Supreme Court rejects appeal against care order due to risk of harm
In Re B, the child had been removed from her parents shortly after the birth and placed in temporary care under an interim order. The parents visited the child regularly and formed a relationship with her.
When the case came to court the judge made a full care order for the girl, with a view to her eventual adoption. He concluded that there was a real risk of emotional and psychological harm to the child if she was placed in the care of her parents. The mother suffered from conditions that could mean the girl receiving unnecessary medical treatments and the parents frequently presented a dishonest picture of the world, which could lead to significant confusion for the girl. Extensive intervention would be needed to protect the girl from such risks but the parents were unlikely to cooperate as they had a hostile and manipulative attitude to social workers the case reports stated.
The parents appealed the judgement and the Court of Appeal upheld the original judge’s decision. The case then went to the Supreme Court.
In the majority judgement, the Justices declared that the original judge had had sufficient evidence for the conclusions reached. Under section 31 of the Children Act 1989, there need only be a real possibility of harm, including emotional harm, for the courts to make a care order.
However, in her dissenting judgement, Lady Hale declared that the case was based solely on the mere possibility of harm to the child. The family courts had not explored any alternatives to the care order.
“It must not be forgotten that this is a child who as yet has suffered no harm at all (except possibly the harm of being separated from her mother so soon after birth). She has had the advantage of remaining with the same foster carer throughout, where she is doing well. She has also had the enormous advantage of establishing a strong and loving relationship with her parents, who have given her “child centred love and affection in spades”, as the judge put it. Their commitment has been excellent and the fact that in all the circumstances their behaviour during contact has attracted so little criticism and so much praise is extraordinary. She will eventually have to move on from her foster home and the only question is whether she moves to a completely new home with adoptive parents as yet unidentified or whether she moves to live with the parents she knows and loves and who know and love her.”
Lady Hale concluded:
“I take the view that it has not been sufficiently demonstrated that it is necessary to bring the relationship between [the child] and her parents to an end. In the circumstances of this case, it cannot be said that “nothing else will do” when nothing else has been tried. The harm that is feared is subtle and long term. It may never happen.”
Photo by Adrian Bailon via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
Share this post
Get free family law updates
Marilyn Stowe’s new book: expert advice on all aspects of divorce, from just 99p!
Divorce & Splitting Up by Marilyn Stowe is the essential how-to book for anyone who is getting divorced or splitting up from a partner. Read more >>
"A must buy that really opens your eyes to what is involved if you are considering or going through a divorce." - Amanda Brown
"This will answer your questions in a way that non-lawyers can understand." - Miss P.
"Don't get divorced without it. I read this book despite being divorced for more than 10 years. I wish I'd had this book to hand at the time. Great examples, simple to read and understand." - Jamie
"This really has helped me to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and I will come out of it a stronger person." - J
Marilyn Stowe on SKY News & ITV This Morning
- Luke on Ways to recognise an abusive relationship by guest blogger Susan Leigh
- Stitchedup on Enforcing court orders with prison by John Bolch
- claire on Clare’s Law: what is the ‘Right-to-Ask’ and what does it mean for you? By guest blogger Lucy Phipps
- Stitchedup on Ways to recognise an abusive relationship by guest blogger Susan Leigh
- Paul on Ways to recognise an abusive relationship by guest blogger Susan Leigh
Subscribe & Follow
In the Media
Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
Contact Stowe Family Law
These downloads accompany Marilyn Stowe's latest book: Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice From a Top Divorce Lawyer. After opening, right click to save to your computer.
For more free downloads, visit the Downloads section.