IN THE FAMILY COURT
CASE NO: DO13c00452
IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
AND IN THE MATTER OF T (A CHILD)
His Honour Judge Bond
Sitting at Bournemouth
In the matter of t (a child)
miss oíhara for the borough OF POOLE
MR MASTERSON FOR THE MOTHER
MR SHANE FOR THE FATHER
MR WARD-PROWSE FOR THE MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS
MR HOWARD FOR THE CHILDRENíS GUARDIAN
1. This case concerns T who was born on 16th June 2013.† Her mother is SG (the mother) and her father is B (the father).†
2. The local authority is seeking a final Care Order and Placement Order in respect of T.†
3. Neither of the parents is asking to care for T.† The mother received a negative assessment at the end of a sixteen week residential placement.† The father is serving a prison sentence and has not taken part in the assessment process.†
4. A number of Viability Assessments have been conducted on members of both sides of the extended family.† It is the Local Authorityís case that none of those relatives can offer good enough care for T.†
5. The maternal grandmother and step grandfather (the grandparents) have applied for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) in respect of T.
6. The parents both support the application of the grandparents.† They contend that the Local Authority has not been open-minded in its assessment of them.† It is said that the author of the Special Guardianship Report, Val Houghton was unprofessional and biased.† T has been placed with foster carers who are also approved adopters (a concurrent placement).† It is contended on behalf of the grandparents that this, together with the fact that Val Houghton is a member of Adoption Fostering Team indicate that the Local Authority has been intent upon adoption from the outset and has not considered the grandparentsí application fairly.
7. It is accepted by the Local Authority that the grandparents have a genuine wish to care for T.† The Local Authority is concerned about this for a number of reasons.† First, the mother herself had a very troubled childhood from about the age of 2.† There was extensive involvement with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.† This appears in section E of the bundle.† It is said that the motherís behaviour was extreme, self-destructive and prolonged.† Secondly the papers disclose numerous referrals to Child Protection and indicate a number of worrying concerns about the maternal family.† The motherís father (MG) was violent.† There were incidents of domestic violence between the grandmother and MG.† Thirdly it is said that the grandmother was inconsistent in her engagement with the professional Agencies and did not commit herself to accepting the offered help.
8. It is the grandmotherís case that the cause of the motherís difficulties was undiagnosed ADHD.† It is said against the grandmother that she was not prepared to acknowledge that any other factors might have exacerbated the motherís presentation.† It is said on behalf of the Local Authority that this constituted a barrier to further discussion in the assessment process.† At C225 in her statement the grandmother makes it clear that the records which suggest that the mother witnessed domestic violence as a child and that this caused her behavioural difficulties are wrong.
9. The Local Authority is also concerned about the ability of the grandparents to provide T with good enough care in the long-term.† It is said that the relationship between the mother and the grandmother is one of dependency.† In particular it is said that the mother is living an unsettled life and has not resolved the difficulties consequent upon her turbulent childhood.†
10. It is said that as recently as February 2014 the mother became involved in risky behaviour in a Bournemouth hotel which involved associates who may have taken drug overdoses.† The police were involved in this incident.
11. Given all the difficulties which the Local Authority referred to it is said that a SGO would involve the mother being kept at a distance by the grandparents.† The motherís needs, which in my judgment remain substantial, would have to be subordinated to those of T.† It is said on behalf of the Local Authority that such a situation is untenable in the medium or longer term and that there are likely to be consequent upheavals and distress.†
12. The father has a worrying offending history.† This includes violence and a sexual assault upon an adult female.† It is contended that the grandmother does not appear to take seriously the possible consequences of the fatherís offending history.†
13. Save in one respect this has been conceded by the mother and the father.† The principle issue before the court therefore is whether the Local Authority is correct in its contention that in this particular case nothing else will do except a Placement Order to secure Tís future.† The court must therefore consider whether the SGO represents a viable option to retain T within her family.
14. The guardian supports the Local Authorityís case.†
15. The court is concerned with the question of what order should be made.† In that exercise the courtís paramount consideration is Tís welfare as is more precisely set out in the Welfare Checklist in Section 1(3) of the Children Act.†
16. If the court concludes that it is right to make a Care Order on the basis of the Local Authorityís Care Plan, the courtís paramount consideration is the welfare of T throughout her minority.† This is also considered in relation to the Welfare Checklist in Section 1(4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.†
17. If the court comes to conclusion that Placement Order is justified such an order cannot be made unless the parents with Parental Responsibility give their consent.† In this case such consent is not forthcoming and therefore the court must move to consider whether it can properly dispense with that consent pursuant to Section 52(1)(b) ACA 2002.
18. The court must also consider the rights of various members of the family under Article 8 ECHR and generally whether such an interventionist approach has the making of a Care Order and Placement order are necessary and justified.
19. The first witness was Val Houghton.† She wrote the Special Guardianship Report which is dated 6th January 2014 and appears at C165.† She is a Senior Practitioner in the Adoption Team.†
20. At the start of the assessment Val Houghton was aware that the father was in custody and not putting himself forward as a carer.† The Local Authority took steps to progress the adoption procedure so that if the Care Plan is approved by the court the adoption could proceed without undue delay.† That decision, however, had to await the outcome of the Special Guardianship Report
21. She explained that the Local Authority does not have the resources to maintain a separate team to deal solely with assessments in respect of applications for Special Guardianship.† These matters are therefore dealt with by the Adoption and Permanence team.† She pointed out that the Fostering Team is a separate entity.
22. Val Houghton was asked to deal with the criticisms of her approach to the grandparents.† She had read the initial unfavourable Viability Assessment.† She denied that she told the grandparents that she approached her assessment with the same view as emerged from the previous one.† She was clear with the grandparents that she needed to be completely honest with them.† She pointed out to them that the matters raised in the Viability Assessment were causing Val Houghton concern and needed to be discussed.†
23. She pointed out that a SGO assessment has to consider a very wide range of matters.† It is more thorough than the Viability Assessment which is shorter and relatively superficial.† The recommendation of a Viability Assessment can be overturned by an SGO assessment.† Val Houghton said that she would have no difficulty in coming to a different view from that expressed in a Viability Assessment if that was the right result in the circumstances.† She denied telling the grandparents that they were not doing well. At the end of each session she told them about the matters which still concerned her and needed to be dealt with.
24. Another difficulty arose about the grandparentsí referees.† With two of them Val Houghton made appointments to visit them during a telephone call.† She accepted that the agreed dates should have been confirmed in writing.† Two of the appointments were missed but alternatives were arranged.† In so far as Mrs Grantham (one of the referees) was concerned Val Houghton accepted that she told Mrs Grantham that she had major concerns about the grandparentsí application but needed to see Mrs Grantham in order to complete the Report.†
25. It was a theme throughout Val Houghtonís evidence that she did not think that the grandparents understood the difficulties in relation to the management of contact if they became Special Guardians. It was also said that they were not prepared to discuss the points that Val Houghton wished to put to them.† The situation in the family is a difficult one.† Val Houghton feared that the grandparents did not accept that there would be difficulties in managing the situation.†
26. It was put to Val Houghton in cross-examination on behalf of the grandparents that she rushed through the Report.† She agreed that the Report had to be fitted into the courtís timetable for the care proceedings and needed to be ready for the Local Authority to prepare its Care Plan.† She rejected the suggestion that she had cut corners or not done a proper inquiry and assessment.
27. There was discussion with the grandparents about the amount of help that had been offered in respect of the mother.† It appeared to Val Houghton that the grandparents took the view that such support as had been offered had not been helpful and amounted to a waste of time.† On her final visit to the grandparents Val Houghton again mentioned the question of the support that had been offered in the past but again was told that they had not been offered a good service. †Consequently Val Houghton thought it unlikely that they would be prepared to accept help from similar Agencies in the future.† She was told by the grandparents that they had found other means of support which they were able to call on.†
28. A particular difficulty arose in relation to the behaviour of the motherís father (MG).† It was difficult to be clear from what the grandmother said as to the extent of physical violence perpetrated by him upon her.† According to Val Houghton the grandmother had given different versions.† On the one hand she described him trying to strangle her, pin her down and kicking at doors.† On other occasions she maintained that he had never laid a finger on her.† She had also told the CAMHS team that he had been physically violent to her and the mother and her sister saw it.†
29. In the light of what the grandmother had written in her statement and what is recorded in the earlier Records, it seemed to Val Houghton that the question of Domestic Abuse and, on occasions violence, was a very significant aspect of what had happened to the grandmother. Consequently its effect upon the mother and her sister was an important area which had to be explored.† Val Houghton was aware that the grandmother had obtained injunctions against MG but she was concerned that the grandmother appeared to be ambivalent about being in contact with him.† Val Houghton was also concerned that although the grandmother and the step grandfather had been together since 2000, there appeared to be two recorded incidents of domestic violence between them. During one of these the police were involved.† Val Houghton pointed out that if this couple are to be Special Guardians their relationship needs to be as she put it ďrock solidĒ because the strains upon the family can be considerable.† Val Houghton accepted that the maternal step grandfather seemed more practical and alive to the difficulties and tried to take advice on board.† I agree that this is how he came across when in the witness box.†
30. A further difficulty was what Val Houghton saw as the minimisation by the grandmother of the threat posed by BF.† It seemed to Val Houghton that the grandmother encouraged him to be present at the birth and she was in contact with him before Tís birth.
31. On 4th November 2012 there was a serious incident at the grandmotherís home involving the mother and the father.† It became clear that although not aware of the full details the grandmother was aware of the fatherís involvement in drugs and †violence and that he had been to prison for a sexual offence of some kind.† The grandmother had been told this by the Local Authority.† According to Val Houghton it was also made clear at a meeting in December 2012 that if the mother and the father continued together the social services would become involved with T.† Val Houghton contends that following the receipt of that information the grandmother did not act protectively but allowed the father to have contact with the mother before the birth and to be present at Tís birth.
32. Val Houghton accepted that the grandparents genuinely think that they have Tís interests at the forefront of their minds. It is pointed out that having a SGO is very testing.† There has to be a clear ability to manage the emotions and behaviour of other members of the family.† The grandmother is still involved in the management of the mother although she lives with the grandfatherís stepfather.† It is maintained that the grandmotherís loyalties will be divided between the mother and T and that the mother will persuade the grandmother to act in a way which is not protective of T.†
33. Val Houghton was asked about the amount of time she spent on this assessment.† There were five visits of approximately one and a half hours each over a period of six weeks.† She estimated that she was with the referee Mrs Grantham for about an hour.
34. It is the case that there were lapses in procedure in the course of this assessment.† I think also that the grandmother found it difficult to talk about the previous history and could not understand why this was a legitimate part Val Houghtonís inquiry.† I do not think that Val Houghton† was simply going through the motions as was put to her.† I accept that had she received a constructive response and an engagement from the grandmother Val Houghton might have made a different recommendation.†††† ††
35. The next witness was Sarah Knight.† Her statement is at C1 dated 21st June 2013 and was made in support of the Emergency Protection Order.† She also undertook the Initial Assessment which is at E1 and is dated 4th December 2012.†
36. She referred to a referral from the police (E33) about an incident of domestic violence between the mother and the father.† Sarah Knight assumed that following that incident the relationship was at an end.† This is because of what the mother and the grandmother had told Sarah Knight.† Sarah Knightís had also advised about the risks posed by the father.† Sarah Knight made it clear that if the relationship between the father and mother continued Children Services would be further involved.† I accept that evidence.† Sarah Knight contacted the Young Persons Team who had already received a referral of the mother in respect of the unborn baby (E4).
37. On 4th December 2012 Sarah Knight had a meeting with the mother and the grandmother together with another colleague.† It was made clear to the family that there were concerns about the father.† The grandmother, according to Sarah Knight, said she was aware of some form of incident with a lady in a car but did not know the details.† There was further a long discussion about the question of domestic violence and its impact upon children.† There was also talk about the incident which had occurred earlier in November.† Sarah Knight clearly got the impression that the mother and grandmother did not take the question of violence seriously.
38. The grandmother asked Sarah Knight about the details of the sexual offence.† She said she was not allowed to give such information but would ask the police to do so which she understood they later did.†
39. Sarah Knight was clear that when she left that meeting it had been made plain to the mother that if she had no contact with the father there would be no further involvement for Children Services.† I accept that evidence.
40. Gail Eaton works for the Local Authority in supporting Young Parents.† Her statement is at C279 dated 31st March 2014.††
41. She did not support the presence of the father at Tís birth.† She did not see the family between April and August 2013.†
42. On 12th April 2013 there was a meeting between Gail Eaton, the grandmother, the mother and Kerry Payne.† Gail Eaton was clear that on that occasion she had no recollection of the grandmother saying that the father wanted to be present at Tís birth.† Further she did not recall that the grandmother asked Gail Eaton to tell the Local Authority of this or that the father wanted to be involved with T after the birth.† Gail Eaton did remember the grandmother saying in a general way that if the father wanted to have contact it needed to be supervised.† There was, however, no conversation about making arrangements for protection and supervision in relation to the fatherís contact.
43. I accept that if Gail Eaton had thought that the father was as she put it ďon the sceneĒ Gail Eaton would have told the Local Authority.
44. It was put to her that at this time she had recently suffered a bereavement as a consequence of which she simply forgot to pass the information on to the Local Authority.† She denied this suggestion.† I accept that.† She learnt that T had been removed following a telephone call from the midwife on 19th June because of the presence of the father at the hospital.
45. The next witness was Tracey Lee who carried out the Viability Assessment of the grandmother together with her colleague Lucy Rose.†
46. She denied cutting short the interview.†
47. There was discussion about the incident at the hotel in February.† She agreed it was the mother who instigated the call to the emergency services.
48. She accepted that the mother and grandmother had made some complaints about Tís care by the foster parents.† There was an investigation, including discussions with the GP. The result was that Tís care was thought to be exemplary and that she was thriving.
49. Tracey Leigh accepted that this was the first Viability Assessment she had undertaken.† It began on 8th July 2013.† It followed the DOH Framework for Assessment and also the document dated March 2013 called Working Together.†
50. There was a meeting with the grandmother and her husband at their home on 19th August 2013.† It lasted between an hour and an hour and a half.† It was suggested it was cut short because she had to get home to her children.† Tracey Lee said that in the course of conversation after the interview had concluded that she was returning home to her children but that was not the reason why the interview ended.†
51. She agreed that during the discussion on 19th August the grandfather remarked that had he known about the fatherís history he (the grandfather) would have acted differently.† At this point the grandmother is reported to have said that she should have told the grandfather more about that.† In what I thought was a telling piece of the evidence, Tracey Lee described how they turned towards each other. It was clear that the grandfather was frustrated and had not known as much about the father as the grandmother had.† At the end of the interview Tracey Leigh was left with the clear impression that the grandmother accepted no responsibility for anything that had gone wrong in the past and blamed either the mother or the various Agencies.†
52. She was asked about a letter dated 14th July 2009 at E276.† There is a theme within the Records of the family not attending and engaging with professional help for the mother.† Tracey Lee could not reconcile this letter with the grandmotherís protestations about their efforts to attend.† The grandmother told her that she had tried very hard but it was often impossible either to persuade the mother to go to such appointments or, if she did attend, to become involved.† On the other hand it seemed that the motherís school were telling the people at CAMHS that the mother was a bright and engaging girl although there were repeated references to domestic violence and the effect of that upon the mother.
53. Tracey Lee remained worried that if the mother had a role in Tís life there may be dangers from her habit of forming relationships with dangerous men.† Tracey Lee thought it unlikely that the grandmother would be protective of T in that situation.
54. As to the question of the fatherís convictions: at the meeting in August 2013 the grandmother was asked what her understanding was of the risk posed by the father.† The grandmother said that she knew that he was a sex offender.† It seemed that both the grandmother and the mother had been made aware that the father posed a risk.† Further the mother had been present at the discussion in the home on 4th December 2012.†
55. Tracey Lee agreed that as soon as the grandfather had become aware of what his wife and the mother had known about the father, he had a genuine intention to be more active in monitoring what the mother did and whom she visited.† Tracey Leigh was concerned about how effective he could be given that he is out at work every weekday.†
56. In re-examination Tracey Lee was taken to a number of entries in volume E as to the attempts to help with the motherís earlier difficulties.
57. I though that she gave clear and reliable evidence.
58. Lucy Rose also was involved in the Viability Assessment and was present at the meeting on 19th August.† She confirmed that if there were a Special Guardianship Order the Local Authority can offer support and guidance but this must be based on an understanding of the relevant risks.
59. Lucy Rose confirmed that it was following the incident on 4th November 2012 that the Local Authority first became aware that the mother was pregnant.† On 4th December there was an Initial Assessment meeting which involved consideration of the risks posed by the father.† Lucy Rose says that a clear indication was given about the risk he posed and that the Local Authority would reopen the case if they became aware of contact between the mother and the father. I am satisfied that was made plain.† †There had already been a referral by the community midwife to Gail Eatonís team which supported Young Parents.† Lucy Rose accepted that in hindsight there should have been a pre-birth assessment by the Local Authority.
60. It was put to Lucy Rose that because T is currently placed with prospective adopters as foster carers the Local Authority had decided at that point that T should be adopted.† Given the high level of suspicion held in particular by the grandmother in respect of the various Agencies and the Local Authority in particular, I can understand why she may have come to this view.† I accept, however, that such a placement is accepted Practice in the right case.† I can see why it was done in this case.† While the local authority may have come to the view that adoption might be the course it would ultimately recommend, I do not accept that there was a predetermined decision which would not be altered that T should be adopted.† I do not accept the suggestion that the local authorityís workers were simply going through the procedures for the sake of appearances.
61. Lucy Rose was asked further about the Viability Assessment.† She recalled that the meeting with the grandparents ended at about 6.45pm.† Her diary had been blocked out up till 6.30.† She felt that by the end of the meeting the same matters were being discussed again and again.† It was clear to Lucy Rose at that point that the grandmother did not think that the father represented a risk.
62. Reference was made to an email dated 2nd January 2014.† Lucy Rose accepted that if Val Houghton had behaved as the grandmother alleges that would not amount to a fair SGO assessment.
63. If an SGO were made in this case the Local Authority would make a Child Protection Plan in respect of T.† This would involve visiting and advice but the Local Authority is concerned that the family would block any such support.†
64. Lucy Rose accepted that the grandparents were not aware of the fatherís full criminal history until it emerged during the course of these proceedings.† She also accepted that from a lay personís point of view the fatherís sexual offence might not be viewed as risky to a child.† This sort of reaction is, in Lucy Roseís experience, not uncommon at the initial stage of assessment and interview.† As the process proceeded, however, she had experienced people who changed their attitude and showed increasing insight and willingness to cooperate with the professionals.† Sadly, in this case such a process had not occurred.†† She pointed out that it was not simply a question of a personality clash between her and the grandparents.† The Records show that other people had the same difficulty.† I agree.
65. Another particular concern of the Local Authority is the conflict between the needs of the mother and those of T.† It is particularly in this field, according to Lucy Rose, that Special Guardians need support advice and guidance.† Lucy Rose doubted that Tís interests would necessarily always be put before the needs of the mother.†
66. It is agreed that contact has proceeded generally satisfactorily.
67. When asked questions on behalf of the guardian Lucy Rose was referred to the guardianís analysis at C273.† She accepted that formulation.† In Lucy Roseís view the mother wants desperately to be able to mother T and she would find it very difficult to allow the grandparents to be the real parents in the long-term.† It is feared that they would find it very difficult to resist if the mother for example, wanted to take T out or away.†
68. It was also pointed out that the motherís three recent relationships all had incidents of domestic violence.
69. The community midwife, Kerry Medina was called on behalf of the mother.† Her statement is at page 278(a) and is dated 28th March 2013.† She also produced the motherís obstetric notes in section H.† In her oral evidence Kerry Medina made some corrections to the dates in paragraph 5 of her statement.† The reference to 2014 in the first line was altered to 2013.† The reference to 2012 in the fourth line was altered to 2013.† She described the mother as being well during her pregnancy, cooperative and polite.† On a few occasions she asked the mother whether she had a partner.† The mother replied that she was no longer in a relationship with the father.†
70. On 10th June 2013 at an antenatal appointment the mother confirmed to the midwife that the mother and the father were no longer together and that she did not have contact with him.† On 18th June when Kerry Medina visited the mother on the postnatal ward the father was present.†
71. On 19th June while the midwife was in the hall at the grandmotherís house she received a telephone call from Gail Eaton.† Gail Eaton confirmed that the father had been in touch about the baby.†
72. On 28th November 2012 there had been a first meeting between the midwife, the mother and the grandmother at the Booking In appointment.† The grandmother was in the room when the fatherís criminal record was mentioned.
73. When asked questions on behalf of the guardian about the Booking In appointment on 28th November 2012 Kerry Medina reported that the mother definitely said on that occasion that she was not in a relationship with the father and the grandmother did not contradict that statement.† Had the mother intended that the father should be present at the birth this would have been discussed as part of the Birth Plan.† There was no expectation that the father would attend and the midwife was never subsequently told by the mother or the grandmother that the Birth Plan had been altered.† For that reason no Protection Plan was put into effect in respect of the father.† Had the midwife been told that the father was going to attend the birth she would have contacted the social services to enquire what should be done.† I accept that evidence.
74. The next witness was the mother.† She has put in two statements, C13 dated 18th July 2013 and C218(a) dated 7th February 2014.† She has also written a letter to the court as has her sister.† The mother is presently living with grandfatherís father.†
75. The mother admitted that she had made life ďhellĒ for the grandparents and that this was sometimes done intentionally.† She said that people such as Dr Hardwicke made her say unpleasant things about her father (MG).†
76. The mother told me that she supports the application of the grandparents for a SGO.† She understood that the grandparents would have what she described as ďsuper parental responsibilityĒ which meant that the grandparentsí parental responsibility trumped that of the mother.†
77. The mother told me that when T was born she was not in a relationship with the father although he had asked via a Text message to be present at the birth.† She told me that she had finished with the father when he broke her mobile phone during the incident on 4th November 2012.† The Local Authority had told her that they would only have worries about T if she and the father were together.
78. During the discussions about the Birth Plan with the midwife the mother said she wished the grandmother to be present but did not mention the father as she did not then plan for him to be there.† It seems that the father may have learned that the mother was to be induced from his mother and the father therefore came to the hospital.††
79. If, before Tís birth, the mother had known of the Local Authorityís plan to remove T she would not have allowed the father to be present.† The Local Authority had told her that if the father had not been present none of this would have happened.† I understand the mother to mean by this that there would have been no public law proceedings.† The mother told me that during the first six weeks of her time at the residential placement she was in contact with the father.† They exchanged Text messages.† She was feeling low and miserable and needed someone to talk to.†
80. She was asked about the incident at the hotel in February this year.† The mother told me that she took some fresh clothes to her friend whom she found in a room with two men.† The mother assumed from the friendís demeanour that she had taken some sort of drug.† Because the mother was worried about her she stayed with her until the following morning. It was at the motherís insistence that the hotel receptionist call an ambulance.†
81. The mother was asked further questions by Miss OíHara on behalf of the Local Authority.† In relation to 28th November which was the Booking In appointment the mother said that she told the midwife at that time that she had no relationship with the father and that he was off the scene.† She did not want anything to do with him although it appears that the father was in Text communication with the grandmother.† Both the mother and the grandmother visited the paternal grandmother from time to time.
82. The mother said that she was not asked if she was having contact with the father.† At the hospital he just turned up and she did not want him there.† She did not see his presence as a problem because the Local Authority and the hospital did not suggest that anything was amiss because of his presence.† She denied that the grandmother had facilitated the fatherís presence at the hospital.
83. As to the past the mother told me that she never saw any domestic violence within the home during the time that MG was there.† She only became aware of the attack upon the grandfather afterwards.† She and her sister were removed from the house.†
84. In relation to the question of the operation of a Special Guardianship Order, the mother accepted that in the past she had not been respectful and cooperative with the grandmother.† Their relationship is now much improved. The mother asks for a chance to prove that she will do what she says.† The mother was certain that she would never lose her temper or self control when caring for T.† She told the court that she had been pregnant since Tís birth but had had a Termination.† She was not sure who the father of that child was.†
85. She accepted that during the incident on 4th November 2012 she was very upset. She has not been in that state since and would not be again.† She told me that she realises that she has to change her behaviour for the sake of T.†
86. She was asked about the meeting on 4th December 2012 which took place with the grandmother and two social workers.† The mother said she was not told anything about the father save that the Local Authority hoped that the father would sign a Disclaimer so that the Local Authority could tell the mother and the family the nature of his conviction.† She did not recall being warned about the father.† The Local Authority (E4) only warned her that she should not have a relationship with the father and she did not understand that to mean that she should have no contact with him.† The mother maintained that the Local Authority never told her that she was to have no contact whatsoever.† I do not think that the mother is being truthful about that.
87. The mother said that in December 2012 a police officer had told her something of the nature of the fatherís offence.† It was described as a sexual offence.† The mother said that she had signed a form of confidentiality document.†
88. As to the fatherís attendance at the birth, apparently the father had made special arrangements to be released from the restrictions of his Tag.† The mother allowed him to be there because she knew he wanted that.† She said that she had known this as she put it from day one but never said that he could attend.†††
89. When asked questions on behalf of the guardian the mother accepted that she turns mainly to the grandmother if she is in trouble.† The grandmother had not told the mother what the grandmother had learned about the father.† The mother only discovered this from the police officer in December 2012.† She had never told the grandmother anything of what the policeman had told her.† She accepted that by December 2012 she knew that the father was risky and was disgusted when she heard what he had done.† She agreed therefore that it was her duty to keep the father away from T.†
90. In June 2013 she was aware that the father was sending Texts and asking about T.† She then said that she did not know if she wanted the father to be present at Tís birth.† She had not told the midwife that the father had been sending Text messages.†
91. At H37/38 are notes about Tís birth.† It appears that on 15th June 2013 at 17.30 the father was present.† The mother agreed that she could have told him to leave.† She again accepted that it was her job to keep the father away. She could not recall if she had discussed with the grandmother whether the father should be there.†
92. Reference was made to the Report from Jamma Umoja (E6(e)) to the mother kissing the father when they met at court.† The mother admitted that she had lied about this.†
93. The mother was understandably under considerable strain during the course of her evidence.† I have no doubt that she loves T and in her heart of hearts she wishes to care for her.† I am afraid to say that I do not accept her evidence to the effect that she thought the Local Authority had only told her that she should not be in a relationship with the father and that this prevented any form of contact with him.† I do not think she has been truthful about what was happening between her and the father during the pregnancy and at the birth.†
94. Those findings do not, of themselves, exclude the possibility of a Special Guardianship Order in favour of the grandparents.†
95. The next witness was the maternal grandmother.† She put in a joint statement with her husband at C147 dated 4th November 2013 and a further statement of her own dated 3rd March 2014 at C224.†
96. She told me that in relation to the motherís recent pregnancy the mother had denied on 4th April that she had been pregnant for about two months although she had had a Termination by 4th April.†††
97. Reference was made to the Report of Dr Finer in respect of the mother at C97.† It was an agreed joint instruction and its findings have not been challenged.† However the grandmother did not agree, for example, that there was an attachment difficulty between herself and the mother.†
98. Insofar as the various recordings in section E which relate to the motherís early history are concerned the grandmother did not accept the accuracy of many of those notes.† For example with reference to E598 (24th September 1996) the grandmother said that she only reunited with MG once and that was in 1995 for about a month.† She was not with him in September 1996 as the record suggests.† She accepted that when the girls were young, she was in full-time work and found it difficult to care for them.† No one really understood how bad the motherís behaviour was at that time (1998).† She did agree with reference to E542 that the mother had seen the grandfather covered with blood after MGís attack upon him.† There was a further reference at E537 relating to 15th August 2003.† The grandmother denied that she ever gave a history of MG coming in and out of her life.†††
99. Her evidence about MG and his behaviour was confusing and contradictory.† On the one hand in relation to the Records of A44 dated 25th August 2000 the grandmother said that ďwe all knew that he (MG) would never touch me but would attack RobbieĒ (another partner).† She later said in her evidence that MGís domestic violence was directed at her but did not affect the girls.† In relation to the meeting on 28th November 2012 the grandmother said that she had learned from someone on 26th November about the fatherís past offence.† She did not on 28th November appreciate the extent of the danger that the father presented and she told the midwife this.† She went on to say that the father was sending Text messages to her once or twice a week by April 2013.†
100. She never had any discussions with the father about his presence at Tís birth although she was, apparently, aware towards the end of the pregnancy that he would be present.† By this she meant that she was only aware he would be present when the grandmother arrived at the hospital.† She seemed also to suggest that the father was present at the antenatal meetings and then corrected herself to say that she did not mean to say that.
101. The grandmother accepted that the mother is still very vulnerable but does not need a high level of support.† The grandmother did not feel guilty about motherís earlier difficulties or her present situation.† The grandmother told me it would be easy for her to put T first and in the grandmotherís words, ďcut the mother offĒ.†
102. She was referred to an entry in the motherís obstetric notes at H75 which was written on 18th June 2013 in respect of an incident on 16th June.† There is a note which reads as follows:
ďDuring care it became apparent that (the mother) exhibits a very immature, aggressive manner.† (The mother) hit a MCA giving ďpost deliveryĒ.† According to mother (the grandmother) (the mother) gets aggressive and violent when in pain and tired and this a longstanding issue.
Mother has had PTSD from 2 years old observing assault by father on stepfather (grandfather).
Also has ADHD.Ē
103. The grandmother said she never saw this incident and has no memory of relaying this information.†
104. When asked questions on behalf of the guardian the grandmother agreed that in her latest statement she is minimising the extent of MGís attack on the grandfather.† She accepted that the children did see him covered in blood and that she should have corrected her statement to this effect.† She went on to say there were so many incidents when he came at her.† She accepted that the motherís behaviour between the ages of 2 and 3 was extreme and aggressive.† She sometimes made herself vomit and ran away.† I accept that when the grandmother says she was overwhelmed that was indeed the case.†
105. In relation to the father and the incident on 4th November 2012 (E34/E35) the grandmother accepted that the mother had shown an extreme reaction.† It set off alarm bells in her mind given her knowledge of the previous Domestic Abuse.† She had also learned that the father had carried a knife in the sexual assault on a middle aged lady.† She had not told the mother about this because the grandmother did not think it was true.† She did, however, inform the midwife.† She was concerned that this amounted to gossip and therefore contacted the paternal grandmother who assured her that the offence was not as serious as the grandmother had thought.† The grandmother nevertheless accepted that the Local Authority had warned her about the father although by that time the grandmother understood that the mother had already finished with the father.† The midwife apparently never asked the grandmother if she was in communication with the father.† She did tell Gail Eaton about the fatherís Text messages and said that the father wants to be in Tís life. †Gail Eaton advised her to tell the Local Authority.
106. It appears that although she had known that the father wanted to be at the birth and was therefore likely to be there she did not do anything about it.†
107. As to the future she accepted that the guardian is likely to have concerns.† The mother still suffers from sudden outbursts and impulsive behaviour.† Nevertheless the grandmother was sure with the help of the grandfather they would keep the mother away from their home until such time as the Local Authority is satisfied that the mother does not present a risk.†††
108. The grandmother wishes the court to direct a further assessment of her and the grandfather.† She does not think the earlier ones were fair.† She agreed that in 2007 very shortly after she and the grandfather were married there was an incident of domestic violence perpetrated upon her by the grandfather.† It has not been repeated.† It was in the context of tension caused by MGís upset at the marriage but since that time their marriage has been happy and stable.†
109. In relation to the fatherís sexual offence the grandmother did not tell her husband about this.† It did not accord with her view of the father at that time who seemed to be polite and vulnerable.†
110. The grandmother was clearly under considerable stress.† She clearly has loyalty both to the mother, T and to her husband.† This tension was plain to see.† It is very unfortunate that she did not take her husband fully into her confidence about the father and her communication with him.† I am afraid that I did not find her to be a reliable witness.†
111. I also heard from Mrs G whose statement is at C253 who was one of the referees supporting the application for a Special Guardianship Order and from the paternal grandmother whose statement is at C259.†
112. The grandfather put in a joint statement with his wife at C147 and a further one on his own at C248 dated 3rd March 2014.† It was clear that he was not happy that the mother was pregnant but he also thought it was wrong to have removed T.† He was not at all keen on the father but had he known the full circumstances and, for example, had been able to attend the meeting on 4th December he would have taken a firmer view about the father.
113. He was not aware of the Text communications between his wife and the father and had not been told by the mother or his wife about the question of the father being present at the birth.† He first knew that the father had been at the hospital after T had been removed.† He strongly made the point that if he is to be protective of T following the making of a Special Guardianship Order he must be in full possession of all the facts.† I agree.
114. In such circumstances he felt able to protect T and would treat her as his own.† He would have no difficulty in putting Tís interests before those of the mother.
115. I was impressed by the grandfather and I think he is genuine in his intention to be protective of T.† The difficulty, as it seems to me, is the tension that would arise between him and his wife given what I think are her difficulties in resisting the motherís demands and in being frank with him.†
116. The final witness was the guardian whose various Reports are at C16, C2 and C261.† Having heard the evidence the guardian did not alter her recommendation.
117. Insofar as the question of the fatherís future contact with T is concerned, if a SGO were to be made the guardian said that there would have to be a full risk assessment of the father. Contact would have to be supervised by the Local Authority, at least in the short term.† Insofar as the motherís contact is concerned this also would have to be very carefully managed.† At first it should not take place at the family home. The mechanics would have to be arranged by the Local Authority in consultation with the various parties.† Such Local Authority involvement could not be for an indefinite period.
118. The guardian was taken to her Report at C273.† She accepted that the grandparents were now more understanding of the Local Authorityís concerns but the guardian had not been aware of how little the grandfather knew about the situation.† Insofar as the positive factors in favour of the family are concerned the guardian did not wish to make any alteration to what was in the report.
119. Insofar as the negative factors were concerned the guardian was of the opinion that the worries about the father were so serious that the grandfather should have been told and kept fully in the picture. ††I agree.
120. While the grandmother now appeared to have accepted at some level the Local Authorityís worries about the Domestic Abuse, the guardian still doubted whether the grandmother could protect the children.† There is still, in her view, a level of minimisation in the grandmotherís evidence.† The guardian accepted that the mother has been brave and responsible in her decision not to put herself forward as a potential carer for T.†
121. As to the question of a Supervision Order running with the SGO, the guardian again stressed that the SGOís must take the Local Authority fully into their confidence.
122. As to the history of Domestic Abuse/violence the guardian agreed that in her evidence the grandmother has stated that she has begun to accept that the children had indeed seen Domestic Abuse.† This did not accord with the Reports in the earlier assessments nor did it come across to the guardian in her meetings with the grandparents.† The guardian had met them on several occasions for up to two hours at a time.† It seemed to the guardian that the grandmother had clearly been overwhelmed by the motherís behaviour as a child and had not been able to manage her.
123. The guardian still saw significant resistance in the grandmother as to the need to accept the history and to engage and deal with the consequences of that.† In the guardianís view T cannot wait for that process to be completed.
124. The guardian accepted that at an earlier stage in these proceedings when there was still time to complete a further Report by an Independent Social Worker, she had supported such an application.† At this stage she did not see that such a further Report was necessary or that a ISW would be able to add to the information already before the court.† In the guardianís view nothing short of adoption is the right course for T.†
125. The guardian pointed out that any ISW coming into the case would still have to deal with all the matters in the old Records and the contents of Mr Finerís agreed Report.† All these matters would have to be put to the grandparents. It is only very recently that the grandmother has begun to accept and understand the significance of what had happened.†
126. When the guardian met the grandparents it seemed that they had a very close relationship and worked well together.† The guardian was very concerned to learn during this hearing how little the grandfather appeared to know about what had been going on.
127. The guardian accepted that if the court finds that the criticisms made by the grandparents of the Viability Assessments and the SGO assessment are substantiated this is very concerning and clearly not fair to the family.† In such a case it would be right to direct a further assessment.† In any event the guardian said it was wrong that the correct procedures were not followed in that Mrs G (the referee) should have been given a note of Val Houghtonís discussions with her before the Report was completed.†
128. The guardian also had sympathy with the grandmother in what appeared to be a confusing response from the hospital and the Local Authority. The procedures appear not to have been followed, although the Local Authority believed upon the basis of what the mother had told the social workers that there was no continuing relationship between the mother and the father.†
129. As to the future the guardian accepted that it would be possible to import a variety of orders to keep the mother, the father and any future partner she may have away from T and the grandparents.† Further the guardian accepted that the mother would not deliberately set out to undermine a placement with the grandparents but it is clear that the mother is not always in control of her own emotions.
130. With reference to C274 the guardian had discussed with the grandparents the question of engagement with the various Agencies and the difficulties that the grandmother had experienced in getting the mother to appointments.† She pointed out that parents not infrequently have to deal with very young children who refuse, for example, get into their car seats. ††
131. I thought that the guardianís evidence was the product of careful investigation, was balanced and fair.
132. I am grateful to Counsel for their detailed and careful written submissions.† I have read them.
133. The submissions were sent to the court by the agreed date of 9th May. Unfortunately because I was away attending conferences and because my computer broke down and had to be replaced, I was not in a position to begin to read the submissions until 21st May.† Consequently this judgment has been delayed for longer than I wished.† I apologise for that.†
134. Starting at paragraph 15 of his written submissions Mr Ward-Prowse points out that following the incident between the parents on 4th November 2012 and the meeting on 4th December 2012 the Local Authority closed the case.† It is said in paragraph 23 that the Local Authorityís application for a Care Order was predicated upon the false assumption that the parents were still in a relationship and that the care proceedings were catalysed by the fatherís presence at the hospital following Tís birth on 16th June 2013.†
135. It is submitted that if the Local Authorityís erroneous presumption is removed and in spite of the motherís earlier history T would have been safe and secure in the motherís care supported by the grandparents as envisaged in the assessment of 4th December 2012.†
136. Starting at paragraph 26 Mr Ward-Prowse deals with the position by the Local Authority and the guardian to the grandparentsí application for a SGO.†
137. The first matter is the extent to which the mother was exposed to domestic violence.† It is accepted that there are many references within the papers which relate to the mother and her sister having witnessed domestic violence.† It is further clear that the grandmother herself was subjected to violence from MG, the father of the mother and Lauren.† It is submitted however that the grandmother acted protectively and that the culpability for the domestic violence cannot be placed upon the grandmother.† She was the victim.† She left their father and obtained injunctive from relief against him.† She met her present husband (the grandfather) in 2000. †Their relationship has continued since that time.† It said that there was one incident of domestic violence between them in 2007.† It is pointed out that in the SGO assessment dated 30th December 2013 their relationship is described as ďvery stableĒ (C178).†
138. It is therefore submitted that the criticism of the grandmother as to the question of domestic violence is unduly harsh, unsympathetic and intolerant to her plight.
139. At paragraphs 34 and 35 Mr Ward-Prowse deals with the question of the extent to which the mother did/did not witness domestic violence.† It is pointed out that in her first statement dated 19th July 2013 the mother said that she did witness domestic violence as a child.† In her second statement dated 7th February 2014 she dealt with the matter in further detail.† At paragraph 154 of the assessment dated 11th October 2013 carried out by Jamma Umoja the mother mentioned the attack upon the grandfather by her biological father. She denied witnessing any other violence between her parents or having discussions with her mother (the grandmother) about other incidents.†
140. Further, although there is reference to motherís ďprevious impaired mental healthĒ in the Report of Alan Finer dated 28th August 2013 it is submitted that it is unclear from that Report the extent to which the motherís poor mental health can be attributed to the issue of domestic violence.
141. The lack of engagement by the grandparents with professionals relating to motherís problems as a child/teenager: it is the grandmotherís case that the motherís difficult and at times extreme behaviour from childhood to adolescence and possibly beyond arose because the mother suffered with undiagnosed ADHD. It is said that no one listened to the grandmotherís complaints about that.† It is pointed out that eventually this diagnosis was accepted.† By way of example Mr Ward-Prowse refers to a letter which the grandmother wrote to Dr Hardwicke, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, in July 2009 in which he sets out her frustration and anguish about the situation [C246-C247].†
142. It is therefore submitted that the reason for the many missed appointments with various professionals was principally due to the disruptive behaviour of the mother. She was suffering from ADHD coupled with the pressure placed upon the grandmother who was in full-time employment and also had to attend the motherís appointments.
143. It is also pointed out that in her oral evidence the mother admitted that she made the grandmotherís life hard.† She wanted to be with her father about whom she did not know the full truth and was jealous of any partner that the grandmother may have had.† Consequently the mother made it impossible for the grandparents to get the mother to the appointments because, she said, the professionals wanted her to say bad things about her father which upset her.†
144. At paragraph 47 of his submissions Mr Ward-Prowse submits that the non-attendance at appointments is unfairly translated by the Local Authority as an inability on the part of the grandmother to work with the various Agencies.† For the reasons which are set out in more detail in paragraphs 44 to 46 of the submissions it is said that this is an unfair and misleading criticism of the grandparents.
145. The grandmotherís insight into the sexual risk posed by the father: It is submitted that this is a particularly puzzling aspect of the case and upon a proper analysis does not come to anything.†
146. It is pointed out that on 28th November 2012 when the midwife visited the mother at the grandmotherís house, the grandmother disclosed to the midwife what she had heard about the father namely that he had sexually assaulted a 53 year old lady in a car.† He had held a knife to her throat and had been sent to prison. The grandmother understood that he was a registered sex offender.†
147. In her evidence, however, the grandmother said that she did not believe the rumours that she had heard about the father.† She said that the father was polite and came across to her as vulnerable.† ††I found this to be a worrying comment.† She also is recorded as saying that she felt sorry for MG.
148. At the meeting on 4th December 2012 the grandmother and the mother were present at a meeting with two social workers, Miss Knight and Miss Trussler.† In her statement dated 21st June 2013 (C2) Miss Knight says that both the mother and the grandmother were told that the Local Authority would have serious concerns if the mother and the father were in a relationship and this concern was partly based upon his sexual offending.† The grandmother does not accept that the words sexual offending were used but that the Local Authority simply had concerns about the father.† The grandmother asserts that upon asking what those concerns were she was told that this information could not be disclosed because of Data Protection legalisation.† The grandmother subsequently telephoned the paternal grandmother in order to set up a meeting between the father and the Local Authority and to persuade him to sign a disclaimer about the dissemination of this information.†
149. It is submitted that in fact the grandmother must have accepted what she had heard about the father otherwise she would not have tried to make arrangements for the father to sign a disclaimer so that the details could be disclosed.† Further since the fatherís sexual offending related to a 53 year old woman it is said that it is not unreasonable for the grandmother as a lay person to have taken the view that such an offence did not suggest that the father was a risk to a child.†
150. Starting at paragraph 59 of his submissions Mr Ward-Prowse deals with the failure by the Local Authority to inform the maternity unit at Poole Hospital and further what appears to be the hospitalís lack of response to what the grandmother had told the midwife on 28th November.† It is submitted that it was the hospital and not the grandmother that invited the father to attend when the mother was in labour [H40].† It was not until 18th June when the midwife visited and saw the father on the ward that the alarm was raised.† Further it is pointed out that notwithstanding what may have been known about the father at the hospital he was involved in a demonstration of how to bath T. I have seen the photographs of this.†
151. Starting at paragraph 73 Mr Ward-Prowse deals with the note which appears at H75 of the bundle.† This goes to the grandmotherís reliability as a witness.† The note dated 18th June 2013:† it is said to have been written in retrospect for 16th June 2013.† The note records what is said to be the motherís immature and aggressive manner. The mother had hit a maternity care assistant giving care post delivery.† Also noted is an explanation for the motherís behaviour given by the grandmother.† In her oral evidence the grandmother said she had no recollection of this happening and did not understand where this information had come from.†
152. Mr Ward Prowse invites the court to attach very little weight to this note.† It was written in retrospect.† The author was not called to give evidence. ††I understand that.† On the other hand I cannot think that the note was invented.† There must have been a witnessed event.
153. In paragraphs 83 to 89 Mr Ward-Prowse deals with the evidence of the paternal grandmother, her involvement before the birth and her attendance at the hospital.† It is submitted that the fatherís attendance was permitted despite there being a yellow sticker on the motherís set of obstetric notes which she kept with her throughout her pregnancy. The purpose of the note seemed to put the hospital on notice that there was an Alert.† It is pointed out that the midwife said that she was surprised that the motherís file which was kept at the hospital did not have an Alert. It would have been normal for the Local Authority to notify the hospital if a father is a registered sex offender.† I agree that amounted to a worrying failure in the procedure.
The Assessments of the Grandparents:
154. †Mr Ward-Prowseís first criticism of these is that the Viability Assessment [C61] is based on the Department of Health 2000 Framework Assessment of Children in Need and their Families and not the March 2013 document, ďWorking Together to Safeguard ChildrenĒ.† The assessment is dated 22nd August 2013.† In cross-examination the social worker Miss Lee said that she was aware of the March 2013 guidance although this is not referred to in her Report.† It is said that reliance on the earlier document undermined the value of the assessment and was insufficient for the social worker to say that the new document was similar to the old.† Further it is said that the meeting which formed the basis of the assessment was cut short because Miss Lee said that she had to go home to attend to her own children.† It is submitted that it appears from what Miss Lee said that she had heard enough from the grandparents.†
155. The grandparents say that the interview lasted for about 45 minutes.† Miss Lee and Lucy Rose say that it lasted longer than that.
156. It is submitted that the analysis which does not support the grandparents and which appears at paragraph 7 on C61 is not well-founded.† It is said that the views were reached following one visit only and the grandparents had no notice of the sort of matters about which they were to be questioned.† It is said they put under unreasonable pressure and that the assessment was based on numerous factual inaccuracies.† It is said to be superficial and unprofessional.
157. Mr Ward-Prowse also launched an attack upon the SGO Assessment undertaken by Val Houghton. This is a very important part of the case.† I have considered it carefully. †Starting at paragraph 106 of his submissions he refers to the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 and paragraphs 12 and 21 of the Schedule.
158. At paragraph 110 he points out that no letter was sent to the grandparents, the mother or the father outlining the steps that Val Houghton proposed to undertake in preparing the Report.† No information was given to any of the relevant people about special guardianship support services.† Further it is said that the conduct of the assessment itself is the subject of criticism.† It is said that she came with a predetermined view that she could not support the grandparentsí application for SGO.† It is said that she was lackadaisical in her approach and was in effect just going through the motions.†
159. Further in dealing with one of the referees Val Houghton failed to comply with the Regulation that the referee should have been sent a copy of the Report following the interview so she could amend it if necessary and then sign if she agreed with it.†
160. At paragraph 114 reference is made to an email from Lucy Rose to the grandfather dated 2nd January 2014 which suggests that Val Houghton had reached an unfavourable decision before interviewing the referee, Mrs G.
161. It is submitted that from this history the court can property infer:
(i) the fact that T was placed with foster carers who could adopt her suggests a predetermined view by the Local Authority;
(ii) It explains what is said to be the perfunctory approach both by the authors of the Viability Assessment and of the SGO Report;
(iii) therefore Tís adoption was a fait accompli.††
162. Consequently it is submitted that an objective bystander would not regard this process as fair.†
163. Starting at paragraph 118 Mr Ward-Prowse commends the mother for her demeanour in court and in the period up to the distressing removal of T on 18th June.† It is submitted that the court can conclude that the mother has grown up during these proceedings and that this positive change bodes well for the future.†
164. The mother fully supports Tís placement with the grandparents.† It is said that the court can rely upon the motherís statement that she would accept the authority of the grandparents in relation to T.
165. In paragraphs 125 and 126 Mr Ward-Prowse says that the motherís continuing text communication with the father about the residential placement is excusable and understandable. Secondly that the incident in February 2014 may demonstrate the motherís naivety but she did act responsibility in calling for help.†
166. I accept that the court process can help somebody in the motherís position better to understand the issues in a case such as this.† The question is whether, in this case, the mother can sufficiently come to terms with Tís living with the grandparents and whether the mother can indeed accept their authority.
167. In paragraph 127 of his submissions Mr Ward-Prowse submits that the grandmother gave her evidence well.† While I accept that she has a genuine desire to care for T, I cannot accept the submission that she was a reliable witness.
168. Starting at paragraph 128 Mr Ward-Prowse outlines in some detail the difficulties that the grandmother had in bringing up the mother and her sister.† Plainly she suffered at the hands of MG and more seriously than she is now prepared to admit.† She had a full-time job and was subjected to considerable pressure.† It is perhaps too easy in the atmosphere of a courtroom to criticise a parent who found herself in the situation of this grandmother. †What is concerning, however, is what appeared to me to be the grandmotherís unconvincing explanations for her present stance, a matter to which I shall refer later in this judgment.
169. As to the grandfather I formed a favourable impression of him.† I thought he was direct and honest.† It is one of the tragedies of this case that the grandmother did not keep him properly informed and he did not have the opportunity to exercise more control.† It is the case that he has been committed to both the mother and her sister.†††††
170. It is possible that had the grandfather known and been in a position to influence the mother and the grandmother this case might have taken a different course.† I fear that the grandmother has not helped her cause by keeping the grandfather in the dark.† That does not necessarily mean that the grandmother would adopt the same tactics in the future.† She may have learned from these proceedings.†
171. Starting at paragraph 146 Mr Ward-Prowse considers the evidence of the guardian.† He points out in paragraph 149 that the guardian accepted that the grandparents had shown commitment to T.† It is further submitted that in the context of this case it is important that the guardian agreed in her oral evidence the grandmother had shown a change in her stance. She appeared more accepting of her responsibility for the earlier difficulties.† It is also pointed out that the guardian agreed that the information given to the grandmother about the fatherís conviction was confusing as was the failure of the Local Authorityís and hospitalís procedures in relation to the father.†
172. The guardian agreed that the grandparents had always been welcoming and pleasant to her and that the grandparentsí practical care of T would be of a high standard.†
173. The guardian agreed that if the court is persuaded that the grandparents should be permitted a further assessment by an independent social worker, Melanie Barsham would be the right person.† If so the apparent softening in the grandmotherís attitude that emerged during her oral evidence would be factored into such a further assessment.
174. Mr Ward-Prowse reminded the court that the court must consider the Care Plan for T in accordance with Section 31A of the Children Act.† He further reminded the court of Section 15 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
175. Starting at paragraph 171 of his written submissions Mr Ward-Prowse sets out the statutory provisions of Adoption and Children Act 2002 as appear in Sections 1, 21 and 52.†
176. In relation to the question of a Special Guardianship Order the relevant provisions are contained in Sections 14A to G of the Children Act.†
177. Starting at paragraph 178 Mr Ward-Prowse referred the court to the decision of Re S (Adoption Order or Special Guardianship Order)  1 FLR H19 and to the guidance given by Wall J at paragraph 48.† The court was also referred to the decision of Hedley J in SB v Newport City Council; † 1 FLR to demonstrate how it is that additional protective orders can be put in place to secure a childís placement under a SGO.†
178. At paragraph 181 Mr Ward-Prowse referred to the decision Re G (A Child)  EWCA Civ 965 where guidance was given as to the judicial process and the need for a proper welfare balancing exercise before making a final Care Order.† In particular I bear in mind that the required global evaluation requires a balancing exercise in which each option is evaluated to a degree of detail necessary to analyse and weigh the positives and negatives of each option side by side. A decision should then be made by applying the childís welfare as a paramount consideration.† The court should also not conclude that permanent separation is ďnecessaryĒ unless it is satisfied that it is the ďlast resortĒ and ďnothing else will doĒ.†
179. At paragraph 184 the court was referred to the decision of Re P  2 FLR 625 where the Court of Appeal gave guidance on the courtís approach to the dispensation of parental consent under Section 52 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.†
180. Starting at paragraph 190 Mr Ward-Prowse embarks upon a discussion of the case and submits that the grandmother cannot be blamed for the presence of the father at the hospital on 18th June 2013.†
181. It is submitted that the court cannot be satisfied in this case that the position is that nothing else but adoption will do.†
182. In relation to the placement application Mr Ward-Prowse in paragraph 202 deals with the checklist in the 2002 Act.† In particular he stresses the feeling of loss that sometimes attaches to adopted children.† He submits that T has not suffered harm at this stage in her life. The risk of harm to her in the future may arise from the parents if they resume a relationship or if they make life difficult for the grandparents if they are SGOís.† It is pointed out that T has a relationship with her mother and her grandparents who can offer her good basic care.†
183. In these circumstances it is submitted the court cannot be satisfied that Tís welfare requires the consent of the parents to be dispensed with.†
184. It is pointed out that if T were to be placed with the grandparents under a SGO the court could make:
(a) A supervision order.
(b) A prohibited steps order against the parents.
(c) A non-molestation order under Section 42(b) Family Law Act 1996.
185. If the court does not feel able to make a SGO at this juncture, Mr Ward-Prowse submits that, given what he says is the unfair nature of the assessments, there should be a direction that Melanie Barsham is instructed to provide a Report upon the grandparents.† In considering such an application the court has to bear in mind Rule 25 FPR 2010 and Section 13 of the Children and Families Act 2014.†
186. In paragraph 209 Mr Ward-Prowse sets out what he says are the important matters the court has to consider pursuant to Section 13(7) of the 2014 Act.
187. On behalf of the mother it is accepted that she is not in a position to care for T and therefore the only issue for the court to decide is whether there should be a SGO in favour of the grandparents or that T should be made the subject of a Placement Order which would lead to her adoption.†
188. I have concluded that neither the grandmother nor the mother have been truthful in all that each has told the court.† I remind myself that although they did each tell untruths, that does not mean all they said is to be disregarded and to assume that each lied about everything in the case.† The untruths may have been caused by the understandable desire to stop Tís removal from the family.† There were some very painful experiences from the past that it is difficult to talk frankly about.† In the context of the application for SGO it is vital that such matters were discussed openly.††
189. The mother does not accept the Care Plan for adoption nor the guardianís recommendations.
190. In paragraph 4 of the written submissions put in on her behalf it is said that while the mother accepts that her behaviour towards the grandmother was difficult and disruptive, she does not accept that this was the result of witnessing domestic abuse in the household. Further it is said her behaviour was not due to the unwillingness of the grandparents to cooperate with the local authority or the other Agencies.† It is submitted on her behalf that the documentary evidence of the history suggests that the grandparents were committed to her rather than being evidence of poor parenting.†
191. She says that her relationship with the grandmother has improved considerably over the last year.† Having herself matured the mother will be able to stand back, recognise her own shortcomings as appears in the report from Jamma Umoja and not undermine a SGO.†
192. The mother now says that she accepts that she and the grandmother were naive in underestimating the risk posed by the father. The mother nevertheless says that the actions of the hospital in relation to the father suggest that the staff there did not see him as a substantial risk.†
193. The father supports the application of the grandparents for SGO.† He would like as much contact with T as possible.†
194. It is submitted that if T were placed with the grandparents she would be brought up by her birth family.† It is submitted that the contact notes make it clear that T has formed a bond with the grandparents and that they can provide a safe and loving environment for T.†
195. It is submitted that the father has shown his ability to behave properly in relation to T.† It is pointed out that he did not attempt to approach the mother after the incident of 4th November 2011.† It is said that he maintained a proper interest in her pregnancy via the grandmother.† It is said that the Local Authority accept that the father acted properly while at the hospital during Tís birth.† He played a substantial role in Tís first days of life.† It is pointed out that he did not undermine the motherís placement at Jamma Umoja and this history shows that the father would not undermine a placement of T with the grandparents.†
196. †As to this contact with T his views about this have not been actively sought and as appears from paragraph 2.1.2 of the Annex B Report.† The court must consider the question of contact if a Care or Placement Order is made.
197. It is therefore submitted that even if the court is of the view that there should be Care and Placement Orders they should not be made until †the Care Plan has been amended to include provision for the fatherís assessment as to contact with T.†
198. If there is a Care Order but not a Placement Order, the father would like as much contact with T as possible and, it is said, he would comply with any court order and would accept any reasonable restrictions placed upon his contact.†
199. On behalf of the Local Authority Miss OíHara points out that the court heard oral evidence over five days from twelve witnesses. The court has considered the agreed assessment report from Jamma Umoja after the motherís sixteen week placement there and the agreed psychological report on the mother prepared by Mr Finer.† It is further pointed out that seven members of extended family have undergone Viability Assessments including the grandparents.† Substantial records have also been disclosed in relation to the motherís childhood from the age of 2 onwards.†
200. As to the threshold this is conceded by the parents with the exception of the allegation:
ďAs a child the mother witnessed severe† domestic violence and the attempted murder of her stepfather leading to concerns about post traumaĒ.
201. Neither the mother nor the grandparents accept this contention and the Local Authority seeks a finding on that matter.
202. It is submitted on behalf of the local authority that Tís wider family have been properly and fairly assessed and that no suitable carer has been found.† In those circumstances it is submitted that a Care Order and a Placement Order are necessary and that nothing else will do.
203. It is accepted that if the court finds that the grandparents are correct in their contention that the Viability Assessment and the SGO Report were unfair, unprofessional and biased against them from the outset, it would follow that the Local Authority has not discharged the heavy burden upon it which it assumes in placement applications.† It is accepted that in care proceedings generally Local Authorities are under a continuing duty throughout the case to act in an open and fair manner towards all parties.
204. Starting at paragraph 6 of her written submissions Miss OíHara considers the assessments of the grandparents.†
205. As to the Viability Assessment it is accepted that this was the first such assessment undertaken by Mrs Lee but that she was supervised by Miss Rose.† It is submitted that Mrs Lee was straightforward and professional in her evidence.† She was aware of the more recent guidelines and felt that they added nothing in terms of the format of the assessment to the model to which she adopted.† She denied saying that she had to cut the process short and get back to her own children.† Being a Viability Assessment it was in shorter form than a full assessment would have been.† It was pointed out that the two social workers met what is described as the same barrier as Val Houghton, namely that the grandmother raised a defensive block in respect of the history and in particular the question of domestic violence.†
206. It is submitted that it is important to bear in mind that the mother had an extremely difficult childhood and that the historical documentary material shows extreme behaviour on the motherís part that put her beyond the grandmotherís control from about the age of 2.†
207. It is submitted that the fact that the grandmother refused to look beyond any explanation for the motherís behaviour other than the possibility of ADHD. This meant that those who assessed the grandparents were not able to move forward to explore with them their insight and understanding of the effect of the earlier experiences.†
208. It is pointed out that all the difficulties were dealt with in the unchallenged report of Mr Finer (C97). He highlights the combination of factors which come together alongside what he described as a genetic disposition in the mother which explains her traumatic upbringing.† It is pointed out that any professional who assesses the grandparents as potential carers for T would be obliged to explore what had gone wrong and what might be different for T.† It is submitted that the inability of the grandparents to accept those factors as ever having existed is a substantial barrier to any assessment.† I agree.
209. In these circumstances it is submitted that the Viability Assessment was proper and fair.† I agree.
210. As to the SGO Report it is submitted that Mrs Houghton gave professional and straightforward evidence.† She agreed that she had made a mistake in not sending out her notes of the meeting with the referees for comment before completing her report.† She apologised for that.† It is pointed out that in terms of the time devoted to the assessment† Mrs Houghtonís depth of involvement measures that proposed by the ISW, Mrs Barsham.†
211. The grandparents remain convinced of the injustice of the SGO assessment ††I am told that they propose to complain about† Mrs. Houghton in addition to the complaints made against Dr Sones, Dr Hardwicke and others.
212. It is submitted that the SGO Report was a fair and professional piece of work.† The request for the instruction of Mrs Barsham, it is submitted, fails to meet the ďnecessaryĒ test and would impose a damaging delay to Tís timetable.†
213. At paragraph 11 of her submissions Miss OíHara accepts that the grandparents would offer T a good standard of practical and material care.† It is also accepted that in her oral evidence the grandmother made some concessions as to the emotional abuse experienced by the mother and her sister consequent upon the attack on the grandfather.† The Local Authority, however, submits that the grandmother still has what is described as a ďsanitisedĒ account of her role as a parent to the mother.† It is said this view is contradicted by the contemporaneous documentary history.† I agree.
214. In paragraph 11(i) examples are given of occasions when it is said that either the mother or her sister were exposed to domestic violence.† At A44 is a record of MG attending the home and threatening to attack grandmotherís boyfriend.† He ran at the door when the children were present.† This was in 2000.† At E259 is a note in 2003 by Dr Hardwicke of a report of the mother seeing what is described as the attempted murder of the grandfather which had added symptoms of PTSD.† At E542 the mother is reported as having seen the grandfather covered in blood.† At A480/481 on a home visit in 2004 a history was given of domestic violence occurring on ďalmost daily basisĒ.† At A293 it is reported in 2009 by the grandparents that MG has never had their welfare at heart Ė the constant violent attacks in front of them proved that and show the damage he has done to the girls mentally.†
215. In paragraph 11(ii) there are references to the continuation of the grandmotherís relationship with the father after the mother was 10 months of age.† Dr Sones reported in 2004 at E545 that the grandmother left (MG) when the mother was 10 months old but kept on going back to him.† At E531 it is reported that the (grandmother) seems to have very mixed feelings about (MG).† She says she feels very sorry for him.†
216. At paragraph 11(iii) in section E are recorded a number of examples of missed appointments with services designed to help the mother.†
217. In paragraph 11(iv) are reference to what it is submitted was a dysfunctional home life affecting the mother and her sister.† At A340 is the report of a domestic violence incident between the grandparents where it is said the grandmother suffered a suspected rib fracture, bruised arm and neck.† The motherís sister called the police.† In 2010/2011 are police referrals relating to the motherís intemperate behaviour.†
218. It is accepted by the Local Authority, and I agree, that this history of itself need not have been a barrier to the grandparents being suitable carers for T.† It is submitted that unfortunately in this case the process of acknowledgment and recognition which is commonly seen in case of this sort has not occurred in these grandparents.†
219. In paragraph 12 of her submissions Miss OíHara turned to the questions of the management of present and future risk of harm to T.†
220. It is the case for the Local Authority that following the visit of Sarah Knight to the home on 4th December 2012 the Local Authority had made it clear that they had concerns about the risk that the father posed.† The case was closed, it is said, on the assurance given by the mother in the presence of the grandmother that her relationship with the father was over and he was off the scene.†
221. It is said that this was an assurance that was repeated and maintained by the mother to her midwife up to and including the last pre-birth appointment on 10th June 2013. It is said that on that date the mother confirmed that she and the father were not together and she did not have contact with him (C278(b)).†
222. Further it is submitted that following the visit of Sarah Knight in December 2012 the mother was told by the police of the detail of the fatherís criminal history.
223. It is submitted that the mother continued her relationship to the extent that she was in contact with the father while she was at Jamma Umoja.† It is submitted that this raises worries about the motherís choice of partner, her judgment, her honesty and her perception of risk.† Further, it is submitted, that the grandmother was acting as the conduit for communications with the father through their regular exchange of text messages from about April 2013.† The grandmother took the mother to the paternal grandmotherís home where the father was resident and apparently did not seek to dissuade him from attending the birth.
224. It is submitted that the grandmother embarked upon a programme of attempts to shift responsibility for what is said to be her failure to exercise judgment during this period.† It is pointed out that the grandmother had seen the result following the argument with the father on 4th November 2012 when the grandmother called the police.† It is pointed out that on 28th November 2012 she told the midwife about the fatherís sexual offence.† The grandmother was also present in December 2012 when the two social workers visited the home to assess risk following the earlier police referral.† The Social workers expressed their worries should the mother continue to associate with the father.† It is submitted, therefore, that all these factors should have left the grandmother in no doubt that it was a bad idea to have involvement with the father.† I accept those submissions.
225. It is submitted that what is said to be the grandmotherís failure to take notice of the risks attached to facilitating a continuing involvement of the father was the grandmotherís view that he seemed ďvulnerableĒ.† I agree that showed a worrying attitude on behalf of the grandmother.
226. It is submitted that although the grandfather did not form a favourable view of the father, he was prevented from acting in a protective manner because the grandmother was not open and honest with him as to what was going on.† It is submitted that this does not give any confidence as to the future communication between the couple and brings into question their ability to work together for Tís benefit.† I agree.
227. The father wants contact with T.† He is shortly to be released from prison and in the short-term the Local Authority would be able to help with supervised contact.† It is pointed that the father on the basis of his criminal record has shown himself to be a volatile, violent and unpredictable man.† It is said that the need carefully to monitor and supervise this contact is likely to be necessary for a substantial period of time.†
228. In relation to the mother it is pointed out that as recently as February 2014 she became involved in risky behaviour. Although she may be maturing she has shown herself to be volatile and there is a risk in respect of the mother that she would destabilise Tís life with the grandparents.†
229. As to the credibility of the grandmother and her accuracy as a historian, Miss OíHara referred to the note at H75 about the explanation of the motherís behaviour when it is said that she struck a nursing assistant.†
230. In relation to that incident the grandmother denied knowledge of the assault and also the conversation with the nursing staff immediately afterwards.† I bear in mind the points made by Mr Ward-Prowse about this episode.† While it may be that the mother herself was in pain and suffering from the effects of medication and the trauma of the birth, I do not accept the grandmotherís account of this episode.
231. Further it is pointed out that the grandmother had denied being aware of the detail of the fatherís sexual offence but this is contradicted by the account from the midwife of the grandmother herself giving such information to the midwife at the first Booking In appointment.†
232. Miss OíHara submits that on the evidence I can properly make a finding as to the outstanding matter which goes to T threshold.† I agree.† In my judgment it is clear that as a child the mother witnessed severe domestic violence and the attempted murder of her stepfather leading to concerns about ďpost traumaĒ.†
233. On behalf of the guardian Mr Howard has also put in detailed and careful submissions.† As he points out in paragraph 4 of those submissions Mr Pitt of Aldridge and Brownlee had been instructed by the guardian throughout these proceedings but became unwell during the final hearing.† Mr Howard was consequently instructed on 22nd April and was not able to appear until 23rd when the matter was part heard and the Local Authority had concluded its evidence.† In the event Mr Howard has been of great assistance to the court and I am grateful to him.†
234. As to the question of T threshold Mr Howard deals with the outstanding matter to which I have already referred.† He points that in her initial response dated 18th July 2013 the mother responded to threshold stating: ďI did witness domestic violence as a childĒ (C15).† It is submitted that her initial admission matches the contemporaneous evidence and is to be preferred to her later change of stance.† I agree.
235. In his review of the historical evidence Mr Howard, in common with Miss OíHara, submitted that this falls into two categories: medical disclosure and the old social care documentation.† He submits, and I agree, that those papers show extreme behaviour from the mother which seemed to place her beyond the grandmotherís control.†
236. In her statement at C225 paragraph 12 the grandmother said: ďI need to make it absolutely clear to the Court that all of the records suggesting that (the mother) witnessed domestic violence as a child and it was this that caused her behavioural difficulties are wrong.Ē†
237. It is accepted on behalf of the guardian that the grandmother made some concessions when cross-examined on behalf of the guardian that the mother had witnessed domestic abuse but not violence and that this would have some impact upon the mother. It is submitted, and I agree, that this concession does not meet the case disclosed in the historical documents.† It is pointed out that in a letter written by the grandmother on 18th August 2009 to Poole Children and Young Peopleís Social Care (A292 to 293) she says of MG: ďHe has never had their welfare at heart, the constant violent attacks in front of them proove that and show the damage that he has done to the girls mentallyĒ.† I agree with Mr Howardís submission that the grandmother in her oral evidence was unable to explain why she had written in those terms having regard to what she said at (C225) above.†
238. Starting at paragraph 20 Mr Howard reviews the records from 2000 to 2012 in respect of the mother and/or her sister being exposed to domestic violence.† It is pointed out that there is a discrepancy between the evidence given by the grandmother about the nature of the †relationship with the father after their separation and the evidence of the documents.† The grandmother asserts that she attempted a short-lived reconciliation in 1995 whereas the documents show a different picture indicating a continuing relationship which lasted intermittently from 1996 until 2000.†
239. Similarly in relation to the alleged failure of the grandmother to engage with professionals Mr Howard makes various references to section E.
240. On the basis of this material it is submitted on behalf of the guardian that the court should prefer the family history as disclosed within the records and papers generated when the grandmotherís family was previously involved with social care and health services.† I agree.† I accept the proposition that the grandmother presently has motivation for minimising or sanitising the familyís history.† She seeks to care for T and is therefore forced to accept that such an application is incompatible with a candid history of the family.† I think that is a fair submission.
241. I accept that the grandmother loves T and has feelings of loyalty to the mother but her attitude has drawn her focus away from what is in Tís welfare.†
242. In paragraph 26 Mr Howard deals with matters of the grandmotherís credibility in these proceedings.† Reference is made as to whether she told the midwife about the fatherís previous sexual offending.† In her statement of 3rd March 2014 the grandmother reiterated that she did not know what the fatherís background was and that she had not been told about his offences.† She said that she was horrified when she discovered after T was born.† It is submitted that this assertion cannot be true if considered with the evidence of the midwife at C278(a)-C278(b) in which the midwife records the accurate details which the grandmother told her on 28th November 2012.† I agree.
243. Other examples of the grandmotherís lack of credibility are said to be her assertion that the children were completely unaware of the assault upon the grandmother by MG.† It is said that one only has to consider the description given by the grandmother and her husband in oral evidence. In addition is the description by others of the scene being ďsomething from a horror movieĒ. I agree that it is incredible to suggest that the children would have slept through such an episode.† Mr Howard makes reference to the notes at H75.† None of this, it is submitted, bodes well for the future and fundamentally hinders any sensible and working relationship being established with the professionals for Tís benefit.† I agree.
244. Starting at paragraph 30 Mr Howard reviews the historical documents which provide details of what is said to be a significantly dysfunctional home life suffered by the mother and her sister.† I accept that these documents show a very concerning picture of how matters were for the mother and her sister when they were children and young adults.†
245. I accept that such a history is not determinative of the issue that I have to decide in this case which is whether T should be parented by the grandparents.† They are matters which have to be taken into account and the court has to evaluate the present attitude of the mother and grandparents to those events.†
246. Mr Howard submitted that having listened carefully to the criticisms made of the assessments and the social work employees who undertook them there is nothing which undermined the validity of those assessments in their essential terms.† I agree.
247. As Miss OíHara submitted and Mr Howard pointed out every person who attempted to assess the grandparents came to a certain point where there was a resistance and denial which could not be overcome when dealing with the past.† Such matters will have to be dealt with by any professional involved in this case having regard to the question of Tís future.† Mrs Barsham would have to tackle exactly the same points.† There has been it is submitted, no major change in the grandparentsí position.† I agree that a pre-requisite is that the grandparents are able to be reflective and show some insight into the ways in which they respectively struggled as parents in the past.†
248. In paragraph 38 of his submissions Mr Howard sets out four areas of particular concern for the guardian which are:
(a) the history of serious parenting difficulties;
(b) the minimisation of the family history;
(c) an apparent lack of/a very late realisation or acknowledgment of the impact of her experience of family life on (the mother) in her childhood;
(d) Perception of risk and inability to manage risk effectively for T in the future.
249. As to paragraph 30(d) Mr Howard reviews the history following the incident on 4th November 2012 which left the mother very distressed.† [E33-E35].† At paragraph 46 it is submitted at the final appointment on 10th June 2013 the mother was less than frank when she said that she did not have contact with the father.† In oral evidence she maintained that she was not in contact with the father because it was the grandmother who was texting him. In my judgment that sort of evasive reply did not do her credit. It is submitted that the grandmother did not correct the misleading impression that the father was off the scene. It is submitted, this is illustrative of the collusive approach taken by the family.† I agree.
250. I agree with the submissions on behalf of the guardian in paragraph 47 that it is difficult to be clear how it was that the father became involved at the birth itself. Starting in paragraph 49 Mr Howard further reviews the grandmotherís evidence.† At paragraph 51 it is pointed out that the grandmother in her written evidence attempted to shift the blame for what had occurred at the hospital to others.† It is submitted that it was only in her oral evidence that the grandmother was willing to accept that she had a responsibility, together with the mother, to act protectively.† It is submitted that given the grandmotherís involvement in the meeting in December 2012 and her own knowledge of the father she should have known that any involvement of the father with the mother or T should not have occurred.† Further, it is submitted, that it is very worrying that in her oral evidence at the hearing the grandmother stated that she had always known that the father would want to be present at the birth but that she had not discussed this with anybody else.† I accept the submission that this failure to share important information does not bode well for T and her protection from future risk in the long-term.
251. In paragraph 53 of his submissions Mr Howard makes the same points about the grandfatherís situation as Miss OíHara.† I accept those submissions.
252. It is further concerning that in her evidence the guardian was clear that the impression given to her by the grandparents at their joint interviews with the guardian was that they were a couple who shared information and made decisions together.† This was clearly not the case on the basis of what emerged during the hearing.† It is submitted that the grandmother must have known that the impression that they were giving to the guardian at the interview was incorrect. From her own evidence it is clear that she had kept the grandfather in the dark.† It is submitted that without evidence which supports sufficient change in the grandparentsí approach to protectiveness there is no sound basis upon which to suggest a further assessment of the grandparents is warranted.† I agree.
253. If T were to live with the grandparents Mr Howard points out that they would have to manage both the mother and father in respect of contact and more generally.† The grandparents say that they can turn off or override their feelings for the mother.† In Mr Howardís submission this is an unrealistic prospect because:
(i) the grandmother has accepted that she has attempted to assist the mother and help her throughout her life;
(ii) the grandfather has helped the grandmother and effectively took on the mother and her sister as if they were his own children;
(iii) the grandparents were conscientious visitors and champions for the mother during her time at the residential assessment unit;
(iv) The mother continues to have many needs and requires much support in her daily life.
254. I am of the view that however much the grandparents believe they can put Tís needs first they will not be able to do so particularly given the enmeshed and difficult relationship between the mother and the grandmother.† Further there is the difficulty in the long-term planning as to the fatherís contact and involvement.
255. It is pointed out that the guardian having listened to the oral evidence throughout the hearing amended her Re B-S analysis (C273-C274) in respect of the grandparents.† This essentially dealt with the softening of the grandmotherís position and the revelation that the grandfather had been kept out of information that would have helped him to act protectively.† Having amended that analysis it is submitted that the guardian remained clear in her opinion that the risk of placing T with the grandparents substantially outweighed the positive factors that she had identified in her written report.† It is submitted that the guardian has properly balanced those risks and benefits against those relevant to long-term fostering and adoption and has indeed offered a holistic analysis to the court.† It is submitted that given the constellation of problems attached to the grandmotherís approach to open and honest working not only with the professionals but also her husband, there is no sufficient workable package of support that could be put in place which would meet the risks attendant upon Tís placement with the grandparents.† I accept those submissions.
256. Having said that the court must ask itself again whether adoption is necessary and whether it is right that nothing else will do.†
257. The court must also consider whether to delay its final decision in order to give the grandparents a further opportunity for assessment.
258. At paragraph 62 of his submissions Mr Howard sets out the provisions of Rule 25 FPR 2010 (as amended) and referred the court to the case of Re H-L  EWCA Civ 655.†
259. It is submitted that a full and careful assessment has been undertaken. It is said that the veracity of the assessment has not been undermined by any concessions made in oral evidence and the full and proper cross-examination conducted by Mr Ward-Prowse on behalf of the grandparents.† I agree.
260. It is submitted that the essential problems identified in the Reports match those encountered by the guardian in her own discussions with the family.† It is submitted that for all the reasons set out on behalf of the guardian the proposed further assessment will add nothing to the evidential jigsaw already before the court.† It is said that there is no gap in the evidence which requires to be filled.† I agree.
261. It is further pointed out that the 26 week timetable expired on 25th September 2013.† It is the case that justice should not sacrificed upon the altar of speed. The court needs to consider the class of case which may necessitate an extension as set out in Re S (A Child)  EWCC B44 (Fam) at paragraph 33. Any further extension of the timetable is governed by Section 32 Children Act 1989 as amended by Section 14 Children and Families Act 2014.† Such extension can only be sanctioned if the court considers it necessary to enable the court to resolve the proceedings justly.†
262. It is correct to find that the delay requested on behalf of the grandparents would be for a speculative assessment and outside Tís timetable.† I agree that the evidence points so firmly away from such an assessment that it should not be sanctioned and proceedings should not be extended.
263. If the court is of the view that there should be a Care and Placement Order it is necessary to consider whether the parentsí consent can properly be dispensed with.
264. The test is a stringent one and is whether Tís welfare requires the parentsí consent to be dispensed with.† This matter is dealt with in particular in Re P (Placement Orders: Parental Consent)  2 FLR 625 which points out that the word ďrequiresĒ carries a connotation of the imperative.† In other words it is what is demanded rather than what is merely optional, reasonable or desirable.
265. It is submitted on behalf of the guardian that on a proper consideration of all the oral and written evidence there is a sound basis for dispensing with the parentsí consent in this case.†
266. In those circumstances the guardian supports Local Authorityís applications and invites the court to:
(a) refuse the application of the grandparents for assessment by an ISW;
(b) grant a Care Order and approve the Care Plan for adoption;
(c) grant a Placement Order to dispense with the consent of the mother and the father on the basis that Tís welfare requires their consent to be dispensed with.
267. †As I have already indicated I find that the Threshold Criteria are satisfied including (A1-A2) including the matter mentioned at paragraph 2(ii)(d).†
268. I have read the final statement of the social worker Lucy Rose and in particular the analysis which starts at C199.† That analysis, which I accept, considers a number of possible placements for T but concludes with the recommendation that T should be made the subject of a Care and Placement Order.
269. Section C of the Annex B Report at C218(b) recommends the making of a Placement Order and suggest that there should not be a Contact Order under Section 26 of the 2002 Act.†
270. The guardianís analysis starts at C264 and at C270 the Report analyses the various options for T.† Subject to the amendments that were made to the analysis as a result of the oral evidence I accept the guardianís consideration of whether T should live with the grandparents or be adopted by her current foster carers.† This passage begins at C273.†
271. Insofar as the application for a Care Order is concerned I need to consider the checklist in Section 1(3) of the Children Act:
(a) Wishes and feelings: T is almost a year old.† It is not possible to ascertain her wishes and feelings save to say that she is likely to wish to live in a secure and stable home.
(b) T has the normal needs of any child of her age.
(c) If T is made the subject of a Care Order she will remain in her present home as the foster carers are in a position to issue an adoption application in respect of her.† If she were to move to the home of the grandparents she will experience a change of placement from one in which she has thrived to a new and more complicated situation.† She is still very young and may adjust to such a change but given all the evidence about the family I fear that such a change may not be beneficial to her.†
(d) T is nearly one year old.† There are no particular characteristics.
(e) It is clear from all the evidence that has been deployed during this hearing that there is a risk of harm if T goes to live with the grandparents.† I bear in mind that adoption placements do break down but T is still very young and of an age when an adoption is likely to be successful.
(f) Neither of Tís parents are in a position to care for her.† It is to their credit that they have accepted that.† There remain, in my judgment, serious concerns about the capacity of the grandparents to look after T both in the short and longer term.† I shall not repeat the matters already referred to in this judgment. †
272. For all those reasons therefore I am of the opinion that it is right to approve the Local Authorityís Care Plan and to make a Care Order.†
273. I now turn to the question of the application for a Placement Order.† The paramount consideration is Tís welfare throughout her life.† With reference to the checklist Section 1(4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 I have already considered most of the matters when looking at the Children Act checklist.† Two matters remain:
(i) If she were made the subject of a Placement Order she will not have direct contact with her birth family who clearly love her.† She would lose her place in her own family and the relationship that she has with those family members Ė see the guardianís analysis at C273.†
(ii) T has had regular contact with members of her birth family.† If she were to live with her grandparents contact with her parents could continue but would have to be supervised.† The grandparents contend that they have the ability and willingness to provide T with a secure environment.† I fear that the evidence does not support that assertion.† Clearly the grandparents wished to care for T and this is supported by each of the parents.† In this particular case I bear those wishes in mind but am not able to accede to them.††
274. I am of the opinion that it is right to make a Placement Order in this case but cannot do so unless either each of the parents gives consent or the court is able to dispense with that consent pursuant to Section 52 of the AACA 2002.† In paragraph 66 of his written submissions Mr Howard on behalf of the guardian reminded the court of the test in respect of dispensing with consent and referred to the decision of Re P (Placement Orders: Parental Consent)  2 FLR 625.† I agree with his submission that when the court considers all the evidence and submissions in this case together with the guardianís analysis there is a sound basis for dispensing with the parentsí consent and the test is met.†
275. Neither of the parents is in a position to care for T. I find that there have been full and proper assessments of the grandparents. There is an analysis compliant with the requirements set out in Re B-S (above).† In these circumstances the court can properly conclude that there is no† option that would meet Tís welfare other than adoption.
276. In reaching this conclusion I have considered the law, the evidence and in particular the balance which must be struck pursuant to Article 8 ECHR.†
277. In these circumstances therefore I will:
(a) refuse the application of the grandparents for assessment by an ISW;
(b) grant a Care Order and approve the Care Plan for adoption;
(c) grant a Placement Order dispensing with the consent of the mother and the father on the basis of Tís welfare requires their consent to be dispensed with.†
Dated this† 5th† day of June †2014
HIS HONOUR JUDGE BOND