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England and Wales County Court (Family)
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Cite as:  EWCC B12 (Fam)
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B e f o r e :
|Re F (A child) (Application for permission to revoke a Placement Order)|
Ms. Ann Courtney for the Local Authority.
Mr. Trueman for the Child
(By their Children's Guardian Ms. Kay Crossby)
Hearing dates: 17th., 20th., 21st. January
and 7th. February 2014.
Draft judgment sent out on 17th. February 2014.
Judgment handed down on 25th. February 2014
Crown Copyright ©
Her Honour Judge Brown sitting at Milton Keynes.
The court is concerned with a child F, who is nearly three years old.
Her mother is Ms. W. Throughout this judgment I shall refer to her as Mother or Ms W.
Her father is believed to be a man named M H. To date Mother has not provided the local authority or any party to these proceedings with his contact details. He has therefore played no part in these proceedings.
The local authority is Buckinghamshire County Council.
F is represented through the Children's Guardian, Ms. Crossby.
This matter came before me in May 2012 when I heard the final hearing of the care proceedings in respect of F. I handed down a written judgment on 1st June 2012 and made a Care Order and a Placement Order. This judgment should be read together with the judgment dated 1st. June 2012 in which I set out in some detail the background and history to this matter. I will not repeat that here.
Mother appealed the orders made and the matter went before the Court of Appeal on 19th. September 2012, when the appeal was dismissed.
Despite a Care Order and a Placement Order being made on 1st June 2012 and the appeal being dealt with by 19th. September 2012, F had not been placed for adoption by the local authority by 25th. April 2013 when Mother made her application for permission to revoke the Placement Order. It serves no purpose for me to set out my concern and disappointment that F had not placed by this time.
Mother last had contact with F on 18.4.2013.
Once Mother issued her application, the matter came before me on 24th June 2013. Unusually, the local authority and the Children's Guardian supported further assessment of Mother by Dr. Adshead, the adult psychiatrist who had reported in respect of Mother in the previous proceedings. Given that the placing authority required this further evidence, I simply listed this matter again after the intended receipt of this further expert evidence. The addendum report is dated on 23rd. August 2013 and notes improvements in Mother's mental health.
Having received this report the matter came back before me for further directions on 5th. September 2013. At that hearing, the local authority supported Mother's application for permission to revoke the placement order and sought further assessment of Mother's parenting abilities. The Children's Guardian opposed the granting of permission at that stage. I took the view that the issue of whether permission should be granted was not straight forward and that oral evidence would be required at a substantive hearing. However, as the local authority, the authority with the responsibility for placing F, considered that further assessment was required before proceeding to place F, I adjourned M's application pending receipt of the report from the Court Assessment Service, making no findings or giving any indication of the merits of Mother's application for permission to revoke the Placement Order. The Children's Guardian was concerned about the delay on F of this assessment but took a realistic view that given the stance of the local authority, the assessment must proceed.
The report was completed by Ms. Smith of the court assessment service and is dated 7.11.2013. Ms. Smith does not make a recommendation as to whether the Placement Order should be revoked or not but sets out the strengths and weaknesses of Mother's arguments that there has been a sufficient change in her circumstances to warrant further assessment.
Having received the report of the court assessment service, the position of the local authority is that permission to apply to revoke the Placement Order should not be granted. This stance is supported by the Children's Guardian. The matter therefore needed to be set down for a substantive hearing. The matter has come before me over four days, far longer than such an application would normally take to be litigated.
I say at once that I have found this a difficult case, as I did the initial care proceedings. I have therefore allowed a great deal of latitude to enable Mother fully to put her case and I heard from a number of witnesses, namely;
Ms. C, (Mother's therapist), Dr. Adshead, (adult psychiatrist), the maternal grandfather who I have referred to as MGF, Mother's partner Mr. B, the maker of the court assessment report Miss Smith, Mother, the social worker Ms. Chambers and the Children's Guardian Ms. Crossby.
Therefore at the commencement of this hearing the position of the parties was as follows.
On behalf of mother it is submitted that she has made sufficient changes to meet the first stage of the test required for permission to revoke a placement order and that given the evidence of mother's improved mental health difficulties, mother's prospects of success of revoking the placement order are sufficiently high that that permission should be granted and further assessment undertaken.
The key changes relied upon are as follows;
Her improved mental health.
Her stable relationship with Mr. B to whom she is engaged to be married, the wedding being due to take place in May 2014. They met through a website in August 2012.
The fact that her oldest son TM has moved back from his grandparents to live with her. He had lived with his grandparents from June 2007 until June 2013.
Her improved relationship with her parents, in particular with her mother.
She lives in new accommodation which is not specially adapted for any disabilities.
On behalf of mother it is submitted that there should then be a further period of assessment in the following terms. It is expected that there would need to be a period of introduction between F and M as the last contact was in April 2013. The local authority and the children's Guardian submit that a psychological assessment of mother's fiancι Mr. B would be required. It is accepted by all parties that although mother has made significant improvement in her physical functioning, mother would not be able practically to care for F without a substantial package of physical support and therefore a thorough assessment by the complex needs team would be required. It is accepted on behalf of mother and forcefully submitted on behalf of the local authority and the children's Guardian that the further assessment required before there could be any question of placing F back with Mother, would be between four and six months. Clearly F would have to be increasingly involved during this period of assessment.
The local authority and the Children's Guardian accept that whilst there have been changes for Mother, they are not of a sufficient degree or as the Children's Guardian puts it, "the right changes" to cross stage one of the two stage test required at the permission stage. Both submit that mother's application should fall at this stage and that I do not need to consider stage two namely the "prospects of success stage." However, it is submitted that if I find that stage one is crossed, the prospects of success are so low particularly when balancing F's welfare, that I will be driven to the conclusion that permission must not be granted. The Children's Guardian in particular is strongly of the view that there must be no further delay for F in making decisions about her long-term placement.
F was placed with her current Foster carers when she was four days old. Consideration was given to these carers being considered as adoptive carers after the placement order was made. However there were concerns about the proximity of these carers to mother's home and as I understand it, they were therefore rejected as prospective adopters. However they have been reconsidered by the local authority and they are due to be considered at a matching panel on 24th. February 2014. On the basis that they are approved as prospective adopters and depending on the judgement of this Court, the placement of F with them will change to a formal placement for adoption and the local authority will support their application for adoption of F. Therefore the plan of the local authority, strongly supported by the Children's Guardian, is that F should remain in her current placement for the rest of her minority as an adopted child and that the settled placement in which she is thriving will be secured. The local authority, supported by their children's Guardian, submits that a long and rather drawn out process of further assessment which they say would be required would be deeply disturbing and upsetting to F, would be emotionally harmful to her and this risk of emotional harm to F is not merited when considering what they argue are low prospects of success.
I turn firstly to considering the evidence in this case.
The first witness I heard from was mother's therapist who for reasons of confidentiality I will refer to as Ms. C.
Ms. C filed a report dated 30.5.2013. She has been working with mother since 3.5.2012 and sets out in her report the work that she has completed with mother. She writes,
" as a result of the above treatments, Ms. W has improved considerably over time. I am very pleased with her progress, while I am not a diagnostic psychiatrist, I have completed psychopathology professional development training and my assessment is that Ms. W no longer meets all the necessary criteria needed to fall within the borderline personality diagnosis as described in the DSMV."
She continues, "Ms. W is able to see her relationships with others in a more flexible and understanding way now and as a result has been able to let go of a role as victim. This has been one of the hardest parts of therapy for Ms. W. Understandably the circumstances in relation to her children have not helped her however we have done a significant amount of work to help her to empathise with others. When Ms. W first came to see me she felt that she was being victimised by the authorities, by her mother and by her ex-partner Mr. H. We have progressively worked to help Ms. W to understand and see things from the other perspective. She seems readily able to do this in all except her relationship in regards to her ex-partner, however having known Ms. W for some considerable time now and have been seen evidence of her ex-partner's continuing aggressive attitude towards her, this does not surprise me and I think she may well be prudent in remaining cautious."
Ms. C writes further on in her report,
"Ms. W also continues to maintain a strong and stable relationship with her other children, consistently putting their needs before her own."
"Ms. W has shown that she is able to keep her mood stable despite the very difficult circumstances. She has continued to attend all her sessions even after the court case deciding the outcome of the children's care was resolved. I predict that Ms. W will continue to improve. She is forming stable relationships and is in fact engaged to be married to a man who appears to be a stable decent moral Christian, he is aware of all of Ms. W's past and is supportive of her." Any impulsive behaviours that were diagnosed a year and a half ago no longer appear to be present. Ms. W does still on occasion need advice as to how to deal with certain situations however she is happy to ask for this and takes advice well."
In evidence Ms. C confirmed that she had started to work with mother from March 2012 initially for twice weekly sessions reducing down to weekly sessions from March/April 2013. Ms. C told me that mother, "engages extremely well and does "all her homework that she is set." In her view Mother has,
"improved enormously." Ms. C told me that when she first started working with mother there were frequent phone calls as well as these sessions but she said, "I've had no phone calls outside of the sessions for a whole year."
The therapy has focused on problem-solving and feeling empathy for other people. Ms. C believes that this work has enabled her to change her reactions to her mother and therefore improved that relationship. Ms. C explained when Ms. W was with her mother, she would react in a childlike way but this dynamic has now changed. Ms. C reported that in her view, Ms W's relationship with her mother is now stable and good.
Ms. C told me that she has done a lot of work with mother to try and help improve the ability to work with professionals and has assisted mother in understanding the perspective of social services. In Ms. C's view, mother has made enormous improvement in all of these areas and she repeated her opinion in her written report that at the present time mother is not showing any traits of a borderline personality disorder. Summarising she said, "We've improved her relationship with her mother, she is less of a victim and she is able to process things without blaming other people, she is in a stable relationship with her partner and her mother and she has made a number of friends to." In relation to her progress Ms. C told me that mother tends to make great inroads and then plateau and then makes progress again but she told me this is normal and that this has been a constant pattern since 2012. Ms. C told me that she is confident that mother will continue with therapy whatever the outcome of this case and she made the important point that mother continued to engage in therapy despite the making of the care and placement order and post the Court of Appeal decision.
Ms. C has also seen mother's fiancι Mr. B in one session. Ms. C told me that Mr. B engaged very well and seemed to be very aware of what difficulties there may be in the relationship.
Ms. C has not met mother's former partner Mr. H. Ms. C told me that in her view Mother has "progressed enormously in this area although mother still has concerns about his attitude towards her."
One of the concerns expressed by Dr. Adshead, in her report namely that mother would bring F into the conflict between her other three children and Mr. H, Ms. C. told me that in her view in the last six months, mother has tried very hard not to draw the children into that.
Ms. C accepted that most of her information was self reported from Ms. W but she was keen to emphasise that she does not take everything said to her by Mother at face value.
Ms. C expects M to be in therapy for a further 6 12 months.
It is important to note that Ms. C had not seen my judgment or the rest of the court bundle. She was asked to read the report of Ms. Smith prior to commencing cross examination.
At the beginning of cross examination, Ms. C told me that Mother had raised with her all the keys issues raised within Ms. Smith's report and she has worked with Mother to address them.
Asked about Mr. H's attitude towards her Ms. C accepted that Mother still believes that Mr. H is acrimonious towards her but that Mother is not 100% convinced about the causes of the accident. Ms. C's opinion is that Mother is now more "balanced" in her view of Mr. H. Ms. C told me,
"When she first came to see me she was absolutely convinced that he was involved and her view has changed that he may be involved she's more pragmatic about it." Ms. C told me that Mother's beliefs that the police were in a conspiracy with Mr. H have, "never been conveyed to me." Nor has Mother conveyed to Ms. C that social services were in a conspiracy with Mr. H.
Ms. C was cross examined about Mother's "dishonesty" as the local authority sees it, when giving false information to professionals. A great deal about this will be said in due course. However, of interest to me was Ms. C's view that,
"Therapy is normally a very honest relationship I think it unlikely that someone would be consistently dishonest most clients come with an honest perspective it is generally an honest relationship." I specifically clarified with Ms. C that was her view as I was anxious that I had made an accurate note of that particular opinion.
In respect of the specific questions put to Ms. C, understandably she did not feel able to comment on the specific examples relied upon by the local authority.
Ms. C told me that in her view Mother's opinions are now, "more balanced" and that they are not, "black or white but are "shades of grey."
Ms. C told me that although Mother has never expressed a view that social services are in any sort of conspiracy she believes there is a bias towards F being adopted because it is , "too expensive" to have F placed back with her.
A particular part of the evidence in relation to Mother's contact with one of her children T was put to her. This paragraph has been referred to often throughout the hearing and therefore I shall set it out in full. It is part of Ms. Smith's statement and relates to a contact between Mother and three of her other children.
"Ms. W told me that after I had left the contact T asked why her mother had not seen them on the last contact date of 28th. September. T said that her father had told them that the contact was cancelled by their mother as "she had something better to do." Ms. W explained to T that this was not the case and "snapped" saying something she should not have said. She told T that her father had stopped the contact as he was "blackmailing" her, claiming he had not received maintenance payments. S and C were not part of the conversation; Mr. B sat quietly in the room and listened .
Ms. W spoke of her feelings towards T. She said, "My daughter feigns affection towards me, she tells lies about me to A (Mr. H's partner) and Mr. H." Ms W believes that T has told them that during contact, she (Ms. W) spends time in bed. Ms. W said, "she is turning into her father's daughter I'm afraid." She said Mr. H surrounds himself with women, he is charming and brain washes them. She described T as being "quick to be aggressive." She said that T was helping the twins to assemble one of their birthday toys and T shouted at C asking her if she wanted help or not threatening to break the toy. Ms. W said that S has no confidence and said,
"They will all turn into T, they will hate me." S and C told her that T "hates her."
Ms. C told me that Mother had told her about this and said,
"we did talk about it and she felt awful about it and felt really quite distressed she really felt bad it had happened."
Asked about Mother stating that T "feigns affection, " Ms. C said, "If she said that, that troubles me I don't think a child would feign affection What Ms. W thinks is that T is torn between the two of them."
Ms. C told me that she "had challenged" Mother about recording her contact with her children.
In re-examination, Ms. C was asked about her views that the therapeutic relationship is usually "honest." Ms. C told me that she expected patients to tell her the truth, "as they perceive it to be," and that everyone has a different map of the world. She said, "I don't accept this map of the world as being genuine or correct. It's occurred to me that Ms. W could have been faking good. In my opinion she has been candid in the sessions."
I then heard from Dr. Adshead. In her addendum report she writes the following,
"I have been asked to comment on whether Ms. W has made progress. I have noted the contents of Dr. L's reports and the reports of Ms. C. I would agree with these clinicians that there seems to be some clinical improvement. This would be entirely consistent with my 2011 assessment which was that Ms. W had a treatable personality disorder. I took the view then that she could make progress if she was offered appropriate therapy and I agree with Ms. C and with Ms. W that (having engaged in treatment) she has made progress.
I believe that she still has some symptoms of personality dysfunction, but there has (in my view) definitely been some degree of remission; and the condition is less severe than it was. I think she will need to continue to work in therapy; especially to address the on-going difficulties with her ex-husband. I think there is some shift in her belief that she is in danger from him, but she is still engaged with him in a profoundly negative way."
Dr. Adshead then addresses one of the key issues in the case, namely Mother's ability to accept and co-operate with a package of practical support to assist her in caring for F. She writes,
"It appears that Ms. W's attitude has softened somewhat and she is saying that she will work with social services to "co-parent" F. I am mindful that Ms. W does not find co-parenting with her ex-husband easy; and I am concerned she may not find it easy to work with social services, if this option were pursued."
Dr. Adshead concluded this report as follows,
"In summary I would suggest there is evidence that Ms. W has made psychological improvements and has better affect regulation and better sense of responsibility and agency. According to her therapist she sees herself less as a victim and is therefore less frightened and antagonistic towards others. It remains to be seen whether this change will manifest itself in relation to social work professionals."
In oral evidence Dr. Adshead stood by her report and did not wish to make any alterations to her conclusions. She stated the following,
" I thought there have been changes. If one looks back to 2008/2010 there has been a great deal of change, clearly mother does not have such a disordered state of mind as she had back then, for example there are far less contacts with the police services. Ms. W's mental state has definitely improved and it is consistent with what I hoped would be the case with treatment. There was a mild to moderate degree of dysfunction and this has improved with treatment and I am pleased to see there has been some improvement. Since 2011/2012, it is apparent that there are areas where Ms. W has made improvement - she has an improved relationship with her mother, the evidence is that this is less rigid. However what concerns me is that she can present themselves in different ways in different situations and to different people. My interpretation is that generally Ms. W is managing her anxiety much better than she was as she is less distressed and frightened. My impression from reading the materials is that when she is in a situation where she feels anxious or challenged she reverts back to being antagonistic or rigid.
When she is with her therapist she is able in that environment to be thoughtful and reflective about her difficulties but in situations where she feels more anxious there are possibilities for her to be more defensive again and what she says in those situations is less insightful or thoughtful."
Dr. Adshead told me that over time people who are suffering from a borderline personality disorder can improve their capacity to regulate thoughts and feelings, which could improve their ability to make and maintain relationships and which will also improve their sense of well-being. However she stated that the best analogy to understand this is considering a patient with diabetes where the patient suffers from a disregulation of glucose control. The diabetes can be controlled but the patient still has diabetes. Dr. Adshead told me that in her opinion, Mother had a mild to moderate degree of personality disorder which was much worse in 2004/2005. Dr. Adshead this may have deteriorated due to depression after the birth of the twins and that with the passage of time and with therapy her mental state has greatly improved. Dr. Adshead accepted that, having listened to the evidence of Ms. C, Mother has worked hard in therapy and this has paid off with an improved capacity for mood regulation. Dr Adshead also stated that mother's ability to have positive relationships may have improved given that she has a new relationship with a partner and that her relationship with her mother is improved.
Asked about mother's risk of relapse Dr. Adshead told me,
" it is real but very difficult to say what the size of risk or the time scale of that risk is." Dr. Adshead told me that if Mother were to become depressed then the risk of relapse would be higher. She told me that the triggers for relapse are developing clinical depression, emotional disruption in a relationship, bereavements, illnesses or any situation which causes extreme or intense anxiety or psychological pain. Dr. Adshead concluded this report as follows,
She told me that in a disregulated system a sudden big challenge could disrupt a remission which has been established.
In terms of whether Dr. Adshead saw F not returning to Ms. W's care, or returning and Mother having to cope with a three year old, Dr. Adshead saw both as potential stressors and could not put one higher than another.
Under cross-examination on behalf of mother, Dr. Adshead told me that she accepted that mother had received appropriate therapy and that the real gains in such therapy will have been made in the first 18 months to 2 years. She told me that there is not much evidence that prolonged therapy after that period of time brings about significant change.
Dr Adshead was asked about the past reports of Dr. Lowenstein and Dr. Holt. Dr. Adshead told me that where she disagrees with Dr Lowenstein, is that he seems to have a rather "old-fashioned view" of personality disorder, namely that you either have it or you do not . In Dr. Adshead's opinion, it is perfectly possible to have some degree of personality disorder and become better or worse and that there is a spectrum of symptoms.
It is perhaps important to note that Dr. Adshead remains certain of her view that her original diagnosis that mother has a treatable borderline personality disorder is the correct diagnosis and that has proved to be the case as Mother has shown improvements with appropriate therapy. Dr. Adshead repeated that Mother has made improvements since 2008 and she is "cautiously hopeful" that Mother can maintain the gains she has made. Asked if she is optimistic about Mother's continued progress Dr. Adshead said,
" I am not not optimistic - mother has made an engagement made gains. I'm not sure I have a view about what will happen next but I accept it is likely she will continue to engage in therapy." She repeated that the greatest gains that people make are in the first 18 months of therapy and that any further gains after that are smaller and over a longer period. Dr. Adshead noted that the two areas where Mother has made less gains are her negative feelings towards her ex husband and her continued suspicion of social services.
Dr. Adshead also conceded that there may have been improvement in Mother since she saw her for assessment in August 2013, since she has continued with her therapy. In short Dr. Adshead accepted that mother has developed some insight over the last two years with therapy.
Under cross examination by the local authority, Dr. Adshead pointed out that she is giving evidence as an expert in psychotherapy of people with personality disorders whereas Ms. C is a therapist actively involved in the treatment of such a patient. She was clear that she was not ranking that level of expertise but simply pointing out the difference of perspective. Dr. Adshead was also asked about Ms. C's opinion that therapy is usually an "honest" relationship. Dr. Adshead did not consider this necessarily to be the norm but pointed out that she very frequently works with people who are law breakers. She also pointed out that people have therapy for many different reasons, some feel under pressure, some have very mixed feelings about it.
Dr. Adshead told me that Mother may engage so well with Ms. C because she is in the safety of a therapeutic relationship in which she is able to appreciate that people are not as against her as she believes. Mother is able to reach out for help to a therapist. This is a very different focus to working with social services.
Dr. Adshead was asked about a reported comment by Mother about part of her report. In her report Dr. Adshead wrote the following,
E17 paragraph 12,
"Ms. W told me that she had a new partner Mr. B whom she had met on line. She said that they were engaged and hoping to marry next year, he said that he had split up from his wife and had two sons aged seven and nine. Ms. W said that Mr. B's ex-partner was also rather controlling and manipulative, like her ex-husband. She said that she liked Mr. B because he seemed, "so normal." She went on to say that Mr. B had regular contact with his children and that she hoped that the boys would come and live with her and Mr. B after they were married. She told me that she feels she has made a bond with Mr. B's eldest son who has just been diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome and has been seeing a counsellor."
In the report of the social worker carrying out of the court of assessment service report at E40 paragraph 4.1.10, the following is reported,
" she agreed to a psychological assessment, 8.5 hours over 3 days, she thought she was doing really well. Referring her to Dr. Adshead's comments about Ms. W and Mr. B's plans to have his two sons lived with them, Ms. W said she did not say this, it had been misconstrued. In her opinion what was asked of her by Dr. Adshead was if some awful tragedy befall their mother, would she and Mr. B take care of them and in those circumstances she replied of course they would."
Dr. Adshead denied that she had asked Mother this question and was clear in evidence that Mother had said that which she had reported in her report.
She told me very clearly that she would not have asked what they would do if a tragedy befell the mother of Mr. B's children.
Of Mr. B, Dr. Adshead pointed out that it is very important that he knows of the diagnosis and really understands how this impacts upon how Ms. W may react.
Dr. Adshead pointed out a part of Mother's statement which caused her concern. At C63 of Mother's statement she writes,
"I am not blind to the fact that my physical disadvantages might mean that both F and I will have to make adaptations to how we work on a daily basis and that there will be times when I will have to rely on others for support but this should not be a bar to F being placed in my care."
Dr. Adshead pointed out that three year old children do not "make adaptations" and she is concerned that Mother would expect too much of F.
Dr. Adshead expressed her concern that the intense challenge of being a care giver to this three year old child may trigger a relapse and pointed out that this may have been one of the factors in Mother's decline in mental health in 2008 after the birth of the twins and when a single parent to four children. She is very concerned about the effect on Mother of caring for a three year old whose attachment is disrupted and who may not be a biddable easy child to care for. Dr. Adshead told me,
"I would describe it as a stressor that might stretch Ms. W's capacities more than she anticipates."
Dr. Adshead told me that one of the concerns she has about Mother's attitude which is quite pervasive is that Mother believes people lie about her and this has an impact upon her ability to work with third parties.
I then heard from Mother's father who I shall refer to as MGF. I had the opportunity to hear him in evidence in the previous proceedings. I was told the maternal grandmother was unwell with a cold and therefore could not give evidence.
MGF told me that Mother's relationship with her mother has improved and is now a "normal relationship." They see each other "quite often" and Mother spent Christmas with her parents which went well whereas before, "it was under stress." Mother's oldest child TM (16 years old) now lives with M. He is reported to be doing well and he sees his grandparents at least once per month.
In terms of what the grandparents could offer, MGF told me that he and his wife would be prepared to move down to the Aylesbury area to be near Mother. They own two houses in Lincolnshire, one is rented out. They would sell both houses in order to buy a house in the more expensive area. They also have a daughter who lives in Buckinghamshire who has a child. MGF considered that he could offer between 15 20 hours a week of support. The MGF told me that he would be prepared to intervene if he considered that Mother was not acting in the best interests of F as he has done so in the past (as set out in the previous judgment.)
MGF told me that has been a gradual improvement in particular in how Mother relates to her Mother.
MGF told me that at the moment contact between Mother and the children is suspended. AT first MGF told me this was because Mother had not paid £5 per week towards child maintenance the backlog is now running at £250. Contact has been suspended since October 2013. MGF told me that he has tried to broker an agreement and has now instructed solicitors. When pushed MGF accepted that the other reason for a suspension in contact is because, "she was supposed to have said something inappropriate to the children." Ie the comment already referred to that Mr. H was "blackmailing mother." In fact it was established that contact resumed after the first disagreement about maintenance and stopped again after the comment. The real reason therefore seems to be that in Mr. H's mind, mother has spoken inappropriately at contact.
After the contact MGF took the children back to Mr. H's home. T apparently told her father what Mother had said. He is reported to have said,
"T has just told me that Mother said I was a blackmailer I'm not having that all contact are off and he told me to f off."
The situation is now that these three children are not seeing their Mother, grandparents or their older sibling TM. MGF told me that he had not noticed any problems in the relationship between T and Mother. It was put to him that Mother had said that T "feigns affection". MGF told me, " I don't look at things in that light I wouldn't have said that she seems to interface with her quite normally. Perhaps Mother expects more from the children than normally a child would give to an adult. My wife gets on well with the children but they don't show a lot of affection."
MGF told me that in effect he and his wife would be prepared to "do what grandparents do."
Asked on behalf of F what support he would actually give he told me,
"I can't see what we would need to support her for if I'd have more of an opportunity to think about it she does have a physical disability at times this inhibits her it takes a while for her to get ready to go out."
PGF told me,
"My wife and I want to keep F in the family we will do what is necessary we are not sure what that is."
In terms of practical arrangements MGF told me that he had only just signed a one year lease on one of the properties and therefore if required to move down he and his wife would rent first before selling the two properties and buying a house in the local area. He accepted that moving down would mean he lived in a "much less attractive home in a much less attractive area."
MGF told me that Mother's relationship with her other sister remains very strained and they do not have contact.
MGF told me Mother can walk around her home and he has seen her walk up to 15 metres. She cannot stand for long periods and has to sit down because she is weary. Mother could not walk F to the park, she would have to be in a wheelchair and F in a buggy. Mother takes a long time to get ready and needs to take a lot of medication. Mother cannot move around the house quickly.
MGF told me that he likes Mr. B and approves of the relationship. He told me that he finds the idea of F being adopted as, "intensely disturbing." He told me that forced adoption is, "crude and barbaric."
I then heard from Mr. B (mother's partner.) Mr. B has filed two statements both of which I have read. Mr. B had been given the opportunity at the beginning of the hearing to read through the bundle. He told me,
" it gave me a lot of headaches, there was a lot to read but I have a better knowledge of Mother's past and her personality disorder."
Mr. B told me that he and Mother are planning to get married on 17th. May 2014.
Mr. B told me that he has a very good relationship with MGF. He told me that he has two children who are now ten and six years old. He separated from their mother two years ago. He was greatly involved in their care when living at home and immediately post separation.
Asked about mother, Mr. B told me that she is a very good communicator and described her as "well balanced" in her character and "very co-operative."
He told me that he considers mother to be "very patient and good at picking up how her children are feeling"
Asked about her ability to cope with Mr. H, he told me that she does not react with anything he comes up with and does not rise to any of the problems. Mr. B was aware that mother had told one of the children that "he's blackmailing me". Mr. B told me that he was present at that time and that mother was, "very very regretful. I think she realised it as soon as she said it."
Mr. B accepted that he told the social worker when he first met her that he did not have any children of his own. He told me the reason for this was because he did not want them dragged into anything else and that it was for their protection. He told me that he sees his role in respect of F as one of co-parenting and supporting mother. He intends to continue with his employment but would do as much as he could within the home outside of working hours. He told me that if he saw anything which concerned him in respect of F he would challenge it straight away and ask why Mother had said or done it. Asked what he thought the impact may be on mother of parenting a three-year-old who may be difficult cause a relapse in Mother, Mr B said,
" I don't think that would happen - she is very good at working under pressure - emotionally she is very stable - if she has F back there can be no greater motivation than that - if anything happen I would be there to support her and my priority will be F. F would be my main concern - I don't know what else to say."
Under cross examination Mr. B accepted that he didn't really know very much about a borderline personality disorder but told me that in his view it does not affect her very much now at all. He told me that mother is not a negative person, she has changed for the better since he has known her, that she is patient in any life situation, doesn't let things bother her and that if she does react it is only slightly.
It was put to Mr. B that the reason mother gave him as to why her children were initially removed, namely that she had accommodation problems, was not really true. Mr. B told me that he did not think they should have been removed from her care. He told me that the person he read about in some of the reports is,
" a totally different person to the person I know now."
Mr. B was asked about his own children. At first mother met his two children during his contact. A vicar then told Mr. B's ex wife that his new partner had had five children removed from her care. Given that information, Mr B's ex wife stopped contact unless Mr. B would undertake that the children would not be brought into contact with mother, until she knew more about the situation. Mr. B took exception to this and there then followed a period of 6 months when Mr. Beer only had indirect and telephone contact with his boys, despite his ex wife being prepared to permit contact in the absence of Ms. W. Mr. B told me this was "out of principle."
Asked how this stance affected his boys Mr. B said,
"I don't know they seemed OK I felt it was the right thing to do." Mr. B told me that he had explained to one of his children that the reason he was not having direct contact with them was because,
"Mummy is not letting you see [Ms. W] because she doesn't like her and I am trying to sort something out."
When later challenged as to whether he thought this was really the right thing to tell his son, he told me that he thought it was. According to Mr B, his sons reaction to having contact stopped was that he was, "very angry because he got on so well with[Ms. W.]"
Mr. B also told me of his anger towards the vicar who had alerted his ex wife to the concerns about Ms. W.
Asked about the exchange between mother and T at contact, Mr. B accepted he was present and that he heard the exchange and accepted he did not intervene because, "it wasn't my place." The only criticism Mr. B would make about the whole situation was, " I think it was out of line for Mr H to tell T that which was untrue."
Asked about mother's comment that F "feigns affection", Mr. B commented that T was more distant than the other children and was not as affectionate.
Mr. B was asked whether he believed that mother's car accident was caused by Mr H.
The short answer to that question is that Mr B does believe mother when she has told him that Mr H caused or was responsible for involving others in causing an accident.
Mr B believes that Mr H paid somebody deliberately to smash into mother's car. At the time of the accident there was another passenger in the car. I asked Mr. B whether he really believed that Mr H would be able to convince someone to get into a car with somebody else (either with or without their knowledge) with the express intention of smashing into mother's car to kill her or cause her serious injury. I gained the impression that Mr B had not really considered the facts as presented by mother in any great detail but had simply accepted mother's strongly held view that she was the victim of this conspiracy.
Mr B told me that one of the reasons he believes mother is because on the several occasions they have discussed this accident she has been able to give the same details every single time. It was put to Mr B that he had told Ms. Smith that the police were probably involved in a cover-up as well (E47) but when challenged about this he said that he could not remember saying that.
Mr B told me that he and mother did challenge each other if they disagreed with each other and that they would talk things through.
I then heard from Ms. Smith.
She has filed and served an assessment report which is at E35 of the bundle and runs until E88. I say at once that I found Ms. Smith's written report of enormous assistance. It is long and detailed and I do not see the benefit of transcribing lengthy parts of it into this judgment. It needs to be read in its entirety. It presents the positives and negatives of the case put by Mother at this time.
Of concern in the report is Mother's continued belief that she was the victim of a conspiracy to kill her and persecution my Mr. H. I have no evidence from Mr. H and have never seen him give evidence. I therefore have no first hand account of his side of this long running story. Whilst it may well be that Mr. H is a very difficult man who behaves unpleasantly towards mother and her parents, Mother's view of Mr. H is extreme. I was particularly struck by paragraphs 4.1.1 through to 4.1.2o E39 42. The examples that Mother gives go far beyond the normal concerns that are so often raised between parents who have difficulties in communicating about their children over contact issues. Mother still appears to be of the belief that Mr. H has had her followed, has tried to kill her and that she appears hyper vigilant of people around her who may be connected to Mr. H, believing that a nurse who treated her in hospital and a woman at a petrol station, are both associates of Mr. H. In the case of the nurse, Mother believes she felt some malicious intent towards her. In this regard I refer particularly to paragraphs 4.1.19 and 4.1.20 E42.
Miss Smith addresses what for me remains a key concern in this case namely,
"In my opinion, any professional working with Ms. W must be aware of her mental health diagnosis the gains that she has made in therapy and the treatment that remains outstanding. Ms W has certain personality traits and communication style. She may at times appear hostile and dismissive when perhaps she's feeling intimidated, not heard or dismissed. Mr B described this as a defence mechanism. She may appear to be stubbornly rejecting of advice or guidance. I have not seen this myself but I have not had to deliver this form of professional advice. There is a theme in her account of past events of her feeling victimised, veiled by multiple agencies, that was not her fault. She still has a tendency to view others as being in the wrong. Her thinking remains rather rigid on these subjects. She does not appear to have reflected on the path and considered whether she had made any contribution or taken responsibility for any of the difficulties she encountered." E73.
Asked about Mr B's attitude towards contact with his own children, Miss Smith told me that she is concerned that he sought to prioritise his relationship with mother over that with his boys. Asked about the issue with T in contact, Mr. B gave the impression that he was irritated with the child and places some responsibility on her for telling her father what mother had said. Ms Smith told me that mother had not expressed any regret or remorse for the way she had spoken to T. She felt uncomfortable with the way mother spoke about T and was particularly concerned by mother's comment that T, "feigns affection." Ms Smith had concluded in her report that the relationship between mother's three children (who live with their father) and herself is, "bleak."
Miss Smith told me that in her view what mother had said to T in contact was not acceptable but that the impact on T appears to have been lost. She did not seem to have understood that T had been placed in an impossible position.
She told me that Lincolnshire social services where the three children live have had no contact with them since December 2011.
Ms Smith told me that during the assessment she saw in Mother symptoms of paranoia and of mother continuing to believe that she is a victim. She is concerned that mother's rigid thinking continues particularly have a fixed view that the local authority cannot be trusted. In her view it would be challenging for the local authority to work openly and honestly with mother. Ms Smith was concerned about the information mother had given to the complex care team. The assessment of the complex care team is in the bundle at aC47. I say at once I have not heard from the author of this report who is Ms James.
However at C55 under the date 17th. April 2013, there is a section which reads as follows,
"Ms. W said she had both her children at home living with her. TM is 16 and F is 2. F goes to her aunty in [ ] and during the day TM is at school in [ ]. A friend Mr. T completing most of the practical task within the home including helping F to bed. Ms. W informed me that her friend Mr. T is living there and is completing most practical tasks to support her and helps with caring for children."
In a further part of the report dated 14th. May 2013, there is a paragraph which reads as follows,
"Updated information from Sonia Chambers, Children's Team. Ms. W's children do not live with her. Her son lives with her grandparents in Lincolnshire and her daughter lives in Aylesbury with plans to be adopted."
Miss Smith had addressed this section of the report both directly with Miss James and with Mother and I have paid particular attention to paragraphs 4.11.4 and 4.11.5 E68. In oral evidence Ms. Smith confirmed once again that she had spoken with Ms James, that what she had written was an accurate record and that mother had convinced her that the two children were in her care at the time of the assessment. Ms. James had commented to Ms Smith that as an experienced worker she had felt fooled. Ms. Smith is also concerned that the information which appears to have been provided to the David Lidington MP at does not appear to be accurate.(B9)
I then heard from mother.
For the record I should say that Mother read from a statement which she had hand written. She wanted to be able to read the note out in full. I allowed her to do so, I have taken note of its contents and it is at C80 and 81 of the bundle.
I should note that after Dr. Adshead had given evidence, Mr. George (Counsel for Mother) informed me that mother had "remembered" that she had a recording of the interview with Dr. Adshead and that she wished to produce it to show that Dr. Adshead's recollection of this interview was inaccurate. No party had heard this recording but Mr. George transcribed a part said to be relevant to the issue. That transcription is now at C75 76 of the bundle. There has been no independent verification that this recording has not been tampered with or in any way doctored. However, Dr. Adshead was invited to respond to the fact that she had been recorded and what Mother had said about this. The court received a response which is at C78. Dr. Adshead expresses her concern that Mother taped the sessions covertly. She notes,
"I am puzzled that Ms. W did not discuss recording our interview. This is by no means an unusual request and I am always happy for this to happen; as long as there is then a chance for the recording to be transcribed and agreed later. It is highly unusual for people I assess to record covertly and suggests a high degree of suspiciousness. Without an agreed transcript I have no way of knowing whether this is a complete recording or whether relevant material has been deleted."
Dr. Adshead commented that,
"The excerpt provided confirms that we were talking about where Mr. B was living and whether his sons were living with him and what might happen after they were married. "
In a note of a telephone conversation between solicitor for the child and Dr. Adshead which is at C77 of the bundle Dr. Adshead is reported to have commented,
"She didn't understand why it had taken so long to say that there was a recording. If she'd been asked she would have allowed her to record and they could have agreed a transcript if that was thought to be necessary. Gwen said that this tends to show the personality disorder in action as it relates to the way that she deals with people with whom she sees she may be in conflict."
Mother produced at court the CV of a woman named AC who Mother put forward as someone who could assist with the full-time daily care of F and herself .
Mother was asked her view now of whether she is suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Mother told me that she found that question difficult to answer because as she put it, her therapist Ms. C has identified that she can be very overcritical of herself and her levels of ability so she tries not to do that. Mother told me that she is not trouble now by feelings of paranoia and does not experience excessive ups and downs of mood or "quick unthought through reactions." Mother told me that she believes she is far more able to be rational and to think things through. She plans to continue to see her therapist whether or not F is returned to her care.
It was put to her that Dr. Adshead thought mother was still negatively emotionally involved with Mr. H but mother denied this saying that if she felt anything at all it was boredom. She told me the following,
" my only wish is that he would grow up and mature and that his responses would be more adult and less reactive, that he would move away from tit for tat and his aggressive attitude and his wish to use the children as spies in his camp and just get on with life as I have done." Mother expressed her hurt that in her view he continues to use the children to hurt her.
Asked about the incident with T, mother gave a rather detailed explanation of how I should view the word "snap." She told me that she was describing her "inner patience", not an outward explosion towards the child. She then told me what had happened in her view and told me that T had spoken to her in "an accusatory" tone of voice. Mother told me that T behaved like a "turncoat" and told me that she had been distant in a contact and was then overly affectionate when she said goodbye.
Mother told me that T is an intelligent child and pointed out that she (Ms. W) has an IQ of over 130 and that Mr H has an IQ eight points higher than her. Mother told me that T is being brought up with her father's ethics namely that it is all right to lie as long as you don't get caught. She described T as being in a "bubble of confusion and anxiety with someone who is very manipulating."
Mother told me that her feelings now about contact with the children are remorse, regret and mostly a calm resignation that "if I don't give Mr. H what he has wanted all along I'm putting my children at risk." "He wants me to slit my wrists, to commit suicide he has adhered to that opinion from day 1."
Mother was asked why she had not informed Dr. Adshead that she was recording their meeting. She told me that she wanted a record of what was said in order that she could play it to Ms C. However when asked whether she had in fact done that she told me she had not. She was clear in her view that she had not told Dr Adshead that Mr. B's children would be coming to live with them . She took the view that Dr. Adshead had simply misunderstood what she had said due to the pressure of time constraints.
Asked about the assessment by the complex care team in April 2013 mother told me that she thought this was an informal visit for the purposes of assessing her disability due to the fact that she was going to have to be rehoused. She had been given two months notice and she was very concerned about where she would be moved to. Mother told me in evidence that she had made it clear that TM would be living with her in the future but she was adamant that she did not say that F was living with her at the time.
Under cross examination mother was asked her views about the break in contact between Mr. B and his children. Mother told me,
" it is not ideal, in some ways it did anger me - the complete disregard shown by his ex-wife for the children's welfare."
When asked whether given her history Mr. B's ex wife was justified in being confirmed mother said, "yes in some ways as an initial response," but she would have expected her views to have changed over a period of six months." Mother's view of the difficulty was in my judgement interesting and instructive as she said the following,
" her demands were that she wanted to see the court paperwork about my children, nothing less will satisfy her, she closed the door on every option other than to go head to head in court, she couldn't respect the point that I was not allowed to release information, she had to protect her children and I had to protect mine. She had a complete disregard for a rational logical explanation and I had to help Mr B find a way of communicating which was not obstructive. Her way of dealing with this angered me and it made me more determined to support Mr. B, using my knowledge of negotiating with someone with that frame of mind I guided him by doing some of the e-mails in reply, putting forward options and keeping him calm when he was speaking to the boys on the phone."
Mother described Mr. B's ex wife as "aggressive and closed minded."
In evidence mother told me that she thought Mr. B's decision not to have contact was "short sighted."
According to mother she encouraged Mr. B to have contact with his children.
According to mother she has always been entirely open and honest with Mr B about her past and the court proceedings.
Mother was asked at some length in the witness box about the car accident which left her with such serious injuries. Suffice to say, mother's evidence can be summarised as follows;
She continues to believe that Mr H paid someone to cause the car accident which caused her such serious injury.
She was nursed by a nurse who is a friend or associate of Mr H, who told her of H's involvement and who tried to cause her physical harm whilst she was in the hospital.
However mother told me that she does not believe that the police are part of the conspiracy but that their lack of action against Mr H is because they are overworked.
Mother told me that her relationship with T is strained . She believes that T has been influenced against her by her father. Mother told me that as T is older and in order to "stay in her father's good books, she has adapted to the role of spy in order for her father to be proud of her." She told me that her relationship with her children has "always been tainted with negativity" and that as far as Mr. H is concerned he has not allowed her to be part of the children's lives.
When challenged about why she had taped Dr. Adshead and why she had not informed Dr. Adshead that she was being recorded Mother told me,
"She would refuse to do the assessment and then tell the court that I have refused to do the assessment. I made the recording because I needed to know if there was any specific advice that I needed in respect of my own therapy."
Mother told me that she had only raised the issue of the recording after Dr. Adshead had left court as she explained,
"I was not aware I still had the recording it took a lot of finding."
Mother was asked why there had not been a detailed family discussion between herself, Mr. Beer and her parents as to what support package they could offer. Mother told me that she'd had these detailed discussions with her mother on the telephone and, "I can't help Your Honour about why MGF didn't know about these discussions." Mother told me that it was "easier" to have these discussions with her mother.
Mother told me that her helper in her home, Mr. M has moved on and is no longer being put forward as part of her support package.
Mother told me that in terms of specific support required she considers that she requires therapeutic support for a longer period of time to allow for life changes and to see whether she can regularly utilise her coping skills and mechanisms.
Mother was asked about information she had given to her MP David Lidington. A letter from him is at B9 of the bundle.
The letter is from David Lidington to the chief executive of Buckinghamshire County Council. The first paragraph sets out the facts and he states they were presented to him,
"My constituent Ms. W of [ ] has been to see me about her housing situation. Ms. W, her [ ] son and her two year old daughter and full time carer live in a house which is owned by Buckinghamshire County Council, but leased to [ ]. The family have lived there since July 2011 when Ms. W was able to leave [ ] hospital where she had been recovering from serious spinal injuries."
Mr. Lidington goes on to set out Mother's concerns about facing eviction and stated,
"I am sure you will understand that I am very concerned indeed at the prospect of a vulnerable, disabled woman and two dependent children being put out on the street "
(At the time of writing this letter neither TM nor F resided with Mother.)
Mother denied telling Mr. Lidington erroneous information and said, "I don't know where he got that conversation from." According to Mother she told the MP that TM was going to live with her and that F was placed for adoption.
Mother told me that she accepts the diagnosis that she has a personality disorder and said,
"I still need more support than a normal person with complex arrangements I need people to be clearer with me about what they expect of me. The solicitor on behalf of the child cross examined Mother at some length about her beliefs in respect of the car accident. Mother told me that she has proof that Mr. H was involved in organising the car accident. She produced a Facebook which is at C79 of the bundle. The Facebook page is dated 18th. February 2011. On that page is an entry,
"Angie Lea can u lend me £12,500 and get me a car???"
Mother believes this is evidence that Mr. H was trying to get money to pay someone to cause the accident.
In evidence Mother told me that a nurse had "told her" that Mr. H was involved. However, when challenged about this, Mother told me that the nurse had not told her directly but indirectly. Mother stated that there was a "bank nurse" who was called "Julie" but wanted to be known as "Pam." She spoke on the telephone near to Mother whilst Mother was in the hospital bed. Mother heard the nurse say,
"Hi Tony, how are the kids if she's there I'll talk to her she went on to say that he should have known better than to tell Angie anything got her nephew to do something reckless like this I'm at work tonight I'll pop round later with a bottle of wine I'm going to Egypt."
Mother is convinced that this nurse, who she met on one occasion, was talking to a man called Tony who is Mr. H's brother in law. Mother is convinced that the nurse deliberately spoke near to Mother in bed in order that she could hear what she was saying.
Asked what made mother believe that this telephone call had anything to do with her accident Mother said,
"It was the nurse's persona."
When it was put to her that there was nothing in the conversation that was a direct link to Mr. H let alone her accident Mother said that she knew the nurse was linked to Mr. H,
"It was the fact that she looked at me with such hatred as she walked up the ward. I knew that look very well."
Later on in her evidence, Mother told me that the Facebook entry is a "coded message" for her.
Mother told me that she could interpret these messages having spent years living with Mr. H and knowing of his "underhand dealings."
When asked whether Mother really believed that what she had pointed to was evidence of Mr. H's involvement she said,
"this is in itself evidence to me it is not evidence in the normal sense of the word not in a criminal way."
Mother told me that the "Facebook" page had been printed out by a man called PB who she had been seeing for a year and who she found out also had connections to Mr. H and was an associate of his. "he had been working in Mr. H's camp." She went on to say,
"He printed this off to make me convinced he was not in Mr. H's camp and was not a spy with him and consequently I severed all ties."
Asked about the nurse that Mother is convinced was an associate of Mr. H's who had deliberately tried to cause her harm Mother told me,
"She crushed the left side of my chest at the time it had a drain in it." Mother said that this nurse Julie/Pam, had deliberately chosen to turn her onto her right side which she knew would cause her injury and caused her to slip into unconsciousness. Mother said that the nurse, "did not like me for whatever reason." However, despite mother believing that this nurse had deliberately set out to cause her harm and that she was an associate of Mr. H, she did not report this nurse or her actions to anyone.
Mother was asked about the effect on F of a failed assessment or rehabilitation attempt especially the effect of re-introducing her to contact with her Mother. Ms. W told me,
"if it doesn't work I'm pretty sure I will soon be forgotten."
Mother is prepared to leave the contact issue with her three other children in abeyance if F is returned to her care until F is settled. Ms. W told me that she records all of her contacts with her children so, "I have some proof against his [Mr. H's] false allegations." The maternal grandparents and Mr. B are aware that all contacts are recorded.
Mother makes these recordings on a Dictaphone. I asked Mother whether she had the dictaphone at court with her on the day she was giving evidence. She told me that she did. I asked her to show it to me. She removed it from her handbag which was in court although she told me she had not been recording the proceedings. She told me that she had not recorded any other professional only Dr. Adshead.
In terms of physical ability Mother told me that she can walk around the house, she can walk upstairs as long as she holds onto the right banister and described that given the weakness in her right side she has recovered as someone would who has suffered from a stroke.
Mr. B works in telesales and is out at work between 7.30 5pm.
Mother feels she could have F on her own in the house for up to two hours but would require assistance for any longer periods. She would require someone with her at all times when out of the house with F.
In re-examination M was asked whether she felt she could work with the local authority. Mother's answer was, "yes and no." She qualified this by saying,
"I can work with people who are forward focussing I don't want to be continually questioned and quizzed about the accident it has no purpose or relevance. I don't want to discuss the accident with the local authority in the future."
Mother told me that she would keep F out of the "battleground" between her and Mr. H.
I then heard from the social worker Ms. Chambers.
Ms. Chambers has filed three statements all of which I have read and she confirmed the truth of those statements. She explained the delay in placing F which it serves no purpose to repeat but confirmed that the care pan of the local authority is that the current foster carers will be approved as prospective adopters subject to the outcome of this application. The matching panel is due to take place on 26th. February 2014.
Ms. Chambers told me of Mother,
"I absolutely commend her for the progress she has made physically but I still feel there are areas where Ms. W has not moved on I still find it concerning that she believes Mr. H was the cause of the accident and professionals and nurses were a party to it I think she has calmed down a lot and she can process things and not get angry and volatile but in her mind she is saying one thing but believes another."
Ms. Chambers is very concerned about the impact on F of the continuing battle between Mother and Mr. H regarding the three other children and believes this would have a negative impact on F. She is also very concerned by Mr. B's decision not to have contact with his own children out of "principle" and did not consider the consequences for his own children of such a stance. She said,
"I have concerns that he would not protect F and that he would take Ms. W's view. I still feel he takes her view probably more so he probably feels she doesn't have a disorder."
Ms. Chambers told me that she would recommend a psychological assessment of Mr. B to consider his ability to understand Mother's personality disorder and ability to protect F from Mother's behaviour if required.
Ms. C told me that contact between F and Mother had been stopped because F had begun to be withdrawn after contact and the foster carer believed that F suffered from night terrors when she would wake up screaming connected to the contact. Usually F had not been reported to have had any difficulty with her sleeping pattern other than these concerns in respect of contact. Ms. Chambers told me that in her opinion F has a very secure attachment with her foster carers and she is extremely concerned about the effect on F of re-introducing Mother and destabilising this child's very secure placement.
Despite persistent but appropriate cross examination on behalf of Mother, Ms. Chambers told me that she fully understood the benefits to a child of being reunited with her birth family but in this case she considers the risks to F are too high in terms of causing emotional distress and instability to F, the prospects of success are too low for any further assessment to be warranted or any further delay to be caused before deciding on F's permanent placement.
Ms. Chambers accepted that Mother has always spoken to her in a calm and polite manner but commented,
"I've never had to challenge her." Ms. Chambers is also extremely concerned by what she sees as inaccurate information having been given to the MP and Ms. James. She was also concerned by Mr. B originally telling her that he had no children.
Ms. Chambers is strongly of the view that F should be adopted by her current carers and that there should be no further delay to this placement. F is due to start pre-school in September and Ms. Chambers took the view that F needed to start that chapter in her life secure in the knowledge that she was settled in her home.
The last witness I heard from was the Children's Guardian Ms. Crossby who is an extremely experienced social worker and Children's Guardian. Ms. Crossby was the Guardian in the care and placement order proceedings.
I have read her report with great care. Ms. Crossby accepts that Ms. W has made changes but does not accept they are sufficient to cross the first stage. She told me,
" I have noticed some changes in Ms. W I visited her in early January she is more open and maintained eye contact in a way she did not do so before and I was able to discuss things with her which previously would have been more difficult. She has engaged in therapy which is to her very great credit and I have seen changes but what I have not seen are fundamental changes in her beliefs.
Ms. Crossby remains concerned about Ms. W's continued suspicion of professionals and their involvement in her life. She told me quite simply,
"I do not believe she has made sufficient changes for her to be able to work co-operatively with professionals for the benefit of F."
Ms. Crossby cited as examples, Mother's continued beliefs in relation to her accident and Mr. H and is very concerned that Mother believes her daughter T is somehow "against her".
Ms. Crossby does not doubt that Mother loves F and her three other children but believes that there is a degree to which Mother requires those relationships to be on her terms because of her borderline personality disorder.
Ms. Crossby, like Ms. Chambers is extremely worried about the effect on F of being re-introduced to Mother at this time. She believes her emotional security will be destabilised and she is extremely concerned by any further delay for this little girl.
Asked about balancing the risks to F against the benefits of the chance of being placed with her birth mother, Ms. C told me,
"I've thought about this very carefully I cannot say the risk to F is worth taking balanced against the likelihood of a successful outcome."
Ms. Crossby told me that she sees the start of pre-school as an important step in F's life and she is very concerned that the introductions needed and assessments required to progress Mother's application to revoke the placement order would have a detrimental effect on F at this time. Ms. Crossby stated,
"I discuss this in my report it is balancing not just a question of re-introducing F to Mother and Mr. B and TM and a new home it is a question of going through a lengthy process of assessment which is likely to disrupt F's education, emotional well being and sense of security in her placement when she has been with these carers since she was four days old."
Ms. Crossby accepted that the carers are "robust" and would do their best to minimise any disruption for F during the introduction process but she still could not support any further delay or disruption for F. In her view F will be "greatly affected" by the assessment process itself.
Ms. Crossby was concerned that the maternal grandparents had not considered in depth what support they could offer
Ms. Crossby was very concerned by what she saw as inaccurate information having been given to various agencies including Ms. James and the MP. As Ms. Crossby said,
"What possible motive could the MP have for distorting the information in these circumstances."
Under cross examination Ms. Crossby emphasised that in her view Mother has not made sufficient changes in the really important areas of working with professionals, understanding the concerns of the professionals, putting the needs of her children before her own and being able to take advice , not just that with which she agrees but that which she does not.
Perhaps of key importance is Ms. Crossby's view that,
"The children would need to meet Mother's expectations and she could find it difficult to accept the children's development and sense of self to be who they are, to express their disappointment, what they want children can be confrontational it doesn't mean they can do what they want but they need to be given respect that they have their own point of view and are able to express their opinions."
Ms. Crossby stated that Mother's comment that T "feigned affection" was concerning because it "denied the child's reality which fuels T's anger and confusion." Ms. Crosby felt this was an example of Mother believing she is right and expecting the child to accept that she is right and when she does not criticising the child, "she's turning into her father."
Ms. Crossby believes that Mother will find it enormously difficult to cope with the every day situation of "a number of people doing things with her child." Ms. Crossby has grave doubts about the ability of Mother to work with a team of individuals for the foreseeable future including the grandparents, the cleaner, a nanny, Mr. B and social services and she sees this as a key issue.
Ms. Crossby told me that it is clear that Mr. B has accepted Mother's beliefs, he thinks very highly of her and he is not going to challenge her. Either he really believes Mother's version of events or if he has doubts he is not prepared to voice them and colludes with mother. Ms. Crossby is very concerned by Mr. Beer's attitude towards contact with his own children and the importance he placed on winning "the battle" rather than on the needs of his children. Ms. Crossby's view is that Mr. B is a negative factor when assessing Mother's ability to change due to his absolute support and belief in Ms. W.
Ms. Crossby considers the grandfather is similar in his acceptance of Mother's views, although she ventured to suggest that this was because he simply tried to "keep the peace."
Ms. Crossby considered that the only way properly to assess Mother would be a residential assessment which she considered would be extremely disruptive to F and not a course which she could recommend. Ms. Crossby when pushed told me that she would put the chances of a successful rehabilitation at no more than 20% and that that was "generous."
Finally Ms. Crossby expressed a concern that Mother can be "an extremely engaging person" with a "tremendous spirit" and people can "feel for her" and want to get it "right for her." Ms. Crossby is very concerned that the complex package of support that would be needed may address and focus on Mother's needs and F's needs would be overlooked.
After what I anticipated would be the close of evidence Mother asked that she be re-called to answer the comment made by Ms. Crossby that Mother would not accept a child's development or "sense of self." Reluctantly I acceded to this request. Mother then proceeded to describe situations when she was with Mr. H about how she had protected her children from Mr. H's parenting. In my judgment she missed the point (to an extent) that Ms. Crossby had made and continued her stance of describing in detail how concerned she is about her children being in Mr. H's care and what a destructive and frankly malign individual he is. She tried to tell me how she had sought to protect T from Mr. H but did not address the issue of her ability to understand that the child may have a different point of view as a separate individual which she would have to accommodate.
I have set out above this summary of the evidence in some detail in order to show the depth and breadth of the forensic exercise at this the permission stage. Given the difficulty of the case at the care proceedings stage and the fact that this application was possible due to F's non placement, I was determined that Mother had every opportunity to put her case as fully as possible, particularly in the light of the psychiatric evidence that Mother has improved mental health.
At the end of the hearing at submission stage I specifically asked Mr. George to take instructions from Ms W to confirm that she is satisfied that all the evidence that she requires to be put before the court has been adduced and to ask if there is anything else she would wish to be said. Mother confirmed through her Counsel that there was no such further evidence. It therefore came as something of a surprise when on 14th. February 2014 I received through the court office a further four page document from Ms. W asking that it be placed in the bundle. I sent this document to all the parties and extended the time for sending out the draft judgment from 17th. to 18th. February 2014 to allow any party wishing to make further representations to do so. No party sought to make any further representations. I have put this document at C82 85 of the bundle. I will refer to it in due course.
Turning to the law in relation to this application. I am grateful to Mr. George of Counsel who has submitted written submissions on behalf of Mother. I have used those submissions as a basis for directing myself on the relevant statute and case law but have obviously made significant amendments to those submissions.
I must have regard to section 24 Adoption and Children Act 2002 namely;
S24(1)(3) Adoption and Children Act 2002 [FCP-2013-308];
24 Revoking placement orders
(1) The court may revoke a placement order on the application of any person.
(2) But an application may not be made by a person other than the child or the local
Authority authorised by the order to place the child for adoption unless
(a) the court has given leave to apply, and
(b) the child is not placed for adoption by the authority.
(3) The court cannot give leave under subsection (2)(a) unless satisfied that there has
been a change in circumstances since the order was made.
(4) If the court determines, on an application for an adoption order, not to make the
order, it may revoke any placement order in respect of the child.
(a) an application for the revocation of a placement order has been made and has
not been disposed of, and
(b) the child is not placed for adoption by the authority,
the child may not without the court's leave be placed for adoption under the order.
Mr. George has referred me to the following case law;
I remind myself of M v Warwickshire County Council  EWCA Civ 1084.
"On establishment of a change in circumstances, a discretion arose to grant leave to apply for revocation of a placement order under section 24(3) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in which, while the welfare of the chid was not paramount, the welfare of the child and the prospect of success should both be weighed. In conducting the discretionary exercise under section 24(3) courts might usefully, in the vast majority of applications, borrow the language of the test generally applicable to permission to appeal in civil proceedings and as to whether the applicant would have a "real prospect of success would almost always include the requisite analysis of the welfare of the child, but the analysis of the welfare would not always be satisfactorily subsumed within an analysis of prospect."
Mr. George submits the following,
"The provisions of S 24 are analogous to S 47 and provide for a not dissimilar remedy. The guidance and extensive review of the law by the Court of Appeal in re B-S is pertinent to applications under S.24 (3) as well as S 47(5)."
I respectfully agree with Mr. George who has referred me to the case of Re AW when the distinction between the two was commented upon by Pauffley J.
"Ms Fottrell also contended that an application for leave to revoke the placement order and an application for leave to oppose the adoption are analogous. In order to succeed in relation to the former, and at a time before the child had been placed for adoption, a parent would have to demonstrate there had been a change of circumstances since the order was made. The court would then go on to consider whether or not to exercise its discretion and also whether the application has a real prospect of success (Re F (a Child) EWCA Civ 439).
In relation to the latter, an application for leave to oppose the adoption, a parent would have to satisfy the court there has been a change of circumstances which is relevant or material to the question of whether or not leave should be granted. The change in circumstances must be of an nature and degree sufficient on the facts of the particular case to open the door to the exercise of judicial discretion; and the paramount consideration must be the welfare of the child throughout her life ( Re P (Adoption: Leave Provision)  2FLR 1069 ). "
I therefore consider the test required for the leave application.
The Application for leave involves a two stage process (see re B-S para 72 and 51 approving Re P). This is a matter of judicial evaluation not mere discretion.
"In our judgment, analysis of the statutory language in ss 1 and 47 of the 2002 Act leads to the conclusion that an application for leave to defend adoption proceedings under s 47(5) of the 2002 Act involves a two-stage process. First of all, the court has to be satisfied, on the facts of the case, that there has been a change in circumstances within s 47(7). If there has been no change in circumstances, that is the end of the matter, and the application fails. If, however, there has been a change in circumstances within s 47(7) then the door to the exercise of a judicial
discretionevaluation to permit the parents to defend the adoption proceedings is opened, and the decision whether or not to grant leave is governed by s 1 of the 2002 Act. In other words, 'the paramount consideration of the court must be the child's welfare throughout his life'."
I use the term evaluation rather than discretion as that is what the Court of appeal urge me do to at paragraph 72 of their judgment.
Therefore the key distinction between the two applications is that the child's welfare is not the paramount consideration of the Court when considering s24 [See Warwickshire cc v M and L at [21/22] but F's welfare must inform the court's evaluation.
On behalf of Mother Mr. George submits,
"Whilst the welfare of the child is not paramount for an application under this section it is trite law that the welfare of the child is a very significant consideration and in this context it is the consideration throughout F's life."
Turning therefore to the "change of circumstances, what must Mother show?
The "change in circumstances" does not need to be significant Re P at [29/30] but needs to be of a nature and degree sufficient to open the door to a consideration of whether leave to apply should be given."
I remind myself of paragraph 68 of Re B S namely,
"We share McFarlane LJ's misgivings about Thorpe LJ's use of the phrase "exceptionally rare circumstances" as also about his use followed by the President in Re C [2-13] All ER (D) 235 (Apr) , of the word "Stringent" to define or describe the test to be applied on an application under section 47(5). Both phrases are apt to mislead, with potentially serious adverse consequences. In the light of Re B they convey quite the wrong message. Neither in our judgment, any longer has any place in this context. Their use in relation to section 47(5) should cease."
The test should not be set too high; Terms such as "Exceptionally rare circumstances" per Thorpe LJ re C or "stringent" "are phrases apt to mislead"
The test should not be set too high to prevent parents from bettering themselves [See Re P at ]
The test should not be set so as to discourage parents from preventing their child being adopted [See Re P at ];
I must bear in mind that when considering the "prospects of success" the question is not whether the child will be returned to the potential applicants care but of revoking the placement order. [NS-H v Kingston at ].
Of note, it is conceded on behalf of Mother that whilst this case is referred to Mr. George submitted,
"Whilst good law on the facts of this case there seem to be only two outcomes for F. Adoption or placement with her mother."
I have also considered the entirety of Re BS. Whilst I am considering an application to revoke a Placement Order, I remind myself of what that order means for this child. If it is not revoked F can be placed for adoption which is the most draconian of orders. In particular I remind myself of paragraph 22 of Re BS namely,
"The language in Re B is striking. Different words and phrases are used but the message is clear. Orders contemplating non consensual adoption care orders with a plan for adoption, placement orders and adoption orders are a "very extreme thing, a last resort", only to be made where "nothing else will do." Where no other course [is] possible in [the child's] interest", they are "the most extreme option" , a last resort when all else fails" to be made "only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child's welfare, in short where nothing else will do."
I have also specifically considered paragraphs 32 34 of LRP (A child) (Care Proceedings:Placement Order.) per Pauffley J.
"The legal principles of application when the court is confronted with applications of this kind are well known, Where possible, consistent with their welfare needs, children deserve an upbringing within their natural families (Re KD  AC 806; Re W  2 FLR 625). Care plans for adoption are "very extreme" only to be made when "necessary" for the protection of the children's interests, which means "nothing else will do," "when all else fails". Adoption "should only be contemplated as a last resort" (Re B  UKSC 33; Re P (a child) EWCA Civ 963; Re g (a child) EWCA Civ 965.)
Before I could consider placing LRP elsewhere than with her parents, or one of them, I must be sure there is no practical way of the authorities or other agencies providing the requisite assistance and support which would allow her to be cared for by at least one of their parents (Re B-S (Children)  Civ 1146.)
I must analyse and consider all of the realistically available competing options and I must weigh in the associated positive and negative factors. I have to be satisfied there is a sufficiency of evidence in relation to each proposal so as to undertake a global, holistic and multi-faceted evaluation of LRP's welfare."
Before considering placing F elsewhere other than with one or both of her parents, the court has to be sure there was no practical way of the authorities or other agencies providing the assistance which would allow her to be cared for by at least one of her parents see Re LRP.
Analysis and discussion.
Therefore the first issue I must address is whether there has been a change of circumstances of a nature and degree sufficient to open the door to a consideration of whether leave to apply should be given.
The factors relied upon by mother to argue that there has been such a change in circumstances are as follows;
The key factor in this list is whether and to what degree Mother's mental health has improved. This is central to this case because one of the key reasons for making the care and placement orders was that I took the view that Mother would not be able to co-operate with the complex and long term package of support that would be required for her to be able to care for F due to her physical disabilities. It was not the provision of such a package that was the issue. It was Mother's ability to work with many different professionals in the long term for the benefit of Freya.
When first looking at the written evidence of Ms. C and Dr. Adshead there seemed to be evidence of sufficient change in Mother's psychological functioning. I had accepted in the care proceedings that Mother has a treatable borderline personality disorder as diagnosed by Dr. Adshead. There is no dispute that Mother has undergone therapy with Ms. C (the details of which I have set out above in the evidence section), which Dr. Adshead considers to have been "appropriate." Ms. C told me that in her professional opinion Mother has made marked improvements in the way she can consider and react to daily life challenges. On the face of it, there is a reasonable argument that Mother would meet the first stage of the test.
However, as I heard the evidence, in particular from Ms. W herself, I became increasingly concerned that on key issues Mother has made either no or insufficient improvement or progress.
I was looking for Mother's ability to consider that there can be issues and problems in life which may be of her own making and for which she must take responsibility and for her ability to consider the views of others when they disagree with her. Both of these issues are important in considering whether Mother would be able to co-operate with a team of professionals and carers for the benefit of F.
Whilst Ms. W objects to the focus on her car accident and her theory of the cause of it, in my judgment it remains relevant. Ms. W to this day cannot accept that this dreadful accident, which caused her such physical injury, could have been due to any negligence on her part. She remains steadfast in her belief that she was the victim of a murderous conspiracy orchestrated by Mr. H. Whilst I accept I have not heard from Mr. H and I have not conducted satellite litigation to consider the causes of the accident, (and I have not experienced Mr. H as Mother has) the evidence upon which Mother relies to justify her beliefs is frankly bizarre, incredible and does not bear scrutiny. Mother cannot explain how Mr. H could have hired a person to get into a car with another individual (who may or may not have known of the plan) in order that they deliberately smash into Ms. W with the express motive of killing her. Mother in my judgment can produce no evidence that begins to prove that theory. At one point Mother told me that nurse (Pam/Julie) had "told her" of Mr. H's involvement. In fact, when the questioned about this it is clear the nurse had done no such thing. The totality of the evidence against the nurse was that she had looked at Mother, "with hatred in her eyes" and Mother had overheard a conversation between the nurse and another individual who mother had assumed knew Mr. H. Mother also gave an account of this nurse deliberately trying to harm her in hospital by turning her onto her right side (as opposed to her left) and yet Mother made no such complaint against the nurse.
Mother cannot consider that she may be mistaken about this. Her settled view is that she is the victim in all of this and yet despite this adversity has battled on. None of this is her "fault". She understands the conspiracy and despite explaining it, others do not believe her. This simply adds to the injustice that she suffers. All of this remains Mother's settled view and contrary to Ms. C's opinion, Mother does not seem to have progressed in this view at all.
I was very concerned by what has been described as "dishonesty" by the local authority in the information provided by Mother to various professional agencies. I place no weight on the example of the DVLA because it seems to me that Mother may have given accurate information immediately after her discharge from hospital. However, I am concerned about the information Mother is said to have given Ms. James and to the MP which I have set out above. Mr. George made careful submissions about the weight that could be attached to this evidence. He reminded me that I have not heard from Ms. James or the MP. I do not know whether contemporaneous notes were made and how the documents before the court came into existence. Whilst I have taken account of all of these very well made submissions, it seems to me incredible that both individuals "misunderstood" Mother to such a degree. Whilst I have not heard from Ms. James, I heard from Ms. Smith who had spoken to Ms. James and specifically confirmed that the account given by Mother in the assessment was accurately recorded. She felt that Mother had not been honest with her. Similarly I find it incredible that the MP would have misunderstood so comprehensively the information Mother had given him. For him to be concerned that TM and F would be "out on the street" when neither were living with Mother suggests to me that Mother had not been honest with them. Mr. George asks me to accept that even if I take the view that it is more probable than not that mother gave inaccurate information to these professionals, and I do, I should effectively give myself the "Lucas" direction. These interviews were conducted at a time when mother was due to be evicted from her home and she was very concerned about being re-housed. Mr. George asks me to consider that Mother may have put a particular gloss on her family situation in order to secure housing and that a general concern about her inability to work with professionals cannot be drawn from this. Firstly, that is not mother's case. These are not admitted lies. Once again Mother's case is that she is the victim of others misunderstanding her. She is blameless. Secondly, if she did give inaccurate information it suggests a degree of manipulation of professionals which is a concern that I have with this mother. For a package of support to work in order that Mother can care for F, Mother must be able to work in a straight forward, transparent and honest way. This example raises real concerns in this area.
I was concerned by the late document submitted by mother, without permission, on 14th. February, but which I have accepted into evidence and have considered. In that document Mother has a heading, "The issue of me not being child focused." Mother commences that paragraph with the following sentence, "I do not feel that this issue was explored fully within the hearing." I have to say I found this a disappointing submission. In my judgment Mother was given every opportunity to put her case. The oral evidence lasted over three days and Mother was in the witness box for over a day. She was able to give very full (at times rambling) answers without interruption. This seems to be yet another example of Mother believing that if her case is not accepted it is because of yet another injustice done to her namely that there was some flaw in the process, rather than because of the merits of the case and the legal tests I must apply. In my judgment, Mother's ability to be child focused was the central issue in the case and great care was taken by all concerned, not least her able advocate, to ensure this issue was before the court.
I was concerned by Mother's behaviour in respect of taping Dr. Adshead. Firstly Mother should not have taped Dr. Adshead without her consent and permission. Had she asked Dr. Adshead, permission would have been given. I find it incredible that Mother had "forgotten" that she had a tape of Dr. Adshead's interview whilst she was giving evidence and that it had emerged only after Dr. Adshead was released from the court. That put Dr. Adshead in a very difficult position which she should not have been put in. The recording, even on her own evidence, does not evidence Mother's account. Mother's justification for making the recording is that she wanted to play it to Ms. C to discuss her therapeutic and treatment needs and yet Mother has not played this recording to Ms. C and frankly could give no credible reason why not. I am concerned that Mother had the recording equipment at court. I can place little weight on Mother's denial that it has not been used to tape court proceedings. She should not have brought it into court. I am concerned that Mother considers it appropriate to tape all of her contacts with her children. I respectfully agree with Ms. Crossby that it tends to show that mother views all contacts as part of an ongoing battle with Mr. H rather than as simply enjoying contact with the children.
This degree of suspiciousness concerns me greatly. In my judgment it is evidence of Mother's difficulty in functioning without believing that others will misinterpret her and that she requires "proof" of what is said in many different situations.
Ms. C told me of the improvements in Mother's ability to consider the viewpoints of others. There is no doubt that Mother has successfully constructed a life around her which is supportive and more positive than before. However, when I consider Mother's life, she is surrounded by individuals who support her view of the world and her situation.
Mother's relationship with Mr. B is clearly a change for Mother and has contributed to her feeling of well being and happiness. The evidence before me is that these two individuals are committed to each other and will be married in May 2014. I have no doubt that Mr. B loves and cares for Mother and is genuinely committed to her at the present time. However, my concern about this relationship is that Mr. B's devotion to Mother compromises his ability to consider important matters dispassionately and he finds it very difficult to take a view contrary to Ms. W. There is no clearer example of this than the issue of contact with his own children. It seems to me entirely reasonable that Mr. B's ex wife (I shall refer to her a Mrs. B) raised concerns about the suitability of Ms. W having contact with her two boys once she had learnt that Ms. W's 5 children had been removed from her care. Frankly, had Mrs. B not raised such concerns one would have had to question her own child protection abilities. Mr. B should have been open with Mrs. B about this from early on in his relationship with Ms. W and certainly once Mrs. B had learnt of this, understood and tried to assuage her concerns. Whilst Ms. W tried to portray herself as a reasonable mediator and negotiator in this scenario, it was clear from her evidence that she was dictating or at least assisting Mr. B in drafting e mails to Mrs. B. Ms. W's evidence in respect of Mrs. B was concerning, seeing her as a deeply unreasonable person. I note Mother's description of Mrs. B in the transcript produced by mother (at C75),
"well it was very similar to mine in that his ex-wife is very much controlling and manipulative unfortunately shows a lot of characteristics the same as Mr.H."
In fact Mrs. B had allowed generous and unrestricted contact between Mr. B and the boys up until she knew of Ms. W's past. However, Ms. W sought to paint the difficulty as lying squarely with Mrs. B.
I respectfully agree with Ms. Crossby that there is a worrying resonance between the way Mother has conducted her "battle" with Mr. H and the way Mr. B has conducted himself with Mrs. B. I was extremely concerned that Mr. B did not have contact with his own children "out of principle" due to Mrs. B's concerns about Ms. W. If this was really Mr. B's independent decision, it is extremely concerning. He clearly prioritised his relationship with and the feelings for Ms. W above the needs of his own children. I find it hard to think of a less child centred response to his own son than to tell him that he cannot see them because their mother does not like Ms. W.
Mr. B aligned himself to the sensibilities of Ms. W and took his son into the centre of what I can only describe as the "battle" between Ms. W, Mr. B with Mrs. B. Mr. B should have continued to put his sons first. He should have maintained direct contact whilst working with Mrs. B to assuage her concerns. Whatever the influence was of Ms. W in this situation, if positive as she would ask me to believe, it was ineffectual. However, given her own evidence of involvement, it appears to have been entirely unhelpful and counter productive. I do not accept that Ms. W tried to assist Mr. B in seeing the problem from Mrs. B's point of view (which was understandable) and encouraging a child centred solution.
If Mr. B cannot put the needs of his own sons above his relationship with Ms. W I have no confidence that he will put the needs of F above those of Ms. W should a situation arise when he is concerned about Ms. W's behaviour or mental health.
I was also struck by Mr. B's complete acceptance of Mother's case that Mr. H had caused her accident. There seemed to be no doubt in his mind that Mother's account is credible and true despite such a belief (on the evidence Mother has told me) simply not bearing scrutiny.
I am concerned that Mr. B does not understand the gravity of Mother's condition and her associated problems. Whilst I believe him to be a well meaning individual, he struck me as almost naive and accepted so much of what Mother tells him at face value including the reasons why the three children were originally removed from Mother's care. I do not find that Mr. B is a negative factor per se. In many ways he is a positive factor for Mother as an individual in her own right and clearly gives her emotional and physical support. However, I do not view him as a positive or protective factor for F. I have seen no evidence that Mr. B would disagree with Ms. W and quite the reverse, he will support her to the detriment of himself and his own children. Mr. B is a not a factor which assists Mother in meeting stage 1 of the permission two stage test. Nor is Mr. B evidence that Mother has progressed in having better relationships with those around her. Mr. B has become mother's main supporter and champion and is entirely aligned to her view of the world and the challenges they both face. Her rigidity of view is supported and not challenged or in any way threatened by Mr. B.
Similarly Mother places weight on her improved relationship with her own mother. In my previous judgment, I set out in detail my concerns about Mother's own view of her mother, namely that she suffered from a severe personality disorder. Mother has never accepted that any conflict in that relationship was due to any unreasonable behaviour on her own part. Mother has told me that her relationship with her mother has improved and certainly PGF told me that there was less tension at Christmas when Mother went to stay with her parents. I did not hear from the MGM and therefore do not know her views on these matters. However, in my judgment it is interesting to note that one of the main areas of tension between Mother and MGM has resolved namely TM has returned to Mother's care. I am also unclear exactly how much contact Mother has with her parents and certainly I was concerned that given the importance of this hearing, there had not been a family meeting to discuss the practical support the grandparents would be able to give. I was unconvinced by Mother's evidence that she has had extensive discussions with her mother on the telephone which her father seemed unaware of. Firstly, if true it raises concerns about the communication between the grandparents but it seems unlikely that MGF would have come to court without having had those discussions with his wife. (This was not put to MGF.) Moreover, it is unlikely that Mother would not have had those discussions with he father who historically she has always been closer to, even if I were to accept this improved relationship with MGM.
I was very concerned about Mother's attitude towards contact with her own children. Contact has broken down and again Mother finds it very difficult to accept that this is in any part due to her own behaviour. I respectfully agree with the social work evidence that the relationship between Mother and T is concerning. Her description of T as "feigning affection" suggests that Mother is attributing rather sophisticated and adult motives to T when she is a child caught up in a very difficult situation between two parents. Mother lacks an ability to accept that the difficult relationship between her and the three children could be due (at least in part) to her own parenting or behaviour towards the children. Again, it is the fault of Mr. H. The difficulties between her and T are because "T is becoming like her father." Despite her therapy, Ms. W could not refrain from making an inappropriate comment to T about Mr. H which T reported back to her father and contact has since been suspended. Conflict resolution on this issue has not improved at all since the care proceedings.
I respectfully agree with the submissions made on behalf of F through Mr. Trueman as follows,
"The Guardian does not see the right sort of change in Ms W's mental health, whether in nature or degree, to give her any confidence at all in Ms W being able to function any differently regarding her children's welfare. There is no movement in realisation of harm to a child caught in the fall out of such vehement dispute between Ms W and Mr H. So, although the therapist may say there has been change and progress in the therapeutic setting, there is no evidence of improvement in Ms W's ability to prioritise the needs of her children over her beliefs and her dispute with Mr H. She will go on recording contact and meetings with professionals, she continues to lie about events and background facts and she now has her camp believing in what she says, because she gives a consistent account of the car accident for example, to Mr B.
Both Mr B and Ms W put the principle of them being right before the need to maintain good regular contact with their respective children. Ms W could have resumed contact with her children (as could MGPs) if a payment of £250 had been made to Mr H. It is wrong for Mr H to withhold contact but a pragmatic approach, which would best serve the children's needs, would be to pay the money and get contact going again. Mr B did not see his children for some months due to their mother Mrs. B, being unhappy about a lack of information about his new partner who had had 5 children removed from her care. It was reasonable for Mrs. B to say that the new partner should not be present, until she knew more, or Mr B should have contact in the absence of Ms W. Neither Mr B nor Ms W put their children's needs above their own."
I accept the opinion of Dr. Adshead that Mother has made some improvements but that she still has some way to go. I also accept that Mother can present as calm and less rigid in situations where she feels supported and not threatened but that she may present very differently when under stress. I am very concerned about the risk of relapse for mother if put under stress and accept that attempting to care for a defiant three year old may be such a trigger.
Turning to Mother's accommodation, whilst I accept Mother has suitable accommodation for F to return to her care, this was not the reason for F not being returned to Mother and does not constitute a change. It is not a relevant change for the purposes of this test.
Therefore for these reasons I do not accept that Mother has made sufficient change in the key areas needed. Whilst I accept that she has undergone therapy and she is leading a more positive and a happier life, her ability to take responsibility for any problems in her life and to accept a different viewpoint from her own does not seem to have progressed, if at all, to a sufficient degree.
Therefore I do not consider that there have been sufficient changes to Mother's mental health to constitute a change to satisfy the first stage of the permission test. I therefore do not find that there has been a change of circumstances of a nature and degree sufficient to open the door to a consideration of whether leave to apply should be given.
However, if I am wrong about that I have considered the prospects for success under the second stage of the test.
In my judgment within the care proceedings I wrote the following,
"The key issue for the court therefore is whether there is any package of support available which will protect F from the risk of emotional harm and from physical harm and neglect if placed in Mother's care.
Having read all the evidence in the bundles and heard the oral evidence of the witnesses as detailed above, I am of the view that there is no package of support available which will safeguard Fs emotional and physical well being whilst remaining in Mother's care.
I do not accept that Mother can meet F's emotional and physical needs on a consistent basis in the long term and I am satisfied that the risk of emotional harm and physical harm and neglect is unacceptably high. I accept that Mother would not deliberately cause F physical harm but her inability rationally to accept advice on practical issues would put F at risk. If Mother stopped co-operating with professionals and withdrew from professional help F would be at risk of neglect. I am particularly concerned about F's emotional well being when Mother became distressed, anxious or angry. Mother's behaviour during contact with her other three children showed that she can react angrily and with complete disregard for her children when her emotions overwhelm her. That happened within the restricted environment of supervised contact with MGF supervising, a man for whom Mother has great affection and who is very sympathetic towards her. The risks to F are much higher with Mother as a full time carer. I find these risks cannot be managed within the birth family."
In my judgment this remains the key issue. Given that I am not satisfied that there has been sufficient change in Mother's ability to co-operate with professionals for all the reasons I have given, my judgment about this key issue remains the same. Mother's personality disorder would "get in the way" of mother's ability to co-operate.
For all the reasons set out above I do not accept that Mother has made sufficient change in the key area of being able to co-operate with professionals who may have to put forward a different view to her own and focus on F's needs rather than her needs. I accept Ms. Crossby's concerns that the package of support may tend to focus on Mother's needs rather than on F's.
I rely on the evidence of Dr. Adshead that even in the areas of improvement, there remains a risk of relapse which although is hard to quantify, is real and may be triggered by the stress of caring for F. In my judgment this risk is too high given the very severe problems mother has encountered in the past and the harm that F would suffer as a result of a failed rehabilitation attempt or indeed by an intensive period of assessment which ultimately proved unsuccessful.
Even if I am wrong about that, in order to test out whether Mother's ability to co-operate has significantly improved, all parties are agreed that if permission to apply to revoke the placement order were granted there would then need to be a long period of assessment. Although there has not been a recent detailed assessment of what practical support would be needed of Mother's ability to care for F, it is accepted on behalf of Mother that there would have to be a comprehensive package of support to assist Mother due to her physical difficulties. Mother has put forward a package of support including her parents, Mr. B, her cleaner and a nanny/helper. Clearly there would also have to be a high degree of local authority monitoring (certainly at the beginning) given the concerns of the past. This assessment would need to involve F and in fact the children's Guardian is of the view that only a residential assessment would provide the sufficient degree of monitoring and assessment required properly to consider Mother's ability to care for F. Ms. Crossby is strongly opposed to any such assessment or any disruption to F's life at this stage.
I must consider the welfare arguments at this second stage as part of the assessment of "prospects of success."
The Children's Guardian asks me to consider the following factors and argues that if appropriate weight is placed on them, I will be driven to find that welfare considerations will render any prospects of success unrealistic.
a. F has been in the care of her prospective adopters since a few days after she was born.
b. Those carers are ready to adopt her now.
c. To uproot her from those carers would be potentially harmful, especially with poor prospects of successful placement elsewhere.
d. F has a pressing need for permanency now and has already waited 3 years for this opportunity.
e. Ms W has not shown an improvement in her understanding of the needs of children.
f. Mother has not moved on in her preoccupation with Mr H. That preoccupation blocks her focus on her children's welfare.
g. Mother has recorded professionals' meetings and contact with her children thereby showing a highly suspicious aspect to her thinking and not one which has a child welfare focus. She is intent on the "battle" and will do what she needs to win it.
h. Mother has told different stories to different professionals to secure what she wants. This is not a good omen for a sound or positive working relationship with professionals.
i. Mother has an unrealistic view of the care of F and no clear plan for how this would work, who would contribute what and when.
j. No real thought has been given to how to deal with a 3 year old child who may not want to do as Mother says. Mother's response to children who do not do her bidding is not child centred. Her comment that T "feigns affection" for her, comes to mind, as does her refusal to pay what the Father says amounts to arrears of maintenance which leads to a 6 month gap in contact and Mr B's refusal to have contact without Ms W present.
k. Mother says that she expects that she and F would have to make adjustments. F is 3, and unlikely to be of a mind to make adjustments.
l. F's reaction to contact with mother was negative- it is said she had night terrors, linked to her contact. In other words, that the night terrors occurred during the time she was having contact with her mother but when contact stopped, so did the night terrors. The Guardian believes it would be harmful to reintroduce F to her mother.
m. Mother's contact with her children who live with their Father is difficult and to bring F into this troubled contact arena would put her at risk of emotional harm.
n. The only way to test if Mother could look after F would be to try it out. That experiment would likely to lead to emotional harm to F who would likely be distressed and confused as to what was happening. She has not seen Ms W since April 2013 when the goodbye visit took place. She would not have positive memories in light of the night terrors surrounding contact. It is submitted that such an experiment would be potentially abusive.
o. There is no one who can stop Ms W saying inappropriate things to F. Mr B does not challenge her and he is the only person who would be there, when he is not at work and were he prepared to challenge her.
p. Limited weight should be given to the evidence of the therapist, with a realisation that she gave a therapist's view; positive but perhaps only half the story. What she says is not reflected in Mother's suspicious actions in lying to professionals, recording professionals and her children. Dr Adshead said these are indicative of the personality disorder in action. The therapist has to be positive but her focus is Ms W and should be taken as such.
q. F will not be equipped to deal with a Mother who scans people for criticism. Her mother will not be equipped to deal with the criticism and rejection a young child can present.
In my judgment these points are well made. Key to those points is that save for the first four days, F has been in care all her life. She has been the subject of litigation for most of her life. Her future has therefore always been uncertain. Happily, F's experience of care is of one settled placement with carers to whom she has become securely attached. She has not had contact with Ms. W since April 2013. For mother to succeed at this stage, F would remain the subject of litigation for at least a further 6 months and would also be part of ongoing assessments, the resolution of which is likely to require at least one further contested final hearing. I accept the process of assessment is likely to unsettle and disrupt F's emotional security. I cannot countenance this disruption, when I have assessed the prospects of success to be so low. In my judgment, such an assessment would cause F emotional harm and distress. She is fortunate that her current carers have been assessed as being appropriate to adopt her and therefore if this application is refused, subject to the matching panel, there is no uncertainty about her future placement. However, I wish to make clear that my judgment in this matter would not have been different if F would have to move on to a different adoptive placement and her current carers were not putting themselves forward.
In my judgment it is not in F's welfare further to delay a permanent placement with her current carers given the inordinate delay she has already suffered through these proceedings and challenges to orders already made. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in the forefront of my mind the draconian nature of adoption, (and I bear in mind the guidance set out above) and that the result for F if the placement order is not revoked is a plan of adoption. At every stage I must consider whether adoption is the only realistic option. It is important to note that Mother's case has been argued on the basis that there are only two options available at this stage namely, rehabilitation to Mother or adoption. It has not been argued by Mother or any other party, that there is any other family member who can now care, or that I should at this stage consider long term fostering with direct contact between F and Mother. Although this has not been argued, in accordance with Re B-S I have considered whether there are any other realistic options to adoption in the light of my findings in respect of Mother.
The current foster carers have put themselves forward as adopters. They are therefore willing to care for F for the rest of her minority and beyond although I do not know what their view would be about caring for F as long term foster carers. I have considered whether long term foster care would be in F's best interests. I have already emphasised the point that F has been in care all her life thus far. Only an adoption order will give her the permanence and stability that the local authority and Children's Guardian argue F requires. I respectfully agree. It cannot be in F's best interests to consider revoking the Placement Order to leave her as a "looked after child" for the rest of her minority. Furthermore, it is clear that Mother will never accept any other carer for F. She believes her place is with her. In my judgment there would be a real risk of harm to F of being subjected to further litigation throughout her minority if she does not have the permanence of an adoption order either through repeated applications to revoke the care order or through applications for contact. In my judgment direct contact between F and Mother would bring with it the risks of emotional harm through F being caught up in the conflict between Mother and the local authority. I also bear in mind the evidence of the local authority that contact between F and Mother was stopped due to the foster carer reporting F suffering form "night terrors" associated with contact. In my judgment the risks of F's placement and emotional stability to such an arrangement are unacceptably high. Therefore, although not specifically asked to do so, I have considered whether there are any other realistic options to adoption in this matter. Sadly, in my judgment, there are not.
Therefore , in my judgment adoption is the only option available to F at this stage given all of the circumstances of this case. In my judgment this interference in F and Ms. W's family life is proportionate to the nature and gravity of the risks to F if Mother's application is acceded to and litigation continues.
For all of the reasons set out above I do not grant Ms. W permission to apply to revoke the Placement Order. I do not find the first stage of the test for permission is satisfied but even if I am wrong about that, in my judgment the prospects of Ms. W succeeding in her application to revoke the placement order are so low that it is not in F's welfare for there to be any further assessment or any further delay in her placement being secured. Therefore Mother's application for permission to apply to revoke the Placement Order is refused.
I come to this decision with a heavy heart. I like so many others, commend Mother for the improvements she has made to her life. Her physical rehabilitation is little short of remarkable and she has been committed to therapy. I hope that she will continue with her therapy as she has told me that she will, whatever the outcome of the case and that if she and Mr. B marry in May I hope they will find happiness in the long term.
I wish to thank and commend all of the advocates for their enormous assistance in this case. In particular I wish to thank Mr. George for the great care and sensitivity with which he has represented Ms. W, for which he has the court's appreciation.
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