The Family Court must know how a six year-old girl received several injuries before a decision is made about her care, a Judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Holman said that although the case had been listed for a final hearing he did not believe he was prepared to make a final judgement. He was concerned that “the case may not have been treated by the local authority as having the potential gravity which, in [his] view, it does have”.
The girl had been living with her father after her parents’ relationship ended and saw very little of her mother. In March, he took her to school where members of staff noticed she had “a very obvious large swelling on her forehead above her right eye”. When she was taken to hospital several other marks were found on her neck and arms.
Although “none of these marks were intrinsically serious injuries”, the doctors at the hospital believed they were consistent with “non-accidental” injury. As a result, the girl was taken into foster care.
The local authority planned to return the girl to her father, albeit under a supervision order. This would allow them to monitor her progress while she lived at home. However the child’s court-appointed guardian, appointed to represent her best interests, objected to an immediate return. The guardian, who was not named, believed further investigation into the circumstances of the girl’s injuries should be conducted before she went back to her father.
Mr Justice Holman agreed with guardian’s assessment of the situation but stressed that he was prepared to make “absolutely no findings of any kind whatsoever with regard to the facts”. The Judge concluded by ordering that a fact finding hearing take place. This would seek to determine, using a balance of probabilities, what had actually happened to the girl.
Read the Re L (A Child) here.