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(Court of Appeal, Lord Dyson MR, Sullivan, McFarlane LJJ, 29 November 2012)
When the parents separated the children lived with their father. Following the father suffering a mental breakdown they moved to live with the mother and step-father. One of the children returned to live with the father until the local authority intervened and he moved to live with the maternal grandparents. Although the other child continued to live with the mother, the local authority was advised by the children's guardian to undertake a s 37 assessment of the placement due to concerns of emotional abuse. Despite the local authority concluding that the child could be returned to the mother's care the judge made a further direction under s 37 and ordered the child should not return. Both children were placed in the care of the maternal grandparents under a special guardianship order. The mother and step-father appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. The judge had a discretion to renew or order a further s 37 assessment where he felt the local authority had failed to conduct a thorough investigation and it was necessary in the circumstances. Although criticisms could be made of the judge's communication of clear terms of the s 37 assessment it could not be said that he had been plainly wrong.
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