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Permission to appeal care order granted after judge declares earlier ruling too ‘draconian’

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A Court of Appeal judge has granted a mother permission to make a second appeal against a care order after an earlier appeal was dismissed.

In G (A Child), an eight year-old boy was taken into care after concerns were raised about the care provided by his mother.

In his judgement Lord Justice McFarlane noted:

“This was not a case of direct physical or sexual assault on this young child….it was said that on at least two if not three occasions, the mother had absented herself from being in charge of J’s care. The phrase “abandoned” was used.”

It was felt, he continued, that she could not be relied up to prioritise her son’s needs. The mother was, said the judge, “a lady who from her own personality and psychological makeup has particular needs that drive her to act in a particular way on occasions.”

Her son, referred to as ‘J’ in the judgement, also had some form of autism, which made the boy “a more complicated and challenging child to provide care for than might be the case with some other children, although I suspect he in addition may be more interesting and rewarding to care for than some other children.”

The boy was taken into care at the Inner London and City Family Proceedings Court in April last year. His mother unsuccessfully appealed the decision

Later she returned to court and by then acting as a litigant in person, sought permission to appeal the order a second time.

Lord Justice McFarlane said he had, when approaching the case, been “pessimistic of the mother’s prospects of success.” The original judge had made a “very thorough investigation and analysis”, he concluded, and attempts to appeal these findings had no prospect of success.

Nevertheless, permission to appeal was granted, due to the nature of the care plan set out for the boy. This envisioned long term foster care rather than adoption, and he was, said the judge, “never to be rehabilitated to his mother.”

For Lord Justice McFarlane this was “quite a draconian order to make” given his mother’s “relatively modest” failings.

“It was accepted by the [original] judge, and again in my view this is not open to challenge, that J could not go back to the mother there and then on that day, but it does not follow as night follows day that the care plan should be for years of placement in long term foster care.”

The Lord Justice urged the woman to seek full legal representation for the second appeal.

“It would be of enormous benefit to the Court of Appeal for the mother to be represented by experienced counsel who can spot the sorts of points that I have indicated in this short judgment.  It is highly unlikely that a litigant in person is going to be able to argue these sorts of points on behalf of the mother in the way that a seasoned family lawyer would do.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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