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(Family Division; HHJ Barclay sitting as a judge of the High Court; 28 April 2009)
The judge had concluded at the end of the care proceedings that there had been very serious failings by the local authority, including: failing to inform the father of two of the children, or his parents, who had obtained a contact order in respect of the children, that one of the children had suffered serious injuries, or that they were the subject of care proceedings; placing the three children with the parents of the father of the youngest child, even though they were within the pool of perpetrators, and allowing the parents very significant contact, supervised by the paternal grandmother; failing to complete a core assessment of the children; and failing to file any of the contact notes. The judge also made a finding that the team manager had fabricated evidence and had instructed other witnesses to lie; it had emerged during the evidence that the team manager had previously been convicted for conspiracy to murder her husband and sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment. The judge invited the authority to reconsider its decision, despite all the problems in the case, to retain the team manager in 'a strategic role'. The team manager was named in the judgment, and the judgment was made available for disclosure in any case in which the team manager was involved. Subsequently the family sought full disclosure; the local authority and the team manager resisted further disclosure, and argued that if further disclosure of the judgment was ordered, it should be in summary form only. The guardian argued for some limited further disclosure to local authority managers and the registration body.
These had been very significant failings by the local authority, which were not confined to errors of judgments. There was a greater tendency to disclosure of the results and findings made in family cases. Inn this case the public had a right to be informed. The judgment was to be published, although it was very important that the children and the family should not be identified. Publicity was essential in the extraordinary background of this case; there were lessons to be learned for the future and other aggrieved persons might come forward.
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