Judge: father’s application to discharge care orders is “hopeless”

Family Law|November 13th 2013

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.”

He continued:

“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.”

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  1. Paul says:

    Without really wishing to cast aspersions, just what was this geezer doing for the last umpteen years?

    Rather than hear from a judge, I’d like to know what approach a couple of expert child and adolescent professionals would take over a case like this and in particular whether they felt that some knowledge and connection to the father’s side of their family was a necessary ingredient in these children’s overall social development, and just how they might go about things were they positive in principle about a child-parent reunion.

    With all due respect to this judge, what real, relevant child development knowledge and information did he rely on other than his own intrinsically biased perceptions and feelings? Listening to Cafcass officers, guardians or biased, anti-father social workers in a situation such as this is a waste of time.

  2. Andrew says:

    Holman was right as he usually is; returning them to the father after four years was never going to work. Very, very sad, but very, very true.

  3. Paul says:

    Yes, that’s right, Andrew, fathers don’t matter, do they, and can be cast away in as few words as this judgement?

    The fact that the youngest was only two and in a different set-up altogether ought to tell you straight off that the man at least had an arguable case as regards that particular child.

    This case speaks yet again for the almost valueless state in which fatherhood is now regarded in this country.

  4. Luke says:

    The whole situation is very difficult, I think you have be aware of the very specific details of the case to judge this and we don’t so frankly I don’t know.

  5. Paul says:

    None of us can say from afar, Luke, that’s why I used the term “arguable”. The man wasn’t able to put his arguments regarding the 2 year old and to that extent I don’t think he had a fair trial. It seems he may have been badly guided in his application. What is apparent though from what we read is the superficial and dismissive nature of the “trial” he got. The judge could have left it open for a review of the youngest child’s position. It is clear from the reporting errors made by the guardian and social worker that they didn’t have much of a clue and that their involvement could only have been a superficial one. In society you now see fatherhood disregarded, undervalued and tossed casually aside again and again. You sense it here both in this case and from the other comment above. Regrettable.

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