The girl, referred to as Z in the judgement, was born in England after her Punjabi parents travelled here. A health visitor expressed concerns about care of the child. Later the parents took their daughter into hospital saying she was unwell. Multiple injuries were discovered following an examination and she was placed in intensive care.
The parents were arrested and their daughter, seriously disabled by the injuries, was placed with foster carers.
At a Family Division hearing, Judge Clifford Bellamy explained:
“The criminal trial began on 19th August 2013. On the first day of the hearing the mother changed her plea, pleading guilty to unlawful wounding. She was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 30 months. The combined effect of the time spent on remand and her entitlement to remission meant that she was released from prison on 24th December 2013. She was immediately deported back to India. She now lives with her family in the Punjab.”
“In light of the mother’s belated guilty plea the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue any of the charges against the father. It is accepted that he is not the perpetrator of any of Z’s many injuries. He spent ten months in prison on remand for offences he did not commit.”
The local authority applied for care and placement orders, allowing Z to be permanently adopted.
An independent social worker assessed the father’s parenting skills but came to a negative conclusion and the local authority was therefore unwilling to order a full parental assessment of the father.
Judge Bellamy concluded the local authority’s assessment of the father had not been adequate.
“I am satisfied that the local authority’s assessment of this father falls short of the standard required. Even if, ultimately, a conclusion is reached that this father is unable to be his daughter’s primary carer (and on the basis of the present assessment I am not yet persuaded that that is necessarily the case) and that a long-term placement outside her birth family would be in Z’s best interests, the local authority’s assessment does not enable any conclusions to be arrived at as to the nature and extent of the role the father may be able to play in Z’s life. Such a role may be limited to infrequent supervised contact. It is also possible that it may be more extensive perhaps including unsupervised, and maybe even overnight, contact. If more extensive contact were appropriate is it possible that the father could be a respite carer? Is this completely fanciful? On the basis of the present assessment it is impossible to know. All that can be said is that the local authority’s planning in this case has been unimaginative and its assessment wholly inadequate. Given this child’s cultural needs – needs which will only be partially met in her current placement – a fair, robust and thorough assessment of the father may better enable decisions to be made that genuinely take account of Z’s global, holistic needs.”