Delays to the adoption of two children following the murder of their mother were “a shocking example of how a case got lost in the system”, said High Court judge Mrs Justice Theis in a recent hearing.
In Re A and B, the father of two children, aged nine and three, admitted their murder of their mother and received a life sentence, with a recommended minimum term of 14 years.
The parents of the murdered woman later applied for residence orders, which would allow their grandchildren to live with them. Before the process was completed, however, the grandparents split up. The grandmother then re-applied on her own for a special guardianship order, which would establish a permanent legal bond between her and the children. Later this progressed to an application for a full adoption order.
The imprisoned father was opposed to full adoption but in favour of special guardianship.
The judge ruled in the grandmother’s favour, saying that a permanent and settled relationship with the grandmother, established via an adoption order, was in the children’s best interests. The grandmother needed to be freed from the emotional burden of sharing parental responsibility for the children with the murderer of her daughter. The judge also accepted the views of the children’s legal guardian, who said of their father:
“In my opinion [the father] has consistently placed his own needs before those of his children, he seeks contact with the children to manage them and seek forgiveness for murdering their mother.”
The father was likely to try and make applications for contact with the children from prison. In her judgement, Mrs Justice Theis noted:
“The grandmother and children would be living with the spectre of the father making such applications which would, in my judgment, undermine their security that is so vital to each child’s future welfare.”
Mrs Justice Theis was also criticised the local authority for repeated delays in resolving the case. The authority had failed to fill in case reports promptly on a number of occasions.
“This case is a shocking example of how a case got lost in the system, with no effective continuity or case manager. This lack of judicial continuity, combined with a Local Authority that has, in my judgment, failed on repeated occasions in their obligations to these children or to comply with court orders resulted in unacceptable delays that have been detrimental to the welfare of these children.”