Family Law Titles
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(Court of Appeal; Thorpe and Wall LJJ; 25 November 2009)
The case concerned two children, a boy aged 6 and a girl aged 2. The boy was removed from the care of the mother and step-father when he was found in a dark room, without toys, having bled onto bedding and curtains in the room. There was evidence that, whereas the boy had been treated very harshly, the girl had been cared for to a normal standard. The girl was removed a few days later, when the parents were arrested on suspicion of child cruelty and/or wilful neglect of the boy. The guardian recommended the making of interim care orders. The judge found that the criteria were satisfied in respect of both children, but while he made an interim care order in relation to the boy, he made only an interim supervision order in relation to the girl on the basis that he did not consider that the continued removal of girl from care was proportionate to the risk of harm if she was returned to the parents. The local authority appealed.
When considering whether or not to grant an interim care order, the question for the judge had not been whether or not there had been any allegations of harm to the children established on the balance of probabilities, but whether the evidence gave reasonable cause to believe that threshold criteria was satisfied, and, if so, whether the welfare of the girl required that she should be subject of interim care order interim care orders. The judge had serious understated the parents treatment of the boy, and thus minimised the risk of harm to the girl. The judge had failed to address the seriousness of the evidence placed in the scale against the return of the girl or to explain properly his departure from the recommendation of the guardian. The girl's safety, using that word in a broad sense to include her psychological welfare, had required interim protection.
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