The seven year-old daughter of a woman murdered by her father is to remain with her foster carers, the High Court has ruled.
In London Borough of Croydon v BU and Others, the girl’s mother was “violently” killed. Mr Justice Keehan described the scene:
“The dreadful tragedy was compounded by the awful fact that their daughter, G, was not only present when her mother was killed, but she suffered injuries inflicted by her father as she bravely sought to protect her mother. She was found by the emergency services in the same room as her mother’s dead body. G was covered in blood.”
The father was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, he explained.
“G was born on 18 September 2006; she is just 7 years of age. She has suffered a horrendous trauma and the severe loss of her beloved mother.
On hearing of her father’s conviction and sentence of imprisonment she wrote a ‘thank you letter’ to the judge who presided over the criminal proceedings.
One has the greatest sympathy for all the members of this family who have struggled to come to terms with their grief and the loss of a much loved mother, daughter, niece and aunt in such violent and tragic circumstances.”
The girl went to live with her maternal aunt, but the latter’s grief prevented her from continuing to care for the child. She also spent some time with her grandfather. Finally, in May last year, G went to live with foster carers.
The local authority applied for a formal care order that would see her remain with her foster carers on a long term basis.
The maternal grandfather had applied to become G’s carer, Mr Justice Keehan noted.
“Initially the maternal grandfather sought to care for G under the auspices of a special guardianship order. As the outset of this hearing I was told that, having considered all of the evidence and in particular G’s strongly voiced wish to remain living with her foster carers, he no longer pursued that application.
I well understand that was an immensely difficult decision for him to make and that it was done with a heavy heart, nevertheless he is to be commended for reaching a decision which he believes to be in the best interests of G.”
However he, the grandmother and the step grandmother all sought ongoing contact with the child while she continued to live with her foster family.
The child’s social worker and guardian proposed that the three grandparents should see the child separately once every two months and other members of her mother’s family once a month. The two grandmothers opposed this as it was effectively a reduction in the amount of time they saw their grandmother. However the girl wrote a letter to the judge supporting the proposal.
Mr Justice Keehan concluded:
“I understand why the maternal grandmother and maternal step grandmother wish to see her more often. In my judgment their wishes and feelings must come second to the welfare best interests of the child. Given G’s vulnerability it is right that a cautious and prudent approach is taken to the frequency of contact. I am in no doubt that this social worker and this local authority will keep the issue of family contact under regular review. I am satisfied that they will act and make decisions with her best interests well in mind.”
The judge concluded:
“On the basis of all of the evidence I have read and heard I am completely satisfied that G’s real and genuine wish is to continue living with her current foster carers until she, as she put it, is “grown up”. This is a consistent view which she has expressed to her social worker, her therapist and her guardian.
On the basis of that finding no party opposes G remaining in long term foster care subject to a care order in favour of this local authority. I am in no doubt that that plan is in G’s welfare best interests.”
“The consensus of expert and professional opinion is that the father should not have contact with G, directly or indirectly, unless and until the experts and professionals involved with her conclude that it would be in her welfare best interests and would be compatible with her then therapeutic needs.”
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