ON APPEAL FROM NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COURT
(HIS HONOUR JUDGE WAINE)
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE MCFARLANE
| In the matter of M ( A child )
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Mr Pettit appeared on behalf of the Second Appellant Father of K
Ms Johnson (instructed by Legal Services) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Local Authorities.
Ms Akman (instructed by CAFCASS) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Children, by their Children's Guardian.
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Lord Justice McFarlane:
"Have to say that despite my reservations about whether can work, if we said 15th August as the closing date then Orchard House are not able to provide a report which is meaningful, so much still unknown.
In a sense, all the time spent may be [a] waste of time from [the court's] perspective, there are positives of what has happened there, horrors of early part of July looked at through psychologist's eyes are understandable.
I feel I have to say I am driven to the conclusion that the only appropriate course is for: frankly, to be give another 6 weeks to see if this can be made to work.
Also troubling me that Guardian has not had the advantage of hearing Dr Tantum's evidence and child's solicitor is restricted by instructions before coming into court.
I would just find it terribly difficult to say parents given a fair opportunity if they were not given the further six weeks. I bear in mind conflict that the child having relationship with mother, another 6 weeks would make any separation more acute. Frankly elevating the professional skills of Dr Tantum above the legal and other skills of those involved in the case at the moment.
If [the local authority] say categorically 'no' we need to find a way of continuing this hearing. Thursday is a possibility."
I read that counsel's note out effectively verbatim. I am sure HHJ Waine was more felicitous in his actual delivery.
"I have also of course got to adopt a fair approach to both the parents in the case and give them all reasonable opportunities within the context of the children's welfare to argue a full and proper case before the court. When it came towards the end of the hearing on Tuesday the 9th I did express my then thoughts that it was difficult to see how they could be in that position if that further assessment did not take place"
He then goes on paragraph 43:
"I have listened with great care to the arguments that have been put forward on all sides and, as I said at the opening of this judgment, I have given the matter a great deal of anxious personal thought.
44. I fear that the decision I have now come to is that, although that effective process could undoubtedly provide the court with some possible answers to the future, in no way is it in the end going to be in a position to deal with the deep psychological problems which this mother undoubtedly has. The two psychologists have reported that in both the original proceedings and these proceedings have spoken about the absolute need for psychological work to be done with the mother and really, as is typical in these cases, a long time period of intervention certainly approaching a year if not longer."
"The mother was denied the opportunity to give oral evidence to address the concerns of the court."
"In so far as the earlier of the Court of Appeal decisions to which I have referred contain passages which might be taken to suggest that a parent facing the permanent removal of their child has a right in all cases to an assessment of their choice rather than one carried out or commissioned by the local authority, I am sure that this was not what the court intended. The President made that clear in the passage I have just quoted from Re J. Still less is there a principle such as that for which Mr Twomey contends, namely that "parents must be given the chance to put forward a positive case to the judge determining the issue of whether a care order should be made". Such a principle is unworkable not least because, sadly, there are cases in which the parents are plainly not able to care for their children and in which no amount of assessment or evidence gathering will enable them to put forward a positive case."
Lord Justice Hughes:
Order: Appeal dismissed