W (Proving Threshold Criteria), Re, Court of Appeal - Family Division, July 20, 2018, [2018] NIFam 15

Resolution Date:July 20, 2018
Issuing Organization:Family Division
Actores:W (Proving Threshold Criteria), Re
 
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1

Ref: OHA10711

Neutral Citation No: [2018] NIFam 15

Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down

(subject to editorial corrections)*

Delivered: 20/07/2018

16/41161/A01

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

________

FAMILY DIVISION

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ON APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY CARE CENTRE

RE: W

(Proving Threshold Criteria)

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O'HARA J

Introduction

[1] The names of the parties in this case have been anonymised in order to protect the interests of the children to whom the case relates. Nothing must be published or reported which directly or indirectly leads to the identity of the children being revealed.

[2] This is an appeal by a Trust against part of a decision made in the Family Care Centre. The trial judge conducted a hearing over 21 days and concluded that threshold criteria were established against the father in respect of all three boys of the family and against the mother in respect of two boys but not the third, the youngest. The amended notice of appeal consists of a very broad attack on the way in which the hearing was conducted and the findings made.

[3] The children involved are now 9 years, 4 years and 2 years old. They were removed from the care of their parents in May 2016. The hearing in the Family Care Centre started on 23 October 2017 and culminated in a judgment delivered on 22 March 2018 after a hearing of 21 days. Two points need to be made at the start:

(a) The fractured nature of the hearing from October 2017 to March 2018 was not in any way the fault of the trial judge but an indication that more time is needed for the hearing of contested cases in the Care Centres. That matter is being addressed by the presiding county court judge, the Recorder of Belfast, and his colleagues. The difficulties which fractured hearings give rise to are multiple - it is much harder for everyone to keep the evidence fresh in mind when the hearing is broken up, some of the hearing days are in truth only an hour or two long due to other pressing business and it is much more difficult to write a coherent judgment after such a hearing.

(b) Despite constant admonitions that this should not happen, this case is another one in which the threshold criteria proposed by the Trust went on and on for page after page. One version is 7 pages long with 17 paragraphs. Another version is 12 pages long, also with 17 paragraphs but including multiple sub-paragraphs. As has been repeatedly made clear by judges over...

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