IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY DIVISION
(Mr Justice Holman)
Wednesday, 3rd July 2002
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE ROBERT WALKER
LADY JUSTICE ARDEN
|IN THE MATTER OF N - B C M (CHILDREN)|
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 190 Fleet Street,
London EC4A 2AG
Tel: 0171 421 4040
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
5 Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 2JF) appeared on behalf of the Appellant.
MR PAUL STOREY QC and MS POLLY THOMPSON (Instructed by Messrs Hornby & Levy, 2-6 Atlantic Road,
London SW9 8HY appeared on behalf of the Respondent.
MR RICHARD CLOUGH (Instructed by Legal Services, Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9LP)
appeared on behalf of the London Borough of Camden. MISS MARTHA COVER
(Instructed by Wellers, Tenison House, Tweedy Road, Bromley BR1 3NF)
appeared on behalf of the guardian.
Crown Copyright ©
Wednesday, 3rd July 2002
"The local authority position remains the same as it has throughout the course of the proceedings and subsequently, namely that Mr C could not safely or adequately parent his son and that M should remain with his maternal uncle."
"... the kind of damage that was done to this man as a child takes an enormous amount of therapeutic work to reverse, if it can be healed, and in my opinion, based on my own interviews with him and from what I have read, is that he would continue to pose a risk to children in terms of his parenting ability as a result of his early experiences, and that this report rather confirms that belief."
(I add that the report to which she there referred was a report made by Dr Reeves within the criminal justice system.)
"It is not surprising that someone who has experienced the serious degree of trauma that we know Mr C experienced might develop an inconsistent sense of himself. This would be in keeping with the confused thinking that I noticed. However, it seems to me likely that the particular way that Mr C has dealt with the trauma of his early life is by erecting a kind of false identity. I do not mean by this that it is knowingly contrived, but rather that he unconsciously projects a view of himself as he would wish to be, regardless of the fact that he may not have the necessary underlying capacities to sustain it."
"I next have to consider how these aspects of his personality might affect his parenting abilities. On the one hand, it is a central part of his new identity to be concerned and caring for the children. On the other hand, I think that he is particularly vulnerable when he misses a sense of being loved in his own right, which might make it difficult for him to sustain himself in the rigours of parenting..."
"Given these difficulties, I turn now to my current assessment of Mr C. I think that it is concerning that he has not managed to make a stable life for himself since his release from prison."
"... he has not managed to restart his business in an effective way."
"When he came for his interview with me, he looked dishevelled. He seemed rushed and pressured, which I have felt are danger signs for him with regard to his emotional stability. In addition, I was concerned that he seemed most preoccupied with his conflict with Mr G."
"On this basis, I think that Mr C remains in an unsettled state in his life. So long as this is the case, I do not think he can safely look after any of the children. The Social Worker, the Children's Guardian, Dr Black and Dr Asen have felt in the past that none of the older children wish to live with Mr C and that it was in M's best interest to remain with his siblings. If this continues to be the opinion expressed by the other professionals about the best interests of the children, then that should determine where the children remain. If the other professionals think that this situation has shifted, particularly with regard to M, then I think that it would be necessary first to see if Mr C can achieve a better degree of personal stability."
"... I knew that Dr. Asen was going back to complete his assessment and I did not have that yet. But, based on what I had already heard from them, I had good reason to think that they would be likely to stick with their recommendation that M should remain with his siblings. They are the child experts, and I felt that I had to defer to their view of what was in M's best interest."
"I would certainly think that Mr C should have very serious consideration of his ability to offer a home for M, but I am concerned about his emotional stability, and I think that is quite a serious concern."
"As far as M's future welfare is concerned, it is my view that his needs would best be met if he continued to live with his siblings and Mr G and his family. This recommendation is based on a careful evaluation of the various risk factors, as outlined under 4.8 above. It is my view that in the event that M is placed with his father he would be likely to suffer significant harm."
"Assuming help available on all three fronts that you have identified as necessary, is it possible for you to give any realistic estimate of Mr C's chances of being able to parent M successfully?"
"It is my view that for the number of reasons, including Mr C's personality factors, it is unlikely that he would genuinely wish to seek out the sorts of support/help that I have outlined, and I therefore think that the chances of him to successfully parent M as the primary carer are small."
"The expert evidence, from Dr Black's initial reservations to the final assessment of Dr Freedman and Dr Asen's assessments, is that Mr C is not a suitable person to care for a child, and my own experience of him causes to me support that view."
"In dealing with Mr C in section VIII above, I have indicated how Dr Black, Dr Freedman and Dr Asen are in overall agreement about Mr C's unsuitability as a carer for children, and how this rests on basic aspects of his personality, not on specifics that could be dealt with by assisting him to learn better parenting.
For these reasons, I believe and submit that the children would be at risk of significant harm if they were to be returned to the care of Mr C."
"If that is right, then it can be seen from the perspective of today that his personality and parenting capabilities were so deficient that to leave M with him exposed M to the likelihood of significant harm."
"I myself have seen the father at length, both in the courtroom throughout the hearing and during the course of his long day in the witness box. Whilst paying full weight to the assessments and opinions of the experts, I am entitled to, and indeed must, make my own assessment too. I found him to have considerable intelligence and to be thoughtful in his answers. He was not shown by cross-examination to have been untruthful or unreliable on any significant issue of fact, although I am well aware that there are numerous points, for example as to whether he was `on the game' or a `rent boy' in the early/mid-1980s, on which his answers are in conflict with statements in contemporary documents."
"Although he has charm, the father did not seem to me to display much warmth at times when one might have expected it, and there was a marked lack of emotion and affect when describing past events. He seemed to me to be a man very much in control of himself and his emotions, which perhaps is to be expected after half a lifetime spent in children's homes and in custody and in prison."
"In my view, I should adopt the following test and approach. M should be returned (in a managed way) to, and permitted to be brought up by, his own father unless his welfare now and in the longer term requires that he remains with Mr G. In so formulating it, I give to the word `requires' its proper force, and regard it as synonymous with the word `necessary' where that appears in Article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
So stated, the test does make welfare paramount (as section 1 of the Children Act and indeed the English and Strasbourg jurisprudence all require), but it does not make the issue one of a mere balancing exercise."
"I am unable to conclude that the point has been reached whereby M's welfare now requires that he remains where he is."
"I am very, very conscious of the views of all the psychiatrists, of the social workers and of the guardian, but I have come to the firm view that it is not yet impossible to transfer M's attachments without lasting harm to him. He is not quite three, he knows his father well, he regards him as his father, calling him `Dad'. He relates well with him when they are together. Change can be managed, and it is the fact that children with histories as unsettled, and losses as great, as those that M has suffered can and do move on from foster homes in which they are well attached to new homes at the age of M and older."
"Accordingly, in my view, the judge was not entitled to reject the uncontradicted medical findings and opinion and to conclude that this opinion was either unreasonable or irresponsible."
"The extent of the duty, or rather the reach of what is required to fulfil it, depends on the subject matter. Where there is a straightforward factual dispute whose resolution depends simply on which witness is telling the truth about events which he claims to recall, is likely to be enough for the judge (having, no doubt, summarised the evidence) to indicate simply that he believes X rather than Y; indeed there may be nothing else to say. But where the dispute involves something in the nature of an intellectual challenge, with reasons and analysis advanced on either side, the judge must enter into the issues canvassed before him and explain why he prefers one case over the other. This is likely to apply particularly in litigation where as here there is disputed expert evidence; but it is not necessarily limited to such cases."
"Family judges deal with increasingly difficult child cases and are much assisted in their decision-making process by professionals from other disciplines: medical, wider mental health and social work among others. The courts pay particular attention to the valuable contribution from paediatricians and child psychiatrists as well as others, but it is important to remember that the decision is that of the judge and not of the professional expert. Judges are well accustomed to assessing the conflicting evidence of experts."