Another day in the life of the family court

Family Law|November 3rd 2015

Last Thursday ten new family judgments were published on the Bailii website. This is by no means a record, but once again the judgments demonstrate the broad range of difficult decisions faced by our family court judges on a daily basis. Oh, and before any pedants make the point, I know that not all of the judgments were handed down on same day, but they are still typically indicative of the day to day work of the family court.

As one would expect having regard to the President’s transparency guidance on the publication of judgments, the majority of the ten judgments related to public law child care cases. However, there was some variation amongst the six judgments that fell into this category.

Two sad judgments both related to care proceedings concerning nine month old children. In Re P (A Child) the child had been taken to hospital by his mother when he was eight weeks old, and had been found to have suffered significant non-accidental injuries. Obviously, it fell to the court to determine who caused the injuries, in a fact-finding hearing. Meanwhile, in A County Council v AB & Others there was also a fact-finding exercise, but this time to determine the circumstances in which and how the child’s 61 day old brother had died in February 2014.

Re C1 (A Child : care order) was an equally sad case. It concerned a child who was born in the toilets at the mother’s place of work. Unfortunately, as a result of the method of delivery the child suffered brain damage. After giving the matter full consideration, Mr Justice Keehan was satisfied that the only order that could be made in the interest of the child was a care order, with a care plan of long term fostering. It was also agreed that the mother should have supervised contact once a month.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust v C & Others was another case involving a brain damaged child. The outcome here, however, was even sadder, and was reported in at least one national newspaper. The child, Chloe, is eight months old. Unfortunately she also suffered brain damage when she was born in the car as her mother was being taken to hospital. Her brain had been starved of oxygen and she has remained in intensive care all of her life. The NHS Trust applied to the court for an order authorising the withdrawal of respiratory support. Making the order, Mr Justice Peter Jackson concluded that the benefits to Chloe of continued treatment consisted only in the prolongation of her life by intensive medical intervention – she has no quality of life beyond remission from pain and distress, and even if she survives, she has no future to look forward to.

Returning briefly to the care proceedings judgments, Swindon Borough Council v NA & Others concerned no fewer than five children, Re AB (A Child : deprivation of liberty) concerned the question of whether a fourteen year old boy was deprived of his liberty whilst residing at a children’s home under the auspices of an interim care order and lastly CK (Children) (Care proceedings, Habitual Residence, Article 15) concerned four children of Lithuanian nationality. In that case Mr Justice Moylan had to determine whether the court had jurisdiction to deal with the case and, if so, whether it would be in the best interests of the children for the case to be transferred to the Lithuanian authorities (he concluded that it would not).

The last three cases were a really mixed bunch. Firstly we had EDG v RR, a case concerning the enforcement and/or variation of a French child maintenance order (which was notable for its heading, which mentioned that counsel for the father were “generously acting free of charge”). Then we had the Court of Protection case CWM TAF University v F, an application concerning a 67 year old patient, regarding her capacity and the withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration. And finally, there was the remarkable extreme litigation misconduct case Veluppillai v Veluppillai & Others, which I discussed in full here yesterday.

Just another day in the life of the family court.

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