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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

01 DEC 2006

CARE: Birmingham City Council v S [2006] EWHC 3065 (Fam)

(Family Division; Sumner J; 1 December 2006)

Care proceedings had been started and the 8-month-old child had been placed with foster parents because of serious unresolved concerns about the parenting abilities of the mother, a former prostitute. Both mother and father had contact with the child. The mother and father had never cohabited and, although they remained friends, were no longer having a relationship with one another. The father was from a Moslem community; the mother was not, although she had converted to Islam before meeting the father. The mother's two older children were living with the mother's husband, close to the home which the father shared with his own parents. The local authority was trying to identify possible alternative carers from within the family. The father applied to the court seeking to prevent the paternal family from being informed of the existence of the child. The father feared that disclosure would cause difficulties for him within the family and for the family within the Muslim community. In particular he feared that he might be thrown out of his parents home if the child's existence were revealed. The father believed that his parents would not wish to be associated with, or to care for the child.

Family life clearly existed in this case, and considerations under Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 applied. There was no sound basis on which to conclude that the paternal family would reject the child and if the situation were to arise where the child might be placed for adoption, it was likely that within the father's family was a person who would wish to be considered as a potential carer. There was a serious risk that any attempt to keep the child's existence secret would fail because of the close proximity of the paternal grandparents and the mother's other children, whom she visited. For the paternal grandparents to discover by accident that they had a grandchild who had been adopted would be a serious breach of their right to respect for family life. Balancing all the human rights involved, the right of the child to be brought up within her own family, unless there was a good reason why this should not happen, prevailed. The father's application was refused. The father was to be given a limited opportunity to tell his parents of the position before the paternal grandparents were informed of the child's existence by the local authority.

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