The children of a man convicted of rape and sexual assault have been put up for adoption, despite their mother’s appeal.
In M & Ors v Suffolk County Council, the Ipswich County Court made care and placement orders regarding the children due to concerns about the mother’s mental health and the history of domestic violence in the home.
A care order gives social services parental responsibility over the children, and a placement order gives the local authority permission to seek a permanent adoptive home for them.
The father was convicted on charges of rape and sexual assault against the mother in 2012 and is currently serving a prison sentence.
Despite her being the victim of domestic violence, the mother was described as “wholly self centred” by the judge in the initial care hearing.
He also said she could easily lose her temper and could occasionally become “overly assertive, controlling and abusive”. Another cause for concern was her failure to protect the children from the domestic violence inflicted by their father.
In an attempt to keep the children with their family, the maternal grandparents applied to be named their permanent carers.
The original judge described the maternal grandparents as committed to each other and to the children.
However, he also found that they had “adopted a non-interventionist approach” when the children’s father turned up to a family holiday before his conviction. The judge also said that the grandmother was unable to emotionally challenge her daughter and would struggle to enforce boundaries.
Ultimately, the judge rejected them as carers and made orders to begin the process of adoption.
The mother and her family took the case to the Court of Appeal, saying the original judge was wrong to make that decision.
Lord Justices Ryder, Vos and Tomlinson heard the appeal. They noted that the original judge had made “explicit reference” to Re B (A child), a Supreme Court judgment which said taking a child away from its biological family should be a last resort.
They ruled that the judge had “specifically cautioned himself” against a simple “comparative best interests balance” and had made his decision using the Supreme Court’s own language: “will nothing else other than adoption do?”
Lord Justice Ryder decided that, having looked closely at the Ipswich County Court judge’s welfare analysis, his decision had been correct. Lord Justices Vos and Tomlinson agreed.
As a result, they dismissed the appeal.
Photo of Ipswich by Joshua Hayes via Flickr