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(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Pitchford, Kitchin LJJ, 21 February 2013)
A multi-agency plan was put in place for immediate removal at birth of the child. There were serious concerns regarding the father's criminal history and a psychological assessment concluded that he suffered from a personality disorder. The social work report recorded that the father had threatened that he could assemble a mob to assist him in kidnapping the child from local authority care.
After the baby was removed at birth under a police emergency protection order the local authority applied under s 34(4) of the Children Act 1989 for permission to refuse the mother contact. Its view was that it would not be safe to permit contact as she was seen to be submissive and pliable in the hands of the father. The application was supported by the children's guardian.
While the judge was concerned at the prospect of denying the mother contact she was not satisfied that there were sufficient safeguards to protect the child and that the application would be granted on an interim basis until the court conducted a fuller investigation in 16 days' time. The parents appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. The judge could not be found to have been plainly wrong particularly in circumstances where the children's guardian was recommending the course taken. In emergency situations such as this a decision had to be taken there and then without time to adjourn for parties to prepare position statements and file evidence.
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