A Local Authority v M and F & Ors (care orders and wardship), Court of Appeal - Family Division, September 28, 2018, [2018] EWHC 3295 (Fam)

Resolution Date:September 28, 2018
Issuing Organization:Family Division
Actores:A Local Authority v M and F & Ors (care orders and wardship)
 
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IMPORTANT NOTICE

This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

Case No: LV17C01051

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 3295 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

Liverpool Civil & Family Courts

35 Vernon Street

Liverpool L2 2BX

Date: 28/09/2018

Before:

HIS HONOUR JUDGE STEVEN PARKER

SITTING AS A JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT

PURSUANT TO SECTION 9 SENIOR COURTS ACT 1989

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Between:

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MR S CRABTREE for the Applicant

MS A HOWARD and Ms HALSHALL-FISCHER for the First Respondent

MR J KHAN and Ms F TURNER for the Second Respondent

MR S POVOAS for the Third Respondents

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JUDGMENTThis Transcript is Crown Copyright. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part other than in accordance with relevant licence or with the express consent of the Authority. All rights are reserved.

HIS HONOUR JUDGE PARKER:

  1. There has been significant delay in arriving at this final composite hearing which was listed for 20 days. That is due to a number of causes, including late revelations and allegations of sexual abuse, and inter-sibling sexual activity; subsequent police investigations and the international element. I have been determined, largely due to that delay and my concern about the impact of that delay on the welfare of the children, to give a judgment on Day 20. Therefore, this judgment is being given orally in order to achieve that objective, and accordingly I reserve the right to perfect this judgment; and at the conclusion of the judgment counsel are invited to indicate any areas that require clarification or to indicate any errors or omissions in the judgment.

  2. I am dealing with seven children: A, born on 31 January 2005, aged 13; B, born 19 April 2007, aged 11; C, born 24 December 2008, aged 9 3/4; D, born 15 October 2010, aged 7, almost 8; E, born 3 December 2012, aged 5 years, 10 months; F, born 24 June 2015, aged 3; G, born 28 April 2017, aged 1 year, 5 months. The children appear through their Children's Guardian, P W, and are represented by Mr Povoas.

  3. The Local Authority, represented by Mr Crabtree, has made applications for care orders in respect of the older six children, and a placement order in respect of E and F. G is in Pakistan, where he was born, and has remained. He is currently a ward of court.

  4. The mother is represented by Ms Howard and Ms Halshall-Fischer. The father is represented by Mr Khan and Ms Turner. The parents' view is that the older six children should be rehabilitated to the care of the mother, and they would consent to the making of a care order on that basis. They oppose the applications for a placement order.

  5. Their position is that G is being cared for by the paternal grandmother, and that following the allegations of sexual abuse against the paternal grandfather in Pakistan, he has left the family home. Their case is that he is receiving good enough care in Pakistan, and there is an acceptance that he has not been returned to this country largely because if he was returned, he would be taken into care.

  6. Emergency travel documents are available, but without a NICOP card, he cannot leave Pakistan. The evidence that I have, such as it is, is that the parents would need to cooperate in order to secure the NICOP card. If the court rules that all of the children cannot be rehabilitated to the mother's care, then she asks that some of them are rehabilitated to her care. The father accepts that he cannot provide good enough care for the children.

  7. Whilst the Children's Guardian supports the applications for care orders in respect of the older six children, and also supports the continuation of wardship in respect of G, he is opposed to the making of the placement orders on the basis that E and F should remain in their current foster placements on the basis of long-term foster care.

  8. There are also issues around parental contact; a forced marriage protection order; and whether the parents' passports should be retained by the Local Authority. The Local Authority has, pursuant to court direction, drawn up a final schedule of findings which appears, inter alia, at C609. That document also contains the father's responses to the findings sought.

  9. In order to decide the issues in this case, I have an extensive hearing bundle, which runs to six lever arch files; a supplemental bundle; and I have prepared another bundle with the very helpful closing submissions made by counsel for all parties. I have also had an opportunity to consider the DVDs of the interviews of the children. I have also been given two bundles of documents by the parents. The mother's bundle contained lots of letters, cards and pictures with loving messages from the children; the father's bundle contains school achievement, awards and other extracurricular certificates, photographs, letters and cards, and pictures with loving messages. I have also had an opportunity to view more photographs this morning on a laptop provided by Mr Khan.As I will say later in this judgment, I have no doubt that the parents love their children, and the children love them.

  10. I have also heard oral evidence from a number of witnesses, including the parents, the social worker, three experts, and the Children's Guardian. I intend to deal with the evidence in some detail. No party made an application for any of the children to give oral evidence or to be cross-examined. The current position is that A is in a foster placement on her own, as is B. C and D are in foster placement together, as are E and F.

    The oral evidence:

  11. I heard from the social worker RM. Mr Crabtree on behalf of the Local Authority has very helpfully prepared a schedule of documents prepared by the social worker, as they are numerous. She became the allocated social worker on 14 March 2017. She co-worked the case with CC between March and July 2017, and with VJ between July and October 2017. Since then, she has been the sole allocated social worker.

    Assault on B:

  12. In her oral evidence, she was asked to deal with the assault perpetrated by the father on B. At C284 and 285 she described that the father has a conviction for assaulting B between 11 and 12 March 2017. The father pleaded guilty to the assault on 18 April 2017. He received a suspended sentence, and was required to work with probation. The father had said that the assault happened when the mother was out with F, and he was home with the other children.

  13. The father's version of what happened is significantly minimised when compared to B's account. At that stage, 6 December 2017, he was maintaining that this was a one-off incident. On 20 July 2017, B told the social worker that both of her parents and all her siblings were downstairs when she was assaulted. She was hit with a wooden spoon so hard she thought that her leg was broken. It was the worst pain she had ever felt in her life. She could not even walk properly. The social worker observed that she was extremely fearful about saying what she did.

  14. On 20 November 2017 A described how the father had assaulted B. She describes seeing the spoon break. It was a wooden spoon, it snapped. The mother did tell the father to stop. The social worker described how A's body language changed when she was describing the incident. She was looking down at the floor at different points. Her eyes were closed, as if she was thinking about what happened. She seemed very considered in what she was saying. This was said in the presence of C and D. The social worker said that the four girls were confident enough to say if they disagreed with something, but they said nothing on this occasion.

  15. Reference was made to the chronology at C13:

    Referral from (school). B's teacher had told her that she was going to have to speak with her parents as B had taken a pencil case home that belonged to another child. The school stated that B became very distressed, shaking and crying, and begging her teacher not to talk to her parents. When asked why, B eventually said, 'If I tell you, you can't tell anybody', and then went on to say that she was scared of getting whipped with a wire, or hit with a wooden spoon, if her father was told. B said that this happened before.

  16. She was spoken to in school by a social worker, and her head teacher, and alleged that her father had hit her with a wooden spoon on Saturday or Sunday the previous weekend; and stated that the spoon had broken, insinuating that this was as a result of the force used. B alleged that her father then proceeded to hit her with his hands. She was reluctant to show the social worker the bruises to her body, but would show her teacher.

  17. B had two circular bruises to her left thigh, which she said were from being hit with the spoon, and two linear bruises to her right thigh, which she said were from being hit with a wire, a phone charger. B had a child protection medical, which concluded that the circular bruises to her left thigh were non-accidental, and consistent with her account of being hit with a wooden spoon.

  18. There was then a visit to the family home by two social workers, and the father was asked if he would be willing to leave the...

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