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England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions >> I County Council v TD & Ors  EWHC 379 (Fam) (23 February 2017)
Cite as:  EWHC 379 (Fam)
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B e f o r e :
|I County Council||Applicant|
|TB, EJ, ER and GJ (by their Children's Guardian, WR)||Fourth to Seventh Respondents|
Crown Copyright ©
MR JUSTICE MOOR:-
(a) As indicated above, the Local Authority seeks a one-year supervision order in relation to all four boys. It also proposes that there be indirect contact between ER and his father, ES. Finally, it seeks an order for direct supervised contact between TB and his father, HP twice per annum.
(b) The Mother accepts that there should be a one-year supervision order in favour of the Local Authority. Her case is that she has been and will continue to cooperate fully with Children's Services. She agrees the contact order between ER and Mr ES. She opposes direct contact between TB and Mr HP.
(c) Mr ES agrees that ER should live with the Mother. He further agrees to the supervision order in favour of the Local Authority and the proposal for indirect contact, provided that the matter is kept under review.
(d) Mr HP agrees that TB should live with the Mother. He is neutral as to whether or not this is pursuant to a care order or a supervision order. He supports the proposal for him to have direct supervised contact but seeks it four times per annum rather than twice.
(e) The Guardian, WR does not agree to the supervision orders. She believes that there should be care orders in relation to the children but on the basis that they reside with their Mother. She agrees with the Local Authority's proposal for ER's contact but does not agree that there should be direct contact between TB and his father in the absence of further work.
"If…. there is a firm basis for finding that violence has occurred, the psychiatric advice becomes very important. There is not, however, nor should there be, any presumption that on proof of domestic violence the offending parent has to surmount a prima facie barrier of no contact. As a matter of principle, domestic violence of itself cannot constitute a bar to contact. It is one factor in the difficult and delicate balancing exercise of discretion. … In this context, the ability of the offending parent to recognise his past conduct, be aware of a need to change, and make genuine efforts to do so, will be likely to be an important consideration."
The written evidence
The oral evidence
(a) The ability of the Local Authority to remove the children under a care order without a further application to the court.
(b) A care order will give the Local Authority parental responsibility.
(c) Subject to it being discharged by the court, a care order lasts until the children are respectively aged 18, whereas a supervision order only lasts for one year, with the ability to extend it to a maximum of three years.
(d) There are LAC reviews and an IRO with a care order that do not apply to a supervision order.
(a) If there had to be a removal, I am clear that it would be appropriate for there to be a court decision to remove. If there is a care order, I consider that it actually makes the position more difficult. Of course, I can make orders that require the Local Authority to give notice but, if it does so, the Mother would not be automatically entitled to legal aid. She would have to apply for discharge of the care order (which might be difficult for her if the position had deteriorated from the position today) or for judicial review of the decision to remove, which is cumbersome and not appropriate. I recognise there are cases where care orders are required notwithstanding placement with a parent but I am of the view that, often, the ability to remove without a court order is a disadvantage of such an order not an advantage.
(b) I recognise that a care order would give the Local Authority parental responsibility but I take the view that this does not justify such an order in this case. The Mother has cooperated. She has indicated that she will continue to do so. She gets on well with the Social Worker. She knows that, if she stops cooperating or ignores the advice of the Local Authority, she will likely face further care proceedings and she may well lose her children again. This is a very powerful incentive to be cooperative. I believe she will do so. I am therefore of the view that it is not fundamental that this Local Authority has parental responsibility.
(c) I cannot see that it is appropriate to have a care order in place where children are placed with a parent for more than three years. I do recognise that a supervision order will expire in a year's time whereas a care order will not. I am, however, clear that this Local Authority can, should and will apply to extend it if the Local Authority is of the view that it is necessary to do so. I make it equally clear that I would expect the Mother to consent to such an application. It would, therefore, be a relatively simple exercise.
(d) I recognise that there will not be LAC reviews or an IRO. There are some advantages to children not being "Looked After". The need to undertake child medicals is one such advantage. Turning to the lack of an IRO, I have formed a very favourable impression of the work of this Local Authority in this case. I consider it will do what is necessary. Moreover, I can and will require the Authority to produce a Care and Support Plan pursuant to the 2014 Act. I am of the view that this removes any possible disadvantage of there not being an IRO.
(a) I need very cogent reasons to overrule the Local Authority's care plan in this regard. As set out above, I do not find such reasons in this case.
(b) I should only make a care order if the protection of the children requires it. My finding is that it does not.
(c) In such circumstances, I must approach the matter in the least interventionist manner. That means a supervision order not a care order.
(d) Finally, I have come to the conclusion that it is not proportionate to make a more intrusive order in this particular case, again for the reasons set out above.
Mr Justice Moor
23rd February 2017