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17 MAR 2015

Re P [2015] EWCA Civ 170

Re P [2015] EWCA Civ 170
(Court of Appeal, McFarlane, Kitchin, Sales LJJ, 10 March 2015)

Public law children – Contact – Father suffered from bipolar affective disorder and other personality disorders – Child found to be suffering emotional harm as a result – Reduction in contact following one-sided process – Section 91(14) order for 5 years – Appeal

The full Judgment is attached below

The father’s appeal from a decision imposing strict conditions on contact and authorising a drastic reduction in contact as well as a s 91(14) order was dismissed.

When the parents of the 6-year-old child separated an interim shared residence order was made providing for the child to spend time with both parents. Care proceedings were issued when the father took the child to the doctor with bruising on her forehead and she disclosed that her mother had hit her.

During proceedings a forensic psychiatrist reported that in addition to the father’s bipolar affective disorder he also had a histrionic personality disorder and a narcissistic personality disorder. The father did not accept those diagnoses. The judge concluded that neither the mother nor the maternal grandparents had inflicted physical abuse on the child and that she had made the allegation to please her father.

It was determined that the threshold criteria under s 31 of the Children Act 1989 had been met on the basis that the child was suffering and was likely to suffer significant emotional harm arising from the adverse impact of the father’s mental health difficulties. A full care order was made with a care plan for the child to live with the mother at the maternal grandparents’ home. Contact with the father was initially fixed at one supervised 2-hour visit per fortnight.

Contact was discussed at a looked after children review to which the father was not invited to attend and it was concluded that contact should be reduced from 26 visits per year to four. The father was refused permission to appeal the original order but he issued an application to discharge the care order and alternatively, a contact order.

The father’s applications were refused and a number of conditions under s 34(7) of the Act were imposed upon ongoing contact and an order was made pursuant to s 91(14) preventing the father from making any further applications in respect of the child for 5 years. The father appealed.

The appeal was dismissed. The judgment had to be evaluated on the basis of the situation as it had been presented at the hearing. Therefore, in this instance the judge had little option but to permit a radical reduction in contact and impose strict conditions. Although more should have been done to investigate the local authority’s actions and the decision-making process, the outcome of that process and the judge’s decision could not be said to have been wrong.

The Court of Appeal did not agree that the applications made by the father had been utterly devoid of merit and he had been entitled to ask the court to look at the radical reduction of contact following a process the father had not been involved in. The imposition of a s 91(14) order for a 5-year-period was a substantial intervention but on the basis of all the evidence that intervention was not wrong or otherwise lacking jurisdiction.

Neutral Citation Number: [2015] EWCA Civ 170

Case No: B4/2014/3172

ON APPEAL FROM Chester Family Court
HHJ Butler

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 10/03/2015






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Re: P (A child)

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Mr Simon Heaney (instructed by Heaney Watson) for the Appellant
Miss Gillian Irving QC and Mr Daren Guite (instructed by Cheshire West and Chester Council) for the First Respondent
Mr Nicholas Sefton (instructed by Carter Vincent LLP) for the Second Respondent
Miss Debora Gosling (instructed by BDH solicitors) for the Fourth respondent
The Third respondents did not appear and were not represented

Hearing date : 10th February 2015

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Re P [2015] EWCA Civ 170
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