Family Law Titles
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(Court of Appeal, Ward, McFarlane LJJ, 11 September 2012)
During the pregnancy the mother suffered a collapse of her mental health and was admitted to hospital under s 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. When the baby was born both resided at a mother and baby unit under the umbrella of the Mental Health Act.
As the mother's mental health improved a plan developed for her and the baby to gradually move to the maternal grandmother's home under an interim care order. Unfortunately the mother had been unable to increase her care of the baby and the grandmother had effectively become the baby's primary carer. Assessments of the grandmother were broadly positive and supportive of her being the child's long-term carer.
While the grandmother's approval as a foster carer was pending she commented to social workers her belief that the mother's mental health issues had been caused by demonic forces and that instead of involving mental health services she had first contacted her church for assistance. Following the disclosure of that information the fostering panel adjourned its decision pending a psychiatric assessment of the grandmother.
Due to that requirement the grandmother would not be assessed within the time limit imposed by the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and so the local authority sought a removal of the baby from the grandmother's care. The judge acceded to the application and made an interim care order. The grandmother was granted permission to appeal.
The grandmother's appeal was allowed. The judge had been plainly wrong in his conclusion that the baby could act in some way which led the grandmother to consider that she was possessed by demons and cause her to harm the child was not supported by evidence. There was evidence of the grandmother experiencing hallucinations 30 years ago but no recent reports of such episodes.
There was also no evidence that the mother had suffered harm as a result of the grandmother's reaction to her decline in mental health. Reports of the grandmother's care of the child were positive and there was no reason to remove her from her care. The court made interim residence and supervision orders.
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