A Family Court judge has said that the media’s publication of judgments should not be limited to cases which are ‘unusual’ and ‘complex’.
His Honour Judge Bellamy claimed that the significant number of cases picked up by the media since Sir James Munby urged family courts to publish judgments have been focused on problems within the system.
“It is, in my opinion, important that the judgments published are not restricted to those handed down in cases of complexity or where there is some notable or unusual feature or where the court makes criticism of social workers or other professionals.”
He went on to argue:
“[C]ases in which there is evidence of good practice leading to positive outcomes for children and families are just as newsworthy as those which are more problematic.”
These comments came during his ruling on Re: L (A Child: Rehabilitation to Care of Mother), a case in which a teenage mother was praised for her “great strides” since the birth of her child.
The local authority in this case had originally planned on applying for a care order for the child due to her past behaviour.
The 17 year old mother had been described as “volatile” person who had “a turbulent adolescence”.
There were “considerable concerns” over the mother’s anger management, and that her lifestyle could adversely affect her ability to adequately care for a child.
Sitting in the Family Court in Leicester, the judge said that L’s birth caused “a transformation” in the mother.
The children’s guardian agreed with that assessment, saying:
“Since L’s birth [the mother] has committed to doing everything she can to prove that she can parent her daughter … L is thriving within her family. She is a happy baby who has a good attachment to her mother and extended family members. All parties are to be commended for their co‑operation and commitment to L which has ensured that she has remained with her family”.
As a result of the “great strides” the mother was able to make, the local authority decided against seeking a care order and instead applied for a supervision order, which the mother accepted.
A supervision order leaves a child with their parent, who will still be responsible for day to day care and decision making but with assistance from the local authority when needed.
I remember Judge Bellamy from years back when he was a district judge in Leeds when it was clear he was destined for greater things. He was remarkably incisive. Good on him.