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England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions >> M (Children)  EWHC 39 (Fam) (27 June 2019)
Cite as:  EWHC 39 (Fam)
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A Reporting Restriction Order was made in this case on 10th April 2017. It prevents the identification of the family members and other participants in the proceedings, or of the children's schools or of certain other geographical information. Failure to observe the terms of the order may be a contempt of court.
This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.
IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
IN THE MATTER OF Re M (Children) (By their children's guardian)
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| A Local Authority
|A & B (Children by their guardian)
|| 3rd & 4th Respondents
Mr Andrew Bagchi QC and Mr Gordon Semple (instructed by Watson Ramsbottom) for the First Respondent
Ms Barbara Connolly QC and Mr Simon Rowbotham (instructed by Smith Partnership) for the Second Respondent
Ms Beryl Gilead Semple (instructed by Jackson Quinn) for the Third and Fourth Respondents
Hearing dates: 11th to 22nd March 2019
Crown Copyright ©
The Honourable Ms Justice Russell DBE:
. "The parents began living together in 2004, married in 2006 and separated in 2011. In 2012 and again in 2013, the father brought proceedings to secure contact with the children and orders were made. However, in December 2014, the mother and maternal grandmother made allegations to the NSPCC and to the police that the boys had been severely sexually abused by their father, by members of his family and by some of his male friends over a considerable period of time. The allegations led to there being no contact between the boys and their paternal family for almost three years.
. During the police investigation into the allegations, the children were medically examined. That provided no supporting evidence. The children were also interviewed, but in a manner that the judge considered to have no evidential value. Additionally, at the insistence of the mother the police arranged for hair strand tests for drugs to be taken from the boys in January 2015. These were not sent for analysis until May 2016. In June 2016, Ms Kirsten Turner, a consultant forensic toxicologist then employed by ChemTox reported to the police the presence in the hair of the sedatives benzodiazepine and nordiazepam. In September 2016, Ms Turner, by now working for Alere Forensics ('Alere') produced a further report identifying the presence of nordiazepam, temazepam and zolpidem, in all cases in very low quantities.
. In September 2015, the mother and children moved away from their local area. In response, the father issued proceedings to locate them and to restore his contact. It was those proceedings that came before the judge in March 2017. He heard nine days of evidence, including from Ms Turner, who was called by the mother. Her evidence was that the tests indicated that the boys had received the same substances in similar timescales and concentrations. The low levels were not suggestive of administration on a regular basis. They could theoretically be explained by accidental ingestion or environmental exposure. In respect of timing, she concluded that it was not possible to state the exact period covered by the hair samples and that it was possible that some traces of the drugs were from exposure prior to August 2014. However, the results could also be explained by a single tablet of diazepam being administered to each child in mid-December 2014.
Chronology and evidence: 27th March 2017 to date
Conclusions and findings
i) "The welfare of the child is paramount;
ii) It is almost always in the interests of a child whose parents are separated that he or she should have contact with the parent with whom he or she is not living;
iii) There is a positive obligation on the State and therefore on the judge to take measures to promote contact, grappling with all available alternatives and taking all necessary steps that can reasonably be demanded, before abandoning hope of achieving contact;
iv) Excessive weight should not be accorded to short term problems and the court should take a medium and long term view;
v) Contact should be terminated only in exceptional circumstances where there are cogent reasons for doing so, as a last resort, when there is no alternative, and only if contact will be detrimental to the child's welfare."
 …… In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. This is a binding obligation in international law, and the spirit, if not the precise language, has also been translated into our national law. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places a duty upon a wide range of public bodies to carry out their functions having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children."