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(Court of Appeal; Wilson LJ and Holman J; 29 November 2007)
When a split hearing was ordered, express consideration was to be given to whether satisfaction of the threshold criteria would be considered and determined as part of the first, the final or an intermediate hearing. Orders for directions should identify and describe with clarity what was to be the subject of evidence, argument and decision at each future hearing. Labels such as 'threshold hearing' and 'threshold document' must be used with great care and in particular must not be confused with 'fact-finding hearing' and 'schedule of proposed findings of fact'. In any case in which the threshold criteria were alleged to be satisfied on the basis of future risk rather than of past harm to a child there must be a clear written analysis and description by the local authority of the facts alleged to give rise to that future risk, to which all other parties had the opportunity to make written response. Where there was a split hearing, express consideration should be given to whether such documents should be prepared before or only after, and in the light of the determination of the fact-finding hearing and, if appropriate, further assessments. Where proceedings were consolidated or other children were added as subjects of existing proceedings, great care should be taken to scrutinize earlier orders for their suitability to the consolidated or enlarged proceedings.
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