It’s half term and we’re supposed to be switching off, but this piece of news is so important, we felt we had to share it.

The Supreme Court have just handed down a judgment on a case which queried the way the use of the Significant Harm threshold is used and whilst this could easily have been posted under a “Judge of The Week” post, for Lady Hale’s exquisite judicial power and sophisticated thinking, we thought it best on this occasion to say what is says on the tin, for the purposes of ease of reference.

The facts of the case are included in the link above, but the essential aspect of the case itself is very neatly summed up by the Family Law Week article: “The issue in this case is whether a child can be regarded as ‘likely to suffer’ harm if another child has been harmed in the past and there is a possibility that the parent now caring for him or her was responsible for the harm to the other child.”

The matter went to the High Court, which stated that ” likelihood of significant harm can only be established by reference to past facts that are proved on the balance of probabilities. Mere possibility was insufficient.” The Court of Appeal then dismissed the Local Authority’s challenge and instead moved it up to the Supreme Court, which subsequently went on to dismiss the appeal by the Local Authority.

We are told in the Supreme Court judgement that The wording of Section 31(2), which relates to the Significant Harm threshold, has been the subject of six appeals to the House of Lords and Supreme Court already, and is clearly a controversial and often misapplied and misunderstood tool for safeguarding children. This judgment seeks to clarify several aspects of the threshold and is a must-read. The main judgment is given by Lady Hale, and agreed for the most part (with minor exceptions which you can read about in the text of the judgment itself), by several other judges (all listed in the judgment too, of course).

As an aside, the last few days has given way to some wonderfully refreshing, clear thinking in judicial circles, and whilst we have always taken the view that Lady Hale is one of our finest judges in the family justice system, she is joint Judge of the Week this week, for her fine reasoning in the Matter of J.

Lady Hale