Care and placement orders made for a toddler are to be reheard after a judge ruled out placing her with family members.
In Re P (Care Proceedings: Kinship Placement: Appeal), the girl was born in England to Polish parents. At the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Justice McFarlane noted:
“Until 14 February 2013, there was no concern about the care that A was receiving in the home of her parents.”
On that date, however, she was taken to hospital with head injuries. The authorities concluded that these had been caused deliberately, by “significant blunt trauma”.
The baby, referred to as ‘A’, was placed in foster care as soon as she was discharged from hospital. The local authority launched care proceedings. At a Liverpool County Court hearing, Judge Dodds made the requested care and placement orders, formally taking A into care and allowing her to be placed with a new family for adoption.
The parents appealed, with support from the child’s legal guardian. They argued that the judge had pre-emptively ruled out the possibility of placing A with extended family members back in Poland. They also complained that the local authority had failed to meet A’s grandparents when they visited the UK, even though they had previously told the courts that they would.
The Court of Appeal ruled in their favour. In his judgement, Lord Justice McFarlane analysed wording used by Judge Dodds:
“In particular, at the earlier issue where the judge compares this case to another case in his list, he says that there is a huge difficulty about considering family members who are natives of or resident in Poland. He then says this:
‘If you do not like it, there is always the Court of Appeal. Good luck.’
Statements of that sort indicate that he has formed a concluded view and that the only way of revisiting that issue is to go to this court.”
The Court of Appeal judgement continues:
“Again, later in the passage in which the judge has engaged in submissions from the advocate for the child, he is plain:
‘The children’s guardian must not think that the panaceatic remedy will be the unimpeachable grandparents from Poland.’
“If it is not safe in this country, it would not be safe in Poland.”
Lord Justice McFarlane concluded that the earlier ruling had been:
“…substantially in error and led to the case being conducted in a manner which was inappropriate and had ruled out at an inappropriately premature stage an option which should have been given normal assessment and full consideration.”
The care and placement orders were set aside and the case sent back to the lower courts for a rehearing.
Read the full family law judgement here.
Photo of Polish flag by Olek Remesz via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence