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‘society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting, including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent. It follows too that children will inevitably have both very different experiences of parenting and very unequal consequences flowing from it. It means that some children will experience disadvantage and harm, while others flourish in atmospheres of loving security and emotional stability. These are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the state to spare children all the consequences of defective parenting. In any event, it simply could not be done.’Revived in popularity by it being quoted approvingly and developed by the Supreme Court in Re B (Care Proceedings: Appeal)  UKSC 33,  2 FLR 1075.
‘We are all frail human beings, with our fair share of unattractive character traits, which sometimes manifest themselves in bad behaviours which may be copied by our children. But the State does not and cannot take away the children of all the people who commit crimes, who abuse alcohol or drugs, who suffer from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities, or who espouse antisocial political or religious beliefs.’And, in part due to the transparency guidelines meaning that Circuit Judges put their own judgments on Bailii, thrusting His Honour Judge Jack into the spotlight.
‘I deplore any form of domestic violence and I deplore parents who care for children when they are significantly under the influence of drink. But so far as Mr and Mrs C are concerned there is no evidence that I am aware of that any domestic violence between them or any drinking has had an adverse effect on any children who were in their care at the time when it took place. The reality is that in this country there must be tens of thousands of children who are cared for in homes where there is a degree of domestic violence (now very widely defined) and where parents on occasion drink more than they should, I am not condoning that for a moment, but the courts are not in the business of social engineering. The courts are not in the business of providing children with perfect homes. If we took into care and placed for adoption every child whose parents had had a domestic spat and every child whose parents on occasion had drunk too much then the care system would be overwhelmed and there would not be enough adoptive parents. So we have to have a degree of realism about prospective carers who come before the courts.’His Honour Judge Jack’s comments were cited approvingly by the President in Re A (Application for Care and Placement Orders: Local Authority Failings)  EWFC 11 (the case that some have dubbed ‘the welfare of the bundle is the Court’s paramount consideration’ case…).
The State will not take away the children of “those who commit crimes, abuse alcohol or drugs or suffer from physical or mental illness or disability, or who espouse antisocial, political or religious beliefs” simply because those facts are established. It must be demonstrated by the local authority, in the first place, that by reason of one or more of those facts, the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm.It would no longer be sufficient, for example, for a local authority to prove that a mother has been taking crack cocaine. They would need to show why it was that the mother’s use of crack cocaine had either harmed this child (by way of showing the neglect suffered or an injury suffered as a result of poor supervision) or why it would be LIKELY to. There has to be made explicit a link between the behaviour complained of and the harm that is said to result from that behaviour.
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