ON APPEAL FROM NOTTINGHAM COUNTY COURT
HER HONOUR JUDGE BUTLER QC
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LADY JUSTICE BLACK
LORD JUSTICE MCFARLANE
P (A CHILD)
Miss Hannah Markham (instructed by Straw & Pearce) for the Respondent
Hearing dates : 16 May 2013
Final written submissions: 24 June 2013
Crown Copyright ©
The relationship of the parents in Devon
"At the current time I cannot offer anything positive in terms of the parents' capacity to make and sustain change. The issues over contact and the parents' relationship have been long standing and despite all efforts of support and advice the situation has remained harmful for L. In addition and equally as concerning is the lack of stimulation and L's physical and emotional presentation."
"Given the overwhelming concerns for L's welfare it would be my view that the parents have left the local authority no alternative but to seek legal advice which may result in L being removed from her parents' care, so that the local authority can guarantee her safety, development and well being."
"L has appeared confused and subdued at meetings where both parents are present. There is significant animosity between parents and this has had an obvious impact on L's emotional development." (F1-20)
M and L move to Nottinghamshire in summer 2011
"F is reported by Devon CYPD to have made improvements in his parenting capacity with intensive support from Family Intervention Services in respect of cleanliness and hygiene. He is reported to have a good understanding of L's basic care needs, has provided suitable toys and stimulation in his home and ensures basic safety. The concern is that he has required a a lot of support from professionals and family members to achieve this and further investigation is needed to assess whether this is something that can be consistently maintained."
F's complaint about Nottingham Children's Services
After L went into LA's care
The April 2012 hearing leading to Judge Butler's judgment of 17 April 2012
"So far as F is concerned…. a finding was sought against him in relation to his time with M and L in Devon when they both lived together and cared for the child. He has admitted certain matters and all parties agree that his admissions are sufficient to meet the threshold criteria and I will read out the agreed threshold in relation to the father:
(1) Father accepts that the threshold is met in relation to the child, L, in that at the relevant date she was at risk of suffering emotional harm due to the following:
(a) F's relationship with M became volatile and verbal arguments occurred between them, on occasions within earshot but not in front of L, and that as a consequence L was likely to have suffered emotional harm;
(b) arguments centred on contact and care of L and primarily took place at handover;
(c) F further accepts pushing M on two occasions, but not in front of L, around the time of the breakup in their relationship in March/April 2010; and,
(d) F believes that the police were called eight or nine times and the police logs record he was aggressive on two occasions to ambulance staff, although that is not accepted by F."
26 April 2012 order
"As previously stated, there has been significant domestic violence in the past between the parents. This issue has since ceased and the parents have an improved relationship currently. There are concerns that as F failed to complete a REPAIR course, that it is possible he may revert to old patterns of behaviour that include threatening behaviour with occasional violence (e.g. pushing and grabbing M, and refusing to leave M's home as well as long arguments between the parents). The parent's relationship is volatile at times and this is concerning as L may be exposed to this in the future." (E3)
"…..social care does not feel confident that F would be able to meet L's basic needs, with particular concern regarding L's emotional needs. Social care is therefore recommending that L does not live in the care of F." (E103)
"This verbal aggression is of concern as F does not appear to understand the impact that this had on L at the time. During F's engagement with Nottinghamshire social care there have been a number of times when F has been very angry and aggressive. It was recognised throughout the assessment that F has been very upset with the current situation however his temper at times has felt threatening."
"F does not recognise his controlling behaviour and is not able to see how this may impact on L in the future. This also leads to concerns regarding future relationships where F may become controlling and therefore L's future safety should she live with him."
"there are concerns that M contacted the police on many occasions due to fear of F's behaviour. There are further concerns that the Ambulance crew felt threatened by F's behaviour."
They had "considerable concerns regarding F's aggressive behaviour towards M and professionals and concerns that this would impact negatively on L in the future should she be living with F".
"F needs to be in a position where he can properly challenge the negative parenting assessment at trial. Much of the concerns in the parenting assessment relate to domestic violence, F's attitude towards M and F's reluctance to take on board professional advice in relation to the care of L. That can and should be properly informed by expert psychological evidence." (C3-26)
"However, the history of M and F's relationship is a worrying one. The history pre the birth was an aggressive and controlling behaviour towards M. There have been angry outbursts over the years on a regular basis towards people in authority, for example the police and ambulance crews on occasion, and there has been aggressive behaviour towards staff of social care over the years and this has occurred both in Devon, where M and F lived until M came to Nottingham in June 2011, and also here in Nottingham. Even during a parenting assessment by Nottinghamshire social care F was extremely angry at times with the assessment supervisors."
"shows a level of aggression over a long period, which is a worry, and there has been no sign over that period of any change in this type of behaviour exhibited by F. The assessment draws on work completed by Devon social care and Nottingham over some three years, and, as I say, there has been no improvement in his aggression and his outbursts. Clearly there was a risk of emotional harm from his behaviour and that of M. That is why Devon social care was involved in the first place, and in Devon he failed to complete a Repair course which, no doubt, would have helped in relation to his aggression. Devon core assessment said they feared that having failed to complete that course he would revert to his old pattern of behaviour."
After the April 2012 hearings
The August 2012 judgment
"F caused emotional harm and agreed there were arguments at handover and agrees to pushing mother in March 2010 and accepts the police recorded him as aggressive on two occasions.
F has problems with domestic violence…..F has sought help but it is early days. F has only had three sessions of anger management and it is far too early to test his ability to change. Such a timescale to test his ability to change is simply not in L's interests.
His own mother has stated he is aggressive as did PGGM and this can be seen in his relationship with M. F has been seeking help for his problems since July 2012 despite the fact LA have been asking him to seek help since 2010. We will not know the effect of F's anger management for some time and L has been in care for one year now. The risk is too great for L to rehabilitate her back into F's care……F has presented as aggressive and interrupting in court although I appreciate it is very hard for him."
The October 2012 judgment
"It should be noted that the original measures did not indicate a significant problem to start with, but after completing the treatment, F has acquired a range of management strategies…."
"All repeated outcome measures consistently indicated that F has enhanced his understanding and repertoire of coping strategies, both in terms of personal control and interpersonal awareness. He has acquired a range of useful cognitive, behavioural and emotional strategies which are informed by psychological therapy and practice. He is clearer about appropriate responses in challenging situations and will be able to apply skills he has learnt to diffuse anger and resolve conflict."
Re B  UKSC 33
"the same thread …. runs through both domestic law and Convention law, namely that the interests of the child must render it necessary to make an adoption order" and the word "requires" in section 52(1)(b) 'was plainly chosen as best conveying….the essence of the Strasbourg jurisprudence' (Re P (Placement Orders: Parental Consent)  EWCA Civ 535,  2 FLR 625, para 125)."
"Of course the court can act on the basis of evidence that is hearsay. But direct evidence from those who can speak to what they have seen and heard is more compelling and less open to cross-examination. Too often far too much time is taken up in cross-examination directed to little more than demonstrating that no-one giving evidence in court is able to speak of their own knowledge, and that all are dependent on the assumed accuracy of what is recorded, sometimes at third or fourth hand, in the local authority's files."