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10 JUN 2015

Lincolnshire County Council v The Father and Others [2015] EWFC 48

Lincolnshire County Council v The Father and Others [2015] EWFC 48
(Family Court, Holman J, 30 April 2015)

Public law children – Mother killed by father – Long-term planning – Whether it was in the child’s best interests to be placed with the paternal aunt and uncle in England or with the maternal grandparents in China

The full judgment is available below.

It was decided that the 6-year-old child whose father had murdered the mother would be placed with the paternal aunt and uncle.

Neutral Citation Number: [2015] EWFC 48

Birmingham Civil Justice Centre
33 Bull Street
B4 6DS

Thursday, 30th April 2015



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Applicants v

(1) The father
(2) The maternal grandparents
(4) The paternal aunt and uncle
(6) L (A child) (by his Children’s Guardian)

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MISS PHILIPPA WORDSWORTH (instructed by Legal Services Lincolnshire, Newland, Lincoln LN1 1YS) appeared for the Applicants
MR ANDREW NORTON (instructed by Bridge McFarland, Lincoln LN5 7BN) appeared for the father
MISS CLAUDIA LORENZO (instructed by Maxwell Alves, London EC1M 3JY) appeared for the maternal grandparents
MR PATRICK BOWE (instructed by Anthony Clark & Co, Lincoln LN1 1TT) appeared for the paternal aunt and uncle
MR BRENDAN ROCHE (instructed by Langleys, Lincoln LN6 3SE) appeared for the Children’s Guardian

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Digital Tape Transcription by: John Larking Verbatim Reporters (Verbatim Reporters and Tape Transcribers) Suite 305 Temple Chambers, 3-7 Temple Avenue, London EC4Y 0HP. Tel: 020 7404 7464 DX: 13 Chancery Lane LDE

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Mr Justice Holman

Introduction and the issue

[1] This case is the sequel to an appalling tragedy which has devastated several lives. L is now aged six and a quarter. In June 2014 his father brutally murdered his mother in a very premeditated and carefully planned attack. Within the space of a few days L effectively lost both his parents. His mother was dead. His father was incarcerated, and L has not seen him since. The father is now serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 28 years. As soon as his father was arrested, L was placed with sensitive and caring foster parents who continue to care for him with devotion and skill. But he should not remain a foster child. The issue I have to decide is whether he should now move to live permanently with his maternal grandparents, who live in a city in China; or with his father’s sister, his paternal aunt, and her husband, who live in a town in South East England. No other relative or person has offered to care for him and also been assessed as capable of doing so.

[2] I have heard this case throughout robed and in public and now give this judgment in public. I will deliberately generalise some identifying details and locations. I appreciate, however, that it would not be difficult to identify the child nor other people in the case by what is known as jigsaw identification, particularly as there was a recent, long public murder trial. I direct that no report of this case or judgment may name or identify or depict the child concerned, nor his foster family, nor his aunt and uncle and their children, nor his grandparents, nor reveal the whereabouts of any of them. Anything said in this partially anonymised judgment (including the names of the professionals) may be freely quoted.

The legal framework

[3] L is currently in the interim care of the local authority. I have been asked to make a care order. The threshold criteria for doing so are of course obviously satisfied by the intense and lasting emotional harm caused by the father to the child by murdering his mother. The Final Care Plan, which is also strongly supported and endorsed by the child’s guardian, Mrs Ann Woollard, proposes that L should be placed with the aunt and uncle. The local authority have in fact said that they would not be willing to place L with his grandparents if a care order is made, so that if I do consider that L should live with his grandparents I cannot make a care order and must make a suitable private law order or orders to achieve that outcome. Leaving aside these complexities, I intend to address directly the binary choice that needs to be made in this case between the grandparents and the aunt and uncle, and to ask and answer the simplest of questions: is it more in the overall best interests of L, considering the short-term and the medium-term and the lifelong long-term, that he lives now with his grandparents in China or with his aunt and uncle in South East England? In answering that question I will make his welfare the paramount consideration, and take into account all the circumstances of the case, and have particular regard to the matters listed in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. Although that question is simple to state, it is of course complex to answer, since both the grandparents and the aunt and uncle are all very decent, worthy and loving people, each devoted to L and doing the very best they can for him in his tragic circumstances.

[4] At the outset of the hearing there were also certain issues with regard to any contact between L and his father. The father has not personally attended the hearing but is well represented by counsel. Those issues have now been resolved by agreement. If I do make a care order, I will approve also of the detailed agreed provisions in the Care Plan as to limited indirect contact between L and his father. If I make a private law order it will include provisions as to contact which reflect and replicate those provisions in the Care Plan.

[5] In considering this case I have had great assistance from all counsel, and I am grateful to them for their skill and sensitivity in a case made more difficult by the fact that neither grandparent speaks or understands a single word of English. I particularly thank Miss Claudia Lorenzo, who has represented the grandparents with tenacity and skill when none of the professionals, the social worker, the jointly instructed psychiatrist nor the guardian, have felt able to support their application. I also thank the two interpreters who appear to have interpreted with skill and appeared also to empathise with the grandparents.

The facts in more detail

[6] Only a skeletal history is required. The maternal grandparents are Chinese and have always lived there. Indeed neither of them had ever left China until they first came to England to see L and engage in this case in December 2014. As I have said, neither speaks a word of English. The grandfather is now aged 71; the grandmother is aged 55. From a previous marriage the grandfather had two sons. Yet another tragedy in this case is that about three years ago his elder son was hit in the road and killed. From their own marriage the grandparents had one child, a beautiful and intelligent daughter who was born in 1984 and would now be aged 30. In about July 2007 she met the father on an internet dating site. She was still living in China. He was living in England. The father visited China in September 2007 to meet her, and in December 2007 they married in China. In early 2008 the mother moved to live in England and lived here until her death. She returned once to China for a holiday with L for about six weeks in Spring 2011.

[7] The father was born in 1981 and is now aged 33. He is of Hong Kong Chinese descent and both his parents, and therefore he himself, are of Chinese ethnicity, but he is a British citizen and was born and brought up in England. His sister, the aunt, is now aged 35 and her descent and ethnicity are of course the same. Her husband, the uncle, is also British of Hong Kong Chinese descent and ethnicity and was also born and brought up in England. He is now aged 38.

[8] L was born in December 2008 and is now aged six and a quarter. He is his parents’ only child. He was born and has been entirely brought up in England in an English-speaking household. He knows only a few words of Cantonese.

[9] Sadly, the relationship between the parents was conflictual and there were occasions when the police were called to the home and L appears to have witnessed arguments and assaults between them. It has been said that he received ‘suboptimal parenting’ as a result. The parents finally separated in early 2012 and were divorced later that year. Each formed one or more new liaisons or partnerships. There were strongly contested proceedings with regard to residence of, and contact with, L. For a period he lived full-time with his father, but in August 2013 residence was entrusted to the mother. In October 2013 the mother and her then partner bought and moved into a new house with L. It appears that there was also conflict in the relationship between the mother and her partner and the police were again involved. In early June 2014 the mother’s solicitor wrote a letter to the father seeking to reduce his contact with L. This appears to have been the trigger for the catastrophe, since the judge who presided over the trial and sentenced the father was clear in his sentencing remarks (now at pp. 2-3 of the transcript) that the motive was to ‘get the mother out of the way’ so he could resume full-time care of his son ‘without any further trouble from her.’

[10] On 17 June 2014 the mother was brutally killed in her own home, receiving many blunt trauma injuries to her head and all over her body and several fractures. The actual weapon has never been found. She died quickly from loss of blood. L was at school at the time and did not witnesses the attack nor see his mother’s dead body. Initially the police suspected, and indeed arrested and detained in custody, the mother’s partner. The police placed L in the care of his father. A few days later, however, the police arrested the father and L was placed with foster parents. The partner was released and the father has remained in custody ever since. The killing had been premeditated and carefully pre-planned for several days, with the father constructing an elaborate false alibi. The alibi broke down for several reasons, notably that the satnav in his car revealed that the car had remained for a significant time in a lay-by near the mother’s house, undermining the father’s untruthful story. The father was convicted after a trial lasting about 16 days during December 2014 and early January 2015. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 28 years. He continues to protest his complete innocence and is currently seeking to appeal both conviction and sentence. Because he still protests his innocence, the father has been unable to express, and has not expressed, in writing or otherwise any remorse and any kind of apology to L for killing his mother. Prior to the trial, the father’s family were naturally supportive of him as he was claiming to be completely innocent. However his sister, the aunt, attended every day of the trial and now says – including during her oral evidence to me – that the evidence at the trial completely satisfied her that her brother is guilty and is a liar. I unquestionably accept the sincerity of her evidence. If L lives with her she would support any appropriate contact between L and his father, particularly if L himself wished to write to his father. But she herself does not visit him in prison and effectively wants nothing more to do with him. She said that he is not the man she thought he was.

[11] L has now lived for about 10 months with a remarkable foster family whom I compliment for caring for him so well and helping him with his grief. At L’s request, the funeral of his mother was delayed until November when he attended it. Although L and his parents lived in the Midlands he already knew his aunt and uncle and their children (his cousins) quite well. Since June, only a week after the killing, the aunt and uncle have made very frequent and now weekly visits to the area to see him. This involves a long round trip for them and their own children. Very recently L has begun also to travel to stay at their home. Quite frankly, until recently L barely knew his grandparents. He was aged about two and a quarter when he and his mother paid the one visit to China, which was the only occasion he had seen them face to face until recently. The grandparents came to England in December 2014 and had regular supervised contact with L, assisted by an interpreter, during three weeks until they returned to China. The grandmother returned again to England towards the end of March 2015 and the grandfather about two weeks ago. Since then they have had further supervised contact, again assisted by an interpreter. They must return to China in about two weeks’ time on 12 May 2015. During the hearing I was invited not to sit on Friday 24 April to enable the pattern of contacts to continue that day. Unfortunately on the day and indeed all of last weekend L was ill and in bed with a child’s tummy bug and no contact at all was able to take place with either the grandparents or the aunt and uncle. As the grandparents’ time here is now so limited, that is very sad.

The grandparents

[12] The grandparents have been very fully assessed both by a social worker in their home city in China and by L’s social worker here. They have also given oral evidence to me assisted by an interpreter. Each of them gave their evidence with great dignity and sincerity, and each was most respectful to the court. Although it may be a somewhat English word which may not translate easily into Chinese, I would describe the grandfather as a gentleman, who is intelligent, thoughtful, placid and kindly. He owns and runs two factories. These employ about 60 people. The Chinese social worker describes his financial situation as healthy. He has no debts and has ample income to support his family and L. I have seen photographs of his two homes, an apartment and a villa by the sea. These are roomy and very nicely furnished, and immaculately clean and well kept. The Chinese social worker reports that:

‘The apartment and the villa where the grandparents are living are spacious, well ventilated and lighted. The grandparents are aware of home safety. The living place is considered as suitable for L ... In a nutshell the grandparents’ living environment is stable and suitable for L. They enjoy good health and financial conditions.’

Supported as it is by the photographs and other documents, I unreservedly accept that assessment. Their financial security and the quality and suitability of their homes and environment as a home and environment for L is not an issue in the case.

[13] The grandmother is only aged 55. She appears to have considerable vitality and plenty of energy to care for L for many years to come. Her grief over her daughter’s death remains palpable and I sense that she is still, very, very understandably, overwhelmed by it. Her husband described in a most dignified and loving way how he has had to comfort his wife in their grief.

[14] I would like to pay a sincere tribute to Mr and Mrs F who have travelled to England with the grandparents and supported them before and throughout this hearing. For them, too, it is the first visit to England or anywhere other than South East Asia and they, too, speak no English. Mrs F was the mother’s best friend from when they were at school. Mrs F testified to how well the grandparents brought up their daughter. She said that L’s mother was really kind-hearted and full of love. She was also filial and respectful to her parents. Mr and Mrs F sincerely believe that the grandparents offer a good home and outcome for L, and as Mrs F was the mother’s best friend in China I respect and attach weight to her viewpoint.

The aunt and uncle

[15] The aunt and uncle are both solicitors who worked together in their practice, although the aunt is now devoting herself full-time to her home and childcare and preparing herself for L to live with them if that is my decision. They are both intelligent and each seems perceptive and understanding of the needs of L and the challenges they would face if he moves to live with them. Their own children are a daughter aged nine, and a son aged seven, who is therefore close in age to L. Both children now know L well. The aunt and uncle are financially secure and their home, which they own, is comfortable and suitable as a home in which L could live full-time.


[16] L is in good physical health and of normal development for his age. He is described by the guardian as full of energy and very bright and articulate. Other evidence is to the same effect. In her oral evidence the child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Iris Carcani-Rathwell MD, MRCPsych, described him as bright, very able and thoughtful and insightful but with complex emotional needs. It is inevitable that his experiences have emotionally damaged him although Dr Carcani-Rathwell says that it could be several years before PTSD or mental health difficulties develop. She says that he is ‘about to be the most emotionally confused and perturbed child now.’ He is ‘likely and should be expected to go through a range of emotions, confusing thoughts, rekindled memories ... anger, powerful ambivalence and rejection as well as guilt and a sense of responsibility’ (see her report dated 16 January 2015 paragraph 1.9 now at bundle p. E59). Currently there are a number of reports that his behaviour can be quite controlling.

[17] L knows that the decision with whom he lives is about to be made. He has not expressed any clear view or preference as to outcome. However his social worker, Mr Nile Blanchard, reports that he has expressed worry that if he goes to China he cannot speak the language. Mr Blanchard said that when he recently told L that he could spend a night staying with the aunt and uncle at their home Mr Blanchard had never seen him so happy. His face was excited with disbelief. After the stay L described it in very normal terms and really enjoyed it.

[18] I made a sincere offer to meet L myself if that would be of any benefit, comfort or reassurance to him. However, those who know him well, namely his guardian and his social worker, both said that he had been told that he could meet the judge if he wished but had shown no desire to do so. At my request, the offer was repeated to L last weekend by the foster parents. In an email dated 27 April 2015 the foster father wrote as follows:

‘... We told L that if he would like to he could talk and meet the judge about [the decision where he was going to live] ... L replied ‘No, I’m all right with everything.’ We asked L if he was sure and he said ‘Yes, I don’t want to talk to the judge.’ L then said that he would like to see Nile as soon as the judge had decided ...’

In the light of this email, Miss Lorenzo, on behalf of the grandparents, no longer urged that I should personally meet L and I have not done so.

The professional evidence and opinions

[19] The professional evidence in this case is all essentially to the same effect, and in each case is firmly, not marginally, held and expressed. L’s social worker throughout has been Mr Nile Blanchard. He has spent a great deal of time with L personally and working on this case generally. Mr Blanchard was a very impressive social worker witness. His evidence was thoughtful and insightful, balanced and clear. He has shown great commitment to L. He would remain his social worker if a care order is made, and would remain closely in touch with the case even though L would move some distance to the South. I have considerable confidence both in the reliability of Mr Blanchard’s decision-making and in his commitment and ability to implement and deliver his decisions.

[20] After careful consideration and reviewing some of the published literature on the needs of children when one parent has killed the other, Mr Blanchard firmly considers that L would be better placed with the aunt and uncle than with the grandparents. His position is indeed more firm than that. He positively considers that placement with the aunt and uncle will be a very good placement for L and the very best outcome in the tragic circumstances. He considers also, with obvious regret, that it could not be in the best interests of L at the moment to live with his grandparents in China. During his oral evidence Mr Blanchard summarised his reasons why L could not move to live with his grandparents in China in eight bullet points. They were (in equally bullet point or summary form) as follows:

(1) he does not have any strong relationship with the grandparents;

(2) L lost everything and they did not get here until December, some six months later;

(3) L said to Mr Blanchard that he could not remember them – it took encouragement from Mr Blanchard to get L to speak to them;

(4) L is worried that he will not be able to talk to anyone out there (viz., in China);

(5) L is clearly saying two very clear things – he does not want to live with strangers, and he does not feel a strong attachment to his grandparents;

(6) Mr Blanchard is concerned about the capacity of the grandparents to contain their own emotional grief and concerned as to the views they hold about the father and how they could respond to questions from L about him;

(7) Mr Blanchard does not think that the grandparents fully recognise the entire impact that a shift to China would have upon L – he considers that they minimise that and that that has potential to increase the emotional stress on L;

(8) he is concerned about the difficulty of communicating emotion through interpreters, and concerned as to whether L would attach to the grandparents or to the interpreter.

[21] Dr Carcani-Rathwell has also clearly devoted considerable time and thought in her role as an expert in this case. She said that this was the first case in which she had been involved as an expert witness in which one parent has killed the other, and to some extent her opinion is based upon reviewing the literature rather than upon personal experience in this field. I readily accept the submission of Miss Lorenzo that I must therefore treat the evidence and opinion of Dr Carcani-Rathwell with caution and reserve. It is, however, the opinion of a trained and experienced child and adolescent psychiatrist and is the only such evidence in this case. Dr Carcani-Rathwell is also firmly of the opinion that L should be placed with his aunt and uncle. Although she had written in January at paragraph 10.2 of her report (now at bundle p. E71) that: ‘This is a very complex and challenging case with no straightforward solutions’ she now agrees that a binary choice must be made between the aunt and uncle or the grandparents. Faced with that binary choice, she said in her oral evidence that in her opinion this is not a finely balanced case and her opinion that L should go to his aunt and uncle is a clear and firmly held one. She considered (as do I) that there is a superficiality in the grandmother’s thinking as to how easy (the grandmother thinks) it would be to relocate L to China. Dr Carcani-Rathwell stressed L’s traumatic experiences to date and that the grandparents are not significant figures to him and lack strong attachments with him. She is concerned about the problem of language and said that a key issue is the ability of the primary carers to emotionally connect with L and recognise nuanced expressions of feeling by him. Because of the lack of a common language they could not do this. In her opinion it would be a massive adjustment for L to move now to China, and to minimise that would be a mistake.

[22] The guardian, Mrs Ann Woollard, has also devoted considerable time to this case, including observing contacts. She said that in terms of placement she is quite clear that the best placement is with the aunt and uncle, although she stressed – and I strongly agree – that as the maternal grandparents are the last link that L has with his mother they are of huge importance to him and it is therefore incredibly important that contact can take place with them. Mrs Woollard also lays emphasis on the difficulty of language and communication. It would take him several months to learn their language. Her concern would be that in that time he would take control and push the boundaries. He is currently with very experienced foster parents but still expresses controlling behaviour. It is part of his grief and emotional damage. The person who would actually be saying the words to L would be the Chinese, but also English-speaking, nanny whom the grandparents propose to employ. Mrs Woollard, like Mr Blanchard, is concerned that L may attach to the nanny rather than to the grandparents. Mrs Woollard said that her biggest concern is the profound impact of the move upon L at a time when he is getting over his terrible experience.

The case of the grandparents

[23] In her deeply moving written statement, now at bundle p. C415-424, the grandmother wrote at paragraphs 3-7:

‘3 ... I believe it is my daughter’s wish to give L to us for the best upbringing.

4. I have the confidence, belief and determination to give him the best education and also bring him up to be a good person.

5. I am prepared to accompany L 24 hours a day when L arrives in China. I will watch him carefully and try to understand how he feels.

6. We have hired a personal English/Chinese interpreter and nanny for L and she will help us communicate with L.

7. L will soon form a bond with us. Many children relocate to countries far away from where they were born and learn new languages. These things are not an exception, nor is it exceptional for a child to be raised by a loving youngish grandma.’

[24] At paragraph 15 of the same statement, now at bundle p. C418, the grandmother said:

‘15. I do not think the language will be a barrier between L and my husband and I because children pick up languages very quickly, especially when his mother used to speak Cantonese to him all the time. This is a dialect which he is familiar with. L will not normally be left alone with his nanny/interpreter. The nanny/interpreter’s duty is to help us to communicate and build a relationship with L. I do not think that L will be so attached to her that he will suffer another loss if she were to leave her employment. Children know the difference between family and family helpers. No doubt many of the social workers and others in this case have experienced a change of nanny for their own children without trauma. As L picks up the language, we will be able to communicate with him and he will be able to share his feelings with us, he will not be lonely.’

[25] During the course of her oral evidence the grandmother said that her personal feeling is that when L comes to live with them he is her most precious and most close relative. After all these things happen, the social worker has mentioned to her that L has mentioned about his father killing his mother. L was really upset. He was throwing stones at classmates. So she thinks it is better for L to leave the UK and come to live in China with her so that L can have a quieter and peaceful environment in which to grow up and L will be at peace. She has also found out an English school run by English people in China. She has found out that the criteria and subjects in that school are exactly the same as schools in the United Kingdom. Her position is not for her own grief. Now she is facing the facts. She understands it is most important for her to look after and try to teach L that one of his parents passed away and the other is in prison. Now L is the most important.

[26] During the course of his oral evidence the grandfather said that the aunt and uncle have their advantages and he and his wife have theirs. It depends on how you analyse it. He listed his and his wife’s advantages as follows. He referred first to the living environment. He said that they are very close to the sea. It is very busy there. There are a lot of people there. They are living in a villa of over 190 sq m. There is a study and a playroom. It is near to the sea and the beach. In the evenings a lot of children play and jump around. They also play basketball and ping pong. He said that they are blood relations. Nothing else can replace this sort of relationship. He is a close relative. He said that they are in a good financial position. He has property and money. He can provide a really good education and study abroad. He said that as a couple they would try their best to encourage him to be active and play basketball or even kung fu and to help him to be educated and a really good person, so that hopefully he will get over his grief and ultimately when he grows up understand why his dad killed his mother. The grandfather said that he wished to help L get rid of his emotional shadow so he can have a positive position in life.

[27] In her eloquent final submissions on behalf of the grandparents, Miss Lorenzo stressed that the grandparents can give to L their undivided love and attention and time. The aunt and uncle, on the other hand, would be stretched with three children. Miss Lorenzo asked rhetorically, what would happen when the honeymoon period is over? She submitted that the aunt and uncle would have to resort to ‘zone defence’, when a family has three children and are overwhelmed by numbers. Miss Lorenzo stressed that there is global concern about how to protect the children of uxoricide from members of the perpetrator’s family who deny or are uncertain about the perpetrator’s guilt, in particular in this case the paternal grandparents. She submitted that the professionals have taken a blinkered view about the difficulty of language and that it is not such a problem as they make out. She submitted that nine months of language learning would be outweighed by a lifetime of living in the bosom of the maternal family. She submitted that as the grandparents themselves have lost so much, they are the best people to console L. As Miss Lorenzo put it in paragraph 2 of her closing written submissions, the grandparents are the only people who share L’s loss and they and L are the true and only victims in these proceedings. She said in her oral submissions that the greatest physical, emotional and economic protection for L is with his grandparents with whom, she submitted, he has his ‘primal, primary and most important link.’

The case of the aunt and uncle

[28] The case of the aunt and uncle is based to a considerable degree on attachment, familiarity and their shared language and culture. Patently, the aunt and uncle, no less than the grandparents, can offer security and a materially good home and upbringing. However, they already know L far better and he knows them. He already knew them as aunt and uncle and cousins before the death, and his attachment to them has been considerably strengthened by the frequent contact in the 10 months since then. Mr Blanchard’s evidence of L’s face being excited with disbelief when he was told he could stay a night with them is some evidence of that. There is no language or communication barrier. He would remain in his established culture of an English-speaking Chinese family within the overall English environment and culture, and go to a similar State school to the one he already attends. The school has arranged a place for him from the end of the forthcoming half-term. He would remain in touch with his current social worker and, at least initially, CAMHS team and others who know him well. The aunt and uncle have current parenting skills and practice and can be relied upon to parent him well.

[29] The major and very significant reservation about the position of the aunt and uncle is that they are closely related to the perpetrator father. Much published literature and research, well known to courts in these tragic situations, cautions against placing a child in the family of the perpetrator parent who has killed the other parent. But all such cases are fact-specific, and at p. 214 of their famous book ‘When Father Kills Mother’ quoted by Miss Lorenzo at paragraphs 10-12 of her closing written submissions, Dr Jean Harris-Hendricks, Professor Dora Black and others are careful to say: ‘The findings that children are less likely to move frequently when placed with the victim’s rather than the perpetrator’s family and are less likely to develop psychological problems may help in decision-making when the advantages and disadvantages of placement are otherwise fairly balanced.’ In that passage I emphasise and underline the words ‘may help’ and ‘otherwise fairly balanced.’ There is clearly a need for great caution before placing a child in the family of the perpetrator, but it is not necessarily ruled out provided – as in this case – the prospective parenting family fully and sincerely acknowledge and accept the guilt, and provided, very importantly, they do not ascribe any responsibility to the victim. The aunt and uncle do not.


[30] I have now referred to all the more significant factors and issues in this case including those listed in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. I have set out at some length the competing cases and arguments. I can therefore express my own conclusions quite shortly. I deeply regret the pain and disappointment that this will cause to the grandparents, but I am in complete agreement with all three of Mr Blanchard, Dr Carcani-Rathwell and the guardian, and consider that it is clearly in the overall best interests of L that he moves now to the aunt and uncle. My reasons mirror theirs and, summarised shortly, are as follows. The strength of the case of the grandparents is that they are indeed his closest living maternal relatives and a last living link to his mother. That does not in my view outweigh the huge upheaval that it would involve for him now to move to live in China, even if there was a period of intensified contact between him and his grandmother here first. He has suffered an immense emotional and psychological shock already. The period of living with the foster family and the therapy and support given to him have limited the damage. His transition to a new home needs to be as smooth and uncomplicated as it is possible to achieve. It is not the professionals, but in truth the grandparents, who have taken a blinkered view about the difficulties of language and communication. I have already quoted above paragraph 15 of the grandmother’s written statement, now at bundle p. C418. Her position as described in that paragraph is very understandable, but in my view it seriously underestimates the bewildering situation that L would be in in China in a strange new culture, knowing no one, unable to communicate with his parenting figures, and instead inevitably attaching more to the nanny than to them. It is perfectly true, as the grandmother wrote in paragraph 7, which I have also already quoted above, that: ‘Many children relocate to countries far away from where they were born and learn new languages’, but they usually relocate in the company of their parent(s) to whom they are already attached and with whom they can communicate during the period and process of relocation. And few children face such relocation after the intense emotional shock of their father killing their mother. Whilst I have the utmost sympathy and respect for her, I do consider, in agreement with Dr Carcani-Rathwell, that there is a superficiality about the grandmother’s view and approach.

[31] The issue of great concern in relation to the aunt and uncle is their relationship to the perpetrator father. In many cases this might rule them out. But the teaching of Dr Harris-Hendricks, Professor Dora Black and others is ultimately a caution not a rule. I am quite satisfied that this particular aunt and uncle have completely satisfied themselves of the father’s guilt. They do not in any way whatsoever attribute responsibility to the mother. They will not give to L a skewed version of events as he grows up, and indeed they are better placed than the grandparents in this case to enable L to grow up with a fair, true and proper understanding of his tragic history. In all other respects a move to the aunt and uncle can only be very positive for L. He knows them and their children well. He has a considerable attachment to them already. There are no reservations about their parenting capacities or material security. They have arranged, and can provide, a relatively seamless move to a school not markedly dissimilar to his present one. I do not regard it as significant that that would be a school within the English State system whereas the grandparents offer to pay for him to attend privately an English school in China. Although there is distance between the home of the aunt and uncle and his present environment and whereabouts, links with familiar figures such as Mr Blanchard can – at least transitionally – be maintained.

[32] I agree with Miss Lorenzo that this case requires a holistic, lifelong view. Although L is of Chinese ethnicity his own birth and upbringing to date have all been in England. He is a British citizen. But for the tragedy, there is every indication that he would have remained living in England where his father is rooted and his mother appears to have been settled. Apart from the relationship with his maternal grandparents and their residence in China, I cannot see that it is less advantageous to live long-term here than there. There is no intrinsic long-term benefit to him in moving to China now. For these reasons and those given by Mr Blanchard, Dr Carcani-Rathwell and the guardian, I am clear that the plan in the Care Plan is not only the best available plan for L but indeed a good plan for him, given his tragic history. I will make a care order placing him in the care of the local authority on the basis of that plan in its final form. In due course the aunt and uncle may wish to apply for a special guardianship order. At this stage I neither encourage nor discourage such a course. It should depend upon how well L settles and how events unfold. But, as I indicated at the IRH in London in early April, it could not be right to make such a significant order now when L has not even started to live with them. Further, for an appreciable period it is very important that the resources, guidance and support available under a care order remain in place.

Contact with the grandparents

[33]  between L and his grandparents is of the utmost importance for him and his longer term emotional development. Unlike L, the aunt and uncle do speak Cantonese and can communicate directly with the grandparents. It is positive that during this hearing the four of them have had meetings and discussions amongst themselves, communicating directly without interpreters. As I understand it, there is consensus, without the need for any order, that the grandparents can have contact with L whenever they choose to visit and stay in England. The aunt and uncle offer, too, to take him at least once a year to Hong Kong to facilitate contact there. The aunt and uncle have relations in Hong Kong and regularly visit and are familiar with that Territory, but neither has ever visited mainland China. The longer term goal must be that L can visit and stay with his grandparents in their homes in China, but in my view the focus in the shorter term must be upon cementing L’s placement with the aunt and uncle and increasing his familiarity with his grandparents. It would be bewildering and potentially damaging for him to go to stay in China in the foreseeable future. It is premature to consider any issues and concerns about safeguards against non-return, which may need to be faced up to later but not yet. It is agreed that there will be regular, visual indirect contact via QQ, a web-based facility similar to Skype and FaceTime. These broad principles are set out in the Final Care Plan. So far as I am aware, it is not necessary for me to make any more express order with regard to contact with the maternal grandparents, but I will hear further submissions if asked to do so.

Contact with the father

[34] As I have stated, this has been fully discussed outside, as well as within, the courtroom. There are agreed provisions in the Care Plan for limited indirect contact which of course place no restrictions upon L sending communications to his father if he himself wishes to do so. After the verdict it was explained to L in age-appropriate terms that his father was the person who had killed his mother. L said that he knew that already. But the father continues to maintain his innocence and (for that reason, understandably) declines and is unable to express any apology to L for what he did. When L is much older he may wish to see his father and confront him about his guilt, but at his present age and fragile state of emotional recovery it is impossible to visualise that any meeting can take place between L and his father unless and until the father displays genuine acceptance of the verdict and appropriate remorse.

Family Court Practice 2016, The

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