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(Family Division, Pauffley J, 21 June 2013)
Care proceedings in relation to six children, of three different sets of parents, all connected to the same family were initiated due to concerns of sexual harm when a computer was seized from the home of the maternal grandmother and her husband which contained indecent images of children. Just a few months later the one of the mothers gave an account to the police which included her having been abducted, blackmailed and forced to commit a sexual act on her 5-year-old son.
Local authority investigations revealed a history of sexual and physical harm within the extended family. At a fact-finding hearing a number of individuals in the family were found to present sexual and physical risk to the children of the family. There was a lack of sexual boundaries and failure to protect the children.
The welfare stage took place in relation to CtL and CmL, who were 7 and 4 years old respectively. Just prior to the hearing the children's guardian changed her position which had previously been in support of the children being placed in long-term foster care, to one of recommending adoption. A report from a child and adolescent psychiatrist noted insecure and ambivalent attachment patterns between the children and their mother and maternal grandmother. That report was found to contain an abundance of tedious detail about contact visits which was unnecessary particularly considering the family justice system reforms in relation to expert evidence. He recommended long-term fostering preferably with the current carers but failed to discuss the benefits of that course to the children compared with adoption. In stark contrast to the judge's findings he also recommended continuing parental contact on an unsupervised basis. The judge found his recommendations unsustainable.
The evidence of the other professionals involved in the case attested to the desirability, feasibility and overwhelming priority of providing the children with a permanent family through adoption. The children's welfare throughout their lives would be best promoted through adoption. The judge was persuaded that it was necessary and proportionate to interfere with the mother's and the children's Art 8 rights in the way proposed by the local authority's final care plan on the basis that the children's welfare required such an intervention and that no lesser form of intrusion would suffice so as to preserve their safety as well as ensure their development throughout their childhood and beyond.
The children's overwhelming pressing need was for a move to a family they could call their own and to receive complete stability and security. The parents' consent was dispensed with and final care and placement orders were granted.
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