SITTING AT READING
160-163 Friar Street
B e f o r e :
|IN THE MATTER OF:|
|Re R ľ T (No. 2)|
Miss Isabelle Watson On behalf of the Applicant Local Authority
Mr Andrew Lorie Instructed by Reeds Solicitors on behalf of CT
Miss Judith Charlton Instructed by Turpin Miller on behalf of BR
Miss Roma Whelan Instructed by Clifton Ingram on behalf of JP
Miss Jasbinder Dail from Rowberry Morris on behalf of the children
through their Guardian
Hearing Dates:15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 February 2018
Crown Copyright ©
A. Events of 12 and 13 June 2016
i. From March 2016 BR was responsible for collecting R's prescribed medication in the form of Tegretol.
ii. Between 21.30 hours 12 June 2016 and 9.30 am 13 June 2016 L ingested a large quantity of carbamazepine that was potentially life-threatening.
iii. As a consequence L went into a coma and required immediate medical attention.
iv. He was admitted to hospital after an ambulance was called at 09.33 am on 13 June 2016 where he suffered two seizures and required ventilation.
v. The carbamazepine was administered to L by either BR and/or JP.
vi. If carbamazepine was administered to L by BR or JP and not both, the other was aware of it.
vii. BR and JP failed to seek appropriate medical attention for L in a timely manner, thereby increased the risk of harm that he suffered.
viii. BR and JP concealed from the treating medical professionals, the police and social workers that L had ingested carbamazepine.
ix. By reason of the above findings CT and her household had no responsibility for the carbamazepine that was ingested by L.
x. P did not attempt to give R carbamazepine in February 2016 as described by BR.
B. Previous ingestion of carbamazepine
Whilst there is a sense of clarity about Dr Kintz's evidence in this regard, in particular when he stated that he cannot think of another explanation other than ingestion of carbamazepine, I am not satisfied that the evidence is sufficiently reliable. There are far too many variables and a distinct lack of reliable scientific research and consensus amongst the research scientists. The medical evidence is not corroborated by any other evidence. In the circumstances, I do not make the findings sought in this regard.
C. Domestic abuse
In addition to the concessions by the parties, I make the following general findings
i. The relationship between BR and CT was characterised with arguments and violence. They were violent to each other.
ii. On one occasion BR placed his hands around CT's throat and attempted to strangle her.
iii. On one occasion when CT was pregnant with R, BR punched her in the abdomen.
iv. The relationship between BR and JP was characterised with arguments and violence. BR was the perpetrator of violence and JP has sought to minimise this.
v. On one occasion when JP was pregnant with MG, BR placed his hands around her throat and attempted to strangle her.
vi. BR was controlling in his relationship with CT and JP.
vii. BR instructed R to misbehave when in the care of her mother.
viii. P, R and L have been exposed to C. i. and iv. above.
ix. The children have been exposed to illicit drugs and adults taking illicit drugs.
(a) In respect of P, R and L, the local authority initially planned to place the three children together for adoption. In doing so, it recognised that this may prove to be difficult and it will also look at other options that include long term foster care for all three children together, separation of L and his placement for adoption whilst recognising the importance of the relationship between the
sisterssiblings and placing them together in an adoptive or long term foster placement. At the conclusion of the oral evidence before me I granted a short adjournment during the course of which the local authority undertook an assessment of the children's foster carer. The outcome of that assessment was positive and the local authority applied for permission to withdraw its placement applications for placement orders in respect of P, R and L having amended its care plans to the placement of all three children together with the current foster carer under care orders. I granted those applications. In its updated care plan the local authority also proposes that the parents' contact is reduced gradually such that by December 2018, each parent will have supervised activity based contact four times per annum.
(b) In respect of MG, the local authority's plan is that she is placed for adoption. The contact with her parents will reduce over a period of three months to monthly contact which will cease with a "wish you well" contact before she is placed with adopters.
(a) CT does not put herself forward as a carer for her three children. She opposes any suggestion that those children, whether together or separately, should be placed for adoption. However, she supports the children's continued placement with the current foster- carer. CT recognises and accepts that her contact with the three children will have to be reduced. Whilst she accepts the reduction will be significant, she does not accept that her contact should be reduced to a level of less than three contacts per annum.
(b) JP strongly opposes the local authority's plan for adoption in respect of her daughter, MG. She seeks the return of MG to her care and if that is not achievable, she invites me to make such orders as are necessary to ensure that she can continue to live with her current foster carer. JP accepts that her contact with MG will be reduced from the current level of regular contact but does not accept the local authority's plan that her contact with MG should be limited to letterbox contact once she has been placed for adoption
(c) BR seeks to care for all of his children. He strongly opposes the local authority's plan for adoption. He supports JP in her wish to care for MG. However, if that proves to be impossible, he wishes to care for MG. Similarly, he wishes to care for his three older children and in the event that that proves not to be possible, he would support their continued placement with their current foster carer. He would like to have contact with all of the children as often as possible and in any event at not less than monthly intervals.
(d) The guardian's preferred option for the three older children is that they are adopted. He does not oppose the local authority's amended care plans. He supports the final care plan in respect of MG. However, in respect of MG, he invites me to observe that the contact between MG and her parents should come to an end after a period of three months. He estimates that MG will by then be placed for adoption but if she is not, he sees little benefit in the contact continuing.
"Thus, domestic law makes it clear that:
a. It is not enough that it would be better for the child to be adopted than to live with his natural family (In ReáS-B (Children) (Care proceedings: Standard of Proof)  UKSC 17; and
b. A parent's consent to making of an adoption order can be dispensed with only if the child's welfare so requires (sectioná52(1)(b) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002); there is therefore no point in making a care order with a view to adoption unless there are good grounds for considering that this statutory test will be satisfied.
The same thread therefore runs through both domestic law and Convention law, namely that the interests of the child must render it necessary to make an adoption order. The word "requires" in section 52(1)(b) "was plainly chosen as best conveyingů the essence of the Strasbourg jurisprudence" (REáP (Placement Orders: Parental Consent)  EWCA Civ 535'."
'Nevertheless, it is quite clear that 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. In many cases, and particularly where the feared harm has not yet materialised and may never do, it will be necessary to explore and attempt alternative solutions. As was said in Re C and B  1 FLR 611 at paragraph 34,
"Intervention in the family may be appropriate, but the aim should be to reunite the family when the circumstances enable that, and the effort should be devoted towards that end. Cutting off all contact and the relationship between the child or children and their family is only justified by the overriding necessity of the interests of the child".
'We all agree an order compulsorily severing the ties between a child and her parents can only be made if "justified by an overriding requirement pertaining to the child's best interests". In other words, the test is one of necessity. Nothing else will do'.
'Once the comprehensive, full welfare analysis has been undertaken of the pros and cons it is then, and only then, that the overall proportionality of any plan for adoption falls to be evaluated and the phrase "nothing else will do" can properly be deployed. If the ultimate outcome of the case is to favour placement for adoption or the making of an adoption order it is that outcome that falls to be evaluated against the yardstick of necessity, proportionality and "nothing else will do"'.
'In summary, therefore, it is no part of the court's function to fix a timetable within which a local authority is to undertake the functions that are exclusively within its responsibility and operative discretion once a full care order and/or a placement order has been made. Such a direction would fall outside the jurisdiction of the court. There is no requirement in the regulations which prescribe the content of the care plan that a timetable for a placement search to be contained on the face of that plan.
There is an inevitable tension between a decision that adoption is required (in particular given the finality of the severance of the status of the birth family that such a decision involves) and the impact of delay on a particular child who is waiting for a placement. Once a court has decided that adoption is required, that tension is a matter for the local authority to consider during its review processes. Ultimately, if an adoptive placement is not found the local authority should return to court to revoke the placement order.
29. In Re F (a child)  EWCA Civ 2177, this court considered the circumstance in which a child who required intensive therapy and was not ready for adoption at the date a placement order was made (and would not be ready for adoption until the therapy was provided) could be the subject of a placement order i.e. whether it was too soon to be able to say that it was in the best interests of the child to make a decision. At  Black LJ reminded practitioners of the decision of Hughes LJ, as he then was, ináRe Tá(Placement Order)á EWCA Civ 248áat  namely that:
"mere uncertainty as to whether an adoption will actually follow is not a reason for not making a placement order" and that,
"a placement order can be, and perhaps usually should be, made at the same time as a care order is made on a plan for adoption which the judge approves, even though at that stage a good deal of investigation and preparation is needed before the child can actually be placed, and it is not known whether a suitable family will be found or not"'.
'Turning then to the issue in this appeal. I do not accept thatáReáBáandáReáB-Sáre-draw the statutory landscape. The statutory test has not changed. I have set it out at  above. It is unhelpful to add any gloss to that statutory test as the gloss tends to cause the test to be substituted by other words or concepts. The test remains untouched but the court's approach to the evidence needed to satisfy the test and the approach of practitioners to the existing test without doubt needed revision. That can be seen in graphic form in the comments of the President ináRe B-Sáat 
"we have real concerns about the recurrent inadequacy of the analysis of reasoning put forward in support of the case for adoption, both in the materials put before the court by local authorities and guardians and also in too many judgments. This is nothing new, but it is time to call a halt."
'It is in the very nature of placement proceedings that in many of them there will be alternative options that are at least hypothetically feasible and which may have some merit. The fact that, after consideration of the evidence, the Background does not mean that such a choice is tainted because something else may have been reasonable and available. The whole purpose of a proportionality evaluation is to respect the rights that are engaged and cross check the welfare evaluation i.e. the decision is not just whether A is better than B, it is also whether A can be justified as an interference with the rights of those involved. That is of critical importance to the way in which evidence is collated and presented and the way in which the court analyses and evaluates it'.
The Anna Freud Centre
Other independent psychiatric and psychological evidence
Other expert evidence
The allocated social worker and other local authority witnesses
Analysis and conclusion
P, R and L
a. Continued placement with FC, or
b. Rehabilitation to BR.
a. Rehabilitation to JP, or
b. Rehabilitation to BR (with or without P, R and L), or
c. Placement for adoption