MR JUSTICE MUNBY
This judgment was handed down in private but the judge hereby gives leave for it to be published.
The judgment is being distributed on the strict understanding that in any publication or report no person other than the advocates or the solicitors instructing them (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name or location and that in particular the anonymity of the child and the adult members of her family must be strictly preserved.
Regent's Park Road
London, N3 1BQ
B e f o r e :
(sitting as a Judge of the County Court)
In the matter of X
| LONDON BOROUGH OF BARNET
|- and -
Miss Mary Hughes (instructed by Shepherd Harris & Co) for the first respondent (mother)
Ms Jo Delahunty (instructed by Hopkin Murray Beskine) for the second respondent (child)
Miss Carol Atkinson (instructed by CAFCASS Legal Services) for the children's guardian Ms Julia Green
Hearing dates: 29-31 March 2006 (Written submissions lodged on 4 April 2006)
Crown Copyright ©
Sir James Munby :
"[X] managed to sustain her placement at [ABC] for 7 days before she began to abscond again. Whilst at [ABC] [X] had began to share her feelings before she absconded. The local authority is of the view that [X] will be able to engage with staff at [ABC] once she is returned there."
"Although the environment with Active 8 Care was incredibly different to what [X] had previously been used to, staff felt that she adapted incredibly well to her new surroundings. [X] appeared to surprise herself with how much she ultimately enjoyed the placement. Staff were very pleased with the amount of effort that [X] put into everything that she did, and exceptionally happy with the amount of help that [X] provided whilst on camp. [X] does appear to be easily influenced by her peers and older associates and this will need carefu1 management and constant monitoring upon [X]'s return to London. Staff feel that whilst [X] continues to associate with older male friends her risk taking behaviour and absconding will continue."
"The local authority recognises that residential care can be beneficial for some children, however, there has been little real evidence to suggest that [X] can not manage a family situation. [X] had not stayed in her previous foster placement for a long enough period to determine that a foster placement was not the appropriate placement. She will need to be afforded the opportunity to be shown that a family placement can contain and provide for her needs eg; (rebelliousness, absconding, risky behaviour such as associating with adult males, need for appropriate, consistent adult figures, poor self esteem).
[X]'s needs can be met if she is placed with a strong, nurturing, robust and confident experienced foster carer. [X] needs to have firm boundaries, she needs to feel that the adults surrounding are in control, allowing [X] to be a thirteen-yearold child."
The care plan continued:
"[X] was to be placed with a specialist experience foster carer in Devon on the 13th of May 2005. However, she absconded in transit [there] and telephoned her mother to collect her. She was eventually placed on 15th May 2005 and will remain there for the foreseeable future and while the necessary assessments are completed, in order to formulate a long term care plan. A short-term placement can mean a placement of up to two years.
[X] has been placed in a placement in Devon, where is it envisaged she could remain for up to two years, if necessary.
The placement is expected to last until the final hearing in October 2005, depending upon the outcome of the assessments in these proceedings."
"In hindsight I feel that it may have been better to have moved into a different placement following her twenty eight days programme with Active8, possibly in a specialist foster placement. The twenty eight days away from the London area created space for [X], but it was not long enough to enable [X] to address her own internal boundaries. [X] returning to the same environment may have been an immediate distraction. [X] perhaps needed to be away for a longer period to begin understanding other ways of addressing her own behaviours with some therapeutic intervention and a smaller number of people within the home setting. [X] returned to her former pattern of absconding, episodes of going missing. Reports received from [ABC] had suggested that [X] was doing much better than she actually was. [ABC] considered that it was worth giving [X] another chance."
"It was my professional opinion that [X] would benefit from such a foster placement as she could receive a more loving and nurturing and caring environment, it would also help with the preparation for [X] eventually returning home with her family, if all expert assessments recommend that course of action. If [X] had continued to remain in this residential placement at [ABC] with other young people who had far more serious and complex issues than [X] she may have eventually begun to copy their negative behaviour."
"[X] in my opinion needs a strong, nurturing, robust and confident experienced foster carer. [X] needs to have firm boundaries, she needs to feel, that the adults are in control, allowing [X] to be a thirteen-year-old child.
I had concerns about [X]'s placement at [ABC]; [X] was able to manipulate and divide staff. I had concerns that the environment was not suitable for [X]'s needs and that the placement did not provide sufficient control to contain [X]. I had concerns that [X] should be placed in a setting where there are not multiple carers on rotation. For this reason the local authority then began looking for suitable foster placement.
I had come to the opinion that [X] should be given the opportunity to be placed with a professional experienced foster carer. This particular foster carer with whom she is now placed has a history of providing care for individual challenging young people such as [X]. The geographical change, from London to Devon will provide [X] with time and space with an opportunity to become settled."
"If the current foster placement breaks down the local authority will consider a further specialist foster placement. Once the report of Dr Eyre has been received the local authority will consider its future long term plan."
I should explain that on 22 March 2005 the FPC had given directions for the preparation of a report by Dr Richard Eyre, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.
"This relates back to the earlier discussion of the attachment problems and the quality of the relationship between [X] and her mother particularly around the difficulties they have over boundaries as she moves towards adolescence. One area that has not yet been touched upon is that of [X]'s self image or self esteem. The trauma of sexual abuse and the helplessness and guilt which it induces have powerfully undermined her self esteem. Appropriate boundary setting and concern from the mother at this point can be interpreted by a child with very low self esteem as further criticism and confirmation of low worth. When such communication is overlaid with a degree of anxiety and a strong feeling which the mother in this case has as a result of her own earlier experiences then the effect may be even more powerful and feel almost intolerable for [X], such that actively resisting or indeed getting away and absconding become risky but worthwhile responses from her point of view. Risk taking is a way of boosting self esteem through providing excitement and incident and drawing significant attention to oneself even though that could be ultimately harmful or damaging."
"The first need is for adequate containment. Although this could be seen as a placement issue it is in fact a therapeutic need. Until [X] can experience meaningful boundaries which she understands and can benefit from over time it will be difficult for her to settle and begin to reflect on what she hears from the adults looking after her, and indeed to begin to work therapeutically. She will benefit from all the adults looking after her having clear communication between themselves and consistency in approach. She will benefit from individual psychotherapy I would suggest that one is looking for at least a year of consistent containment and therapy before planning for any change."
"At this time I do not think that [X] should return to her mother's care. The current placement has the potential to provide adequate containment and structure and I would recommend that it should be seen as medium term and possibly right through to sixteen depending on progress. The most optimistic outcome would be that she could remain for about a year and have intensive psychotherapy with a gradual move towards involving conjoint sessions with her mother and perhaps a negotiation of a return home in time. This should not be seen as a clear recommendation but merely an indication of the very best possible outcome. I think it is probably more realistic to plan towards sixteen and build in therapy throughout that time. In addition I believe the local authority should seek to secure therapeutic support for [the mother], plus for there to be occasional meetings engaging the extended family."
"staff at [XYZ] have been resilient and willing to challenge [X] and robustly and in a confident manner set out clear expectations for her conduct
To date [X] has only absented herself on one occasion from the unit when she went off site for approximately 4 hours without permission.
I recognise that this routine at [XYZ] has challenged [X] considerably. She is a young woman who likes her freedom and feels she can do what she wants to do. There have been 'battles' with [X] where she has had to relinquish control.
It is very much to [X]'s credit that she successfully completed a 4-day visit to a relative"
"There is a real sense that her current placement is a good placement and is doing an excellent job but it is still early days. [X] requires a safe and contained placement from which to form a platform to address and confront the underlying issues, which will enable some of the work to be undertaken which will underpin any good rehabilitation plan."
"[X] has been through a series of placements, which have not worked out for her. Her current placement is proving to be much more successful. This placement started on the 23rd June 2004. Clearly it is recognised that it is 'early days'. [X] has done remarkably well in this placement. The plan is for [X] to now remain at [XYZ] whilst further work is undertaken, which will take [X] on the road to rehabilitation within her family. The key element of the work to be undertaken is the ongoing need for containment. Dr Eyre states in his expert report that this in itself is therapeutic. Once [X] is more settled she will be able to begin to reflect on what she hears from the adults looking after her and indeed to begin to work therapeutically."
"The plan is for [X] to remain at her current residential unit in Devon. This will provide the boundaries for [X] whilst work is undertaken to inform how viable rehabilitation is. Funding for the placement is in place for 3 months. This will be reviewed at this stage. There is recognition that this placement is likely to be required for at least 6 months.
[X] is settling into her short-term care unit; short-term care is ordinarily up to two years. [X] will be 14 years old later this month. Family Finding Meetings have been convened to consider [X]'s care needs, the last such meeting was on 13 April 2005. The current care plan is looking at rehabilitation in the future, in the event of this not being achievable the local authority will continue to provide care for [X] until such a time as she's ready to live independently. Consideration would be required as to whether her current residential unit should become her permanent placement if a return home is felt not to be achievable.
The current timescales are broadly set out as 3-6 months, before it becomes clear whether rehabilitation is achievable, however there is recognition that this will need to be reviewed at 3 monthly intervals. In the event of rehabilitation not being achievable further consideration will needs to be given to [X]'s longer term placement."
"The current plan is to test whether rehabilitation is achievable. Six months into her current placement will be a critical time in terms of evaluating whether this continues to be achievable."
Given that the placement at XYZ had started on 23 June 2005 that would have taken matters to Christmas 2005.
"although I have been updated about significant events concerning [X], I believe the placement continues to be suitable and that it also remains appropriate as a mixed sex unit, tasked with helping young people keep appropriate boundaries with regard to their behaviour, and to understand the implications of their own motivations to transgress those boundaries."
"Given the history of recurrent placement disruption and breakdown I believe it is wise to place some priority on attaining a constituency of support for [X] over time which she hopefully cannot easily disrupt or dismantle. I share a wish for the local authority care plan to be successful and lead to significant change but I would be cautious about linking a move home with the experience of one or two possibly positive therapy sessions. The risks of a return home and further breakdown after all of this intensive help and resourcing include professionals fatigue and hopelessness as well as the impact on [X] herself. Such an outcome would not bode well for her progress towards her sixteenth birthday which is still some two years away."
"There is also an issue about continuity for [X] at this time in her life. There have been long term concerns about her education and the next two years working towards GCSE examinations demand a degree of continuity which a change of school half way through might compromise."
"At the preliminary meeting held between all parties on the morning of the hearing of 5th September 2005, the local authority interim care plan to meet [X]'s educational needs was explained as amounting to provision of three months intensive individual education in her placement in Devon. It was felt that this would enable [X] to catch up with the work that she had missed in Year 9 and enable her to proceed more smoothly in to Year 10 after the Christmas break. It was felt that this was more consistent with the overall plan to re-unify [X] with her family in London. For the same reason it was felt inappropriate to enrol [X] at a local school/college in Devon which would then need to be disrupted in three months time
At the hearing of 5th September, both [X] and her mother were determined that [X] should return home immediately to allow her to attend her old school from the outset of the new spring term 2006. Mrs [T] (Year Head) had indicated that this would be more acceptable from an educational perspective.
All other parties were opposed to this and wanted [X] to return to her placement in Devon. Following the hearing I was able to impress both mother and daughter that [X] should return and I escorted [X] to her placement."
"[X]'s placement plan is for her to hopefully return home in three to six months and it is therefore not thought to be appropriate for her to be introduced into mainstream school in Devon. However she would clearly benefit from some individual tutoring to prevent her from falling too far behind prior to moving back to London."
"The local authority would like to support the plan for rehabilitation but recognise it is still very early days in respect to her current placement. A suggested timescale of 3-6 months is set out. [X]'s progress towards this ultimate goal will be reviewed on an ongoing basis by the social worker, and the placement [panel,] and more formally by all professional parties at least every three months."
He also referred to a professionals meeting that had taken place on 22 September 2005, attended by WG, AH, the local authority's solicitor, the guardian and her solicitor and (by telephone) Dr Eyre. At this meeting what he called a determined effort had been made to reach a consensus around the most contentious issues surrounding the local authority's care plan. He concluded with the observation that "[X] is continuing in general to make excellent progress."
"[X] is at present in a residential unit in Devon and doing well. [X] does not meet the threshold for residential and the CT needs to look for a foster placement. Dr Ayers [sic] went to Devon to complete report and will recommend [X] receives therapy. Commissioning Team have 28 days to find placement as back in court for directions hearing on 15th July 2005."
"the absolute priority was to concentrate on getting a grip on her risky behaviour. I asked that we do not pull her out of a placement if we are making progress I am aware of the need to look beyond this placement but suggested 12 weeks was more realistic."
She asked the panel members to review the minutes. Her request seems to have been ignored.
"the assessments of SSD, of the child psychiatrist and the Guardian will guide the long-term care plan, which could be rehabilitation with [X]'s mother or at least an extended family member or remaining looked after. If the latter, there needs to be a decision as to where this should be Twin Track planning has started and needs to continue."
"Panel not agreeing to extension. Social worker needs to come to the panel again and explain why care plan has now changed as she was working towards a return home."
The same day AH e-mailed WG:
"Can you get [X] to panel on 1/12. In order to progress the care plan funding needs to be in place. When we were in court 4 weeks ago we had said this should go to panel before her LAC review. I know you are very busy but this does need shoe horning in".
"Can you get [X] to panel on 8/12. In order to progress the care plan funding needs to be in place."
"I attended the panel and began my spiel but was immediately stopped by the Chair who told me to ask you and [AH] to return next week to make your case in person.
The Chair did say that the panel had agreed to a time limited placement when [X] first moved to Devon and her [scil, the Chair's] attitude did not suggest that they would easily change that decision."
"I anticipated Panel would not deal with this request in your absence
I had anticipated the matter of funding would be addressed prior to her LAC review on 24/11 in order that there could be some greater clarity in planning beyond early Jan 06. (This was what was indicated in the court negotiations in October.) Her funding runs out beginning of January, this is running very close to the wire."
"[X] is doing well at her current placement. There are positive changes in her behaviour and she has not been reported missing from this placement. Social worker's manager is of the view that any change in her placement at this time might have a negative impact on her development. Request to extend current placement until Easter.
Decision: Panel advised social worker and manager to come back to the panel on 12.01.06."
"Requested that extra funding is available for an extension on placement. Previously agreed for external residential, education & other. Guardian feels that [X] is at particular risk in the London area. [X] spent two weeks over Christmas with her Mum & Aunt. Discussed what support / work done to rehab[ilitate] the child to parent. Discussed difficulties of differing professional reports / views on her future, psychiatrist recommendations, court."
The minutes then continue with a reference to what it is clear on the evidence I have heard was not the advice to the panel of AH and WG but rather the decision of the panel or instruction of the panel to the social workers:
"The plan needs to be for her to return to London to a local placement and return to mainstream school in London. Will issue notice on the placement.
Decision: No extra funding agreed, notice to be issued now and a planned return home / London for [X]."
"[The placement panel] undertook a further assessment and felt that [X] had made insufficient movement towards her central Care Planning goal, namely her rehabilitation with her mother in London. They were conscious of avoiding "drift" in her current Devon placement as well as
- Lack of sufficient progress in curbing some of the central concerns around [X]'s sexual promiscuity
- Lack of progress in developing relationship between mother and daughter
- The seemingly poor response by [X] to the much vaunted psychotherapeutic counselling which had proved so difficult and expensive to put in place
- Continuing separation from her family / Turkish-Cypriot culture
- Severance from mainstream education for over a year
To counterbalance these "negatives" it was also noted that:
- [X] needed to be given enormous credit as she has not absconded once over the past 8 months, which is in dramatic contrast to her previous chaotic absconsions history
- She has maintained a stable placement over this period which is again in dramatic contrast to her previous chaotic placement breakdown history
- She has had relatively successful home visits to her mum and aunt
- She has had sex with boys on only 3 occasions that we are aware of, and this is again in marked contrast to her previous behaviour
- She has successfully completed her intensive individual educational tuition over the past 3 months to prepare her for a resumption to Year 10."
"I do not consider that rehabilitation with the mother would be feasible at this stage. There are no other family members that are either willing or / and suitable to care for [X] on a full-time basis."
He expressed the view that X needed "a highly structured residential placement." In effect, though not in so many words, he seems to have contemplated, though without explicitly recommending, that this placement would be in London. According to WG the assessment was shown in draft to both MI, the area director who had chaired the placement panel on 12 January 2006, and AH, both of whom made minor amendments. According to WG, he was advised by MI to "run it past our legal before sending it out" and he sent it to the legal department on 19 January 2006.
"[X] is settled in her placement. She is responding well to the structure and support available. She is now showing a glimmer of insight and more preparedness to acknowledge strong and unpleasant feelings which may underlie some of her behaviours.
Whilst [X] claims to be ready for individual therapy it is perhaps predictable that she throws some doubts on her capacity or willingness to work with the counsellor recently engaged. I believe that [X] has spent a long time now defending against her feelings of shame, helplessness and distress following her experiences. It is not surprising that although intellectually she can see the reason for having counselling, emotionally she may find it difficult to engage and take the risk of becoming distressed by the work. It is important to stress that in my view she is more likely to use such input when she is in the supported placement that she now has. The contrasts with trying to start this work while she is at home dealing with the difficulties in her relationship with her mother, as well as coming into contact with a familiar but at times disruptive peer group, is a stark one indeed. If one adds in the reintegration into school one could also accept the hypothesis that behind [X]'s confident exterior will be an anxious young person who will really need the support of the care home staff, counsellor and good liaison with school in order to make things work and fee1 safe for her. Again I don't feel that she will be contained and reassured sufficiently in attempting the move if she is at home with her mother and returning to the area and school and peers associated with her previous trauma and out of control behaviours.
I think it is unlikely that her mother, would be able to refrain from high levels of worrying for her daughter, enquiring after her, and looking for constant reassurance with regard to her safety. All of these are perfectly understandable but at this time unlikely to be very helpful in ensuring that [X] feels settled and safely looked after.
The capacity for [X] to successfully reintegrate into mainstream education, and to come out with some positive attainment by the time she is sixteen is likely to have long term effects with regard to her future self esteem and prognosis. For the reasons above it seems that this would be best attempted in Devon.
[Mother] is now in support of both the placement and the plan to extend the stay until it is clear that [X] has made some significant changes.
Overall I believe that my opinion remains fundamentally unchanged from that set out in both my first report and in my letter of 15th September 2005. I believe there is much to be said for considering a long term placement right through to GCSE's. If things are going well by the summer of 2006 there may be a temptation to return [X] home to London, but I would counsel extreme caution, since any "relapse" could be massively destabilizing and destructive and undermine all the progress made."
"Neither [XYZ] nor the children's guardian knew that the local authority intended to take his course of action. The guardian is still unclear as to why this decision was taken The local authority has failed to provide the parties with a coherent plan for [X] in the light of their changed care plan. The guardian therefore has no idea where the local authority are placing [X] in the event that she should return to London and where or what structures will be put in place to support [X]. [XYZ] have expressed serious concerns about [X]'s potential return to London. It is clear that this issue requires to be addressed urgently. The guardian is very concerned that the local authority have not seen fit to provide this information or indeed consult with her over this issue. The local authority also appear to have disregarded the views of Dr Eyre".
Judge Levy also had before her a statement from X in which she said that her wishes and feelings were not being properly presented to the court and that she wished to be represented separately.
"Referral received today, request for placement, decision was made that we have to look at [ABC] as our first option."
As has been pointed out, this is the first documented reference to ABC in this context. When and by whom this "decision" was taken is not clear from any documents produced by the local authority.
"Both [WG] and I have concerns over the management of her behaviour and how it will be monitored. [AH] and [WG] will go and meet with [JK, the acting manager of ABC] this afternoon, and put together a solid plan for her placement to be successful as her previous placement at [ABC] was not servicing [X]'s needs very well At the moment she has not been absconding in her present placement and her behaviour has been very manageable. We are all concerned that her progress continues in this way".
"The Local Authority respectfully requests that the London Borough of Barnet be allowed to rehabilitate [X] back to London. It is regrettable that much more consultation did not take place, but it is hoped that the court will understand that we were motivated only by the best interests of [X]. As outlined above we are firmly of the view that we have not strayed from the agreed Care Plan.
It is also conceded that matters have taken course with more haste than would ordinarily have been appropriate. However, once again we must re-iterate our concern that this girl had now missed out her entire Year 9 and was now facing the possibility of missing much of her current Year 10. For these reasons it was critical that indecision and drift did not obstruct us once again from acting decisively to ensure that [X] did not continue to suffer further harm.
We are aware of the concerns and reservations expressed by other parties not least, those of our expert Dr Richard Eyre, and have hopefully established how the different focus placed on one component of the twin tracking approach by the other parties as opposed to the London Borough of Barnet's greater focus on the urgency of rehabilitation has lead to the impression that the views of other parties had not been taken fully on board. Multi-disciplinary consultation and co-operation is vital to achieving best outcomes for Looked After Children, but it remains a vehicle or means for doing so, it is not an end itself. The most paramount factor remains the welfare of the child. If this requires, in certain circumstances, decisive unilateral action then we must not hesitate to take this action. It is little wonder therefore why the Children Act and the courts have placed this legal prerogative in the hands of a single corporate parent the Local Authority.
The decision of the London Borough of Barnet's Placement Panel reflected the ongoing, intensive and robust assessment of all risk factors undertaken over the past eight months by the social Worker allocated to this case. His commitment to moving this case forward has not wavered over the past eight months. The panel itself was aware of and was further appraised by the social Worker and his manager of the views held by the GAL, our own specialist and the mother's current position (which does shift markedly). We would respectfully request that far from straying from the twin tracking care planning process (evidenced in detail throughout this report and attached exhibits), we have in fact, been wholly attuned to it's central rehabilitative goal and the four central principles which underpin the Children Act itself:
- The importance of the Child's voice (taking in to account their understanding)
- The paramountcy principle
- The No Delay principle
- Keeping children close to their birth families and community."
"[JK] will get all the information from present placement to adapt their practises into [ABC] to enable [X] to settle and work well with the staff. [JK] also said she will meet up with
[X] and put a plan together to help her move work well and encourage her education to start and maintain it.
I think we are all concerned that [X] will revert back to unacceptable behaviour and we are all working together to prevent this from happening."
"I believe that she will go back to her original bad behaviour if she moves to London. The key is consistency and containment of placement when she goes back to London there will be difficulties She won't be able to cope [XYZ] will provide a level of support for her which won't happen in London. Tried that. She knows where to go when she is in London. I feel strongly that this is a probability not a possibility."
He added that:
"if something goes wrong in Devon it is less likely that she will be engaging in risky behaviour if something in London occurs it will be a major problem."
On 10 February 2006 the local authority held a legal planning meeting. I do not know what was discussed or decided.
"[AH] said that placement in Devon was never considered as a long-term arrangement. She has liaised with [the Z] school about planning what support [X] will require eg, an escort, learning mentor etc
[AH] expressed concern about the timing of [X]'s planned move to [ABC]. She said that she wants to make sure that all the necessary arrangements are in place before [X]'s move. She stressed the need for agreements about structured support with education, contact and emotions to be in place."
The mother's view was reported as being that X should remain in Devon until she had completed her GCSEs ie, until June 2007. The guardian's view, as reported by AH, was as follows:
"Shares Dr Eyre's view. Dr Eyre considers that rehabilitation is not an appropriate option for [X] for time being. Dr Eyre's report also suggests that any plan for [X] to move back to [London] should be after her completion of GCSE July 2007. His report also suggests that [X] is not ready for mainstream education in [London] yet and she should stay in Devon as placement is working well."
The decision of the panel "on balance" was that:
"the management of [X]'s day-to-day care and return to mainstream school would be better effected in [London] than in Devon [X] to return to [London] in a planned way end of February or beginning of March 06."
"The panel considered the representations prior to the making of their decision. These were
(i) Rehabilitation home was no longer an immediate option, therefore [X] would require a care placement for the foreseeable future,
(ii) Most children in care benefit from being placed within the local authority of their origin. This reflects good practice and policy in childcare planning,
(iii) [X] had a potential placement available to her within [London],
(iv) This placement is closer to [X]'s family and ethnic community,
(v) [X]'s wish to return to [London],
(vi) The local authority are more knowledgeable about [X]'s difficulties and her behaviour. This information has been built up over the eight months during [X]'s residence in [XYZ]. This knowledge base is likely to assist the professional network in the management of [X]'s behaviour.
(vii) [X] had completed her programme of tutoring and needs to be reintegrated back into mainstream school. Her old school are willing for her to return to the school and assist her with her re-integration into mainstream education.
The panel made a decision that a phased return back to [London] was in [X]'s best interest. Further funding was agreed for a period of 28 days."
"due to the location of the unit, which is rural and has limited bus service to the nearest town 9 miles away. Otherwise, it would require [X] to hitch hike It is also very removed from [X]'s network of friends with whom she was absconding."
JK went on to acknowledge that it would be "vital to ensure [X] does not slip back into old ways", that "there is no doubt that [X] might find returning to [London] a challenge" and that "knowing [X] I feel she will find it difficult to undertake all that she has said she will do without the support I have mentioned".
"The local authority has the experience and expertise in the provision of residential accommodation for children looked after. After lengthy consideration, it is our view, that the local authority does have a residential resource that can meet [X]'s placement needs. Combined with other factors such as education, appropriate therapeutic input, access to [X]'s family and ethnic community and [X]'s wishes and feelings, it is our view, that [X]'s global needs are better met [in London]."
As the guardian points out this "lengthy" consideration seems to have taken place between the receipt of Dr Eyre's addendum report on 25 January 2006 and the filing of WG's witness statement on 3 February 2006. Moreover, as she also points out, there are (with the sole exception of the meetings on 2 February 2006) no notes of meetings or discussions between the social workers. AH in her oral evidence could not recall any specific meetings. And there were certainly no discussions with X, with the guardian, with XYZ or with Dr Eyre.
"At this stage the 2 potential options that appeared to be open to [X] were 1) either remaining at [XYZ] or 2) giving consideration to resettling her within her home community.
The issue that faced the Local Authority was the requirement to balance a number of different and sometimes competing needs. Dr Eyre clearly feels continuing geographical separation and the element of isolation in her care placement is a contributory factor to future success.
The Local Authority however is obliged to consider the enormous difficulties that young people face when they live in communities some significant distance from [London] and then are brought back into their home communities post 16 years. It is well known that these young people struggle to re integrate as they tend to leave their friendship and support networks behind them. This is at the time when they are taking their first tentative steps into independence and adulthood. At this time the need to have established networks mitigates against potential isolation.
The Local Authority has given this matter very careful and proper consideration and is seeking to balance these different and competing needs."
She concluded by asserting that the placement panel on 13 February 2006 had decided to move X back to London "in a planned and well managed way."
"In the event of a placement breakdown, a planning meeting will be convened to consider what are the contributing factors and what if anything can or needs to be done to avoid complete placement breakdown. In such circumstances, it is difficult to be predictive as the factors behind breakdowns can be many and varied. The matter would be referred back to Placement Panel for consideration for additional or alternative resourcing. The Local Authority in these circumstances would maintain an open mind and would consider the full range of options open in terms of care placements."
"We seem to have two options (a) leave [X] in [XYZ] until May 06 (and hence, I believe, more than likely beyond then) (b) bring [X] back to London as planned.
If we were to leave [X] in [XYZ], as suggested by the court, the likelihood is, that the arguments for her remaining there until May, be used for the placement to be extended as per Dr Eyre's recommendation, ie, until Summer 2007. The mitigating circumstance, I think, could be [X]'s access to mainstream education, whilst in current placement. If mainstream education near her placement in Devon was not available, then I think, we may have a stronger argument to bring her back in May
[AH]'s view is, that we should follow the judge's advice and leave [X] in [XYZ] as indicated until May 2006, [AH] feels that we can put forward strong arguments for [X] being brought back to London at the final hearing. I think that this may be so, but probably only, if the local ed authority is not going to provide a mainstream placement for [X]."
"The LA continues to 'twin track' ie actively working on options both at [XYZ] + at [ABC]".
The minutes said that X's education "could be jeopardised by a move mid-GCSEs." The panel decided to meet again on 20 February 2006 following a meeting at the Z school fixed for earlier that day.
"Panel discussed the benefits and drawbacks of [X] living in Devon and [London]. There is a balance between what the two schools offer. The main difference between the two options is location. [XYZ] is in 'the middle of nowhere' and this means that [X] is less likely to be able to run away. However, she would also be far away from the community she knows and her culture. [London], on the other hand, would mean that [X] would have the support of social workers and would have better access to educational and CAMHS support. In addition, [X] is clear that she wants to return to [London] and therefore she is likely to co-operate to a greater degree if placed here
Overall panel agreed that the move to [London] and the [Z] school is in [X]'s best interest, as it wouldn't compromise her therapy or education. [X] has indicated that she would be open to counselling, even though she attended only 3 sessions in Devon. The move to [London] would also mean that she would be in closer vicinity to her sister, with whom she has an important relationship. It is important to note, however, that her relationship with her mother is not always constructive and will be important to ensure that contact arrangements are clear, well planned and supported."
The panel considered the placement at ABC:
"It is proposed that [X] moves to a placement at [ABC]. If this placement does not sustain, the contingency plan would be to move [X] to another local residential unit. There are 4 or 5 local units that Barnet have used, and developed close working relationships with over the last few years and that have provided stable placements for young people with complex needs. Examples of these are These local units would also allow for [X] to continue attending the [Z] school.
Much thought will be needed in how to manage [X] at [ABC], and it is proposed that the staff team there begin to work on strategies for working with [X] in consultation (psychologist) who supports the team on a fortnightly basis. London will also be pursuing [X]'s referral to the Tavistock."
The minutes conclude:
"Panel members are confident about [X]'s return to [ABC] and the clear plans that are in place and consider this to be in [X]'s best interest for now and for the future."
"Though [ABC] does not enjoy the geographic isolation of [XYZ], they feel able to address the concerns of the Court that [X] will revert to her old ways and begin to abscond.
There is new management and a new staff group who have used the increased knowledge of [X] to develop and install improved methods of managing her. There would be a written agreement negotiated with [X] and her mother, and owned and signed by them."
He sought also to elaborate the local authority's thinking about contingency arrangements:
"There are several children's residential establishments in the Barnet area who have worked successfully with other Barnet children who have had complex needs. They are Though their precise vacancies cannot be accurately predicted, the Commissioning Team have always been able to obtain a placement in one of them at short notice. It is to these establishments that the Local Authority would turn if the placement at [ABC] were to fail."
"The local Authority would seek to move [X] to an alternative residential unit. The Care placement would be from the Private Sector. It is not possible to be specific in relation to the unit as this is contingent on the availability of vacancy's. The 4 specific Care Homes that would be requested for a bed by the Commissioning Team are The London Borough of Barnet has successfully commissioned beds from each of these homes and has experience of children doing well in these units. I am advised by the Assistant Divisional Manager who line manages the Commissioning Team that in the last 18 months they have not experienced a problem in placing a child in an emergency situation within this group of 4 residential units. These units are all in the Barnet area and meet the Government set target of placing children within 20 miles of the child's home area. In the event of [X]'s behaviour being such that she is putting herself at significant harm, consideration would be given to convening a legal planning meeting to discuss whether her behaviour meets the criteria for a Secure Order Application. Such an application would be subject to the agreement by the Head of the Children and Families Department in accordance with departmental delegated responsibilities."
"The stumbling block for an educational provision has been that no-one from Barnet has come down to Devon to have a meeting with [the] pastoral and school staff, the messages they have had from care managers have been very negative towards [X] fitting into a mainstream setting, and Barnet have not made any plans regarding her long term care."
"He said it was unusual to have such heat when the plan accords with the child's own wishes and it provides continuity so he said he found he must be missing something so he wanted to hear other party positions."
He admitted that he had not read Dr Eyre's reports but said that "it had all been explained to him." He said that "the issues don't appear difficult." He was initially somewhat unreceptive to the suggestion that Dr Eyre should take part in the meeting but agreed after the mother's solicitor and the guardian insisted and threatened to leave. Later in the meeting he commented that "I have had discussions with the Minister that is why we try to keep children within 20 miles of home."
"We feel that she was starting to settle at [ABC]. Then the Social Worker told her that she was moving to a foster placement and then her behaviour became out of control saying there is no point in me being good. She wants to go back to [ABC] and we can work with her and prepare her for independence."
i) First, this was a decision to terminate the placement of a disturbed teenager and, moreover, to terminate that placement contrary to the views of the allocated social worker and his team manager. A decision of such fundamental importance simply cannot be taken in accordance with a procedure as defective as that which, apparently, is normally adopted by this panel, that is, a procedure under which the panel decides without having read any of the relevant papers, on the basis of a short oral presentation from the social worker and after no more than some ten or at most twenty minutes of discussion and consideration.
ii) Secondly, and focussing more specifically on this particular case, the decision was taken (i) without waiting for Dr Eyre's addendum report, (ii) seemingly in ignorance of, and to an extent misunderstanding, the care plan which had been put before the court (I refer to the care plan dated 5 September 2005) and (iii) without reading any of the papers that WG had taken to the meeting for the panel's consideration.
i) It was acknowledged on 15 December 2005 that there was a lack of clarity in the planning for X beyond early January 2006
ii) On 12 January 2006 the placement panel had directed that "the plan needs to be for her to return to London". On 2 February 2006 the local authority recognised that it still had to "put together a solid plan for her placement". And again on 8 February 2006 it recognised that it was still necessary to "put a plan together to help her move work well". On 13 February 2006 AH was still looking "to make sure that all the necessary arrangements are in place".
iii) Although it appears that a place for X at ABC had been kept open since January 2006, the decision that that is where she should go appears not to have been taken until the middle of February 2006. Only on 31 January 2006 was ABC identified as "our first option". On 8 February 2006 the local authority was still seeking information from XYZ in order to "adapt their practices into [ABC]". On 14 February 2006 ABC still had to be "evaluated" and its staff were still trying to "glean something" of XYZ's strategies.
iv) Thinking in relation to the contingency plan remained exiguous even at the beginning of the hearing before me on 29 March 2006. On 2 February 2006 secure accommodation was being considered. AH's statement of 13 February 2006 was devoid of any meaningful plan, though in the care plan filed the next day the contingency plan was said to be a placement of X with her older half sister. By 21 February 2006, when JD made his statement, that seems to have been abandoned, and the plan, if the placement at ABC broke down, was for a placement in one or other of four residential establishments also in the London area.
i) The local authority seems to have overlooked or at least attached insufficient weight to the fact that the placement at ABC had broken down twice.
ii) MI seems to have misunderstood why the second breakdown occurred. It was not caused by the decision to place X with a foster carer; that decision was taken in the light of the fact that the placement at ABC was not working.
iii) The local authority seems to have thought that, although X's previous placements at ABC had not worked, changes in the regime at ABC would make a significant difference (see paragraphs , , ,  and  above). It is not altogether clear what those changes were, or why the local authority thought they would make so much difference. After all, JK, the new acting manager on whom the local authority was placing so much reliance, had been an assistant manager at ABC during X's previous placement there.
iv) Insufficient weight seems to have been attached to the fact that, as late as the middle of February 2006, the planning for X's specific regime at ABC was still inchoate (see paragraph  above) and that even now the care plan is not as detailed as X would like it to be (see paragraph  above) or as detailed as I agree it should be.
i) Placement: Miss Cudby says that, although much has been made of the placement at XYZ, in that it has kept X safe and she has not run away, the fact is that it is a very rural placement and there has been nowhere to run to. The placement itself, she says, has never really been put under challenge by X and no-one knows how it will fare if it is. X is going to move into a new phase in her life when she reintegrates into mainstream school. This will present both her and her carers with potentially significant challenges. If X remains in Devon the only support to hand is XYZ. The local school, she suggests, is reluctant to accept X, her family are a long way away, as are her social workers. The local authority as the corporate parent has no idea of local resources and cannot, she says, be on hand for meetings and planning. Having X in London means that all professionals with responsibility for her not only know what resources are available but can access them, unlike 250 miles away. Addressing the argument that ABC has failed before so it will fail again, Miss Cudby says that this takes no account of any changes since the last placement. X, she says, has matured and more is known about her and how to work with her. ABC is aware of the kind of person she is; they are not taking on an unknown. Both placements are subject to staff and residents changing.
ii) X's co-operation: Everyone, says Miss Cudby, accepts that X has begun to have insight into her behaviour. She recognises that Dr Eyre and the guardian do not believe this will be enough to stop X resisting temptation if she returns to London. But this, she says, is a judgement call. She suggests that if, as everyone says, XYZ has been a good placement, one hopes that over the past ten months some movement and insight has been obtained. She submits that if in reality the only way to ensure X behaves is to keep her isolated then nothing has been achieved at all. X needs to take on some level of responsibility, for she will be fifteen in August. The process of keeping safe and making appropriate choices is hard to learn living in an isolated placement. The local authority believes that X has started to mature and that this process needs to continue in a home environment where any problems can be addressed as and when they arise, rather than in sixteen months time when she will be starting again.
iii) Schooling: According to Miss Cudby, the role of the schools cannot be overestimated in this plan. She points out that Dr Eyre was concerned about X's self esteem and suggests that the idea of going to a school where, as she puts it, X is not really wanted and where there are few people from ethnic minorities is not going to help in this regard. She says that the Z school is not only a better school, but it knows X and is happy to welcome her back. It has thought about her, her needs and how to manage them. In contrast, she says, the local school in Devon does not know X and has concerns about how to deal with her. Moreover, she says, the strategies suggested by XYZ will only serve to further isolate X and undermine her self esteem.
iv) Contact with family: Miss Cudby says that X's family are very important to her. Although contact will continue to take place wherever she lives, it is likely that she will at some stage return home and these relationships need to be supported and improved. She says that the fact that X has returned home without difficulty to family members other than her mother is significant, both in terms of what support these people can offer and also in considering how far X has come. There was, she acknowledges, good reason to place X so far away last year because she was, as AH said, a child in crisis. But that is no longer the case and the need for such geographical dislocation is no longer justified.
v) Therapy: Miss Cudby says that the issue of therapy is also important for X's long term welfare. In London she will be seen by CAMHS quickly. ABC has connections with CAMHS. It is clear, she says, that this level of interaction is not available at XYZ. Moreover, she says, the referral for family therapy is critical for the long term. Unless the mother and X can begin to resolve their underlying issues problems will continue. The only way this central issue will ever be tackled, according to Miss Cudby, is in London. To start when X is sixteen will be too late.
vi) Finally, Miss Cudby draws attention to an important strand in the local authority's thinking: X is a London child and by the time she reaches eighteen London is all she will have. In Devon X is dislocated from her social network, education, knowledge of the environment and resources. She needs to be reintegrated into the community so that she can keep herself safe at a time when she is still young enough for the local authority to have some say and input.
i) The best outcome for X will be a placement in London at ABC, with the comprehensive educational package offered by the Z school, supplemented by CAMHS. There will need to be, she says, a very clear behavioural working agreement with X, supported by a contract with her mother, her sister, ABC and the local authority, including clear guidelines in respect of family contact.
ii) The criteria for placement breakdown should be clearly identified so that X has a low risk 'break clause', for example, Ms Delahunty suggests, limited or even no tolerance for such behaviour as absconding, going absent from ABC outside prescribed times, going absent from school or making inappropriate use of her mobile telephone or the internet.
iii) The contingency, or default, plan following any breach should be a return to Devon. Ms Delahunty suggests that the care plan should be amended to include something along the following lines:
"In the event of a breakdown of the London placement [X] will return to [XYZ] (subject to a place being available) or to a similar establishment and location if the reason for the breakdown in London is because of geographical proximity to risk factors and risk taking conduct by [X] (ie, absconding from [ABC] or school, undesirable associations with boys or young adults, drug taking, or absence outside defined times from either [ABC] or school) further consideration of alternative London residential units will be displaced in favour of first consideration of a placement out of London. Secure accommodation will be a matter of last resort only after out of London placements have been explored, save in an emergency when the local authority retains its powers to apply to the court for the issue to be determined upon clear evidence and upon notice to all parties."
iv) In the intervening period (and, Ms Delahunty suggests, within six weeks of judgment) the local authority should further explore links and services in Devon, including appropriate therapy, education, educational support and pastoral support, so that, were the contingency plan to be implemented, it would be saved from the fundamental flaws in detailed planning that, as Ms Delahunty submits, render it defective at present.
i) Ms Delhunty accepts that, thus far, XYZ seems to have worked well for X but she poses a number of questions, each of which, she suggests, has to be answered in the negative: Can the placement expand into one that can meet the increased challenges it will face? Does it have a skill or experience shortage in its staff component, particularly when it comes to managing X's specific risk taking behaviours? Once its geographical isolation is breached (when X goes to a school and has access to a social network with cars or other transport) what is the plan for management? Lock in? Restraint? She submits that the oral evidence from the XYZ worker was simplistic and naοve.
ii) Ms Delahunty identifies a number of what she says are serious limitation in what the local school in Devon can offer X: it is a mixed sex college; its site is large; it has a 99% white pupil roll; it is not known if X's private tuition is compatible with its programme as it was a London linked syllabus; the school has no direct knowledge of X as a child other than one who is in care; there is no supplemental on site education tuition identified; there is no learning mentor identified; X does not qualify for additional services as she is not 'statemented'; the message given at the recent meeting was that the school will take X but does not actively want her as a pupil; there is no social services link up; an adequate multi disciplinary co-ordination package does not exist at present; there is no adequate contingency education package in the event that X does not attend or is excluded she has limited tuition at present but that, says Ms Delahunty, has been provided after much delay and has been beset by practical difficulties in locating the service, arranging the funding and making provision for extension.
iii) She submits that the Devon plan has fundamental gaps in its ability to meet, let alone promote, X's cultural needs arising from her heritage as a child of a Turkish Cypriot mother and an Egyptian Turkish Cypriot father. Thus within the Devon plan, she says, X has no access to any Egyptian or Cypriot family save by trips to London to see her family; there are no non-white residential staff or other residents at XYZ, and there are only 1% of non-white pupils in a school population of 1800 and none who are Egyptian or Cypriot. She suggested that the evidence from XYZ again represented at best simplistic answers to cultural diversity needs.
iv) In relation to therapy, Ms Delahunty complains that the therapy thus far tried has not been successful and that no alternatives have been identified. She asserts that family therapy will not be possible while X is in Devon logistically the family will not be able to participate in Devon and X would only be going to London for contact, principally during school holidays. This omission, she says, is significant. Therapy between X and her mother is "crucial" for the well being of their relationship, a relationship which, she says, is strained and turbulent, with learnt heightened responses by each to the other which need to be addressed as they are a precipitating factor for risk taking behaviour by X.
v) In terms of access to a social services support structure, Ms Delahunty submits that the practical reality if X remains in Devon is that her support will come from the staff at XYZ; her social worker cannot 'drop by'; he will to rely on XYZ for feedback and will be dependant on XYZ for awareness of any looming issues; he cannot realistically form a relationship with X from a distance of 250 miles away; he will have a dislocated relationship with his child client which may create difficulties as he will be deprived of the firsthand knowledge base which may be crucial to monitoring the care plan and managing changes; and the delegated duties to local staff may not be sufficient to bridge the geographical and emotional separation from her family.
vi) Ms Delahunty makes the same point in relation to X's legal representatives and children's advocate. Her geographical separation in Devon means that X will be entirely dependent on XYZ for support and deprives her of ease of access to others whose role is to represent her views and needs.
vii) In relation to after-16 planning, Ms Delahunty says that no pathways have been identified. She says that it is artificial to separate a child from her cultural community and place of origin when realistically, given what she has said, she will return to London when she is sixteen. It will, says Ms Delahunty, be very hard to integrate her at that stage given the length of time she will have spent away from London.
i) First, she submits that Dr Eyre's view was clear, balanced and influenced only by X's best interests. He has, she says, been clear in his reports that X would need a lengthy period of containment: he suggested up to a year in his first report and on to the completion of her GCSEs in his addendum report. Dr Eyre's view is that, whilst her progress has been good, X is still showing only a "glimmer" of insight into her behaviour, and as yet she is simply not robust enough to be able to cope with a return to London and the loss of her safety net in the form of XYZ. Miss Atkinson says that Dr Eyre was realistic in his evidence and prepared to acknowledge that with the reintroduction of education in Devon there was likely to be a deterioration. However, it was his firmly held view that X would be better able to cope with setbacks in Devon because of XYZ. She submits that Dr Eyre's evidence was impressive, was not undermined at all by the evidence of the local authority and was supported by XYZ (who arguably know X best at the moment) and by the guardian.
ii) Secondly, as she points out, the position taken by X is not in fact resolutely against or anti XYZ. True it is that X wishes to return to London but very significantly she has indicated that she will abide by any order made by the court. This, says Miss Atkinson, is interesting from a child who has in the past had extreme difficulties with boundaries. Further, X has, through Ms Delahunty, insisted that the care plan names XYZ as the contingency plan. Miss Atkinson submits that it is implicit in that position that X herself recognizes that there is a chance that she will revert to previous behaviour and that when/if she does she will need to return to XYZ. Moreover, as Miss Atkinson points out, X has 'allowed' XYZ to work; she has 'let' this placement work for some eight months. In this connection, as Miss Atkinson observed, the guardian's evidence is significant. The guardian reminded the court of X's fragility and of how she had chosen to leave the unit on only three occasions thus far her choice this showing that she wants to keep herself safe.
iii) Thirdly, Miss Atkinson submits that the detrimental effect upon X of being in close proximity to her mother is something that should not be underestimated though it has been seemingly overlooked by the local authority. This is something that the guardian has considered and it is something which, at this stage, both she and the mother felt would be detrimental to X.
iv) Fourthly, as Miss Atkinson points out with some force, the school arrangements, access to therapy and other services in London will be of no use to X if and in the event that placement in London breaks down. Should she revert to her old behaviour (as predicted by Dr Eyre, by XYZ, by her mother and by the guardian) and if she is unsupported (as they predict) then even if surrounded by the best services she will be unable to access them. Miss Atkinson says that much has been made of the detailed support package offered in London as opposed to that supposedly available in Devon. She submits robustly that this is a red herring. A place is available for X in a mainstream school in Devon and given that, and what she calls XYZ's proven track record of containment, she says that the court can be satisfied that the support network in Devon is there. Moreover, she says, in contrast to London it has been tested and not found wanting. She rejects the suggestion that there has been no investigation of Devon 'services' and that the court is thus unable to build a Devon support package around X in the way that it can in London. She reminded me of MI's evidence to the effect that if the eventual decision was to be that X should remain at XYZ "We have everything in place". Further, she submitted that such a heavy package is not required in Devon, precisely because XYZ are able to contain X in a way that the local authority fears will not be possible in London. Moreover, as Dr Eyre pointed out, therapy is low down the hierarchy of needs. At the top is containment and then education.
"The guardian argues that not even a judge of the Family Division has power to quash a local authority decision and that a damaging impasse can develop between a court which declines to approve their care plan and the authority which decline to amend it. The impasse is more theoretical than real: the last reported example is Re S and D (Children: Powers of Court)  2 FLR 456. For good reason, there are often, as in this case, polarised views about the optimum solution for the child: in the end, however, assuming that they feel that the judicial processing of them has worked adequately, the parties will be likely to accept the court's determination and, in particular, the local authority will be likely to amend their proposals for the child so as to accord with it. The event of their failure to make amendment in such circumstances would be the proper moment for a guardian to consider taking proceedings for judicial review. In Nottingham County Council v P  Fam 18, sub nom Nottinghamshire County Council v P  2 FLR 134, a case where a local authority had adamantly refused to accede to the court's invitation to apply for a supervision order, some encouragement is given by the Court of Appeal at 43F and 148 respectively to the taking of such proceedings but (as I infer) only at that ultimate stage. In the normal case let there be in the natural forum of the family court argument, decision and, sometimes no doubt with hesitation, acceptance: in other words, between all of us a partnership, for the sake of the child."
"Whatever the judicial decision, the responsible adults and local authority are urged, on [X]'s behalf, to adopt the judgment and to implement it without further recourse to the court on matters of purported principle, or by way of judicial review or application of any alleged breaches of human rights or plans for section 38(6) assessment.
Whichever plan is approved will be the one which has survived close judicial and legal scrutiny at a sophisticated level.
Any other route will be legalistic in structure and create further delay and uncertainty which may well jeopardize any plan for
[X] as she needs to see that adults can work together in her best interest.
To prolong the disagreement creates the risk of undermining [X]'s confidence in, and respect for, the authority of the responsible adults around her (grudging at the best of times given her age, vulnerability and life experiences to date)."
Postscript (8 May 2006)
"It is also worth giving consideration to increasing the frequency with which anonymised family court judgments in general are made public. According to current convention, judgments are usually made public where they involve some important principle of law which in the opinion of the judge makes the case of interest to the law reporters. In view of the current climate and increasing complaints of "secrecy" in the family justice system, a broader approach to making judgments public may be desirable."
She reiterated that view in her oral and written evidence to the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee in 2004 (2004-2005, HC116-II, Ev 12, Q46, Ev 84). Her successor, Sir Mark Potter P said much the same in his oral evidence to the same Committee in 2006 (2005-2006, HC1096-I, Q36).
"Traditionally, we have tended to give judgments in open court only if we think there is some legal point of interest to the law reporters, but the consequence of that is that the public judgments tend to be skewed away from the ordinary run-of-the-mill case to the legally complicated case, and the consequence is that the public has very little insight into or access to the routine work we are doing. I think many more judgments should be given in public."
I remain of that view. I should also add that in my view it is not for the judges to decide which cases should be reported, whether in law reports or elsewhere, nor to dictate the form in which they are published. In principle that is a matter for the publishers, not the judges. Licensing of the press was abolished long ago in this country and rightly so.
"A greater degree of transparency is required in the family courts Anonymised judgments should normally be delivered in public unless the judge in question specifically chooses to make an order to the contrary. This would make it possible for the public to have a more informed picture of what happens in the family courts, and would give the courts the 'open justice' which characterises our judicial system, while protecting the parties."
I would respectfully endorse that view.
"I do not agree with Mr Howard, however, that the identity of the local authority needs to be protected. He says that there is no public interest in naming the local authority. That may or may not be so, but it is, I think, largely beside the point. It is for the local authority to establish a convincing case for an injunction to restrain the media publishing something which is prohibited neither by the general law nor by s 12 [of the Administration of Justice Act 1960]. It cannot establish such a case merely by demonstrating even assuming it can that there is no public interest in the identity of the local authority, for that is to put the boot on the wrong foot. His real case is that the local authority's identity needs to be protected in order to ensure that B's identity is protected. That argument, if it could be justified on the facts, might well weigh heavily in the balance. But, in my judgment, Mr Howard fails to make good the factual premise. I do not accept his argument that identification of the local authority is likely to lead to the identification of either B or her carers. I do not accept his argument that a combination of the disclosure sought and 'tittle-tattle' will serve to identify B".
The same, in my judgment, applies here. As I have said, publication will not identify X or otherwise adversely affect her. There is, therefore, no reason why the local authority should not be identified.