A High Court judge has described an application by father to discharge (cancel) care orders made for his six children as “hopeless”.
The children were taken into care by Birmingham City Council after a seventh child died of starvation. The mother is now in prison but in his judgement Mr Justice Holman made it clear that “the father bears no responsibility for that tragedy”.
However, by the time the father’s application reached the High Court the five eldest children had been living together in the same foster placement for nearly four years.
The judge noted:
“It is absolutely clear, albeit generalising, from the evidence that all five of the children are, in their different and diverse ways, thriving in that placement. They are happy there. All five children have each expressed, with varying degrees of force, a relative lack of interest in their father. They have certainly all made clear that they do not wish to leave the foster placement in which they are currently living, and that they would be resistant to their respective care orders being discharged.”
“It is a fact that none of the children have actually seen their father now for about eighteen months, since mid-April 2012….When those facts and circumstances, which I have briefly identified and listed, are put together, it is absolutely patent that there is not the slightest prospect or possibility of the care orders in relation to any of the five elder children now being discharged.”
Mr Justice Holman made it clear that:
“On an application of this kind the court has the power, and, indeed, the duty, summarily to dismiss it if, after appropriate enquiry, it is clear that it has no prospect of success, and its pursuit may, indeed, be unsettling for one or more of the children”
The youngest child, just two at the time, had been living with a separate foster family since shortly after his birth, and they had since applied to adopt him.
In the words of the judgement:
“The reality of the situation is that [the youngest child], no less than the five elder children, and arguably more so, is currently very securely placed in a very settled placement. He has known no other than the family with whom he is living. There is not the slightest possibility that he might now, or in the near future, be uprooted and removed from that family to return to live with his father.”
The father’s application to set aside the placement order granted for the youngest child was, therefore, “frankly, no less hopeless than that in relation to the five elder children.”
Mr Justice Holman concluded:
“…I do have sympathy, and, indeed, respect for the father. He has represented himself today with clarity, cogency and moderation. I have no reason to doubt his love for all his children. He must live daily under the shadow of the deceased child, whom I mentioned. But I must, in circumstances such as this, be robust and direct. As his application has absolutely no prospect of success I must, as I do, summarily dismiss it.”