The mother of a six year-old boy has won the right to have her appeal against a care order reheard.
In G (A Child), the boy, referred to as ‘J’, had been in foster care since August 2012. His father had convictions for drugs and violence and was subsequently jailed for armed robbery. The mother tried to prevent his arrest. After he was sent to jail she then began a relationship with another man who also had criminal convictions and was also violent.
In the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Macur noted that the mother continued her relationship with her new partner and “was said to prioritise her relationship with her partner over her own and J’s safety.”
The Judge added that “…there is objective evidence that she found it difficult to separate from her partner, refusing an injunction and visiting him in prison whilst he was serving a sentence for assaulting her.”
The mother, in her mid-20s, was uncooperative with social services and attempted to deny and minimise the extent of the domestic violence to which J had been exposed in her home. Care and placement orders were made, authorising the local council to officially take J into care and place him for adoption.
The mother opposed these orders, as did her mother, the children’s grandmother. The mother is now only allowed to see J once every two months.
Last year, the mother made a fresh attempt to regain care of J, applying for permission to appeal the care and placement orders. She argued that she had made significant changes to her lifestyle and attempted to address her problems. But she was turned down, under section 24 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. This states that placement orders may be revoked but only the child themselves or their local authority may apply do to have this done, unless the court has given special permission.
Acting as a litigant in person, the mother successfully appealed this refusal. At a hearing before Lady Justice Black last November, she was encouraged to seek legal representation and to argue that the earlier judge had been too stringent in dismissing the efforts she had made to change her lifestyle, and also to claim that the judge had placed too much weight on disputed allegations made by the local authority. There was also the situation in which J found himself: a proposed adoption had fallen through after a court refused to approve the match.
Lady Justice Macur accepted these arguments, saying that the earlier judge had failed to properly address or consider the circumstances of the case. Her Ladyship expressed her “great concern” at this.
Consequently she ordered that the case be sent back to the lower courts to be reheard, without reference to the earlier Judge’s ruling.
Her Ladyship noted:
“I do not intend to impugn the professional integrity of the judge in doing so but seek to reassure the mother that her application will be considered completely afresh.”
Read the judgement here.