ON APPEAL FROM MANCHESTER COUNTY COURT
(HIS HONOUR JUDGE HULL)
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LADY JUSTICE BLACK
| IN THE MATTER OF N-C ( CHILDREN )
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Mrs Frances Oldham QC and Miss Carolyn Bland and Mr K Rowley ( instructed by Widdows Mason Solicitors and Stephensons Solicitors ) appeared on behalf of the Respondents.
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Lord Justice Thorpe:
"The other aspect, that baby B has been removed from the care of the parents, particularly the mother, has given me a great deal of concern because even though an interim care order is in place such a step is extreme and regarded as a step of last resort particularly here, where B is very young and the father is willing to leave the family home and undertake not to return until allowed. However, I remind myself that to some extent at the moment we are venturing into the unknown as we do not know what the children may say. In those circumstances the guardian is persuading me that the safest course is that as a holding exercise the baby should be removed, but again this should be reviewed when the children have been interviewed. "
"The mother sought the immediate return of B to her care or in the alternative contact on 5 occasions per week with her and a reversion to contact with the other children. The court indicated that the issue of B's placement with the mother should be reviewed at the hearing listed below on 4 July and statements in that regard are provided for below."
"I am concerned over whether the mother is seeing enough of B given the logistics involved. I accept and I believe that I am supported by the guardian that the local authority are doing their best in the proposals they have made "
So that leads to what is obviously the crucial decision, namely the decision at the hearing of the 4 July following the implementation of the preparations provided for in the middle order.
"The mother has very recently indicated her wish to return to Slovakia once B is placed back in her care. This is inconsistent with her previous position and given her current situation of isolation there may be a risk of her leaving the country without permission and taking the child with her."
"The protection and welfare of a young child is of paramount consideration and the current situation requires further assessment. Accordingly the guardian feels unable to support the mother's wish at this stage."
"B resided in my care from her birth until removal and she still appears very unsettled and upset to leave me when I have contact. I set out in my previous statement the concerns I have regarding B being placed in a placement which has no identity with her culture and no attempts being made to keep the identity with her culture."
"The final hearing is listed on 10 October. The immediate issues which arise today are return of B, who is a baby, to her mother and in relation to contact between mother and children. In relation to baby B she was in the mother's care together with A until relatively recently, but was taken away when issues arose in relation to the father. Counsel makes a plea for return of the baby to the mother, but in relation to that the local authority and guardian are very much opposed to immediate return. They point to inconsistencies in the mother's position as she said on different occasions that it is her intention to return with B to Slovakia. On other occasions she says she wants to stay in this country, now her official position, and look after all the children. There are also issues in relation to A. He attended school with evidence of a slap mark said to be caused by the mother, which she disputes. There are also issues on who is living at the family home, and what degree of management there is by the mother. Against all that background it does not seem to me that I can make a decision returning B to the mother. The position is altogether too uncertain."
He then goes on to deal with the possible enlargement of contact and is plainly not impressed by the local authority's plea of logistical impossibility.
Lady Justice Black:
Order: Appeal dismissed