The Court of Appeal has set aside an adoption and ordered that the case be retried.
In a recently published judgment, the Court dealt with the youngest of seven children. All six of her older siblings were also involved in care proceedings, launched before the girl, ‘T’, was born. Both of the girl’s parents had convicted of “offences in relation to the children”.
Worcester County Court made care and placement orders for T which allowed the local authority to find her a new adoptive home. However, the girl’s parents objected to the following adoption order which would completely sever the legal relationship between them and T.
Under section 47(5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the parents required the permission of the court to oppose such an order. During the proceedings, a guardian for T produced a report which “demolished” the mother’s application. It claimed she had demonstrated “not just no change for good [in her behaviour and circumstances] but effectively change for bad”. As a result, the mother was refused permission to oppose the adoption order.
She subsequently took her case to the Court of Appeal, where she claimed that she had not seen the damning report, “had no notion of its content” and was therefore unable to “cross-examine or indeed to challenge in any other way” what was said in it.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice Thorpe noted that the mother had not been legally represented during her initial application, nor was she at the start of the appeal process. She eventually acquired the services of a lawyer but because he had not had adequate time to familiarise himself with the details of the proceedings, he did not feel that he was “not in a position to do justice to the [mother]’s case”.
The judge ruled that the application for permission had to be retried. Despite this decision, he added that the Worcester County Court judge had been “committed to doing justice by this child and also by her parents” and that allowing the mother to oppose the adoption order was a sign of “regret rather than criticism”.
To read Lord Justice Thorpe’s full judgment, click here.