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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 >> A Local Authority v The Mother & Ors  EWHC 1233 (Fam) (15 May 2020)
Cite as:  EWHC 1233 (Fam)
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B e f o r e :
A Local Authority
|- and –
The Maternal Grandmother
The Paternal Grandmother
Mr William Tyler QC and Mr Tim Parker (instructed by the Local Authority Legal Dept) for the Local Authority
Ms Elizabeth Isaacs QC and Mr Mark Rawcliffe (instructed by Dawson Cornwell) for the Mother
Mr Mark Twomey QC and Ms Siobhan Kelly (instructed by TV Edwards) for Father 1
Ms Trisan Hyatt (instructed by Faradays Solicitors) for Father 2
Ms Tina Cook QC and Ms Joy Brereton (instructed by Powell Spencer and Partners) for the Paternal Grandmother
Mr Cyrus Larizadeh QC and Ms Lucy Cheetham (instructed by Goodman Ray) for the Maternal Grandmother
Mr Darren Howe QC and Ms Sally Stone (instructed by Creighton and Partners) for the Children
Hearing dates: 12th May 2020
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Williams:
i) that K died as a consequence of cardiac necrosis caused by the deliberate administration or accidental ingestion of cocaine by or whilst in the care ofa) her mother, the first respondent, and orb) her father, the second respondent, and orc) her paternal grandmother, and ord) her maternal grandmother
ii) that one or more of those four individuals alternatively failed to protect her from the administration or accidental ingestion of cocaine
iii) that the children were exposed to emotional abuse as a result of domestic violence perpetrated by the father upon the mother.
i) the mother was agreeable to the hearing proceeding remotely
ii) the position statement for the father and his submissions made no reference to his having a medical condition which required him to shield or self-isolate or otherwise take additional precautions but did request assistance with hardware to enable better participation in a remote hearing.
iii) The paternal grandmother was experiencing symptoms similar to Covid 19 but wished the hearing to continue and her team were exploring her capability to participate remotely given her laptop had been seized by the police
iv) the maternal grandmother wished to continue albeit she would only be able to participate by phoning into the hearing as she did not have the hardware necessary to participate in an audio-visual manner.
I should emphasise that this was in the very early days of the court, the legal profession and litigants' experience of the delivery of justice remotely. Arrangements had been made for the trial bundle (comprising some 7 ½ thousand pages of material) to be provided digitally by Caselines.
i) Mother:M has a laptop and suitable internet connection enabling her to participate and join in the fact-finding hearing remotely as required. It is M's wish to attend as much of the hearing as possible. She doesn't wish to delay the case.However, in light of the growing experience of advocates in remote hearings and in light of the most recent guidance by MacDonald J in respect of the Remote Family Court (version 4), the proposal set out in the position statement on behalf of the paternal grandmother is endorsed, namely that at the conclusion of the expert evidence the advocates should be permitted to take stock address the court further as to the efficacy of the hearing proceeding remotely thereafter. At this stage the position on behalf of M in respect of whether it is appropriate or fair for the lay and professional (non-expert) parties to give evidence remotely is reserved; however, her legal team intend to review her instructions about lay and professional (non-expert) evidence at the conclusion of the expert evidence.
ii) Father:The real issue would be whether the evidence of the main respondents should be taken directly in court and it was likely to be the fathers position that it should be.
iii) Local AuthorityWe note that no party is suggesting that the hearing cannot fairly begin as planned, but that it would be sensible to review matters at the conclusion of the expert and/or expert and professional evidence.
iv) Maternal GrandmotherShe wanted the hearing to be completed as quickly as possible and wished to give evidence by Zoom telephone
i) the issue of deliberate administration of an overdose level of cocaine to K was not supported,
ii) the ingestion of cocaine on more than one occasion (save in trace amounts by living in a contaminated environment) was not supported
iii) the window within which K may have ingested cocaine had narrowed to a likely window of after nursery on 3rd April through to the visit to the GP at about 6 PM on 4 April, with a possibly most likely window of after nursery on the third April through to about 9 AM on 4 April,
iv) the most likely causes of death were either an unknown cause or cocaine ingestion leading to cardiac necrosis and subsequent heart failure.
v) The presence of cocaine in the hair strand samples of the maternal grandmother and on items at her property was most likely as a result of contamination and she had played no role in caring for K within the likely window.
i) the seriousness of the issues involved even after the amendments to the threshold were such that a fair hearing could only take place for the mother if she were able to attend court in person with the judge able to see her give evidence. The same held good for the testing of the evidence of the father and paternal grandmother. The mother wished to see her legal team face-to-face prior to giving evidence and such was essential in order to do justice to her case. Although the mother had a laptop and suitable internet connection this was no substitute for face-to-face conference and evidence giving. She also wished to have the support of her legal team during the process of giving evidence.
ii) The mother wished the father's evidence as to domestic abuse, drug use and what happened to K on 4 April to be tested with the father in court with her present.
iii) The mother did not believe a fair hearing could take place unless her leading counsel was also able to attend a hearing in person. Ms Isaacs, being in a category required to shield until 30 June (as per current government advice) could therefore not attend a hearing within the next two months. The mother could not contemplate attending court without Ms Isaacs.
iv) the mother had had contact with the maternal grandmother who has been told by her GP that she has Covid - 19 (albeit has not tested for it) and thus is required to self-isolate for 14 days. The mother believed that the contact took place on 1 May and so she could not attend a hearing in person until at the earliest 15 May
v) it was proposed that the matter be adjourned part heard to the first available date after 30 June.
The court's approach to the hearing of evidence in the current circumstances
"e. Where the parents oppose the LA plan but the only witnesses to be called are the SW & CG, and the factual issues are limited, it could be conducted
f. Where only the expert medical witnesses are to be called to give evidence, it could be conducted remotely;
g. In all other cases where the parents and/or other lay witnesses etc are to be called, the case is unlikely to be suitable for remote hearing."
"Can I stress, however, that we must not lose sight of our primary purpose as a Family Justice system, which is to enable courts to deal with cases justly, having regard to the welfare issues involved [FPR 2010, r 1.1 'the overriding objective'], part of which is to ensure that parties are 'on an equal footing' [FPR 2010, r 1.2]. In pushing forward to achieve Remote Hearings, this must not be at the expense of a fair and just process."
8. I have been assisted by counsel at the hearing this afternoon, who have explained that at the hearing on 3 April all parties, and the judge, effectively accepted that this hearing would now have to go ahead and be conducted remotely. I was told that all parties and the court had been influenced by the publication, shortly before 3 April, of advice produced by Mr Justice MacDonald on the conduct of remote hearings which gave an account [at paragraph 2.2.1] of a number of remote hearings that had been successfully accomplished in the early days following the lockdown. It would seem that those involved in this case read that advice as indicating that all hearings must now proceed as remote hearings and, I was told, the discussion during the hearing was about how the remote hearing would be conducted and not whether it should be heard remotely. If that was the understanding of MacDonald J's document, it was a misunderstanding. MacDonald J's document is firmly aimed at the mechanics of the process; it does not offer guidance, let alone give direction, on the wholly different issue of whether any particular hearing should, or should not, be conducted remotely. Establishing that a hearing can be conducted remotely, does not in any way mean that the hearing must be conducted in that way.
"It is a type of hearing which, certainly at first blush, seemed to be well outside the categories of hearing which could be contemplated as being appropriate for remote hearings before the Family Court. I make that observation in the narrow context of this being an allegation of FII. That category of case is a particular form of child abuse which requires exquisite sensitivity and skill on the part of the court."
24 The decision whether to hold a remote hearing in a contested case involving the welfare of a child is a particularly difficult one for a court to resolve. A range of factors are likely to be in play, each potentially compelling but also potentially at odds with each other. The need to maintain a hearing in order to avoid delay and to resolve issues for a child in order for her life to move forward is likely to be a most powerful consideration in many cases, but it may be at odds with the need for the very resolution of that issue to be undertaken in a thorough, forensically sound, fair, just and proportionate manner. The decision to proceed or not may not turn on the category of case or seriousness of the decision, but upon other factors that are idiosyncratic of the particular case itself, such as the local facilities, the available technology, the personalities and expectations of the key family members and, in these early days, the experience of the judge or magistrates in remote working. It is because no two cases may be the same that the decision on remote hearings has been left to the individual judge in each case, rather than making it the subject of binding national guidance.
25 Turning to the particular case now before the court, although I am extremely aware of and sensitive to the position of this young girl and the negative impact that a decision to adjourn will have on her wellbeing and the potential for it to cause her emotional harm, I am very clear that this hearing has to be adjourned. I make the decision also being aware of the impact that this will have professionally on all of those who have had this fixture booked in their professional diaries for a long time and who are now ready for the hearing to take place. That cannot be a factor that weighs very significantly in the decision-making process but it is one of which I am aware.
26 The reason for having the very clear view that I have is that it simply seems to me impossible to contemplate a final hearing of this nature, where at issue are a whole series of allegations of factitious illness, being conducted remotely. The judge who undertakes such a hearing may well be able to cope with the cross-examination and the assimilation of the detailed evidence from the e-bundle and from the process of witnesses appearing over Skype, but that is only part of the judicial function. The more important part, as I have indicated, is for the judge to see all the parties in the case when they are in the courtroom, in particular the mother, and although it is possible over Skype to keep the postage stamp image of any particular attendee at the hearing, up to five in all, live on the judge's screen at any one time, it is a very poor substitute to seeing that person fully present before the court. It also assumes that the person's link with the court hearing is maintained at all times and that they choose to have their video camera on. It seems to me that to contemplate a remote hearing of issues such as this is wholly out-with any process which gives the judge a proper basis upon which to make a full judgment. I do not consider that a remote hearing for a final hearing of this sort would allow effective participation for the parent and effective engagement either by the parent with the court or, as I have indicated, the court with the parent. I also consider that there is a significant risk that the process as a whole would not be fair.
27 The observations that I have made in the preceding paragraph apply equally to the options for dividing the hearing process up that have been helpfully suggested by Mr Taylor as, with each option, the judge would not have the opportunity to engage fully with the parent during the whole of the hearing as would be the case in a courtroom.
28 Given the wealth of factual detail that is to be placed before the court in relation to this mother's actions over the last three or four years, for her to have a full real-time ability to instruct her legal team throughout the hearing, not just by a phone call at the end of each witness's evidence, seems to me to be a prerequisite for her to be able to take an effective part in a fair process at the trial of issues such as this.
29 For those shortly stated basic reasons, I consider that a trial of this nature is simply not one that can be contemplated for remote hearing during the present crisis. It follows that, irrespective of the mother's agreement or opposition to a remote hearing, I would hold that this hearing cannot properly or fairly be conducted without her physical presence before a judge in a courtroom. Now that the mother is in fact opposing the remote hearing, the case for abandoning the fixture is all the stronger.
3. Against that background we wish to stress the following cardinal points with the utmost emphasis:
i) The decision whether to conduct a remote hearing, and the means by which each individual case may be heard, are a matter for the judge or magistrate who is to conduct the hearing. It is a case management decision over which the first instance court will have a wide discretion, based on the ordinary principles of fairness, justice and the need to promote the welfare of the subject child or children. An appeal is only likely to succeed where a particular decision falls outside the range of reasonable ways of proceeding that were open to the court and is, therefore, held to be wrong.
ii) Guidance or indications issued by the senior judiciary as to those cases which might, or might not, be suitable for a remote hearing are no more than that, namely guidance or illustrations aimed at supporting the judge or magistrates in deciding whether or not to conduct a remote hearing in a particular case
iii) The temporary nature of any guidance, indications or even court decisions on the issue of remote hearings should always be remembered. This will become all the more apparent once the present restrictions on movement start to be gradually relaxed. From week to week the experience of the courts and the profession is developing, so that what might, or might not, have been considered appropriate at one time may come to be seen as inappropriate at a later date, or vice versa. For example, it is the common experience of many judges that remote hearings take longer to set up and undertake than normal face-to-face hearings; consequently, courts are now listing fewer cases each day than was the case some weeks ago. On the other hand, some court buildings remain fully open and have been set up for safe, socially isolated, hearings and it may now be possible to consider that a case may be heard safely in those courts when that was not the case in the early days of 'lockdown'.
"It follows, applying the principles set out above and the guidance that has been given, that:
i) Final hearings in contested Public Law care or placement for adoption applications are not hearings which are as a category deemed to be suitable for remote hearing; it is, however, possible that a particular final care or placement for adoption case may be heard remotely;
ii) The task of determining whether or not a particular remote hearing should take place is one for the judge or magistrate to whom the case has been allocated, but regard should be had to the above principles and guidance, as amplified below;
iii) The requirement for 'exceptional circumstances' applies to live, attended hearings while the current 'lockdown' continues.
9. The factors that are likely to influence the decision on whether to proceed with a remote hearing will vary from case to case, court to court and judge to judge. We consider that they will include:
i) The importance and nature of the issue to be determined; is the outcome that is sought an interim or final order?
ii) Whether there is a special need for urgency, or whether the decision could await a later hearing without causing significant disadvantage to the child or the other parties;
iii) Whether the parties are legally represented;
iv) The ability, or otherwise, of any lay party (particularly a parent or person with parental responsibility) to engage with and follow remote proceedings meaningfully. This factor will include access to and familiarity with the necessary technology, funding, intelligence/personality, language, ability to instruct their lawyers (both before and during the hearing), and other matters;
v) Whether evidence is to be heard or whether the case will proceed on the basis of submissions only;
vi) The source of any evidence that is to be adduced and assimilated by the court. For example, whether the evidence is written or oral, given by a professional or lay witness, contested or uncontested, or factual or expert evidence;
vii) The scope and scale of the proposed hearing. How long is the hearing expected to last?
viii) The available technology; telephone or video, and if video, which platform is to be used. A telephone hearing is likely to be a less effective medium than using video;
ix) The experience and confidence of the court and those appearing before the court in the conduct of remote hearings using the proposed technology;
x) Any safe (in terms of potential COVID 19 infection) alternatives that may be available for some or all of the participants to take part in the court hearing by physical attendance in a courtroom before the judge or magistrates.
10. It follows from all that we have said above that our judgment on this appeal should be seen as being limited to the determination of the individual case to which it relates. Each case is different and must be determined in the light of its own specific mixture of factors. The import of the decision in this case, in which we have held that the appeal must be allowed against a judge's decision to conduct a remote hearing of proceedings which include applications for placement for adoption orders, is that, on the facts of this case, the judge's decision was wrong. As will be seen, one important and potentially determinative factor was the ability of the father, as a result of his personality, intellect and diagnosis of dyslexia, to engage sufficiently in the process to render the hearing fair. Such a factor will, almost by definition, be case-specific. Another element, and one that is likely to be important in every case, is the age of the children and the degree of urgency that applies to the particular decision before the court. The impact of this factor on the decision whether to hold a remote hearing will, as with all others, vary from child to child and from case to case.
" One important factor in a decision whether to proceed, particularly in a fact finding case, is the question of whether the judge will be in a less good position to judge whether or not the witnesses are telling the truth if the case is conducted remotely. This was clearly an issue of particular concern to the President in Re P at  where he refers to the benefits of seeing the witness in court. The issue of the weight that a judge should give to the demeanour of witnesses is an intensely complex one and has been the subject of considerable judicial debate. ….
'41. No doubt it is impossible, and perhaps undesirable, to ignore altogether the impression created by the demeanour of a witness giving evidence. But to attach any significant weight to such impressions in assessing credibility risks making judgments which at best have no rational basis and at worst reflect conscious or unconscious biases and prejudices. One of the most important qualities expected of a judge is that they will strive to avoid being influenced by personal biases and prejudices in their decision-making. That requires eschewing judgments based on the appearance of a witness or on their tone, manner or other aspects of their behaviour in answering questions. Rather than attempting to assess whether testimony is truthful from the manner in which it is given, the only objective and reliable approach is to focus on the content of the testimony and to consider whether it is consistent with other evidence (including evidence of what the witness has said on other occasions) and with known or probable facts.
 Mr Goodwin and Mr Verdan also referred me to the fact that it is by now fairly common in Family and Criminal courts for lay witnesses of fact to give evidence remotely by video link where those witnesses are considered to be vulnerable. The procedure for doing so is dealt with extensively in PD3AA. It therefore must follow that the giving of evidence in this way does not undermine the fairness of the process either for the individuals concerned or other parties. I do however inject a note of caution here. If it were a case that a vulnerable witness were likely to be subject to complex cross examination, perhaps with references to a large number of documents, it is highly likely that they would have the assistance of an intermediary to assist them in managing the process. Therefore, the fact that evidence is given remotely is not itself sufficient to necessarily protect that witness.
 There is also a balance to be struck. One of the reasons that vulnerable witnesses often give evidence remotely is to protect them from the stresses of the courtroom. It may therefore be that a compromise is made for that category of witness, in order to balance fair process with the interest of the individual. However, as Mr Goodwin argued, it may also be the case that the vulnerable witness is more likely to give truthful and complete evidence if allowed to give it remotely, rather than in the witness box. So the benefit is not simply to the witness, but also potentially to the judicial process.
 On the issue of remote hearings more generally, and the interpretation of Re P in particular, I propose to say little in this judgment. Ironically, although the case has come before me primarily because it was thought that the judge may have fallen into error in her application of Re P, it is clear that she did not do so. The decision in Re P is expressly tied to the small number of cases in which allegations of Factitious or Induced Illness ['FII'] are made. Paragraph 24 in Re P is of more general, obiter, application and the judge was correct in referring to it.
 At present, in accordance with the Guidance that has been issued and the decisions handed down last week in the Court of Appeal in the cases of Re A (Children) (Remote Hearing: Care and Placement Orders)  EWCA Civ 583 and Re B (Children) (Remote Hearing: Interim Care Order)  EWCA Civ 584, each judge or magistrate must consider the individual case before the court and determine whether or not it should proceed remotely in whole or in part. It is to be accepted that a consequence of this approach is that different courts may take a different view on similar cases and that this may inevitably give rise to some inconsistency from court to court, or even from judge to judge. The Family Justice Observatory's speedy research into remote hearings in the Family Court will inform a review of the current situation and indicate whether the present guidance needs to be revised. It is not therefore the place to add to the learning on remote hearings in this judgment. The decision in the present case should be seen as an ordinary appeal, where the issue happens to be a remote hearing, but where the appeal has turned upon a failure of process and an error in approaching the issue of welfare.
The importance and nature of the issue to be determined; is the outcome that is sought an interim or final order?
Whether there is a special need for urgency, or whether the decision could await a later hearing without causing significant disadvantage to the child or the other parties;
Whether the parties are legally represented;
The ability, or otherwise, of any lay party (particularly a parent or person with parental responsibility) to engage with and follow remote proceedings meaningfully. This factor will include access to and familiarity with the necessary technology, funding, intelligence/personality, language, ability to instruct their lawyers (both before and during the hearing), and other matters;
Whether evidence is to be heard or whether the case will proceed on the basis of submissions only;
The source of any evidence that is to be adduced and assimilated by the court. For example, whether the evidence is written or oral, given by a professional or lay witness, contested or uncontested, or factual or expert evidence;
The scope and scale of the proposed hearing. How long is the hearing expected to last?
The available technology; telephone or video, and if video, which platform is to be used. A telephone hearing is likely to be a less effective medium than using video;
The experience and confidence of the court and those appearing before the court in the conduct of remote hearings using the proposed technology;
Any safe (in terms of potential COVID 19 infection) alternatives that may be available for some or all of the participants to take part in the court hearing by physical attendance in a courtroom before the judge or magistrates.
i) The issues on which the remaining evidence is to be given are not complex but they are of very considerable importance both to the mother, father and paternal grandmother and to the children and wider family. The outcome of the evidence may have profound implications for the possibilities of rehabilitation and thus for the family life of the children and the parties.
ii) The absence of very much contemporary documentary evidence, digital fingerprints, or other corroborative evidence places a considerable focus on and premium on the oral evidence of the parties. Whilst it can be tested remotely, where it is of such importance and where there is the lack of other evidence against which to measure it. the giving of evidence in a court setting in the presence of the judge in my view has an advantage both to the party and to the court. This arises not only from the evidence actually given but also from the interplay between the party and their team and the dynamic that may be observed as between the parties. Thus, on the particular factors which are present in this case I consider that giving evidence in person has a material advantage over remote evidence giving. If giving evidence in person can be facilitated within a reasonable time period that should be facilitated in order to deliver a fair hearing.
iii) I thus do not consider that it is appropriate to continue with the hearing later this week and next week. Although a safe court environment can be provided the mother cannot participate in person as she has been exposed to a person diagnosed with Covid 19. Even were she prepared to attend court in those circumstances, I would not permit her to do so given the risks to herself and to others. The father may be reluctant to attend this week and next but he and his team could attend if I so required them. The paternal grandmother and her team can and indeed urge me to allow her to attend to give her evidence. Were I to allow the father and paternal grandmother to attend in person but to restrict the mother to giving evidence by remote means, on the facts of this case, I do not consider that I would be allowing the parties to participate on an equal footing. The mother inevitably would feel a sense of grievance that she was participating in a manner which she felt was less likely to present her evidence effectively.
iv) The mother, the father and the paternal grandmother can attend a court hearing in June. A safe court environment will then be even more sophisticated or developed for the parties, the lawyers and the court staff. All can then give their evidence in person with the advantage that brings in this case. The difficulty in June is that Ms Isaacs will not be able to attend in person. That I accept will have some impact on how the mother's case is presented. It is likely to impact on how the mother feels at court, it will mean that interactions between the mother and Ms Isaacs will not be immediate but will be filtered via Mr Rawcliffe and a remote application, and it will mean that Ms Isaacs' physical presence in court to cross examine the father and the paternal grandmother will be replaced by a remote presence: albeit on screen this may be as prominent, if not more so than being physically present. I accept that this amounts to some interference with how the mother and her legal team would choose to exercise their fair trial rights and objectively is likely to have some impact on the presentation of the mother's case; however this does not mean that a fair trial cannot be delivered. A party's subjective perception of what amounts to a fair hearing is not determinative. A fair hearing sets a minimum standard but how it is delivered is not fixed and may vary from one case to another. Some cases involve several leading counsel on each side, others proceed fairly with litigants in person on one side and leading counsel on the other. A fair hearing can be achieved in such circumstances and I am satisfied it can be achieved here.
v) Balanced against the mother's article 6 rights are the article 6 rights of the other parties to a fair trial within a reasonable time. All, including the mother have emphasised their desire for the case to be resolved as soon as possible. The agreement of a party to proceeding either remotely or in a hybrid hearing does not relieve the court of the responsibility to determine whether a fair hearing can take place any more than the opposition of a party relieves the court of that obligation. The Guardian is concerned at any delay and would prefer to have proceeded immediately from the point of view of the children and achieving a rapid resolution of the case. The paternal grandmother also sought an early resolution by continuing with this hearing. The local authority likewise. I have concluded that whilst desirable such a rapid approach would be a significant interference with the mother's rights to a fair hearing and would (along with various other obstacles) prevent a fair hearing and that would outweigh the limited delay involved in adjourning to June which would constitute a hearing within a reasonable time. There is thereafter (as between June and September) also a balance to be struck between interfering with the children's rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time and the mother's rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time. Whilst the particular components engaged from each party's perspective may differ a balance still must be struck.
vi) There is no perfect solution to this clash of rights. Any solution is an imperfect solution with some interference with the rights of one or another party; primarily article 6 but also article 8 rights in particular in terms of how rapidly resolution can be achieved for the medium to long term future of the children. A delay until September will, if Ms Isaacs is then able to attend in person, ensure the fullest compliance with the mother's article 6 rights; the minimum standards will be well exceeded. However, such a delay will infringe upon the children's rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time. I accept that a delay of 3 months is a significant one and will cause harm to the children. It is not a reasonable time to adjourn from now until September if some alternative earlier hearing can be achieved without infringing the mother's rights to an extent that outweighs the delay caused infringements of others' rights. A hearing in June will protect the children's article 6 right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time but will infringe to some degree on the mother's competing rights. However, I do not consider that the inability of Ms Isaacs to attend will prevent the mother receiving a fair hearing. The personal presence of leading counsel is one part of the framework which contributes to a fair hearing. It is a desirable part, but in my view it is not essential to the provision of a fair hearing. The combined effect of the rest of the framework; that provided by the court, that provided by the mother's representation and to an extent the representation of the other parties all play their part in making the hearing fair. Inevitably in some cases leading counsel is prevented from playing the expected role – part of junior counsel's role is to take on that role. In fact, in this case Ms Isaacs can continue to play a role and in my view (and experience in this case so far) an effective role by remote participation. Some adjustments may be necessary to allow the most effective communication within the mother's team but this on my experience to date is manageable.
vii) Having given anxious consideration to these imperfect solutions that which in my evaluation reaches the best balance is to adjourn the hearing until June to enable the mother to participate in person at that hearing albeit without the physical presence of her leading counsel. That hearing can be a fair one to the mother and to the other parties. That will then enable the facts to be determined which will lead to a final welfare hearing in September and will avoid a further 3 to 4-month delay, which acceding to the mother's submissions would inevitably require; and that assuming Ms Isaacs was then able to attend. If she was not then able to attend would the matter require further adjournment?