BAILII [Home] [Databases] [World Law] [Multidatabase Search] [Help] [Feedback]

England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions

You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> S (A Child), Re [2001] EWCA Civ 847 (11 May 2001)
Cite as: [2001] 3 FCR 154, [2001] EWCA Civ 847

[New search] [Context] [View without highlighting] [Printable RTF version] [Help]

Neutral Citation Number: [2001] EWCA Civ 847


Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2A 2LL
Friday 11 May 2001

B e f o r e :





(Computer Aided Transcript of the Palantype Notes of
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 190 Fleet Street,
London EC4A 2AG
Tel: 020 7421 4040 Fax: 020 7831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)


MS E A GUMBEL QC (Instructed by Messrs Grants, Croydon, CR0 4RE) appeared on behalf of the Appellant
MR P JACKSON QC and MR D VAVRECKA (Instructed by Messrs White and Sherwin, Croydon, CRO 6BA)
appeared on behalf of the Respondent



Crown Copyright ©

  1. LORD JUSTICE THORPE: This is an appeal from the decision of Judge Ellis sitting in the Croydon County Court on 24 October 2000. He had before him an application by the father. V was born on 18 March 1993 and was the only child of her parents' marriage. The marriage had taken place in 1991 but did not endure beyond the summer of 1994. Since that separation, and indeed throughout her life, V has been cared for by her mother. That is a particular responsibility since V suffers from Downs Syndrome. She was born with a congenital heart and lung defect and, accordingly, has a much shortened life expectancy. The medical evidence established that she will be fortunate to live beyond her teenage years.
  2. Following the separation of the parties, in the spring of 1999 the mother entered into a relationship with Mr C. Mr C was, and probably still is, working and living in central London, but he is a Cornishman from St Austell. His attraction to London was simply the opportunity of earning more than he could in his home county; an opportunity that would enable him to do up a bungalow that he had bought in his home area. This project should come to fruition in about 18 months from now.
  3. When the father got wind of the plan for mother to relocate with Mr C and V to the St Austell area, on 23 December 1999 he issued an application in these terms:
  4. "I want my contact with [V] to be regularised and in particular I want reasonable holiday contact. I believe [the mother] is proposing to move to Cornwall. That would greatly reduce my contact and would not, in my view be in [V]'s interest. I am asking for a prohibited steps order preventing [V's] removal from the Croydon area, and if [the mother] does not wish to stay in Croydon, a residence order so that [V] can stay here with me."
  5. The issue before the judge was narrowed in the sense that, as is recorded at page 3, of the judgment:
  6. "The father does not seek to pursue an application for a residence order, nor for the time being does he need to pursue his application for a prohibited steps order."
  7. However, the judge sensibly decided that, since the parties were before the court, since he had heard evidence over the course of a day or two, since it would be of advantage to both sides to know where they stood, he would make an order which was not sought by the mother, namely a residence order and would then consider whether or not he would attach to that residence order a condition requiring her continuing location within the Croydon area.
  8. He heard expert evidence from Dr Bichard, who is an undoubted authority in a very special area. Dr Bichard is a qualified educational psychologist who has concentrated on the educational needs of children with specific learning disorders. She was an expert of 27 years' experience, recently retired as head of the learning disability service at the Tavistock. Dr Bichard established that V had very special educational needs and that she had limitations on her resilience. She said that there would be a detrimental effect on Victoria if contact were to be reduced; the solution of infrequent periods of contact of longer duration was not appropriate since long gaps between visits would engender anxiety in V'. She also pointed to other unsettling effects, such as losing contact with the extended paternal family and having to move school. Dr Bichard characterised V as a fairly concrete thinker and she would accordingly find it difficult to adjust to new school, new friends and a new house.
  9. The judge then correctly directed himself to the decision of this court in the case of Re E (Residence: Imposition of Conditions) [1997] 2 FLR 638. He held that the mother's contact proposals were in effect impractical, since they would have involved a great deal of weekend travel by road between the Croydon area and the St Austell area at weekends when traffic is at its heaviest. He came to the conclusion that the effect of the decision of this court in Re E was to vest in him a discretion, providing he was satisfied that the case was exceptional. He concluded that, on the facts, the case was exceptional and accordingly he was empowered to impose a condition which was expressed thus:
  10. "that the child continue to reside within the Borough of Croydon unless otherwise ordered..."


    ".... should not be removed from that area without leave of the court."
  11. The judge himself gave permission for an appeal to this court and I gave directions for the management of the appeal on 29 January 2001. With the advantage of hindsight, I rather regret having invited the appellant to consider whether her skeleton should be expanded to invoke the possible infringement of the mother's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. I say that I regret that with the advantage of hindsight, because it has led to a considerable elevation of preparation: Leaders have been brought in on both sides, new skeletons have been filed on both sides and each has presented impeccable argument in the area of the well-known cases decided in the jurisprudence of the European Court. In all those cases, involving possible infringement of the right to family life, examination of those authorities only emphasises that each member of the family has independent rights which are often in conflict, and in those circumstances the proper approach is to give prominence to the right of the child.
  12. It seems to me that the short point raised by this appeal can be safely decided within the domestic arena and without further reference to European authority.
  13. Miss Gumbel QC, who has presented the case for the mother concisely, essentially relies on Re E and the line of authorities from which it grew to the effect that the statutory right to impose conditions upon a residence order does not extend to invading adult freedoms. The statutory provisions that are relevant for the disposal of this appeal are section 11(7) which is in these terms:
  14. "A section 8 order may-
    (b) impose conditions which must be complied with by any person-
    (i) in whose favour the order is made;
    (ii) who is a parent of the child concerned;
    (iii) who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him: or
    (iv) with whom the child is living,
    and to whom the conditions are expressed to apply."
  15. The only other statutory provision which is relevant to the particular condition the judge sought to impose is section 13, which provides in subsection (1):
  16. "Where a residence order is in force with respect to a child, no person may-
    (b) remove him from the United Kingdom;
    without the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child or the leave of the court."
  17. Miss Gumbel complains that, in resisting an application which was essentially not pursued, the mother found herself with an order that she did not seek and did not need, imposed by the judge simply so that he could attach to it a restrictive condition. She says that the decision of this court in Re E demonstrates that, where the location of a child's residence is in dispute, the essential function for the judge is to weigh up the respective proposals in relation to location and arrive at a decision in the round as to which parent's proposal would further advance the child's welfare. If having decided, despite the disadvantages of the location element, in favour of one parent against the other offering a more favourable location, that really is the end of the matter and it is not open to the court to strive for some sort of ultimate ideal which invades the freedom of the primary carer to determine what is best for the family.
  18. Miss Gumbel particularly submits that in so far as the President contemplated the possibility of there ever being a condition as to location, that contemplation was restricted to cases where the court had direct concerns about the ability of the primary carer to achieve satisfactory standards.
  19. Mr Jackson QC, who has equally presented his argument with succinct persuasion, says that it is manifest that the court in Re E recognised the need for the imposition of a condition as to location in exceptional cases. On the facts this was an exceptional case. He stresses V's vulnerability, her special needs and her disability. He inevitably submits that it would not be open to this court to interfere with a careful judicial appraisal and the exercise of a humane discretion.
  20. In ruling on these submissions, it is, in my opinion, important to notice that the effect of the statute is to impose express restriction where the primary carer seeks to remove the child, not from the jurisdiction as was sometimes the case prior to the arrival of the Children Act 1989 (particularly in the wardship jurisdiction), but from the United Kingdom. There is, therefore, in my opinion, an implicit consequence that within the United Kingdom the court will not ordinarily seek to dictate the primary carer's place of residence.
  21. The jurisprudence in those cases that are now caught by section 13(1)(b) had been established over the course of more than 30 years by decisions of this court which recognise the great importance of not imposing on primary carers' restrictions on their freedom to choose their preferred way of family life and their preferred place of residence for two good reasons. The first is that often the notion of such restrictions are simply contrary to good sense and, secondly, because the imposition of restrictions is likely to have an adverse effect on the welfare of the children indirectly through the emotional and psychological disturbance caused to the primary carer by denial of the freedom to exercise reasonable choice.
  22. This line of authority has recently been reconsidered by this court in the light of the arrival of the Human Rights Act 1999 in the case of Payne v Payne [2001] l FCR 425. It seems to me that it is necessary to have some consistency between that line of authority applying to section 13(1)(b) cases, and those in which a judge has to consider whether it is open to him to apply a condition under section 11(7) to a residence order that restricts the primary carer's place of residence. It is true that in the case of Re E Butler-Sloss LJ said at 643A:
  23. "In my view the principles set out in a long line of authorities relating to leave to remove permanently from the jurisdiction have no application to conditions proposed under s 11(7)."
  24. With that I am in complete agreement in the sense that it is not ordinarily necessary for primary carers who seek to make a local move to have to clear the various hurdles that confront an applicant for permission to move out of the United Kingdom. In such cases the applicant has to demonstrate that he or she has made a thorough research and exploration of the circumstances and conditions in the country to which he or she aspires to relocate and that the proposals are practical and reasonable. Such an applicant also has to meet whatever opposition there may be from the secondary carer on the front of reduction of contact or other suggested adverse consequences of relocation. Whatever tests are applied to the applicant under section 13(1)(b), they must inevitably be more stringent than the tests applied to the primary carer seeking a purely local relocation.
  25. I turn to the decision in Re E. It is to be noted that it springs out of previous decisions in this court and, particularly, the decision in Re D (Minors) (Residence: Imposition of Conditions) [1996] 2 FLR 281, in which Ward LJ rejected trenchantly an attempt to impose a condition on a primary carer as to with whom she should share her life.
  26. The whole tenor of the judgment of Butler-Sloss LJ was to the effect that impositions on choice of residence within the jurisdiction were not within the ordinary use of the jurisdiction created by section 11(7). Having pointed out that there is no statutory requirement of consent or leave in respect of moving a child within the United Kingdom, and having pointed out that section 11 (7) applies to all section 8 orders, Butler-Sloss LJ continued:
  27. "The wording of the subsection is wide enough to give the court the power to make an order restricting the right of residence to a specified place within the UK. But in my view a restriction upon the right of the carer of the child to choose where to live sits uneasily with the general understanding of what is meant by a residence order."
  28. She continued at 642D:
  29. "A general imposition of conditions on residence orders was clearly not contemplated by Parliament and where the parent is entirely suitable and the court intends to make a residence order in favour of that parent, a condition of residence is in my view an unwarranted imposition upon the right of the parent to choose where he/she will live within the UK or with whom."
  30. Later in her judgment she set out the correct approach, saying that at 642F:
  31. "The correct approach is to look at the issue of where the children will live as one of the relevant factors in the context of the cross-applications for residence and not as a separate issue divorced from the question of residence. If the case is finely balanced between the respective advantages and disadvantages of the parents, the proposals put forward by each parent will assume considerable importance. If one parent's plan is to remove the children against their wishes to a part of the country less suitable for them, it is an important factor to be taken into account by the court and might persuade the court in some cases to make a residence order in favour of the other parent.
    The judge attempted to identify the present circumstances as exceptional, but even if he were justified in imposing the condition, which in my view he was not, it would give rise to the temptation to impose conditions in many cases where the proposals for the children were not, as they often are not, ideal. It is not unusual for the suggested arrangements to have the effect of depriving the children of frequent contact with the other parent and his relatives, of their present home, of their schools and their friends."
  32. The last two sentences are of particular application to the facts in Re E. Plainly, Butler-Sloss LJ was not laying down an absolute prohibition on such conditions. The difficulty in this appeal stems from what she said in relation to exceptional cases. Her very words were:
  33. "There may be exceptional cases, for instance, where the court, in the private law context, has concerns about the ability of the parent to be granted a residence order to be a satisfactory carer, but there is no better solution than to place the child with that parent. The court might consider it necessary to keep some control over the parent by way of conditions which include a condition of residence."
  34. I am in no doubt that, in defining the possibility of exception, Butler-Sloss LJ was guarding against the danger of never saying never in family law litigation. The whole tenor of her judgment is plain to me, in that she was giving the clearest guide to courts of trial that, whereas it was not safe to say never in cases in which the imposition of such a condition would be justified, it would be highly exceptional and probably restricted to a case, as yet unforeseen and may be difficult to foresee, in which the ability of the primary carer to perform to a satisfactory level required the buttress of a section 11(7) order.
  35. Certainly, in my opinion, her judgment is not to be interpreted as giving trial judges a general latitude to strive for some sort of ideal over and above the rival proposals of the available primary carers. As is well argued in the appellant's skeleton, that approach could lead to quite unsustainable restrictions on ordinary adult liberties, extending even to the secondary carer's chosen way of life.
  36. The difficulty in resolving this appeal is that as the case developed the concentration was upon the special area of expertise of Dr Bichard as to V's disability and, particularly, her educational disability. There was no expert looking at the matter in the round, having regard to the broader family dynamics and the well being of the family assuming that restrictive conditions were imposed. The judge merely recorded at page 11:
  37. "Of course the mother believes that she is the best person as [V's] mother to make judgments with regard to [V]. She in evidence said that it has for a long time been her ambition to move away from the Croydon area; she likes the idea of living in the country. She thinks it will be better for [V] in all sorts of ways to live in the country, and I can understand her feelings about that."
  38. But the judge does not assess the impact on her feelings of denying her those ambitions and proposals.
  39. Mr Jackson, on behalf of the father, says that it would be either unprincipled or unfair to his client if this court were simply to make assumptions in that territory. It is very unfortunate that it was not more fully investigated in the court of trial. The reasons for that seem two-fold. First, that there was a general concentration upon the application of Re E to the established facts; and, second, that mother had said, both to Dr Bichard and to the court welfare officer, and indeed in oral evidence to the judge, that if the condition were imposed upon her she would obey it. All that signifies is her responsibility and recognition of her inevitable obligation to comply with orders of the court. It does not begin to tell us what price she would pay for that obedience.
  40. With considerable regret at the inevitable consequence of prolonging litigation within this family, I have reached the conclusion that it is necessary, in allowing this appeal, to remit the case for reconsideration by the county court. A just must look to the facts which were not in any substantial dispute, and arrive at a balanced conclusion looking not only to the educational disadvantages identified by Dr Bichard but to the counter-balancing disadvantages of imposing on the mother and Mr C restrictions on their ordinary adult freedoms. As the relocation cases make plain, the focus is very much upon the new partnership, recognising that where a mother who is primary carer has entered into a relationship with a new partner, the exigencies or the demands of the new partner's life are an important ingredient in the judicial appraisal.
  41. If the issue is not resolved in the interim, either by developing circumstances or by some new accord within the family, there will have to be a further judicial investigation. That is my reluctant view.
  42. 31. LORD JUSTICE CLARKE: I recognise, of course, that my experience in this area of the law is very limited indeed, whereas that of my Lord can scarcely be greater. Nevertheless, I would like to add a few words of my own in the light of the submissions that have been made.

  43. Section 11(7) of the Children Act provides, so far as relevant:
  44. "A section 8 order may-
    (b) impose conditions which must be complied with by any person-
    (i) in whose favour the order is made;
    (ii) who is a parent of the child concerned;
    (iii) who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him: or
    (iv) with whom the child is living,
    and to whom the conditions are expressed to apply."
  45. As can be seen, section 11(7) does not itself impose any fetter or restriction upon the exercise of the discretion which it confers on the court. Do the authorities support the proposition that the discretion should be exercised in a particular way?The answer is yes. In Re E [1997] 2 FLR 638, this court held that the court should not generally impose a condition of residence in a particular geographical area. However the court recognised that there might be exceptional, or as my Lord has put it "highly exceptional", cases in which it would be appropriate to make such an order. In the course of her judgment Butler-Sloss LJ, with whom Saville and Thorpe LJJ agreed, said at page 642C-E:
  46. "A general imposition of conditions on residence orders was clearly not contemplated by Parliament and where the parent is entirely suitable and the court intends to make a residence order in favour of that parent, a condition of residence is in my view an unwarranted imposition upon the right of the parent to choose where he/she will live within the UK or with whom.
    There may be exceptional cases, for instance, where the court, in the private law context, has concerns about the ability of the parent to be granted a residence order to be a satisfactory carer, but there is no better solution than to place the child with that parent. The court might consider it necessary to keep some control over the parent by way of conditions which include a condition of residence. Again, in public law cases involving local authorities, where a residence order may be made by the court n preference to a care order, s 11(7) conditions might be applied in somewhat different circumstances."
  47. I do not read Butler-Sloss LJ as specifying precisely what cases would amount to exceptional cases and what would not. She simply gave some particular examples. I do not read her judgment as limiting the exceptional cases to the cases where the court was concerned about the capabilities of the primary carer. To my mind, it could scarcely do so given the words of the statute. However, I entirely accept the proposition that the court should not ordinarily dictate to the primary carer where he or she should live. Thus Butler-Sloss LJ made it clear, for example, that the court must not impose conditions simply because the proposals for the particular child are not ideal.
  48. I entirely agree with my Lord that the subsection should not be interpreted as giving trial judges a general discretion to strive for some ideal situation. A condition should only be imposed in genuinely exceptional cases.
  49. My Lord has referred to the line of cases culminating in Payne v Payne [2001] 1 FCR 425. I agree that it is desirable that there should be some consistency between that class of case and the class of case with which we are concerned. If anything, the exception to the general rule should be approached more restrictively in this class of case than in the class of case being considered in Payne v Payne. It may, however, be observed that in that case, Thorpe LJ said in paragraph 26:
  50. "In summary a review of the decisions of this court over the course of the last 30 years demonstrates that relocation cases have been consistently decided upon the application of the following two propositions; (a) the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration; and (b) refusing the primary carer's reasonable proposals for the relocation of her family life is likely to impact detrimentally on the welfare of her dependent children. Therefore her application to relocate will be granted unless the court concludes that it is incompatible with the welfare of the children."
    (See also the summary at paragraph 85).
  51. Thus the general rule is clear in both classes of case. The principal carer will ordinary be entitled to move to wherever he or she wishes. However, in the Payne v Payne class of case, the application to remove the child from the United Kingdom will ordinarily be granted unless the court concludes that it is incompatible with the welfare of the child. In the present class of case, no condition restricting the area of residence will be imposed save in exceptional cases. As I see it, no case will be an exceptional case unless the absence of such a condition would be incompatible with the welfare of the child.
  52. The question for the judge was whether this was an exceptional case. He held that it was. Mr Jackson submits that it was open to him so to hold and that this court should not interfere with that decision. He submits that, whereas, as Butler-Sloss LJ put it in Re E at page 643E, the judge in that case recognised that the mother's plans for the children were suitable and she was entitled to make her own decision where she and the children would live in the future, in the instant case the judge accepted the evidence of Dr Bichard that, if there were long gaps between visits, V will become anxious, will begin to feel rejected and there is a real risk of emotional harm to her which the court must not ignore.
  53. In my view there was considerable force in Mr Jackson's submissions, certainly as the matter was put before the judge. But, like my Lord, I am concerned that insufficient attention was paid to the impact upon the mother of having to stay in the Croydon area and the effect of that impact upon V.
  54. Essentially for that reason, I agree with the order proposed by my Lord.
  55. Order: Appeal allowed. No order as to costs. Matter to be remitted to court below. Legal Services Commission funding of appellant's costs.

BAILII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback | Donate to BAILII