CARDIFF DISTRICT REGISTRY
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| In the matter of G (Children) S & G
|- and -
|LOCAL AUTHORITY X
Hearing date (in Cardiff) : 3 March 2003
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Munby:
"to meet the family and explain the process of the Pre Admission Panel and the possible outcomes of this. It was made clear to both [father] and [mother] that a decision had not been made at that time and that only once the panel had considered the information would a decision regarding the possible re-accommodation of the [children] be made."
"1 The appalling home conditions.
2 Your clients being evicted from their accommodation.
3 Your client's inability to act on the advice of professionals.
4 A number of missed appointments with the Housing Department, LAC medical appointments.
5 [Father] continuing to drive without a licence/insurance which has previously led to him receiving a custodial sentence.
6 The [children's] appalling attendance at school, which ranges from 29% to 77% …
7 The children's sexualised behaviour."
"the Department plans to remove the [children] from the full time care of your clients. No specific date has yet been fixed, as the Department is currently identifying suitable foster care placements. I will inform you of the planned date of removal of the children from your clients care when I receive that date from the Social Services Department."
"I can confirm that your clients were informed of the level of concerns that professionals had for the care of the children. The social worker who is dealing with your clients from [Authority Y] informed your clients that should the level of concern persist, then this Authority would be informed.
I can confirm that the children's social workers [D] and [E] have been a regular contact with your clients and have ensured that the parents have been involved in an open and honest information sharing process.
I can confirm that your clients will be invited to the planning meeting with professionals when foster placements have been identified for the [children]."
"we assume the meetings your Social Workers had with the clients were minuted and recorded and we would be grateful for copies of these together with copies of LAC Review minutes which took place subsequent to the children being rehabilitated to our clients' care."
"Are there minutes of that meeting? and if so are you prepared to disclose them? I take it … that the parents were not invited to that meeting. Would you please confirm and if so explain why the parents were not invited. Would you please also advise why it was not possible to bring forward a LAC review to consider the decision about the children's future placement."
"Parents are not invited to the Admissions Panel. The Admissions Panel is a panel comprising of Managers within the Social Services Department of this Authority to consider, amongst other things, on whether children should come into the care system. I am not aware whether or not the Panel is minuted. Your clients were of course visited by Social Workers at their home on the 20th September 2002 when they were told that the Local Authority would be placing their children in care therefore, it was not necessary for any LAC reviews to be brought forward."
"We … would be grateful if you would clarify whether any notes were made of the meeting you speak of. If so, we would be grateful if they could be provided as soon as possible. We would also be grateful if you could provide us with a copy of the case recordings made by the Social Workers following their meeting with our client on the 20th September 2002."
"Whilst article 8 contains no explicit procedural requirements, the decision-making process leading to measures of interference must be fair and such as to afford due respect to the interests safeguarded by article 8."
"The decision-making process must therefore … be such as to secure that [the parents'] views and interests are made known to and duly taken into account by the local authority and that they are able to exercise in due time any remedies available to them … what therefore has to be determined is whether, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case and notably the serious nature of the decisions to be taken, the parents have been involved in the decision-making process, seen as a whole, to a degree sufficient to provide them with the requisite protection of their interests. If they have not, there will have been a failure to respect their family life and the interference resulting from the decision will not be capable of being regarded as "necessary" within the meaning of article 8."
"article 8 imposes positive obligations of disclosure on a local authority".
"unfairness in the trial process may involve a violation not merely of a parent's rights under article 6(1) but also of his or her rights under article 8 … unfairness at any stage of the litigation process may involve breaches not merely of article 8 but also of article 6".
"the protection afforded … by article 8 … is not confined to unfairness in the trial process … article 8 guarantees fairness in the decision-making process at all stages of child protection."
"Too often in public law proceedings both the level of disclosure and the extent of a parent's involvement in the crucial phases of the out of court decision-making processes fall short not just of the well-established requirements of domestic law … but also of the standards which are now demanded by articles 6 and 8 of the Convention. The present case is in many ways an all too characteristic example of an all too frequent phenomenon. Not the least important of the many important messages which, as it seems to me, we all need to absorb from what Charles J has so clearly told us in Re R is the need for change in the prevailing culture – a culture of reluctant and all too often inadequate disclosure … The state, in the form of the local authority, assumes a heavy burden when it seeks to take a child into care. Part of that burden is the need, in the interests not merely of the parent but also of the child, for a transparent and transparently fair procedure at all stages of the process – by which I mean the process both in and out of court. If the watchword of the Family Division is indeed openness – and it is and must be – then documents must be made openly available and crucial meetings at which a family's future is being decided must be conducted openly and with the parents, if they wish, either present or represented. Otherwise there is unacceptable scope for unfairness and injustice, not just to the parents but also to the children."
"in the particular circumstances of this case, the decision-making process seen as a whole did not involve the parents to a degree sufficient to provide them with the requisite protection of their interests, and … it was objectively (but unwittingly) unfair."
"the meeting on 23 April proved to be the decisive meeting in the decision-making process, and neither parent had any opportunity to address it, or to clarify any factual issues with the persons participating at the meeting … I have heard nothing at all to satisfy me that there was any necessity to deny each parent an opportunity to attend at, and address, this critical meeting."
"attract[s] a high degree of judicial control. It must be doubtful whether judicial review will always meet this standard, even if the review is conducted with the heightened scrutiny discussed in R (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  2 AC 532."
"The approach of the court to a challenge to the procedures followed and the care plan adopted by the local authority which is being criticised has to be broader and more investigative than prior to the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the court must apply the requirements of article 8(2) of the Convention. As Holman J said in Re M at 1313 there is a heavy responsibility and wide discretion placed on the court in considering, after the event, the lawfulness of a local authority decision-making process."
"Before parting with this case one final comment is, I think, in order. This is not the first case, and I doubt it will be the last, to reveal the extent to which there are still on occasions more or less serious shortcomings in the decision-making processes in public law cases, shortcomings which on occasions deny parents the openness and fairness in procedure which articles 6 and 8 guarantee them. There are painful lessons to be learned by the various professions from Holman J's judgment in Re M, from Charles J's judgment in Re R and, I dare to think, from my own judgment in this case."