Sir James Munby: I did not change adoption law

Royal Courts of Justice, Court of Appeal, finding of fact

President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has claimed that a previous ruling he made was never intended to change the law on adoption.

In Re R (A Child), he sought to clarify his position following “widespread uncertainty, misunderstanding and confusion” which has stemmed from his decision in Re B-S. In that ruling, Sir James had expressed serious worries about what he called the “recurrent inadequacy” of adoption applications. He said it was “time to call a halt” to poor applications.

The confusion this judgment caused meant that the National Adoption Leadership Board had to publish guidelines for social workers who had been discouraged from making adoption applications altogether.

However in the newly published judgment, he insisted that Re B-S was “not intended to change and has not changed the law”. He added that, in cases where adoption is in a child’s best interests, “local authorities must not shy away from seeking … care orders with a plan for adoption” and courts should not be wary of making such orders.

In cases where “nothing but adoption will do”, Sir James declared that it was “essential” that a child’s safety and wellbeing is not put at risk by an insistence that they stay with their birth family.

He also cited the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to back up his claim that sometimes adoption is the only sensible option for the child. Section 1 of the Act states that the paramount consideration of the courts must be the welfare of the child and that should continue throughout their life.

The comments were made during a case in which a mother unsuccessfully appealed against a ruling that her daughter is to be put up for adoption. The local authority sought such an order in response to incidents of “frequent alcohol fuelled violence” between the girl’s parents. To read the full judgment, click here.

Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice by Joe Dunckley via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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