A judge has ordered that a mother should be reunited with her baby daughter in a residential unit after a local authority applied for an interim care order.
The mother and her baby were placed in a residential care unit offering high levels of support and supervision. The mother then accidentally fell while holding her baby, and the unit staff decided that the mother and child should be separated. The baby was not harmed in the incident.
The local authority then made an application for separation.
An alternative placement for the baby was found and the mother applied to be reunited with her daughter. The judge granted the application, and the local authority appealed.
Lord Justice Peter Jackson sitting at the Court of Appeal subsequently dismissed the local authority’s application to appeal and allowed the mother to be reunited with her baby at the unit.
The mother, who had a difficult childhood, struggled with drug abuse for many years and her addiction had affected her baby while in the womb. The mother’s substance abuse also led to the need for one of her legs to be amputated, which resulted in the mother using a wheelchair. The council became involved, and care proceedings were initiated.
While at the residential unit, it became apparent that there was a loving and warm bond between mother and baby, and a report by unit staff noted that the mother had a lot of positive qualities as a parent, and her parenting was “good in most areas.”
Safety concerns for the baby were raised after several incidents took place, including the mother falling asleep briefly in her wheelchair while holding her sleeping baby, and moving around with her daughter without using a sling or a pram.
The report also noted that the mother was sometimes resistant to advice, though it is not clear what advice she was resistant to, nor what her reasons were for resisting the advice.
Important points of law were also added in the appeal court judgment as to how and when interim care orders should be made, and the threshold for separation, which the first judge implemented. Some of those points are added below:
“Having summarised the background, the judge directed himself as to the test for interim separation, most recently sent out by this court in Re C (A Child)  EWCA Civ 1998 at :
(1) An interim order is inevitably made at a stage when the evidence is incomplete. It should therefore only be made in order to regulate matters that cannot await the final hearing and it is not intended to place any party to the proceedings at an advantage or a disadvantage.
(2) The removal of a child from a parent is an interference with their right to respect for family life under Art. 8. Removal at an interim stage is a particularly sharp interference, which is compounded in the case of a baby when removal will affect the formation and development of the parent-child bond.
(3) Accordingly, in all cases an order for separation under an interim care order will only be justified where it is both necessary and proportionate. The lower (‘reasonable grounds’) threshold for an interim care order is not an invitation to make an order that does not satisfy these exacting criteria.
(4) A plan for immediate separation is therefore only to be sanctioned by the court where the child’s physical safety or psychological or emotional welfare demands it and where the length and likely consequences of the separation are a proportionate response to the risks that would arise if it did not occur.
(5) The high standard of justification that must be shown by a local authority seeking an order for separation requires it to inform the court of all available resources that might remove the need for separation.
For the purposes of his decision in this case, the judge summarised it this way:
“The test is whether the child’s safety is at risk and, if so, any removal should be proportionate to the actual risks faced and in the knowledge of alternative arrangements which would not require separation.””
The background to this case, the arguments for and against separation and the reasoning behind this judgment are very much worth a read. The judge allowed reunification to take place because the mother slipping was clearly an accident, and because the judge hearing the mother’s application had applied the law properly.
You can read the judgment in full here.
Ian Josephs said:
In this case the judge allowed a crippled ex drug addict to be reunited with her baby.
I am NOT against that decision but have to compare it with decisions made against mothers who have far fewer reasons for their babies to be confiscated than the mum in the case quoted.
For example ,the mum was in care herself , the mum was abused as a child, the mum was recently raped,the mum reported child abuse by the father supporting her child’s statement but was not believed, the mum used to have a violent partner who is still deemed a risk even if he is in jail, the mum is hostile to social workers and has been diagnosed with a personality disorder!, the mum had a violent criminal record more than ten years ago when she was a teenager,the mum lives in a studio flat and shares the bedroom with her baby son.
All these and many more similar excuses for snatching babies make the appeal case quoted the exception to rules that are rarely kept !
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Mr Joseph’s, your comments are exactly correct. The case I know of the mother had been abused as a child, sent into care without a care order by the SS. Her childhood abuse was reported to the police in later years. The investigation was effectively blocked by the SS. She eventually gave birth to a daughter who was born with an incurable genetic condition, a condition the SS said was caused by the mother, despite DNA proving she was not the cause. The whole process in court is full of perjury, reports from lying expert witnesses. The appeal court endorsed and allowed the perjuried SS statements to stand. Corruption is the accepted form in the Family Courts and from local authority SS departments.
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Alan L Brunwin said:
Why in nearly every family court case Ive come acoss the local authority involved in removing babies and children from their birth parents. Why? Is the local council authorities name kept so secret, I referr to a south london council 2011 natpress Sunday exspress tital, ” Sexing up the document” the childrens excutive left his job soon after, and Police took no action against him or social workers that followed the orders of making false statement to the family courts. To make me even more annoyed that Cheif excutive has just recieved a big payout from that Council. Do wrong in this life and it seems you get rewarded.
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[Name Withheld] said:
Social services lied in my families reports and we had no chance of getting the facts together ,now I have the facts,I’ve still no chance of winning in court because of the laws,nobody cares about the facts in family courts,the law always wins,how can social workers get away with lies in this so called law?its not fare on innocent families especially the children who are robbed their biological families.
It’s a life sentence losing my grandchildren and I dont know how I’m going to live without them.
Shona Craig said:
A Judge finally with some sense ..