(Family Division, MacDonald J, 29 April10 June 2016)
Public law children – Care proceedings – Boy subject to proceedings while visiting the jurisdiction – Whether he remained in the jurisdiction – Whether care proceedings should be discharged – Reporting restriction
The local authority application for a care order was withdrawn and a reporting restriction order was varied.
The now 16-year-old boy was born in South Africa and had also lived in Canada and Switzerland. While living in Switzerland in 2015 the mother began to struggle with his behaviour and he was moved to a residential facility and a child protection case was opened. The Swiss authorities notified the mother that they would not be extending the visas permitting the mother and the boy to remain in Switzerland. The mother appealed on her behalf only since she planned for her son to go to South Africa to a treatment facility before travelling to Zimbabwe to attend boarding school. He was opposed to that course.
Before the plan could be put into effect the boy came to England to visit relatives and the mother arrived shortly thereafter. During their stay police were called to the address they were residing at and the boy alleged the mother had assaulted him. During the altercation she destroyed his Canadian passport. He was taken into police protection and placed with foster carers. He remained in foster care under an interim care order, but during his placement he had been involved with drink and drug-taking and had sustained knife injuries.
The mother removed the boy from his placement on several occasions and he had also absconded alone which led to him being placed in a residential home. When his behaviour began to cause concern he was sectioned under s 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. A reporting restriction order was made after the mother disclosed confidential information relating to the proceedings.
When the boy attended court for a hearing, accompanied by escorts he managed to abscond from the Royal Courts of Justice and travel to the Zimbabwean Embassy. Port alerts and a collection order was made, although it could not be executed in the embassy. He was seen by a mental health worker and communicated with the court expressing his wish to travel to Zimbabwe despite his previous opposition to doing so. Thereafter the mother and the boy were able to travel to Zimbabwe due to a delay in the port alert service and through a Skype conversation the social worker was satisfied that they were no longer in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.
The local authority now sought to withdraw the application for a care order and for the continuation of the reporting restriction order.
The court determined that, in all the circumstances, particularly where there were no means to enforce an order requiring the boy's return to the jurisdiction, the local authority should be permitted to withdraw its application for a care order. The reporting restriction order would be varied to permit the reporting of the facts of the case but preventing the identification of the boy. The case raised issued of legitimate public debate and there was a strong public interest in the press being able to report as freely as possible on these matters.
Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 1371 (Fam)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
Royal Courts of Justice
Date: 10 June 2016
MR JUSTICE MACDONALD
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The London Borough of Sutton
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Ms. Anne-Marie Lucey (instructed by London Borough of Sutton) for the Applicant
The First Respondent did not appear and was not represented
The Second Respondent did not appear and was not represented
The Third Respondent did not appear and was not represented
Mr Ford (instructed by CAFCASS Legal) for the Children’s Guardian
Hearing dates: 5 May 2016
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London Borough of Sutton v MH (No 2)  EWHC 1371 (Fam)