three, instead concluding that they should remain in foster care throughout their childhoods (the older children are placed elsewhere). The local authority appealed with the permission of Moylan LJ. The appeal was opposed by the parents but supported by the Children's Guardian.

  3. It is unnecessary to do more than sketch the history. Local authority involvement with this family stretches back to 2006, but it was not until September 2017 that proceedings were issued. At that point the five children were removed into foster care, with the younger three being placed together with foster carers, Mr and Mrs P. The court therefore had first to decide whether any of the children could return home and, if not, what alternative placements would be appropriate. In relation to this second question, the realistic options were for the three girls to remain in foster care, Mr and Mrs P having said that they were prepared to keep them indefinitely, or for them to be adopted, either together or, if that was not possible, separately.

    The decision of the Family Court

  4. The recorder's judgment is exceptionally long. Having set out the parties' positions, he devoted no less than 18 pages to a copious citation from statute, caselaw and extrajudicial statements. He then carefully assessed the parents as witnesses. He extensively reviewed the family history and the long-standing involvement of child protection agencies. He accepted the evidence of the allocated social worker, who had known the family since 2011, that the parents love the children but that the lack of emotional support and nurture was all too apparent, this being a view shared by the other professional witnesses. On the basis of all the evidence, he found the threshold of significant emotional harm to have been crossed.

  5. Turning to the welfare assessment, the recorder considered and refused the father's application for an adjournment for further assessments to be conducted. He reviewed the evidence in relation to the two older children and concluded that their welfare could only be secured by their remaining in foster care. He then recorded the evidence in relation to...

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