Sitting at MIDDLESBROUGH
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
In the matter of A (A Child)
| DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL
|- and -
(3) GM and GF
(4) A (by his children's guardian)
Mr Alan D Green (of Hewitts) for the first respondent (mother)
Mr Martin Todd (instructed by Freeman Johnson) for the second respondent (father)
Mr Keith Leigh (of Teesside Law Limited) for the fourth respondent (child)
The third respondents (the paternal grandmother and step-grandfather) appeared in person
Hearing dates: 26-28 November 2014
Crown Copyright ©
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division :
"the test for severing the relationship between parent and child is very strict: only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child's welfare, in short, where nothing else will do."
"family ties may only be severed in very exceptional circumstances and that everything must be done to preserve personal relations and, where appropriate, to 'rebuild' the family. It is not enough to show that a child could be placed in a more beneficial environment for his upbringing. However, where the maintenance of family ties would harm the child's health and development, a parent is not entitled under article 8 to insist that such ties be maintained."
Some fundamental principles
"the elementary proposition that findings of fact must be based on evidence (including inferences that can properly be drawn from the evidence) and not on suspicion or speculation."
This carries with it two important practical and procedural consequences.
"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 themselves seen and heard is more compelling and less open to cross-examination. Too often far too much time is taken up by 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."
It is a common feature of care cases that a local authority asserts that a parent does not admit, recognise or acknowledge something or does not recognise or acknowledge the local authority's concern about something. If the 'thing' is put in issue, the local authority must both prove the 'thing' and establish that it has the significance attributed to it by the local authority.
"(3) In upholding the criticism made of the judgment as to inadequate identification of risk and consequent evaluation of likelihood of that risk in subsequent analysis of measures which mitigate that risk, that is articulation of the proportionality of the order sought and subsequently made, the judge was not assisted by the dearth of relevant evidence which should have supplied, in particular by the local authority. Relevant evidence in this respect is not and should not be restricted to that supportive of the local authority's preferred outcome.
(4) I regret that quite apart from a lamentable lack of evidence which would have enabled the judge to conduct a rigorous analysis of options objectively compliant with the twins' Convention rights, whether favoured by the local authority and/or Children's Guardian or not, I consider the case appears to have been hijacked by the issue of the mother's dishonesty. Much of the local authority's evidence is devoted to it. The Children's Guardian adopts much the same perspective. It cannot be the sole issue in a case devoid of context. There was very little attention given to context in this case. No analysis appears to have been made by any of the professionals as to why the mother's particular lies created the likelihood of significant harm to these children and what weight should reasonably be afforded to the fact of her deceit in the overall balance (emphasis added)"
"society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting, including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent. It follows too that children will inevitably have both very different experiences of parenting and very unequal consequences flowing from it. It means that some children will experience disadvantage and harm, while others flourish in atmospheres of loving security and emotional stability. These are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the state to spare children all the consequences of defective parenting. In any event, it simply could not be done."
"[Counsel] seeks to develop Hedley J's point. He submits that:
'many parents are hypochondriacs, many parents are criminals or benefit cheats, many parents discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities, many parents support vile political parties or belong to unusual or militant religions. All of these follies are visited upon their children, who may well adopt or "model" them in their own lives but those children could not be removed for those reasons.'
I agree with [counsel]'s submission".
The other is the observation of Baroness Hale of Richmond JSC (para 143):
"We are all frail human beings, with our fair share of unattractive character traits, which sometimes manifest themselves in bad behaviours which may be copied by our children. But the State does not and cannot take away the children of all the people who commit crimes, who abuse alcohol or drugs, who suffer from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities, or who espouse antisocial political or religious beliefs."
"I deplore any form of domestic violence and I deplore parents who care for children when they are significantly under the influence of drink. But so far as Mr and Mrs C are concerned there is no evidence that I am aware of that any domestic violence between them or any drinking has had an adverse effect on any children who were in their care at the time when it took place. The reality is that in this country there must be tens of thousands of children who are cared for in homes where there is a degree of domestic violence (now very widely defined) and where parents on occasion drink more than they should, I am not condoning that for a moment, but the courts are not in the business of social engineering. The courts are not in the business of providing children with perfect homes. If we took into care and placed for adoption every child whose parents had had a domestic spat and every child whose parents on occasion had drunk too much then the care system would be overwhelmed and there would not be enough adoptive parents. So we have to have a degree of realism about prospective carers who come before the courts."
The family background
"when addressing his relationship with [her] and the decision to have a child with one another despite the offence she was awaiting to be charged for, [he] denies that he had any knowledge of the offence she committed. This is however, evidently untrue as [he] recalls attending with [her] to 'sign a sheet of paper everyday' and also attended solicitors meetings and Court hearings in support of [her]. It is highly probable therefore that [he] had an extensive knowledge of the offences she was awaiting trial for however, this did not effect his decision to remain in a relationship with her, nor did it effect his decision making process in relation to conceiving a child with her."
Leaving on one side the important difference between "evidently untrue" and "highly probable", the simple fact, as the father asserts, and I believe him, is that, although he was aware of the various non-sexual offences the mother was charged with, it was not until he was at court, after A was conceived, that he first learned that she had been charged with, and indeed convicted of, sexual offences.
"Unfortunately due to [his] previous inability to work openly and honestly with the Local Authority it makes it very difficult to accept what [he] states as truth."
There is, unhappily, more than a whiff here of 'give a dog a bad name'.
"The Guardian is most concerned at the social work exhibited in this case. The child is now 9 months of age and unless proper judicial scrutiny is undertaken there is a possibility of further delay which is likely to materially affect the prospects of the child's successful placement outside the family. The local authority have ruled out all potential family placements although it is clear that this could have been achieved pre-birth."
The matter came before Judge Taylor on 25 September 2014. He directed that the father be joined as a party, directed that the case was to remain before a Circuit Judge, fixed the CMH for hearing before himself on 6 October 2014 and directed that the final hearing on 24 November 2014 was to be before me.
"Taking into consideration all of the information contained within the documentation filed with the Court by the Local Authority I do not consider that any further assessment of either parent will assist in determining the long term plans for A."
Having expressed concerns about the local authority's delay from 17 February 2014 to 16 September 2014 in issuing proceedings, she identified the need for any other potential kinship carers to be identified and assessed and recommended the making of an interim care order.
"[The father] raised concerns regarding the Local Authority assessment having been concluded in February 2014. However the chief concerns identified within the assessment, inability to work openly and honestly with the Local Authority and minimisation of Local Authority concerns were issues that time would not have altered."
SW2 seems not to have analysed in any detail the underlying factual basis of the local authority's case. In large part she simply accepted SW1's factual assumptions.
"For the sake of brevity it is not my intention to repeat the history in respect of this case here as it is well documented within the Local Authority's evidence".
Elsewhere she referred to matters being "well documented" or supported by "ample evidence", without embarking upon any analysis or even summary of the materials in question. It is apparent that CG accepted the local authority's view that the father had "minimised" or "played down" matters which were of concern to the local authority and that he had not always been "honest with professionals". Her assessment of the father was that he "appears very immature and has very little insight regarding A's needs" and that he "appears to take no responsibility for his actions/behaviours". She describes the risks posed by the father and the mother as "unmanageable".
The local authority's concerns
i) He minimises the risks he and his partners present to A (3);
ii) He "has numerous convictions", "has engaged in physical altercations with family members in recent times" and "does not have insight into the risks to a child where physical violence occurs" (5);
iii) He "has continued in a relationship with J despite being aware of the risks posed by her and their continued relationship" and "has therefore prioritized his needs over and above those of A" (6);
iv) He "has 2 older children who are cared for permanently outside of his care with H. There have been allegations made that the children have suffered injuries [bruising] whilst in [his] care" (7).
The local authority's concerns in relation to the father
(A): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [W4]
"Telephone call to Durham Constabulary of whom [sic] advised that there was no evidence to support that [he] had been present during this incident and therefore appears to have fabricated his presence."
The illogical leap from the premise to the conclusion is astonishing, and worrying. It is quite unclear whether the conclusion ("therefore ") was one expressed by the police or inferred by the social worker. The other documentary reference, seemingly referring to the same telephone call, is in a case note also dated 30 October 2013 made by SW1:
"Information received to advise [father] has fabricated the information in relation to the incident it has been confirmed that [he] was not present during this incident. Thus causing concern to the Local Authority as to why he would fabricate his presence."
The difference between the two records is apparent. One has to question whether SW1 understood the significance of the distinction crucial if it was to be said that the father was lying between "there was no evidence to support that [he] had been present" and "it has been confirmed that [he] was not present". Be that as it may, which statement is correct? I do not know and the local authority was unable to enlighten me.
"He appears to have lied in an assessment about being present at a fatal accident during his childhood."
I have already criticised this form of allegation. Very properly, by the end of the hearing, Mr Oliver had abandoned the allegation. Given the inadequacy of the evidence available to the local authority to make good its case it is surprising that it was ever raised and concerning that it was still being pursued well into the final hearing.
(B): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [W1]
"The officer who the assessing social worker discussed the offences with advised that the information held within their database suggests that [he] was aware of the girl's age and spent the weekend with her as oppose to the one night."
"[He] stated he feels I am 'throwing his offences in his face about his past' from this [he] was referring to his previous offence listed on his PNC whereby he had sexual intercourse with a minor. [He] advised that this offence is irrelevant as he did not receive a criminal conviction for this offence. I informed [him] that it was about his ability to accept and acknowledge that this was criminal offence and that his behaviour on this occasion was inappropriate. [He] advised 'social services are wankers' and stated 'I don't bat for the other team you know , do you really think I'm going to sit and do something to my son, touch him or something'. To which I informed [him] I would be terminating the phone call as that comment was inappropriate and I am unwilling to continue this discussion when he is in this frame of mind. [He] was advised to call me back when he had calmed down."
Her assessment of him continues:
"The offences above were discussed with [him] within the assessment process. [He] advised he met the girl at a local football match and went back to his friend's house with her whereby they had consensual sexual intercourse with one another. [He] advised at the football match, the girl was purchasing alcohol and therefore he was under the impression she was eighteen years of age. [He] did not see the relevance of discussing the offence and appeared to minimise the severity of the incident. [He] advised he and the girl had sexual intercourse with one another once however, upon discussing the offence with Durham Constabulary, further information in respect of the incident has been obtained.
The conflicting information provided from the police and [the father] in relation to the offence was discussed with [him] however, his view point regarding the details of the offence remained the same. [He] remains consistent in that he and the victim had consensual intercourse with one another once, and did not spend the weekend together. [He] was unwilling to accept the facts held on the police national database in relation to the offence and continues to oppose the appropriateness of the caution received.
[He] continues to advise the assessing social worker that he feels 'Social Services are chucking his history back in his face'. [He] further states that 'The police didn't charge me with it so why does it matter to you, I wasn't charged with anything'. Comments like such indicate to the assessing social worker that [he] fails to acknowledge the immoral nature of the offences he committed. This is not to say that [he] poses a risk to adolescent girls/children in light of his offence as the assessing social worker acknowledges [he] was 17 at the time and some, eight years have passed since the offences were committed and there has not been any further issues raised by professionals. What is of concern however, is although [he] admits that he committed the offence he evidently distorts the inappropriateness of this behaviour. [He] is unable to recognise that the offence was in effect, sexually abuse of a child nor is he able to recognise the impact of his actions upon the victim. This is concerning as [he] does not feel change is required and therefore he has a limited capacity to change his attitude, and in effect, his behaviours toward vulnerable young women. His non acceptance of the concerns ultimately makes it difficult to assess the current risk he poses and although [he] advises he was unaware of the girls chronological age, on reflection he continues to minimise the concerns in relation to the offence."
"[He] has failed to work openly and honestly with the Local Authority, as has his mother and her partner. [His] acceptance and understanding of the severity of the offence continues to cause the Local Authority significant concern
Despite several attempts of advising [him] that the Local Authority acknowledge that this offence was committed a significant period of time ago, he was unable to acknowledge the significance of this. A requires appropriate role models within his life whereby he is given the opportunity to learn socially acceptable behaviours. It appears [the father] fails to acknowledge the immoral nature of this offence, and as he did not receive a criminal conviction, feels this incident is not significant, nor is it in the interests of A for this to be explored further."
(C): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [W5]
"[Mother] has expressed that she no longer wishes for [father] to care for their unborn child as he has links to the EDL and arranges EDL protests. [She] has informed [DL] that she is aware people are threatening to burn down [father's] house and she would not feel that her child is safe within his care."
"[He] advised he was previously an active member of the English Defence League however, that this was through naοvity and not having a comprehensive knowledge of the beliefs of the EDL. [He] advised he left the EDL shortly after becoming involved when he realised this group was racist. I challenged [his] understanding of the EDL to which he evidently minimised, [he] advised before the 'new leaders took over there was nothing wrong with the EDL."
"Despite her desire for [him] to care for A now, [the mother] previously withdrew this wish advising that [he] is an active member in the English Defence League and that his involvement in such a violent protest group makes her feel as though [he] would be unable to protect his child and provide him with a safe home environment. The assessing social worker challenged [him] about his involvement in the EDL to which he evidently minimised this, advising he joined the 'group' if you like through simply curiosity and that he was oblivious to the level of racism fuelled within this group. [He] advises to his knowledge he was in this group for a couple of weeks, he then became aware of the violence and inappropriateness of this group and made the immediate decision to 'cut all ties' with this group. The English Defence League is a racist organisation whose main activity is violent street demonstrations against the Muslim community. Although it claims to only oppose Islamic extremism, the EDL appears to target the whole Muslim community and its actions deliberately seek to create and practice tensions and violence between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. It is therefore highly debatable that [he] naively joined such a group out of curiosity and perhaps he follows those beliefs of his fellow, EDL members. Naturally, individuals are entitled to their own views and beliefs, including views regarding other religions however, the distorted thinking of those within the EDL is barbaric and their actions inappropriate. Therefore the mentality of those involved has to be brought into question. Equally, A requires positive role models within his life in order to ensure he is able to make a positive contribution to the world, one that does not promote crime and violence."
"J advised that she and [he] met one another via their involvement within the English Defence League. In addition she stated they were no longer members of the EDL as they began getting abused on some of the social media network sites in respect of the EDL and this provoked their desire to no longer partake in such group. This a contradictory version of events to those provided by [him]. It is unclear if [he] was an active or passive member within the English Defence League due to his inability to work openly and honestly in respect of his involvement within the protest group. [The mother] advised the assessing social worker however that [he] was an active member within the group and participated within arranging protests previously and attended these protests. Although this information is unsubstantiated, and [he] continues to deny this, it is probable there is some element of truth within the information provided. If [he] was an active member within the protests of the English Defence League this could severely impact upon a child resident within [his] and J's care. It is important children are brought up in an environment whereby they are taught appropriate behaviours within society and appropriate conduct is practiced. A should not be resident within an environment whereby he is exposed to his main care givers involvement in violent and aggressive protests. Witnessing behaviour like this as a normal occurrence in his life is not in his best interests due to the risk of potential retaliation / repercussions of his main care givers involvement within such organisation and the risk him becoming directly involved within this is heightened. In addition to the information received from [the mother] and [his] minimisation of the information, the assessing social worker received information from Sefton Children's Social Care advising that J herself is an active member within the organisation and that they feel this is a concern. They advised that 'there is evidence that has been seen by the assessing social worker in Sefton Children's Social Care that is suggestive that J is an active member within the EDL, she has incredibly racist comments on her social networking page Facebook that is indicative of her active involvement within the organisation'."
"the immoral nature of the values and beliefs of members of the EDL and the violence within the protests EDL members engage in is inappropriate and supports inflicting violence injury to innocent members of the Muslim heritage
it is commonly known that this barbaric protestor group promote ignorance and violence in respect of the muslim community By all means, the assessing social worker supports equality, difference of opinion and that not all races and cultures agree with one another's beliefs and views. What cannot be condoned however is expressing these beliefs through violence, irrational behaviour and inflicting physical and psychological pain against others due to their religion, the core beliefs and subfocus of the English Defence League. A should reside within an environment that supports difference, equality and independence. He needs to be taught how to express his views systematically and in a socially acceptable way. A should not reside within an environment whereby violence is openly condoned, supported and practiced. [The father] and J need to appreciate this is the twenty first century, the world is a diverse place whereby all individuals should feel accepted, regardless of their ethnic background, race and origin."
(D): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [T5]
(E): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [W11]
(F): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [T7, W8, W9, W10]
i) His relations with H are acrimonious and have involved police intervention and arguments have occurred in front of the children [W8].
ii) There have been allegations that the children have suffered bruising whilst in his care [T7, W9].
iii) Within the private law proceedings he has revealed "concerning conduct" as reported by the Cafcass officer (recording self-serving conversations with one of the children, lacking insight into how his behaviour impacts on the children, undermining H and inability to deal with both children simultaneously) [W10].
(G): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [T3, W2]
i) He minimises the risks he and A's mother present to A [T3].
ii) He "lied about not knowing about mother's pending criminal charges at the time she became pregnant with A" and "minimises the significance of this" [W2].
(H): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father [T3, W3, W12]
i) He minimises the risks he and J present to A [T3].
ii) He did not reveal his relationship with J during the initial assessment, saying he wished to be assessed as a sole carer, when in fact he had applied to be re-housed with her. She initially refused to be assessed and, when she was, failed to reveal that she had previously had a child placed outside her care due to concerns about her parenting [W3(a)].
iii) He and his family "appear to have colluded with J" in "attempting to hide [this] information from the social worker" [W3(b)].
iv) He "failed to appreciate the significance of his actions in relation to J" [W3(c)].
v) His actions in relation to J show that he cannot be trusted to put A's needs over his own. He is immature and has little insight into A's needs [W12].
"[He] failed to work openly and honestly with the Local Authority in respect of his relationship with J. He failed to inform the Local Authority he had commenced a relationship and was planning on residing with J. Furthermore, once Darlington Children's Social Care became aware of the concerns regarding J's parenting and risks she would pose to A, when discussed with [him] and J, [he] failed to understand the relevance of this and express any concerns regarding her having care of A. During the visit on 29 October 2014, this was discussed with [him] who stated that given he had not previously worked with Children's Social Care, he did not know he had to share information such as his relationship status. The Local Authority does not accept this as a valid excuse. [He] was aware a thorough parenting assessment was being undertaken in respect of his ability to care for A and therefore, if he was in a relationship and had intentions of residing with his new partner that would clearly form part of the assessment. Furthermore, he accepts that SW1 did discuss the concerns regarding J's parenting in his presence however, he states he has a 'weird imagination' and 'if interested will listen' if not he will 'blank everything out' around him. When asked on 29 October 2014 by the Social Worker what the concerns were in relation to J, [he] stated he did not remember the concerns. This continues to raise significant concerns with the Local Authority regarding his continued minimisation of the concerns of the Local Authority and understanding the importance of listening to the Local Authority concerns and sharing all relevant information."
(I): The local authority's concerns in relation to the father's family [T5, W6, W7]
i) He is alleged to have engaged in physical altercations with family members in recent times [T5]. Specifically, on 3 December 2013 the father and his step-father were in a physical confrontation with violence, which led to the police being called [W6].
ii) His relations with his mother and step-father can be volatile and involve threats and violence. In addition to the incident on 3 December 2013, reference is made to incidents on 28 September 2006, 9 November 2007 and 19 August 2012 [W6].
iii) He and his mother attempted to mislead the local authority about the seriousness of the incident on 3 December 2013 and that it resulted in him being effectively homeless and requiring re-housing [W7].
"The assessing social worker has no doubt that [he] loves his son dearly. This was apparent prior to and following his birth, and continues to be evidenced through the quality of supervised contact [he] and A have with one another to date. This case however, evidences that love alone is not enough to provide a child with the level of safe, stable and nurturing care they need in order to thrive and be parented in a safe, stable, home environment. [The father] has attended all assessment sessions with the assessing social worker and has been generally cooperative throughout the assessment process however, was not present at the home address for two sessions and refused to engage during one session whereby he decided to take a bath during the arranged session. During the sessions whereby [Father] has attended, he has been pleasant, polite and willing to engage."
"It is not felt [the father] has always engaged appropriately within the assessment sessions and although has always been polite, courtesy and well presented, it is not felt he has demonstrated his ability to willingness to work openly and honestly with the assessing social worker The assessing social worker acknowledges that having social work involvement within your family life is an intrusive process and is often difficult for the family involvement. Having said this however, working openly and honestly is important in order to ensure that in partnership, the Local Authority and the family are able to cooperate with one another in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the child. [His] unwillingness to engage openly and honestly however not only has implications for the current assessment process, however may also impact upon the future decisions made in respect of the child if he is unwilling to access the appropriate support services available to the family in order to assist within the decision making process."
"[He] is able to advise how he would meet A's basic care needs. He recognises that children require a stable, safe home environment however, his ability to provide this to his son is questionable. Within the assessment process the assessing social worker has not only explored [his] ability to parent his child alongside J but also as a sole carer. [His] continual inability to work openly and honestly with the assessing social worker and his continued minimisation of all identified concerns however has led the conclusion of the assessment process to be negative in respect of himself."
The local authority's conclusions
"The Local Authority is of the opinion that if A was returned to either parents joint/sole care at this stage or within the future that he would be at risk of suffering significant harm alongside the risk of his needs being neglected through the inappropriate care that would be provided by [the father] and/or [the mother]. It is evident both are often immature in their attitudes toward society acceptable behaviours within society. Both parents have offences detailing concerns of a sexual nature, both with minors. Although these offences differ in severity, neither parent has demonstrated their acceptance of the immoral nature of their actions, their willingness to change, nor their ability to protect a child from sexual risks and dangers within the future. It is therefore felt that should A reside within the care of his mother or father, he may be at risk of sexual harm."
That is not, as we have seen, quite how the case was put in the schedule of findings.
"The assessing social worker is not concerned by [the father's] ability to meet his son's basic care needs. What is a continuing concern however is [his] unwillingness and inability to accept the concerns of the Local Authority nor is it felt he has engaged proactively within assessment sessions. [He] considered attending a parenting course to enhance his parenting ability under the recommendation of his solicitor however, has failed to access and engage within such a provision to date.
If A were to reside within the care of either [the father], as a single parent or accompanied by J the Local Authority are of the opinion that he would be at significant risk of harm from possibly emotional harm, potentially physical abuse, a lack of stability and neglect The Local Authority do not feel able to implement any measures to reduce the risks posed by [him] and/or J due to the adults concerned being unable to accept the concerns and being unwilling to engage within assessments honestly."
"A needs to be safeguarded from the risk of significant harm on a permanent and long term basis. It is the opinion of the Local Authority that [the mother] and [the father] are unable to protect A from significant harm. The Local Authority are of the firm opinion that [they] have shown a lack of honesty and insight into the Local Authorities concerns [He] has prioritised his relationship with J, despite the evident risks she poses to children and continued to be dishonest with to the Local Authority regarding his relationship with J. [He] shows no insight or understanding into the risks J posed to A and initially remained in a relationship with [the mother] despite being fully aware of her then, impending charges. [The father] and [the mother] would be unable to provide A with safe, stable and nurturing care and it is felt he would be at risk of significant harm should he be parented by either parent."
i) The father is immature and can sometimes act irresponsibly. As the history of his relationships with both the mother and J illustrate all too clearly, he seems to have a tendency to fall very quickly into unsatisfactory and short-lived relationships.
ii) In some instances, though not to the extent alleged by the local authority, the father has minimised or played down matters which were properly of concern to the local authority. He has not always been open and honest with professionals. He failed to appreciate the significance of his actions in relation to J.
iii) To an extent the father is lacking in insight regarding A's needs and minimises some aspects of his character and behaviours which may bear adversely on A.
iv) On occasions the father drinks to excess. On occasions he has taken cannabis. There have been episodes of domestic discord between the father, his mother and his step-father, involving the police and, on occasions, actual violence.
As against that, I should record that on matters of fact I found the father to be a truthful and, for the most part, reliable historian.
i) In a significant number of very material respects the local authority has simply failed to prove the factual underpinning of its case.
ii) SW1's work was seriously flawed. Neither SW2 nor CG seems to have explored or analysed in any detail the underlying factual basis of the local authority's case. In large part they simply accepted SW1's factual assumptions. Insofar as they conducted independent investigations with the father, each met him only once, SW2 for about 75-80 minutes, CG for only 45 minutes.
iii) The local authority was too willing to believe the worst of the father, which led to it being unduly dismissive of what he was saying.
iv) The local authority failed to link the facts it relied upon with its assertions that A was at risk. Nor did CG.
v) The local authority and CG did not sufficiently reappraise the case once it had become clear that the father was no longer in a relationship with either the mother or J.
For all these reasons I am entitled, in my judgment, to come to a different conclusion. My duty is to come to my own decision having regard to all the evidence, and, for reasons which will by now be apparent, I am driven to conclusions other than those shared by the local authority and CG.
"36 The use of the provisions of s.20 Children Act 1989 to accommodate was, in my judgment, seriously abused by the local authority in this case. I cannot conceive of circumstances where it would be appropriate to use those provisions to remove a very young baby from the care of its mother, save in the most exceptional of circumstances and where the removal is intended to be for a matter of days at most.
37 The accommodation of DS under a s.20 agreement deprived him of the benefit of having an independent children's guardian to represent and safeguard his interests. Further, it deprived the court of the ability to control the planning for the child and to prevent or reduce unnecessary and avoidable delay in securing a permanent placement for the child at the earliest possible time."
I respectfully agree.