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(Family Division; Munby J; 18 June 2007)
The authority had accepted, at a late stage in care proceedings, that there was no need to conduct a fact-finding hearing, given that the majority of expert evidence did not support a case of non-accidental injury. Instead the authority put an order before the judge, based on an agreement with the parents, for the children to return to the parents' care with regular social worker visits and certain conditions. The judge questioned the basis for such an order and sought the parents' views as to whether they wished a fact-finding hearing to take place. The local authority eventually acknowledged that it was unable to establish a case against the parents. Once the authority had admitted that there was no case against the parents, there was, of course, no basis for imposing on the parents any form of monitoring (or indeed support) to which they were not willing to agree. The parents were entitled to resume their family life without any ongoing involvement of the local authority, and had chosen to do so. The parents were not asking for a fact-finding hearing; had they done so, the court could not lightly have disregarded a demand for full exoneration by that means.
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