Local Authority Law

A Local Authority v X & Anor (Children) [2013] EWHC 3274 (Fam)

Judge ruling that the mother who married in Pakistan being underage had her marriage declared void. This in turn resulted in the husband, whose whereabouts were unknown,  to have his status declared lowered from a married father to that of an unmarried father.

 

P (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1475

Application by M’s partner for permission to appeal a finding that it was more likely than not that M’s daughter had suffered a non-accidental injury and that the perpetrator was her partner. This finding was made even though the judge said that the medical evidence was equivocal. The appeal was granted because the medical evidence was equivocal which was an argument with a real prospect of success but also that the judgment is preventing him from having access to his three older children. The appeal judge requested pro bono assistance for the father.

 

CASE OF B.B. AND F.B. v. GERMANY

This is a Human rights case where the authorities in Germany had prematurely denied the parents access to their children after they had been taken from the parents because of allegations that the children had been beaten by both parents.

The children had been caught cheating in school exams. The children, when confronted, stated that their parents beat them if they didn’t get good grades. The children were immediately taken into care. The parents were for a couple of years prevented from seeing the children. Eventually, the parents won the right to see their children in the care home. When the children saw their parents, they broke down and admitted they had lied about the beatings. They were then returned to the parents.

The court found that the court had acted lawfully in taking the children to investigate the allegations but had acted unlawfully in preventing the parents from having any access to the children during this time.

 

London Borough of Ealing v Connors [2013] EWHC 3493 (Fam)

Mother refuses to inform the court of the whereabouts of her children in care proceedings. Court is forced to jailed the mother for contempt of court. Suspended sentence considered and rejected.

 

Re W (Fact Finding- Hearsay Evidence) [2013] EWCA Civ 1374

Case where a lower court judge makes a finding of sexual abuse against a father and the mother failing to protect a child. This was done on the basis of social services notes of hearsay evidence. Although the daughter who allegedly made the alleged allegations was summonsed by the court to give evidence she did not appear. This denied the parents the opportunity to cross examine the witness against them. Despite this the lower court judge made findings against the parents based solely on Social Services notes.

The Court of Appeal, supported by much case law on the issue of hearsay evidence in children cases, found that the judge had erred in her treatment of the evidence. Those authorities emphasised the need for courts to consider measures that could be taken to assist witnesses to present evidence in court and have that evidence tested.

 

In the Matter of A (A Child) [2012] UKSC 60

Case where allegations of child abuse was made by a third party now an adult to the local authority. The court ordered the details and name of the third party to be revealed so that the father could have a fair trial. The council refused to reveal the details and made an appeal to the supreme court to protect the alleged victim who was declared psychiatrically unfit to testify.

Appeal was refused but in the mean time the social services had revealed the identity and details to the mother and the Guardian Ad Litem, but not to the father. And the father had his contact to his daughter reduced.

It was ruled that there were ways of protecting the alleged victim from appearing directly in court and her evidence in some form or other could be presented to the court to give the father an opportunity to defend himself and for the judge to make an assessment as to the relevance and weight of the allegations.

 

M (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1580

Case where a child sustained bruising to the arms and legs, so was examined by several experts. Because of the unusual locations of the injuries, the experts could not give an explanation as to the cause of the bruising. The judge ruled that because the experts could not give an explanation as to the cause of the injuries, reasonable or unreasonable, he ruled that one of the parents had inflicted the injuries. But not which one. He further added that the other parent had failed to protect the child.

The appeal court overturned the judge’s decision. They concluded that because no explanation of the injuries could be determined it does not follow that the injuries were non accidental.

 

Re M (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1710

Case where a child was taken hospital by mother because of a small bump to the head. However, when the child was examined it was discovered that the child’s skull was fractured. There were also a couple of broken ribs.  The expert’s at court could not give an explanation as to the cause of the skull fracture, given that there was no internal brain injury and the external bump was only slight. The child was not in pain and quite happy. A person sustaining such a skull fracture would either be dead or in intensive care. The experts found this inexplicable and very, very unusual. They at first suspected brittle bone disease. But on ex-ray the child’s bones looked normal. They were absolutely confounded.

The parents statements were found to be unreliable. The judge ruled that there statements were not wholly truthful.

The appeal court overturned the lower judges judgment. They came to the conclusion that there may be an as yet unfound medical condition that caused such injuries. They also concluded that the reason the parents accounts couldn’t explain the injuries was again because the cause of the injury was inexplicable. The case was sent back down to the lower courts for a retrial before a different judge. And it was urged that the experts should make extensive search of the medical literature to find a reasonable explanation for the injuries.

 

Bridgend County Borough Council v GM & Anor [2012] EWHC 3118 (Fam)

Case where care proceedings were instigated against a mother, who was a drug addict supported by prostitution. Eleven days after becoming aware of the proceedings, the mother and father abscond with the child to Alicante, Spain. The mother started a new life in Spain. To the mother’s consternation, the Spanish Social Services also instigated care proceedings. The mother and father again moved to a different part of Spain. Again the child is found and immediately taken into care. The father returned to England. The mother remained in Spain. The Spanish authorities return the child to the UK.

Under the Hague convention the government where the child is habitually resident has jurisdiction to instigate court proceedings. However, in error, the UK High Court had instigated proceedings the day before the child was returned. Nonetheless, the judge had ruled that the mother and therefore the child, were habitually resident in the UK, because the reason the mother had traveled to Spain was to evade the authorities in the UK. The judge finally ruled that the proceedings had to be re-instigated.

 

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