17 FEB 2015
Re A (Application for Care and Placement Orders: Local Authority Failings)  EWFC 11
(Family Court, SirJames Munby, the President of the Family Division, 17 February 2015)
[The judicially approved judgment and accompanying headnote has now published in Family Law Reports  1 FLR 1]
Public law children –Care and placement orders – Assessment of father – Link between evidence andrisk of harm – Sufficiency of assessment and analysis – Whether the child’swelfare required adoption and whether nothing else would do
Please see attached file below for the full judgment.
The local authorityapplications for care and placement orders in respect of the one-year-old childwere dismissed and criticisms were made of the conduct of the local authorityin respect of this case.
The one-year-old childwas born while the mother was serving a prison sentence for offences ofdishonesty and sexual offences relating to a minor. Shortly after his birth hewas made subject to an interim care order and placed with foster carers. Thelocal authority carried out assessments of the father, who was no longer in arelationship with the mother and members of the paternal family but theconclusion was that he should be placed for adoption outside of the family.
The local authorityapplied for care and placement orders 8 months after the child’s birth andsubmitted a final care plan and assessments of the father and paternalgrandmother but they were not signed. The mother did not put herself forward asa potential carer but supported the father’s position.
The applications weredismissed and the child would be placed in the care of the father. ThePresident found the father to be a reliable and truthful witness. On theevidence available it was not established that the child was at risk ofsuffering significant harm and it could not be said that his welfare requiredadoption and that nothing else would do. The real picture was very differentfrom the one the local authority painted. Although the father might not be thebest of parents and less than a suitable role model that was not sufficient tojustify a care order let alone adoption.
The local authority’scase was a tottering edifice built upon inadequate foundations. The localauthority was too willing to believe the worst of the father. It was dismissiveof what the father was saying and made reference to the father’s immoralbehaviour, in relation to his previous connections with the English DefenceLeague, which was neither relevant nor appropriate. Its case was based upon thefather’s lack of honesty with professionals, the way he minimised matters ofimportance and his immaturity and lack of insight of issues of importance.However the local authority failed to link the facts relied upon with theassertions that the child was at risk of suffering significant harm and thatadoption was the right outcome.
The guardian seemedcontent to rely upon the local authority’s ‘ample evidence’ and failed toembark on a substantive analysis or summary of the materials in question.
In this case there had been numerous failings of thelocal authority in terms of social work practice, case analysis and casemanagement. There had been significant, unexplained delay and an abusive misuseof the s 20 procedure.
Neutral Citation Number:  EWFC 11
Case No: MB14C01592
IN THE FAMILY COURT
Sitting at MIDDLESBROUGH
Royal Courts of Justice
17 February 2015
B e f o r e :
SIR JAMES MUNBY
PRESIDENT OF THE FAMILY DIVISION
In the matter of A (A Child)
DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL
- and -
(3) GM and GF
(4) A (by his children's guardian)
Mr Crispin Oliver (instructed by the local authority) for the applicant (local authority)
Mr Alan D Green (of Hewitts) for the first respondent (mother)
Mr Martin Todd (instructed by Freeman Johnson) for the second respondent (father)
Mr Keith Leigh (of Teesside Law Limited) for the fourth respondent (child)
The third respondents (the paternal grandmother and step-grandfather) appeared in person
Hearing dates: 26-28 November 2014