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(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 29 April 2013)
The 4-year-old child was removed from his parents' care following the death of his 6-week-old sibling at the hands of their father, who suffered from learning difficulties. The father pleaded guilty to manslaughter. A significant delay in care proceedings had been caused by the criminal investigation and prosecution of the father so a decision on the child's future was needed urgently. In the interim the mother had regular contact with the child.
The issue now remained whether the child could be placed with the maternal great uncle and aunt in Belgium or whether he could be placed with the mother who was in the process of divorcing the father. Just prior to the hearing further information as to the mother's immigration status was made available. The mother originated from Pakistan and due to her pursuing a divorce she could no longer apply for indefinite leave to remain and her ability to stay in the UK rested upon her caring for the child or on him to remaining in long-term foster care.
The local authority supported the placement of the child with the great uncle and aunt. Immigration advice was produced which claimed that if the child were placed in Belgium then the mother would not be entitled to remain in the UK.
The case was finely balanced but the judge narrowly concluded that there was a reasonable possibility that the mother would offer good enough care to the child now and throughout his childhood. The possibility of failure was a real one but the mother had demonstrated capacity to address and overcome the remaining areas of weakness. The local authority would share parental responsibility in order to monitor and offer support as necessary.
In differing from the advice of the social worker and guardian, the judge placed greater weight upon the improvements the mother had demonstrated and the relationship that existed between her and the child.
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