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You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Family Court Decisions (other Judges) >> Peterborough City Council v A Child [2016] EWFC B68 (06 September 2016)
Cite as: [2016] EWFC B68

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Case No. PE16C00221

(Sitting at Peterborough)

Crown Buildings
Peterborough, PE1 1EJ
6th September 2016

B e f o r e :

(In Private)


- and -
A CHILD Respondents


Transcribed by BEVERLEY F. NUNNERY & CO.
(a trading name of Opus 2 International Limited)
Official Court Reporters and Audio Transcribers
25 Southampton Buildings, London WC2A 1AL
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MISS D. GOLD (instructed by Legal Department) appeared on behalf of the Applicant Local Authority.
MR. G. DOWELL (instructed by Hegarty LLP Solicitors, Peterborough) appeared on behalf of the First Respondent Mother.
MR. D. WHITE (Solicitor, of Hunt & Coombs LLP, Peterborough) appeared on behalf of the Children's Guardian.



Crown Copyright ©


  1. (Recording begins here) … she is represented by her counsel, Mr. Dowell. The child, acting through the Guardian, who is present and represented by Mr. White, solicitor. The social worker, is present, as is the partner of the mother who is here in a supporting role.
  2. This is a change of venue. I am afraid there are more judges here today so court 3 is in use by another judge, I believe. Anyway, I think it is quite nice to see the daylight, and it is perhaps a bit more informal than court 3.
  3. I do regret that there has been an extra day of waiting for this decision of mine. As I said yesterday, it is an important, indeed, life-changing decision which affects a number of people. Of course, it affects the mother and her partner. They are here today. But it affects people who are not here today: the foster carers where the child presently has a home, and the child's half-sister, who is living there with the child.
  4. I perhaps should have mentioned the child first because these applications are about the child. The child was born in 2016. There are two applications before the court by Peterborough City Council. The first application is for a care order. The second application is for an order that the child be placed for adoption.
  5. The first respondent is the mother. She is in her late twenties. She opposes both applications. She wants the child to live with her and to be brought up by her. In that position she is supported by her partner, who was present yesterday and is here again today. The mother and her partner live together. Although the partner is supporting the mother and has been present throughout this hearing, he has not, however, put himself forward as a carer for the child, and has not been assessed as such. Although the mother was given permission for a statement from her partner to be presented to the court, no such statement has been forthcoming and of course I received no evidence from him.
  6. The child's birth father is not a party to these proceedings. He has no parental responsibility. Indeed, his identity is unknown to the applicant. The mother has declined to identify him and she has explained very clearly in her statement why she has done this. She describes the father in her statement as a violent man with a history of being violent towards her and to other ex-partners and to be an obsessive character. Were she to reveal his identity and were he to be involved in these proceedings in any way, she felt that would only cause harm not only to her but to the child. She felt that the child would be at risk from the father, even though in foster care.
  7. The other party is, of course, the child, acting by a guardian, a CAFCASS officer. The Guardian supports both of the local authority's applications for care and for placement. The Guardian knows the mother well and has known her for some years, because the Guardian was the guardian of each of the other children of the mother. All of these children have been subject to proceedings and all have been adopted, one child was adopted by the foster carers where the subject child is now living. So the Guardian has had longstanding dealings with the mother, though there was a gap of some years in relation to these proceedings, the mother did not engage in the proceedings that concerned another of her children which concluded last year. Those are the parties to these proceedings.
  8. I can only make a care order if I am satisfied that the threshold criteria at s.31 Children Act 1989 are established. I will turn to that section. I will use from the section the only words that apply in this case.
  9. "A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied—
    (a)that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
    (b)that the … likelihood of harm, is attributable to—
    (i)the care … likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him;"

  10. I have picked out those words because up until now the child has never been in the care of the mother. The interim care order was made the day after the child's birth, and from that moment on (so straight from hospital) the child went to the foster placement. So the child has not been in the mother's care up to now, although of course she has had regular contact with the child since birth up until a couple of weeks ago.
  11. So, the applicant to prove on the balance of probabilities that the threshold criteria are established. That relates to the time when the care application was made. I am satisfied that the threshold criteria are indeed established on the basis of the threshold document which appears in Section A of the bundle. The threshold has not been conceded by the mother, though during the course of his closing submissions counsel did indicate that with some amendments that situation might be different. I made a note of one of those amendments. I cannot locate my note of the other matter to which he referred. But even if those amendments were accepted by the local authority to their threshold document, I would still be satisfied, on the basis of that document, that the threshold criteria are established.
  12. That stage having been reached, I now have to go on to consider the welfare of the child. This is the paramount consideration. Those are the words used in both the Children Act 1989 s.1 and in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 s.1, with the added gloss in the 2002 Act that the child's welfare is the paramount consideration throughout the child's life. I must have regard, in particular, to the matters set out in the checklists that appear in both of those Acts: in s.1(3) of the 1989 Act; and s.1(4) of the 2002 Act. Really, my task is to consider what are the options for the child, the realistic options, and to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons if you like, of each of those options, to conduct a balancing exercise and to come to a decision which establishes the child's welfare as the paramount consideration.
  13. The first realistic option is that the child remains in the current placement and where the child has been since discharge from hospital. That is with the foster carers and half sibling, the foster carers being the adoptive parents of the half sibling who is now a toddler. The positives, the advantages, of that remaining the case are a number and are quite obvious. The child is in a stable and loving home. The child is clearly receiving appropriate care. The child is thriving, is developing, and is forming strong attachments, both to the foster carers and half-sibling. I believe that these are matters that the mother will have appreciated and witnessed from the time that she spent with the child in her contact sessions.
  14. The attachment to the half sibling is an important positive in this case, because one of the matters included in the checklist in the 2002 Act at subsection (f) is the relationship which the child has with relatives, and the likelihood of any such relationship continuing, and the value to the child of its doing so. So the relationship with the half sibling is a significant factor, and a positive in relation to the current arrangement.
  15. There are negatives, of course. By far the most significant of the negatives is the loss to the child (if I can put it in those terms) of the birth family, the loss of the relationship with the mother. It does appear from the statements of the mother that this loss is limited to her as far as her own family is concerned, because nowhere in her statement is there any reference to any relationship that the child might have with any members of her own family. But, of course, it would be also be the loss of a relationship with her partner, who is supporting the mother. He has attended some, if not all, of the contact sessions with the mother. That is another negative to this option.
  16. The other option is the one urged upon me by the mother. That is to place the child in her care, and to do that immediately. She concedes that her present accommodation is not suitable for herself, her partner and the child in the long-term but she felt that in the short-term it would be suitable. During the course of her evidence she indicated that she felt that the appropriate course would be for her to be found a place in a mother and baby unit for a period, to give her help with her parenting and to assist in the transition from this present position.
  17. There are clearly positives to this option as well, because this would preserve the relationship of mother and child. I have absolutely no doubt that the mother loves her child dearly and wants desperately to be a mother to her child. I noted during her evidence that she said she just wants a chance to be a mum. I really must commend her for the efforts that she has made to turn her life around, to put herself in a position where she could be a mother to the child. She has engaged in these proceedings. She did not attend the very first hearing, but I believe that was the day after she had given birth, so she was still in hospital at that time. But she has attended all of the other hearings; she has given regular instructions to her solicitor; she has prepared statements of evidence; and, very bravely, she gave evidence in court yesterday. This is in sharp contrast to what happened last year, when she did not engage at all. So there are a number of very significant positives in that.
  18. There are some negatives, and I have got to consider these. One negative is the mother's life story so far. She told me in the course of evidence yesterday of her ex-partners battering her. She said she knows how much this affects a child because, sadly, she experienced this herself in her own childhood and it has had an effect on her, quite clearly. To quote her words, she was not given the best childhood herself. Indeed, even the father of the child was a violent, abusing and obsessive man, with whom she was in a relationship which led to the conception of the child.
  19. She is now in a different type of relationship so this is a positive. It is a supportive and caring relationship, but it is still a relatively short one. It is one that has had its problems. It is short in that it commenced just over a year ago, and problems there have been. I have been told about the call-outs by the police, and in particular the most recent one the summer of this year when the police were called by someone from outside, a neighbour, who could hear arguing between the mother and her partner. When the police did finally arrive it was found impossible to calm the mother down. She had to be taken to hospital. So although I accept that this is a different nature of relationship from the previous regrettable relationships that the mother has had, it is still a relatively short one and one not without its problems.
  20. Another negative in this case is that for this option mother and her partner are not in suitable accommodation at the moment, although the mother would urge me to accept that it would be suitable in the very short-term. They both have rent arrears, and it is clear from the statement that the mother has not yet organised herself to begin making payments in spite of what she said in her witness statement. She has not started making payments to begin to clear off these arrears. There is hope that if she can do that, she will not have to clear them all and that in due course they will be able to obtain suitable accommodation. But it is some way off and it is not suitable. In fact, I do not feel it is suitable, even in the short-term, for the child.
  21. Another difficulty that the mother has had is in relation to drugs. Here, there are positives as well, and very happily so. She did, at one time, have a heroin addiction and was taking amphetamine, but she is very much to be commended for coming off such substances. This was confirmed in the Lextox report. The evidence I have is that the mother did this unaided, "cold turkey" were the words using by her counsel. I heard from the Guardian during her evidence how her first-hand knowledge of this situation is that is a really difficult thing to do, and that many, many fail. The fact that the mother has managed to do this on her own is commendable and shows consideration courage and fortitude.
  22. She did still use cannabis, though it is clear from the Lextox report that over the period of the testing her use of cannabis was reducing. Her evidence to me was that over the last three months she has given up completely, and I accept what she says. There is no supporting or corroborating evidence, there is no further testing done, but I accept her word on that. So there are definite positives there, but again I have to make the comment that certainly in relation to use of cannabis it is still early days. I hope very much that she will remain clear of that particular habit.
  23. Another feature of this scenario, this option of returning the child immediately to her care, is in relation to the mother's mental health. This has been a feature not only in the case before me now but in relation to the previous proceedings involving her other children. She was assessed in 2009 by a psychotherapist. There were some clear recommendations made by the psychotherapist following this assessment. Those recommendations were for psychotherapy for a period between 12 and 24 months, coupled with good, concrete training with regard to the mother's parenting abilities.
  24. Again, there are positives, because now for the first time in any of these court proceedings, the mother is engaging in some treatment. She has now a diagnosis of the problems that she has. I was provided yesterday with an up to date letter that confirms a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder, and "reports experiencing the following symptoms which fit with the diagnosis. There is then a list of some seven symptoms" which I will not read out. The mother is now engaged in this process of treatment.
  25. There have been some problems. The letter refers to the mother struggling to attend appointments due to dates and times clashing with contacts with the child. Again, it is positive in that it says she amended the situation and eventually attended the sessions. It contains a very positive indication about her involvement in these programmes. She engages well in the sessions and has good insight into mental health. She often offers support to her peers and she will speak openly to staff if she has any worries or concerns.
  26. Again, I have to say this is still early days. The treatment is not yet complete, though the signs are positive but the outcome is not yet known. The treatment that she is receiving now is really not comparable to the recommendations that were made in 2009. Essentially, we have treatment over a period of six months: end of April to mid-October as opposed to the 12 to 24 months as recommended. It is treatment very much focused on the mother – rightly so for her and for her benefit - but there is no element of this comparable with the recommendation for good, concrete training with regard to parenting. Indeed, this is where I believe that the mother herself has thought it appropriate to suggest that she should be placed in a mother and baby placement for some time, precisely to provide that good, concrete training with regard to parenting. So early days yet for the treatment.
  27. I know that the mother desperately wants to be a mother to the child and that she loves her child dearly. I fully understand how she was finding contact sessions difficult, particularly in the last couple of weeks leading up to this hearing. During the course of her evidence, there came across to me a pessimism in what she was saying. I noted her saying: "Well, the judge will not agree to me having the child at home". Another comment she made was: "It is so upsetting knowing the child is going to be adopted". So was that pessimism, or was there behind those comments an element of realism? I believe that there is a real conflict there for the mother. Clearly she loves her child, and clearly she wants what is best for her child. I do ask myself whether, in her heart of hearts, she does not believe that what is best for her child is to grow up with a half-sister in the present situation.
  28. But I do hope that the mother will appreciate that this decision that I have to make is not one that is taken in any way lightly, and that it is a very difficult decision to make. It is made so difficult in the face of her courage and the efforts that she is now making to get her life sorted out so that she can be a good mother, which I am sure she can be one day. But I am afraid the decision I have come to is that I should accede to the application to place the child for adoption. As I say, a very difficult decision and I am conscious that such a decision is really a last resort and is only to be approved when nothing else will do. I hope that is made clear. It seemed that the only other option was to dismiss the care and placement applications and to allow the child to return immediately to live with the mother.
  29. It was suggested in counsel's closing submissions that, whilst an adjournment was not being sought, it was something that I should consider. Consider it I did. But it seems to me very clear that the child needs a decision now, the child needs stability in life over the forthcoming weeks, months and years, and I am persuaded that it is necessary and proportionate to make that decision now today to place the child for adoption.
  30. I can only make a placement order if I am satisfied that the mother's consent should be dispensed with. Section 51(1) of the 2002 Act tells me that I can only dispense with that consent if the child's welfare requires it. It is clear from my decision that I believe that is the case so I do dispense with the mother's consent.
  31. I do appreciate that this is a very distressing decision for the mother, and indeed for her partner, to bear. But what I do believe, having been the judge involved in this case throughout, is that the mother should hold her head up because I have witnessed how hard she has tried to achieve a situation where she could be a mother for the child. I express the hope that she will persist in her efforts. She is only in her twenties and has all of her life before her. If she does carry on in the same manner, there is much to be hoped for. But today's action is about the child and the child's future. These are the decisions that I have made about the child and the child's future. That is my judgment in this case.
  32. __________

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