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Removal of a child from prospective adopter

 

I have written about a few of these cases since Holman J’s decision in December 2014, but this one is rather out of the ordinary.

 

RY v Southend Borough Council 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2509.html

 

Hayden J was dealing with two applications. The first was an application by RY, an approved adopter, to adopt a child who is about 2 1/2, a little girl named SL.  The second was the application by the Local Authority  (Southend) to remove the child from RY’s care, under section 35 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

Cases about section 35 are rather rare, and this one raises some unusual issues.

First things first, what does s35 say?

 

“35 Return of child in other cases

(2) Where a child is placed for adoption by an adoption agency, and the agency –

(a) is of the opinion that the child should not remain with the prospective adopters, and

(b) gives notice to them of its opinion, the prospective adopters must, not later than the end of the period of seven days beginning with the giving of the notice, return the child to the agency.

(5) Where –

(a) an adoption agency gives notice under subsection (2) in respect of a child,

(b) before the notice was given, an application for an adoption order (including a Scottish or Northern Irish adoption order), special guardianship order or residence order, or for leave to apply for a special guardianship order or residence order, was made in respect of the child, and

(c) the application (and, in a case where leave is given on an application to apply for a special guardianship order or residence order, the application for the order) has not been disposed of, prospective adopters are not required by virtue of the notice to return the child to the agency unless the court so orders”.

In plain English, where a Local Authority have placed for a child for adoption, if they ask for the child back, the adopter must hand the child back within 7 days.  UNLESS the adopter has already made an application to Court for adoption, or a Special Guardianship Order or a residence order (Child Arrangements Order), in which case it is up to the Court what happens.

In this case, RY had lodged her application to adopt SL BEFORE the LA asked her to hand the child back, so it was for the Court to decide.

By way of important background, SL was a very ill child.

  1. At birth SL was pale, floppy and had no respiratory effort or heart rate and required intensive resuscitation. Her first gasp was not until 20 minutes into life. Dr. Daniel Mattison, Consultant Paediatrician, identifies that SL had experienced hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy. This can result in a wide spectrum of disability and in SL’s case she has been left with a raft of problems. Firstly, quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which means that she has impaired movement and stiffness of all her limbs as a direct result of brain damage to the parts of the brain involved in movement, tone and posture.
  2. Secondly, she has global developmental impairment. Thirdly, she has gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. That is a condition where the stomach contents pass into the oesophagus causing symptoms. The stomach contents are acidic so the symptoms include pain from the acidic contents coming into contact with the oesophagus and the throat. They also include vomiting, feeding difficulties and respiratory problems if the stomach contents irritate the top of the windpipe or if small amounts enter the lungs. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is more common and may be more severe in children with severe neuro-disability like SL.
  3. Finally, Dr. Mattison considers that there is visual impairment as a result of the deprivation of blood and oxygen to those parts of the brain involved in vision.

One can see that absolutely anyone would have faced challenges in caring for SL and meeting her needs.

What the Judge found, by careful consideration of the facts, was that the matching process of RY and SL was optimistic.

RY had some considerable issues of her own, having been diagnosed with Ehler-Danloss syndrome, occasionally needing to feed herself through a gastrostomy tube and being in a power chair needing to use hoists to move herself out of the chair.  She also stated that she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when she was 19.

None of that, of course, means that she is excluded from being a carer for a child, or from being an adopter, but it does mean that there were medical issues that needed some careful consideration in the assessment and matching process.

The fact that the assessment process identified that there had been views that RY’s physical problems were emotional or psychological in nature, at the very least ought to have meant that the adopter’s medical records would have been needed to be seen and commented on by a medically qualified professional.

I am not myself at all clear as to why that wasn’t the case.

 

12…the assessment report more generally – poses a number of questions. Most importantly, it does not address RY’s capacity physically to parent a disabled youngster as the child got older and heavier. It also has to be said that the possibility that RY’s health difficulties might have a psychological component were evident. It is easy, of course, to be wise with the benefit of hindsight, but nonetheless it seems to me that the enquiries made into RY’s physical and mental health were less than satisfactory.

  1. A number of reports were requested, including one from RY’s general practitioner and rheumatologist, but the nature of that enquiry appears to have been very limited and as RY on her own account has had very little recent contact with either in recent years, it is not surprising that little constructive information was forthcoming.
  2. Ms. Frances Heaton QC and Mr. Shaun Spencer, who appear on behalf of Southend Borough Council, absorb this criticism without demure. In their closing submissions they state as follows: ^

    “With regard to its own failure to consider these records, the adoption agency is cognisant of the fact that although not signposted in the regulations, a review of RY’s medical records is likely to have been beneficial during the adoption process”.

  3. They continue:

    “Where an adoption agency has referred a proposed placement to the adoption panel, the panel must consider the proposed placement and make a recommendation to the agency as to whether the child should be placed for adoption with that particular prospective adopter pursuant to regulation 32(1) of the Adoption Act Regulations 2005.

    In considering what recommendation to make the panel, (1), must have regard to the statutory duties imposed on the agency; (2), must consider and take into account all information and reports ^ passage of it; (3), may request the agency to obtain any other relevant information which the Panel considers necessary; and (4), may obtain legal advice as it considers necessary in relation to the case. Thereafter, in coming to a decision about whether a child should be placed for adoption with a particular prospective adopter, the agency decision maker must take into account the recommendation of the adoption panel and have regard to the child’s continuing welfare, pursuant to regulation 34(4) of the Adoption Act Regulations 2005″.

  • 16.Ms. Heaton and Mr. Spencer also identified the most recent Department of Education Statutory Guidance on Adoption, July 2013, drawing my attention particularly to para.4.15, which states:

     

      1. “Agencies have a duty to satisfy themselves that prospective adopters have a reasonable expectation of continuing to enjoy good health. The medical adviser should explain and interpret health information from the prospective adopter, their GP, and consultants if relevant, to facilitate panel discussion. The opinion of the prospective adopter’s GP and the agency’s medical adviser about the health status of the prospective adopter needs to be given sufficient weight by adoption panels and agency decision-makers. Mild chronic conditions are unlikely to preclude people from adopting, provided that the condition does not place the child at risk through an inability to protect the child from commonplace hazards or limit them in providing children with a range of beneficial experiences and opportunities. More severe conditions must raise a question about the suitability of a prospective adopter, but each case will have to be considered on its own facts …”

 

 

That seems to me very clear that an adoption medical of the prospective adopter would be required and that in a case where medical issues arise, the records would be needed.

 

This next part, for my mind, is the most worrying aspect of the case  – that these important aspects had not been properly considered because of the pressures on Southend (and one assumes other Local Authorities) to move adoptions through the system quickly to satisfy the Government driven statistics. But even more seriously, that where a Local Authority does not properly satisfy the Government as to performance, there are ‘penalties’

I have to be candid, I do work for a Local Authority. I don’t know about penalties for failure to meet the thoughts that Central Government have about performance (and frankly I wouldn’t know how to find out). The common-sense reading of this portion is that there are financial implications for a Local Authority who doesn’t get their adoptions through as quickly as Central Government thinks that they should.  Perhaps that is right, in which case it would be very worrying.  Perhaps someone has got the wrong end of the stick here.

  1. Counsel seek to explain the deficiencies of this agency’s process in these terms, they state:

    “The agency appreciates the strength of an argument that it failed to have sufficient regard to the matters required of it both by the regulations and the statutory guidance. In the context of that argument, the court understands the pressures on agencies quickly to match children with approved adopters as a result of government measures”.

  2. Ms. Heaton and Mr. Spencer say:

    “It is a reality of the situation that adoption agencies are being judged and measured by government departments on the speed of time taken to match children, poor performance leads to penalties”.

  3. They conclude:

    “This adoption agency recognises that these pressures may have resulted in proper scrutiny not being fully implemented in this case. I am offered reassurance that the agency recognises that a request to consider our wide medical records would have been beneficial to the matching process. I have been told that they intend to address this failing for the future by ensuring that the agency is more ready to be resistant to pressures and to identify at an early stage those cases which it considers to be exceptional where a ‘longer matching process is required’.”

 

The Judge was also perturbed about this :-

 

  1. I am not in any way in any position to evaluate the explanation proffered in the authority’s fulsome explanation. I was not, for example, aware that government departments were subjected to penalties where there had been too much delay in the time taken to match children, I confine myself entirely to observing what is little more than a statement of that which should be obvious.
  2. Children like SL are profoundly vulnerable. Social services and society more generally must be sedulous in its protection of them. The fact that there may be fewer welfare options available for such children must never mean the criteria for matching carers to them can ever be compromised. On the contrary, the obligations should be seen as even more rigorous. The matching of RY to SL was undoubtedly ambitious.

 

 

In any event, things became more serious, because what was asserted was that RY’s care was not merely deficient but actually harmful and indeed that the care of SL had reached the point where significant harm had been caused.

There were many issues in this regard, and the Judge was also critical that the document provided to RY that set out what portions of parental responsibility she was allowed to exercise and what she was not was a stock document and was ambiguous

 

  1. What is contemplated here is the granting of some but not all parental rights. The focus is on the child with the objective of permitting the prospective adopter to take day-to-day decisions in the sphere of health, education, religion, holidays and social activities. Here this local authority, in common with many others, I am told, issued a standardised pro forma document.
  2. In relation to health issues, it permitted RY to consent to emergency medical treatment. It did not permit her to consent to treatment including operations that require anaesthetic. It did permit her to take decisions in relation to any prophylactic treatment, including immunisations, decisions in relation to involvement in counselling or therapeutic services, agreement to school medical appointments and decisions in relation to dental treatment. It also provided for her to have decision making responsibility across a range of issues relating to education, day-care, religion, holidays and contact, had that been relevant. I need not look at those wider issues and I concentrate entirely, because it is in focus here, on the provisions relating to health. I have, to say the least, been greatly exercised by them. They are not to my mind a model of pellucid clarity.
  3. There has been much confusion by the professionals as to what the scope and ambit of RY’s parental responsibility powers in fact were. Having read the document I am not surprised. This document, particularly if it is, as I am told, issued widely, really requires refinement. Again I am reassured that Ms. Heaton has this in her sights. She submits that the adoption agency recognises that on reflection and with the benefit of hindsight, (a recurrent phrase) the use of this local pro forma document was not suited to the facts of this case. It is now, she says, recognised that what was required – and is likely to be required in cases such as this concerning any child with complex care needs – is “a bespoke s.25 parental responsibility document tailored to the individual circumstances and needs of the child being placed.”
  4. She goes on to offer the reassurance that in the light of this acknowledgement this Adoption Agency intends to review its own practices and procedures in relation to the identification of appropriate restriction on parental responsibility and to introduce bespoke PR documents in appropriate cases. It also intends to raise the issue with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering so that other adoption agencies may benefit from learning from the experience of this case. I would add to that my own view that the standardised document is itself lacking in clarity. The first two requirements permitting consent for emergency treatment and refusing to bestow consent to treatment including operations are not immediately capable of easy reconciliation and generate, to my mind, inevitable confusion. As I have said, they require some refinement though, of course, I recognise, in many cases, issues such as this will simply not arise.

 

 

The crux of this case was as to how RY behaved whilst SL was in hospital, which sadly given SL’s considerable health needs was something that happened often and would be likely to happen in the future. It was asserted that she was obstructive about the child’s feeding, resistant to medical advice, over-reporting of medical concerns, requested sedation for the child, adminstered oxygen when she was not trained to do so and discharged the child against medical advice.

 

  1. The local authority’s schedule posits six findings and four supplemental findings. The first is that during SL’s hospital admission, which commenced on 26 September 2014, RY repeatedly refused nursing observations such as taking blood pressure or temperature. The second is that RY repeatedly refused to allow medical advice in relation to SL’s dietetic requirements. The third is that RY repeatedly stopped or refused medication and treatments. The fourth is that RY demonstrated an inability consistently to accept medical advice. The fifth is that RY repeatedly requested treatments of her own motion or insists on treatment methods. And the sixth is that due to RY’s anxieties, she tends to focus her attention on unnecessary medical procedures or extreme outcomes.
  2. The four additions are that RY suctioned SL unnecessarily too vigorously and in an inappropriate manner. Secondly, that she repeatedly requested sedation medication for SL despite being told by at least two health professionals, Dr. Court and Sally Deever, that such may compromise her breathing. The third is that RY gave SL oxygen unnecessarily and inappropriately when she was not trained to do. And fourth, that SL suffered harm in RY’s care and was likely to do so if she were to return to her care. That last finding being essentially a composite of the earlier allegations.
  3. As I have already said, it is really a very striking feature of this case that so much of what is set out in that schedule is factually uncontentious. It is the gloss or interpretation that is put on it that has become the focus of disagreement during this case. In, for example, the first finding, namely that during SL’s hospital admission in September 2014 RY repeatedly refused nursing observations, there is agreement that she did indeed make such refusals.

 

 

Most of the factual matters, being supported by the medical reports provided by the hospital treating SL, were not in dispute. What was disputed was the interpretation to be placed on them, or whether they amounted to harmful behaviour rather than just genuine concern about a child who was undoubtedly very unwell.

  1. RY told me that she derived some satisfaction from the preparation of the food for her daughter that it was instinctive to her to want to do that and that I certainly understand, but as time passed it became all too clear that this preferred method of nutrition not only was unsatisfactory, it was falling manifestly and demonstrably short of meeting SL’s needs. The doctors and nursing staff and dieticians were plainly highly agitated that SL should have good quality calorific and nutritional food, particularly when recovering from her operation, and RY undoubtedly resisted it in the face of her own obviously inadequate regime long after it would have become obvious to the reasonable carer that this was simply not meeting this little girl’s needs.
  2. So obvious was it that, in circumstances which I really find to be truly extraordinary, the hospital required RY to sign a waiver abdicating their responsibility to her for providing SL’s proper nutrition. What I find so deeply alarming is that in this instance and in the other instance that I have just looked at, that is to say the failure to let nurses take temperature, blood pressure, routine tests, et cetera, how it was that RY’s will prevailed to the extent it did. I can only assume that her behaviour was as described so bizarre that it caused confusion in the ward and led to poor clinical judgments to be taken contrary to SL’s interests.
  3. Ms. Heaton put to RY directly on this point, “In those circumstances, how could RY be said to be putting SL’s interests first?” And to that, in my judgment, RY had no satisfactory answer. I simply do not believe that she has understood or is now able fully to understand why it was she behaves in that way, but there is no satisfactory explanation when properly analysed for this failure to meet that most basic of SL’s needs, her need for nutrition.
  4. As I have said, I do not find it necessary to work through each of the many examples contended for in the Scott Schedule of, for example, RY’s refusing medication and treatments, chiefly again because it is not disputed. One such example which stood out to me in the evidence was RY’s refusal to permit SL to take oramorph when moved onto the ward when in the intensive care unit. Oramorph, I was told, is a morphine-based medicine the objective of which was to downscale gradually the pain relief from the higher dosage that she hitherto had been receiving.
  5. RY told the hospital – and indeed told me – as Ms. Walker emphasises in her closing submissions, that SL “didn’t need anything for break-through pain”. It is one of a number of responses that causes Ms. Walker to comment on what she contends to be RY’s arrogance towards medical staff for how, says Ms. Walker, could RY possibly have been in a position to gainsay the medical advice and to assert from the basis of no medical knowledge at all and in a highly specialised area of medicine that this little girl did not need anything for break-through pain. Once again it was RY’s wish and not that of the doctors that prevailed. I agree with Ms. Walker that the evidence in relation to this can properly be described, as she does, “overwhelming”.
  6. I would also like to highlight the incident set out in the unchallenged statement of Ms. Leanne Mulholland, who is a Senior Sister at the Paediatric Emergency Department at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. In her statement of 7 May 2015, Ms. Mulholland tells me that she was the nurse in charge on the early shift of 14 July. Four areas of concern were handed over to her from the night staff.
  7. Firstly, there was the transfer of SL to the Paediatric Emergency Department in RY’s car directly contrary to the advice of the paramedic. A process which in and of itself caused a significant delay in admission as Mr. Unwin emphasises as a convenient forensic illustration of harm. Secondly, on arrival there was concern that RY simply refused initially to allow a full respiratory assessment to be performed. I am still unclear why that was, but it was ultimately completed as it manifestly needed to be. There was reported to Sister Mulholland a concern about the ambit of parental responsibility, which I have already looked at.
  8. Then there was the final area of concern; active discharge from the hospital against medical advice. That RY should do this at all, that she should feel knowledgeable and empowered enough to do it, even before she had been granted the Adoption Order and full parental responsibility, is profoundly troubling. This episode illustrates to my mind that RY had gone beyond behaviour that was merely capable of being categorised as bizarre but had, in truth, spiralled out of control. I find her judgment and her behaviour, was irrational, unstable and she had become, I am truly sad to say, a real risk to SL

 

 

There really was no way that Hayden J would have been able to grant RY’s application for adoption. He is very kind in his conclusions

 

  1. Ultimately, balancing what I have sought to identify as some really clear, captivating and obvious strengths that RY has and balancing those against the harm I have just outlined in summary, does not present to me a remotely delicate balance in determining the future for SL. The way ahead for her, whatever it may hold, is clear. The risk RY presents of harm or significant harm to SL is so real and serious and the potential consequences so grave that I find them to be wholly inimical to her welfare. It points clearly and determinatively in support of the local authority’s application under s.35(2) in effect refusing return to RY’s care. It follows, therefore, that I dismiss her application for adoption.
  2. In my lay view, RY has plainly some real emotional and psychological issues to address. I hope she is able to do so. I hope her family are able to help her to do so. In the meantime, it would not be safe, in my judgment, for her to be involved in the care of any child or vulnerable adult with disabilities.

 

 

Transparency

 

Hayden J recognised that this was a case, where the system had not worked as it should and that a very vulnerable child had been exposed to more harm in the adoptive placement that had been intended to meet her needs, and there was thus a public interest in the case being reported

 

Cases of this kind generate real public concern and rightly so. In the past a judgment such as this would not have entered the public domain. It is hardly surprising therefore that public understanding of the Family Court process and confidence in it’s system had begun to erode. The Practice Guidance of the 16th January 2014 was intended to and has achieved immediate and significant change in practice in relation to publication of judgments in the Family Courts and the Court of Protection. In April 2013 Sir James Munby P issued a statement, View From the President’s Chambers: The Process of Reform, [2013] Fam Law 548 in which he identified transparency as one of three central strands of reform which the Family Justice System is currently undergoing. This is an ongoing process in which a balance between freedom of expression, protected by Article 10 ECHR and the rights of vulnerable children to privacy and security, protected by Article 8 is often a delicate one.

 

The fundamental argument was as to whether RY’s name should be reported.  Unlike a case where identification of a parent who has harmed the child inextricably identifies the child as well, and thus should not happen, here RY and SL did not share a name and identifying RY would not also identify SL.

The Court had come very close to identifying RY in the judgment, and the single factor which mitigated against it was RY’s intention to seek help for her own problems.

  1. I have already expressed my clear view that the link between publication of the identity of the carer and any adverse impact upon the child subject to these proceedings is tenuous. However, I think RY’s entitlement to the opportunity of therapeutic support, in private, which gives the process much greater prospects of success is so manifestly in both her own interests and those of society more widely that it weighs heavily in the parallel analysis of competing rights and interests in which the starting point is ‘presumptive parity’.
  2. In my judgement the need to protect RY’s privacy while she embarks on what I have no doubt will be a difficult and challenging therapeutic process is to recognise an important aspect of her own autonomy and dignity

 

 

That does obviously raise the prospect that in a similar case, where the adopter’s conduct was not as a result of psychological difficulties or there was not a recognition of those difficulties and an intention to seek help, that an adopter who harmed the child could be publicly named in a judgment. There would be reasonable arguments that this would be the right thing to do.

Court’s power to get an expert report for free

 

Don’t get too excited, this power only works in Court of Protection cases. But it is still pretty cool.   [Unless you work for an NHS Trust, in which case this power is soul-crushingly awful.]

 

Re RS 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/56.html

 

In this case, there was an application for authorisation of  a deprivation of liberty.  The Court directed (on 28th May) that the NHS Trust should prepare a report on capacity.  Days went by, with no report, then weeks, then two months.

 

And then this:-

  1. On 31st July by direct email, the court received a letter on behalf of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which, notwithstanding the order of 28th May and the assurance given via LCC to the court on 29th July advised that it was impossible to comply with the order and further that it was inappropriate for the evidence sought to be obtained by way of an order pursuant to Section 49 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  2. In light of this letter, which I treated, albeit exceedingly late, as an application as provided for in the order of 28th May to set aside or vary the original order.

 

The Trust set out their arguments as to why it was not right that they should prepare a report – in part because taking a doctor away from patients to write a report on someone they barely knew was not terribly in keeping with their job of looking after patients, especially where there was no fee for the report to offset the costs of doing it.

The Trust advanced ten reasons to support their view that it was inappropriate for the required evidence to be obtained by way of Section 49. They were:-

(1) The Trust has no clinical involvement or knowledge of P (other than the information contained in the applicant’s enclosed letter). P is not a patient under the Mental Health Services of the Trust.(2) There appears to be a clear dispute on capacity the outcome of which may have a significant impact on P’s future care and welfare. Such a dispute should properly be resolved by way of a jointly instructed independent court expert. It is not appropriate to seek quasi expert evidence through Section 49.

(3) A Section 49 Report is not a joint instruction and therefore can potentially leave open a dispute in the event that the evidence is not accepted by all parties. We understand that the first Respondent was not in agreement that Section 49 is appropriate.

(4) The Trust’s consultants are not court experts: they do not have the expertise in preparation of Medico Legal reports and should not be expected to do so, particularly where it is not in connection with a patient under their care.

(5) We understand a report in the proceedings has been prepared on a private instruction by Dr Gonzalez (of the Trust). There is a potential conflict of interests in seeking a further report from a consultant of the Trust.

(6) The request was a publicly funded body into proceedings of which it has no involvement.

(7) Complying with the request places a significant and disproportionate burden on limited NHS resources.

(8) A consultant would need to cancel clinics to make time to prepare the report; putting vulnerable patients at risk.

(9) There is no provision for costs of the report in order to enable the Trust to employ locum cover for the report author. The Trust is already under significant pressure to reduce its locum cover.

(10) Even where locum cover can be sourced this can be detrimental to patients if they are not able to see their usual consultant with whom they have built a trusting professional relationship. Consistency of care is an important factor in mental health care and should be maintained wherever possible.

The Trust position was therefore that capacity evidence should be facilitated through the instruction of an independent jointly instructed expert and not through Section 49.

 

 

Can’t this be resolved just by paying a fee?

 

No, the Code of Practice specifically says that there IS no fee payable for a report ordered under s49.

 

 

  1. There are a number of notes to Section 49 contained within the Court of Protection Practice 2015. Specifically one of the notes states

    Fees – there is no provision for fees to be charged for any report requested by the court.

    Reference is also made in the notes to the Court of Protection Rules and in particular Rules 117 and 118 and Practice Direction E (PD14E).

  2. I do not propose to set out Rule 117 in full but will refer to:

    (1) this Rule applies where the court requires a report to be made to it under Section 49 of the Act;(2) it is the duty of the person who is required to make the report to help the court on the matters within his expertise.

 

 

What did the Judge have to say about the Trusts’s arguments?

 

  1. In relation to the specific submissions on behalf of the Trust then I will deal with these briefly:

    (1) While I note the argument there is no such distinction drawn within the powers given in Section 49 and the accompanying Rules or Practice Direction. In my view it would be wrong for the court to undertake such distinction either in the preparation of its orders generally or in this order in particular.(2) The dispute as to capacity has arisen following a report from a consultant psychiatrist dealing with matters pertaining to a lasting power of attorney. There is an existing assessment by a consultant psychiatrist Dr Loosmore and a very experienced social worker. A question has therefore arisen in relation to RS as to the extent or otherwise of her capacity. It is a matter well suited for determination by Section 49 which is a proportionate response as opposed to an instruction to an independent expert. Such direction would have additional funding and cost consequences particularly in the instant case where three of the parties are either publicly funded or public bodies and the fourth is privately paying albeit acting in person. Furthermore a Section 49 Report would [or should at any rate] incur significantly less delay.

    (3) A Section 49 Report is a direction of the court. If a letter of instruction cannot be agreed the court will deal with any such dispute. It was the court’s direction and not that of any specific party.

    (4) The Rules and in particular the Practice Direction are clear as to the contents and format of a report. If that format is followed specific medico legal experience is not required. However, given the significant growth in the volume of work undertaken by the Court of Protection and in particular Section 21A or related challenges, it is no doubt a level of expertise that all consultant psychiatrists particularly dealing with the elderly will acquire if they have not already done so.

    (5) The court can see no potential conflict of interest in another consultant of the Trust preparing a report. Again the duty of the author of the report is fully set out in the Rules and Practice Direction.

    (6) The provisions of Section 49 are clear. There is a wide range in power to direct a report from an NHS body as the court considers appropriate. It is common for Section 49 Reports to be directed in this way.

    (7) The court has sympathy with the effect of its order upon the Trust. However as is noted earlier no provision is made within Section 49 in relation to fees or expenses incurred by the author of the report (be it NHS body, Trust or otherwise). What the court will do is to carefully consider resources and listen to any argument from the Trust particularly in relation to the time for compliance and the scope of the work to be undertaken. That would appear to be both a reasonable and proportionate approach.

    (8) While this is noted the answer to 7 would seem to cover this.

    (9) I have already dealt with this in 7 above.

    (10) As stated above every effort will be made to accommodate the preparation and extent of the report so as to limit wherever possible the disruption in healthcare provided by a consultant to his patients.

  2. It follows, for the reasons given above I am not prepared to vary or alter the principle behind the original order of 28th May. However it must be right that compliance with any order is subject to reasonable adjustment on application by the Trust in relation to the scope and extent of any report ordered and the time for compliance. However such applications must be made promptly and supported by evidence on behalf of the Trust or NHS body.
  3. Finally, this is a difficult and recurring problem and brings into sharp focus the burden upon any Trust or NHS body to comply with such direction while at the same time maintaining the provision of its service to existing patients. The cost of the report is also funded by the Trust. There is no provision within Section 49 for the court to order payment of fees or expenses in that regard. These are matters that ultimately may have to be considered elsewhere. In line with the President’s guidance I propose to publish a suitably anonymised version of this judgment on Bailii.

 

 

In short, you might, as the Trust, be able to plead extenuating circumstances and time pressures and get longer to DO the report, but you have to ask the Court and do so in good time, but you aren’t going to get out of doing it.

 

If you are an NHS accountant /manager/ worker / taxpayer who feels miserable about this, read this fun case where a Husband in divorce proceedings who is claiming that he has no assets at all (due to them all being put into a in a Trust which has subsequently kicked him out and taken them all) also struggles to explain to a Court why he has at the same time entered into an agreement to buy a private jet plane and put a deposit down yet is completely unworried about his ability to pay for the rest of it given that he has no assets, no income and no job.  His courageous answer  is, in effect “I’m such a great businessman, I can make it work”

 

While on the topic of aircraft, I should mention that H shows as an illiquid asset US$250,000 which he has paid as a deposit against the much delayed delivery of a Honda Jet. The balance of the purchase price is US$4m. H expressed no anxiety in his current parlous circumstances (another global economic meltdown apart) in coping with this liability when it falls due. In evidence he said that the latest estimated delivery date was probably the first or second quarter of 2016, and that he had “set up a multi-billion dollar empire with very little capital. It is a question of leverage and investing partners.” Asked whether he regarded operating a single jet as a viable source of income and livelihood he was optimistic describing it as “a big growth area of business especially if you have the latest jet technology.”

 

I don’t know about my readers, but if I had no money in the bank, no income and no job, and for some reason, I had to pay $3.75million for a jet plane in the next year, I’d probably be on the phone to the plane company explaining how, “yeah, it turns out maybe I don’t need the plane so much after all, can I take a rain-check on that? Also, could I get my deposit back?”

 

Note that he also has / or rather had because the Trust, which is not run at all by one of his former friends as a complete device to escape his wife’s financial claims oh no, a fleet of luxury cars including cough “A Ferrari that cost $8.5 million”

“Their position is an elaborate charade, the stage management of which has been conducted ruthlessly and without regard to cost”

 

and

“There is a clear distinction between the question whether a trust can be characterised as sham (which was, as rightly stated, not asserted at the hearing), and the conclusion which I reached that the case collusively advanced by H and TB was a rotten edifice founded on concealment and misrepresentation and therefore a sham, a charade, bogus, spurious and contrived. I do not shrink from applying to it the description fraud, a deliberate design to deceive, inflicted on W and on the court, and found by the court so to be”

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2507.html

Care proceedings can be retrospectively validated

 

Readers might remember the recent case where the President looked at a set of care proceedings where it had not been known at the time that the mother lacked capacity, and the outcome was that the orders were effectively overturned and the proceedings re-wound to the beginning.

 

[Actually, if you remember it, it is because of the bad pun in the title….

http://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/08/07/re-e-wind-when-the-crowd-say-bo-selecta/   ]

 

 

Here, the Court of Appeal were faced with a very similar issue – the mother in care proceedings conducted them  as though she had capacity and her lawyers fought hard on her behalf, but it turns out that perhaps she didn’t have capacity – at the very least there were two conflicting reports and the Court had not expressly resolved the issue.   She then appealed on that basis, arguing that the Care Order and Placement Order should be overturned and the case re-heard.

 

In this one, though, the Court of Appeal ruled that even though the original proceedings had been flawed, it would not have made any difference to the eventual outcome if she had been represented through the Official Solicitor rather than instructing her solicitor directly, and so the Court of Appeal could retrospectively validate the proceedings and orders.

Hmmm.

Not sure that I agree.   (I agree that the Court of Appeal’s analysis that they HAVE the power is right. Whether it was right to use it, I’m not so sure of. Of the two approaches, I think the one before the President is more in keeping with article 6 and a right to a fair trial. I think that instructing a solicitor involves rather more than just saying “I want to fight” and that the protections for vulnerable persons or Protected Parties are fundamental, and where they’ve been lost even due to honest mistake, that’s a fatal flaw in the process, not something that can be patched up after the event)

 

Re D (Children) 2015

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed146431

 

There were two issues :-

 

  1. Had the original Court process been flawed because it had proceeded on the basis that mother had capacity when she in fact didn’t?
  2. If so, did those flaws amount to an irresistable basis for an appeal, or can the Court retrospectively validate the orders if that seems the right outcome?

 

The mother had been represented through the Official Solicitor in previous care proceedings, so the starting point in these ones was that an updating report on her capacity was sought. However, no doubt to avoid delay and ensure that there wasn’t drift past the 26 week timetable, the expert saw the mother within the first six weeks of giving birth. This is important, as it is no doubt happening in other cases.

The cognitive assessment therefore came with a significant health warning, although it did say that she lacked capacity

 

“The immediate post natal period (under six weeks) tends to be a somewhat volatile period in terms of health and mood. Cognitive tests undertaken during this period are likely to reflect mood variations and difficulties with concentration due to hormonal changes…. In this assessment, therefore I have drawn on the results of SD’s August 2012 assessment together with a brief corroborative assessment conducted on 4 .11.13”

 

That report from Dr Morgan also gave a further health warning, that when one repeats the tests in a short period of time, the results can be skewed.

Those representing the mother sought a further expert opinion, from a Dr Flatman. The Court of Appeal were criticial that the Part 25 procedures on expert assessments were not followed and as a result, mistakes were made.

In any event, Dr Flatman examined the mother and concluded that she DID have capacity to conduct litigation.

 

Here’s the error

 

 At the hearing before the District Judge on 20 January 2014 the District Judge was simply told that:

“there has been a cognitive assessment further filed to say that she does have capacity to give instructions to her legal representatives”.

Dr Morgan’s conflicting report was not brought to the attention of the judge, neither was the fact that Mr Flatman had failed to apply the proper test for assessing capacity. As a consequence no consideration was given as to how to resolve the conflict, whether by additional questions, an experts meeting or by hearing short oral evidence to resolve the issue. Ms Weaver was simply discharged as litigation friend.

41. When the mother came before the judge for the final hearing Ms Weaver attended as the mother’s IMCA and the case proceeded without further consideration as to the mother’s capacity.

 

There were two competing reports and the Court needed to resolve which opinion was correct (bearing in mind the starting point of the Mental Capacity Act is to presume capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary)

 
44. All those who are regularly involved in care proceedings are aware that such a situation is all too common and it is plain to see why issues of capacity are critical to those affected. The starting point for the court is not only that a party has capacity, but that every effort must be made to help a party without capacity to regain it. Only in this way which accords with the statutory principles found in MCA 2005, can a parent feels that his or her case has been presented in accordance with his or her wishes, no matter how unrealistic or unachievable those wishes may be when considered against the yardstick of the welfare of her child in question. On the other hand the MCA 2005 is designed to ensure that those vulnerable adults, who have not got the capacity to conduct litigation on their own behalf, are properly identified and provided with appropriate support and a litigation friend in order to ensure that they not prejudiced within the proceedings as a consequence of their disability.

45. Process is not all and should never, particularly when one is concerned with a child’s future, be slavishly adhered to at the expense of achieving the right welfare outcome for a child without delay. Having said that, I am satisfied that the informal course which was adopted in the present case went far beyond a pragmatic and practical approach to case management and amounted to serious procedural irregularity.

 

The answer to that first question then was, yes, the original process had been flawed.

The analysis of whether the Court has the power to retrospectively validate the flawed process is set out very carefully from paragraphs 46-58, and if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of that, then it is all set out.

In a nutshell, it is this

 
47. FPR 2010 r.15.3 qualifies the general rule that a protected party may only conduct proceedings by a litigation friend. In particular FPR 2010, r.15.3(3) provides:

“(3) Any step taken before a protected friend has a litigation friend has no effect unless the court orders otherwise.”

 

So if the Court orders otherwise, then the Court can proceed even though a person ought to have been treated as a protected party and could only conduct proceedings through a litigation friend.   [Of course, as the Court at first instance DIDN’T do that, since they wrongly decided that she DID have capacity and neglected to take into account that there were conflicting reports, the Court at the time DIDN’T  “order otherwise” under r 15.3]

 

However

 

Bailey v Warren [2006] EWCA Civ 51. Hallett LJ said:

“[95] Within CPR r.21.3 (4) there are no restrictions whatsoever on the court’s discretion to validate steps taken in proceedings before a litigation friend is appointed. A court can regularise the position retrospectively provided, as Kennedy L.J. observed in [31] of Masterman-Lister “everyone has acted in good faith and there has been no manifest disadvantage to the party subsequently found to have been a patient at the time”. He could not envisage any court refusing to regularise the position because “to do otherwise would be unjust and contrary to the over-riding objective ….

[96] It is for the judge to consider all the facts of the case before him, therefore, and where as here, there is no suggestion of bad faith, decide whether or not the compromise is manifestly disadvantageous to the patient”

 

And that was the line that the Court of Appeal took.

 

 

 

55. In the present case it is recognised that the outcome of the case would have been the same regardless of whether the mother had litigation capacity. There was therefore no forensic disadvantage to the mother. Further, thanks to the dedication of Mrs Weaver, there was in reality no difference in the nature and quality of the representation the mother received. Mrs Weaver’s title within the proceedings changed from IMCA to Litigation friend and back to IMCA depending on the current court order, but the manner in which she carried out her role remained the same. It is apparent from the attendance notes that Mrs Weaver, in whatever guise, was not about to agree to the orders sought by the local authority being made; she felt strongly that the mother’s best interests could only be served by the applications for care and placement orders being opposed, I am entirely satisfied that not only would the outcome of the trial have been the same had the mother been found to lack capacity, but that the case would have been conducted in exactly the same way on her behalf.

56. There is no question but that all involved have acted with good faith. In dissecting the progress of this case, as has been necessary in order to consider the important issues before the court, I do not lose sight of day to day life in busy family courts with Counsel and Judges over stretched in every direction. This case does however perhaps provide a cautionary tale and a reminder that issues of capacity are of fundamental importance. The rules providing for the identification of a person, who lacks capacity, reflect society’s proper understanding of the impact on both parent and child of the making of an order which will separate them permanently. It is therefore essential that the evidence which informs the issue of capacity complies with the test found in the MCA 2005 and that any conflict of evidence is brought to the attention of the court and resolved prior to the case progressing further. It is in order to avoid this course causing delay that the PLO anticipates issues of capacity being raised and dealt with in the early stages of the proceedings.

57. SSD is now 20 months old and has been in her adoptive placement for over half her life. Her future needs urgently to be secured. I am satisfied that notwithstanding the procedural failings which led to this court being unable to conclude with any certainty whether the mother was or was not a protected party at the time of the trial, she was not in the end adversely affected and no practical difference was made to the hearing or outcome as a consequence. In those circumstances it is open to this court to validate the proceedings retrospectively and in my judgment that should and will be done.

 

Radicalisation of children and ISIS – Jihadi Brides

 

This is a very powerful and disturbing case. As Hayden J says, this is a whole new category of child abuse which professionals and Courts are learning about very quickly, it just wasn’t something that had even entered anyone’s thinking two years ago.

 

London Borough of Tower Hamlets and B 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2491.html

 

It has a somewhat stellar line up of advocates,  indicative of the serious nature of the case.  In broad terms, the issue was this :-

 

Was a 16 year old girl being radicalised to prompt her to travel to Syria and became a “Jihadi Bride”,  if so, were the parents to blame in any way, and what should happen to her and her brothers?

 

In this case, the girl had been caught at the airport trying to catch a plane with that intent – rather like the recent cases before the President that resulted in ankle-tagging.  Unlike those cases, where the President was satisfied that there had been no overt or abusive radicalisation of the child, in this case there was plenty of evidence.

 

14. I have already referred to a very significant amount of what I will for shorthand call ‘radicalising material’ being removed from the household. During the course of this hearing before me I asked Mr. Barnes, on behalf of the Local Authority, to distil the material that had been removed into an easily accessible schedule identifying to whom the material was attributable. The schedule, which has not been disputed, requires to be summarised in detail.

  1. There were a number of devices attributable to B herself:

    (1) A document headed “44 Ways to Support Jihad” with practical suggestions as to the support of terrorist activity;

    (2) “The Macan Minority” urging participation in Jihadi activity;

    (3) Internet searches relating to terrorist manuals and guides to terror activities. That also included queries as to the response times of the Metropolitan Armed Response Team and the Queen’s Guard;

    (4) Internet searches as to the preservation of on-line anonymity, including, as confirmed by a police officer at an earlier hearing, the downloading of software to hide the IP address of the user’s computer when on-line;

    (5) A downloaded version of “Mujahid Guide to Surviving in the West”. Possession of that document is, of itself, a serious criminal offence. It gives guides to weapon and bomb making and to “hiding the extremist identity”.

    (6) “Miracles in Syria”. This contained information as to how to get to ISIS territory and many photographs of what are referred to as “Smiling corpses”.

    I had not understood what that meant, but I have been informed that it involves photographing the corpses of fighters whose faces are set in a smiling repose and said to reveal pleasure at their glimpses of eternal reward

    (7) “Hiraj to the Islamic State”. This contained information and advice as to how to avoid airport security. It had particular advice in relation to females intending to travel to ISIS territory via Turkey.

    (8) Footage of attacks on Western Forces in the Middle East.

  2. On one of the siblings devices there was the following:

    (1) Numerous articles, some in what are referred to as “glossy magazine format” urging flight to ISIS territory and recommending its “lifestyle”.(2) An edition of Islamic State News showing men being prepared for execution and asserting community support for it.

    (3) An edition of Islamic State News showing before and after shots of human executions.

    (4) A video of terrorist training.

    (5) A video containing images of actual executions and beheadings.

  3. On another sibling’s devices there were the following:

    (1) A number of lectures and video biographies encouraging support for ISIS activities, including videos of attacks upon Western Forces in the Middle East.(2) ‘The Maccan Minority’, seen earlier in B’s own devices, suggesting that files had been shared between the siblings.

    (3) A document called “The Constance of Jihad”. This was a five hour lecture on the need to participate in fighting against non-Muslims.

  4. Finally, from the parent’s own devices:

    (1) Lectures encouraging participation in armed attacks on non-Muslims.(2) Issues of Islamic State News showing the same executions as those seen on the devices attributed to one of the siblings, again suggesting file sharing.

    (3) Photographs of teenagers holding grenades.

  5. Reducing the material in this way to this stark list was, at least to my mind, an important exercise. The impact of the material set out in this way is both powerful and alarming. It requires to be stated unambiguously, it is not merely theoretical or gratuitously shocking, it involves information of a practical nature designed to support and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. I have noted already bur reemphasise that it provides advice as to how to avoid airport security, particularly for females. In addition, the videos of beheadings and smiling corpses can only be profoundly damaging, particularly to these very young, and in my judgment, vulnerable individuals

 

 

Deep breath. You can see therefore that the material was far beyond a ‘come to syria for a life of glamour’ blandishments that anyone could come across on the internet  – there were very strong and graphic images and terrorist manuals. You can also see that the parents’ electronic devices also contained this sort of material.

 

Importantly, much of this material involved how to conceal extremeist views and that was certainly something which had played out with these parents, who had previously come across as concerned and anxious about their daughter’s actions.

 

20. It is not uncommon in my experience, which I am confident is shared by the experienced advocates in this case, for adults in public law proceedings or child protection proceedings more generally to seek to deceive social workers. Sometimes it can be successful for protracted periods. They may conceal a drinking habit, substance abuse, or a continued relationship with a violent partner. Usually these come to the surface eventually. I am bound to say I do not recall seeing deception which is so consummately skilful as has been the case here. I have found myself wondering whether some of the material may have educated this family in skilful concealment of underlying beliefs and activities.

  1. The parents’ joint statements require revisiting. Thus:

    “We are a very strong family unit and we are doing our very best to help prevent such a situation from reoccurring. We are keeping extremely close eyes on B and trying to be encouraging of her moving without ridiculing her for her actions to the extent that this incident forever haunts and affects her day to day living. I, the mother, am particularly sensitive of how we manage the situation which we view as very serious due to my work…
    I understand how to empathise and assist those in need of support through open questioning techniques and motivational encouragement, and have done this with B at great length since the incident to help understand what went wrong. We had thought that we were nearing a stage of putting the incident behind us, having worked together as a family, convening weekly family discussions and opening up about how to move on…”

    “The police officer ‘x’ offered a piece of technology costing £79 which allows complete monitoring of the computers in the house. The instructions were followed and it was bought and a friend who is technologically minded (which neither if us are) installed it for us. The children are not aware of it. We completely understand the police and Social Service’s concerns, but we don’t want any intervention to further impact our family lives for the unforeseeable future. The risk in our minds is not high at present of B leaving the UK, particularly given that all of our passports are being held by our solicitors. We would agree with whatever measures are deemed necessary to prevent risk to B and following the explanation given at the initial child protection conference have agreed, or already carried out, the protective tasks itemised in the assessment report.”

    They were fulsome too in their praise for the social worker:

    “The new social worker explained her role and again seemed very sensitive to the need to limit and time her visits according to B’s studies. We have readily accepted the recommendations of the conference. We were impressed by the thoughtful and specific thought all there gave B. She did not feel like she was lumped together with other girls for no clear reason. The professionals at the meeting voiced confusion themselves about an initial child protection conference being held whilst the child is warded. The Chair expressed concern that it seemed a decision had been made that there must be a child protection done before the conference. In fact following the open and frank discussion at the conference, all professionals voted unanimously for a time limited Child in Need plan. We were very relieved, and repeat, we will grab with open arms practical and genuine offers of help in getting past this terrible event provided we think they will help. We also repeat we are so grateful to those who stopped S getting to Turkey.”

  2. Evaluating those passages alongside the material that was discovered in this household reveals that much of what was said was in fact an elaborate and sophisticated succession of lies.

 

 

It was a very difficult situation for the Court to deal with. There had been limited opportunity for professionals to talk to the boys.  It is worth noting here that Hayden J acknowledges that Courts are often obliged to take social workers to task for poor practice, but here the work that the social worker had done was to be commended.  Hayden J felt that there was no alternative but to remove the girl, B.  He makes a comparison with the nature of the abuse she was suffering which is a strong and powerful one. I will leave it to others to consider whether they think it is too strong or about right.

 

The decision for the boys was much harder.

 

  1. The police found it necessary, as a precaution, to limit professional access to this family. The need for that, to my mind, was self-evident. It has, however, meant that I have limited information into the lives of the male children.
  2. The Local Authority apply to remove each of the children from the household; not just B but the boys too. So corrosive and insidious are the beliefs in this household, it is argued, so pervasive is the nature of the emotional abuse, so complete is the resistance to intervention, and so total the lack of co-operation, that the emotional safety of the boys, the Local Authority says, cannot be assured. I have some sympathy for that view. Nonetheless, in exchanges with Mr. Barnes on behalf of the Local Authority the following, to my mind, important facts have emerged. Firstly, it is conspicuous that radicalised material was not found on the boys’ devices. Secondly, the boys, through a variety of sporting interests, have a much wider integration into society more generally and, on my, as yet, superficial assessment, a healthier range of interests. Between sport and study there is, I suspect, little room in their lives for radicalised interests. Thirdly, it was one of the boys who first sounded the alarm about his sister’s flight. The exact account of that, like everything else this family says, must now be viewed with very great caution, but I strongly suspect there is a core truth that it was the action of one of the brothers that foiled B’s flight to Syria. Fourthly, two of the older boys will be starting 6th Form education at college very soon, and accordingly they will be more exposed to professional scrutiny.
  3. I will require a thorough intense and comprehensive social work assessment of the boys’ circumstances. I will then be able better to decide whether their situation in this household is sustainable or not. Until I have the information I am not prepared to sanction their removal. It may or may not be necessary in the future. The balance of risk, it seems to me is, significantly different in the cases of the boys, at least at this stage. The Guardian supports such a course. Though I hope she will forgive me for saying so, I have not placed very much weight on her view. She was only appointed a few days ago. She has not had any opportunity to meet the children at all. She has an inevitably incomplete knowledge of the background of the case, and virtually no understanding of the wider issues, having, as she told me, never been involved in a case of this nature before. She is in an entirely invidious position. I am sympathetic to her and I do not intend these simple statements of facts to be construed by her in any way as a criticism. They are not.
  4. The social worker appointed in this case, by contrast, has in my assessment
    a deep, well informed and intelligent understanding of the issues. She has been working this case and with this family now for some time. It is in the nature of the proceedings that come before this court, in particular, that the actions of social workers often fall to be scrutinised and are from time to time found to be wanting and deprecated in judgments. The opposite situation arises here. This social worker has, in my judgment, made an outstanding contribution to the case. All those who have encountered her, the lawyers, the police, the guardians, have been impressed both by the extent of her knowledge of this family and by her professionalism. She has formed a very important, and in my judgment, highly effective link between social work and police operations. She has had to absorb and re-analyse her work in a dramatically changing landscape. She gave evidence. She told me she had forged a strong, open, working relationship with B, as she thought. She had been convinced, and she is not, I suspect, unhealthily sceptical, that she had achieved, in effect, a professional result with B.
  5. It is obvious listening to her that despite everything that has happened, she has some affection for B and her professional concern remains. Now, she told me, B will not sit near her or talk to her. The social worker is not deterred. She continues to work to try to engage B in a meaningful dialogue. As she gave evidence, I took the view that this social worker, though saddened by the deception on a personal level, had merely girded her loins and resolved to try to re-forge the relationship. I am not able to identify her by name in this judgment, though I should like to have done so. To do so would only risk compromising the anonymity of the children. I have not lightly rejected her social work assessment in relation to the boys. Her understanding of B is considerable, as I have emphasised, but I have the strong sense, which to her credit she readily acknowledged, that her knowledge of and assessment of the boys was far from complete. As I have said, the balance of risk, at least for the present, is different.
  6. I have no hesitation in concluding that B has been subjected to serious emotional harm, and, at the very least, continues to be at risk of such in her parent’s care. I can see no way in which her psychological, emotional and intellectual integrity can be protected by her remaining in this household. The farrago of sophisticated dishonesty displayed by her parents makes such a placement entirely unsustainable.
  7. I return to the comparator of sexual abuse. If it were sexual risk that were here being contemplated, I do not believe that any professional would advocate such a placement for a moment. The violation contemplated here is not to the body but it is to the mind. It is every bit as insidious, and I do not say that lightly. It involves harm of similar magnitude and complexion.
  8. I approach the Local Authority’s proposals by considering B’s needs at this juncture. I am required to do so by Section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989. What she needs, I find, is to be provided with an opportunity in which she can, in a peaceful and safe situation, be afforded the chance for her strong and lively mind to reassert its own independence. An environment in which there are the kind of vile images that I have described and the extreme polemic I have outlined, can only be deleterious to her emotional welfare. I hope she can be provided with an opportunity where her thoughts might turn to healthier and
    I hope happier issues. I have no doubt, as has been impressed upon me by her counsel, that she will find separation from her parents, particularly her siblings, to be distressing, though I note she was prepared to leave them to go to Syria. I do not doubt that the social worker will struggle to find a placement which meets the full panoply of her welfare needs which has been emphasised on behalf of the guardian, but I entirely see why the Local Authority plans or proposals are, of necessity, only general in outline and, to some extent, inevitably inchoate. However, I am entirely satisfied that this social worker will make every effort to ensure the best possible option is achieved for B. That is the Local Authority’s responsibility.

 

 

I note that the parents in this case have been charged with an offence,

 

On 12th August the parents and other siblings were arrested on suspicion of “possessing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” That is an offence contrary to s.58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and carries a substantial custodial sentence.

 

 

What this case really shows is just how sophisticated the grooming process for radicalising young people and families can be, and that over and above the grooming and information about going to Syria and practical arrangements there is sophisticated material and advice on deceiving professionals and allaying professional suspicion.  These things represent completely new challenges and Tower Hamlets (amongst some other authorities) have got really valuable insights and experiences to share with other agencies who might encounter these issues. I hope that there are some joined up discussions to take place about the best way to share these insights and new found expertise.

appeal – no contact, section 91(14) and judicial conciliation

 

Re T (A child) (Suspension of Contact) (Section 91(14) 2015 has some peculiar quirks, and one point which is probably important. It is a Court of Appeal decision, written by Cobb J.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/719.html

 

When I give you this little extract about the father

We have read the e-mail from the director of Contact Centre A (dated 29 May 2014) to the child’s solicitor which describes the conversations thus:

“… [the father] has obsessively / repeatedly called our organisation in the last couple of weeks. On each occasion he was extremely abusive, consistently making racist remarks, intimidating and threatening staff …. It is evident that centre staff are scared by the experience of dealing with [the father] and further dealings or contact arrangements at [the contact centre] are likely to pose significant risks to both his child and the centre staff. For the above reasons, [the contact centre] is not in a position to facilitate supervised contact sessions between [the father] and his daughter”.

 

You might be somewhat surprised that, doing this appeal in person, he bowls four balls of appeal  (well, he actually put in 19 in his grounds, but the Court of Appeal kindly found him his best four) and three of them hit middle and off and get the result. One is considered wide, but that’s a strike rate to be proud of.   [Taking three wickets out of 19 balls is still pretty decent]

 

The litigation history here is dreadful

 

8. The multiple court hearings, and judgments and orders which have flowed from them, reflect an extraordinarily high degree of conflict in the parental separation. By the time the proceedings were listed before HHJ Hayward Smith QC on 12 December 2011, he expressed a concern that the case was “in danger of spiralling out of control”, a fear which has in our view regrettably all too obviously come to pass. Not only have the parents been in relentless conflict with each other, but the father has also raised repeated and serious allegations of professional misconduct against E’s court-appointed Guardian, against counsel instructed in the case at various times, and against some of the judges. Family related litigation was at one time unacceptably being conducted simultaneously in three family court centres in different parts of the country, and even when co-ordinated in one location, there has been a regrettable lack of judicial continuity (even though it had been explicitly acknowledged by many of the judges involved to have been “essential” to maintain firm and consistent management of the case).

  1. In our own review of the background history we recognised that there was a risk, by which in our view this experienced Judge allowed herself to be distracted, that the truly dreadful chronology of litigation, and the behaviours of the adults towards each other and the professionals, would divert attention from, and ultimately eclipse, the essential issue, namely E’s relationship with both her parents

 

 

Here are the four grounds of appeal, as polished up by Cobb J

 

i) Did judicially-assisted conciliation between the parties in respect of child arrangements for E (specifically E’s living arrangements and contact) at a hearing on 13 May 2014, disqualify the Judge from conducting a subsequent contested hearing on 3 July 2014?

ii) Did the Judge err in making substantive orders on 3 July 2014 (including a section 91(14) order restricting any application under section 8 CA 1989):

a) In the absence of the father?

b) On the basis of factual findings made without forensic testing of the documentary material, of some of which the father had no knowledge?

And/or

c) Having indicated to the parties that she would not conduct any hearing in relation to residence issues?

iii) In ordering the indefinite suspension of contact, did the Judge pay proper regard to section 1(1) CA 1989 and the statutory list of welfare factors (section 1(3) ibid.), and to the Article 8 rights of the father and the child, all of which were engaged in such a decision?

iv) Was the order under section 91(14) CA 1989 appropriate in principle, and/or proportionate?

 

We shall take these in turn

i) Did judicially-assisted conciliation between the parties in respect of child arrangements for E (specifically E’s living arrangements and contact) at a hearing on 13 May 2014, disqualify the Judge from conducting a subsequent contested hearing on 3 July 2014?

 

This arose because at a hearing where the issue was intended to be about whether the child could or could not go to a family wedding, but  father was advancing a case of a change of residence for the child (which was an argument with no prospect of success) the Judge moved into conciliation mode with a view to trying to broker an agreement.  This is an accepted model now, but what hasn’t been previously determined was whether a Judge who undertakes that conciliation approach (of trying to move the parties towards an agreement) is able to then make decisions in the case where agreement is not reached.

  1. The father’s application in relation to the wedding celebration was heard by HHJ Hughes QC on 13 May 2014; she refused the application. At the hearing, the Judge, entirely appropriately in our judgment, took an opportunity to conduct some in-court conciliation between the parties in an effort to break the deadlock on residence and contact. At that hearing, the following exchange took place between the Judge and the father (as recorded by the father, but which we do not believe to be challenged):

    Father: “Your Honour, can I ask that this is heard….? If you are going to hear this as a conciliation attempt then you cannot hear the hearing”

    Judge: “That is absolutely fine with me. I will not hear the hearing. I am trying to deal with this now.”

    At the conclusion of the 3 July 2014 hearing in delivering judgment (para [2]), the Judge characterised this exchange thus:

    “During the hearing the father accused (sic.) me of attempting to conciliate and suggested that I should therefore recuse myself”.

    The description of the manner in which the father challenged the Judge (an ‘accusation’) may reveal a little of the father’s tone of lay advocacy not revealed by a transcript.

  2. The father does not currently challenge the Judge’s assessment of the prospects of his case on residence, or her stance in advising him of them. She later described her conciliation attempt thus:

    “I suggested to him that an application for residence of [E] was actually not going to be very successful because he had not seen [E] for ten months, and he accepted that at the time.” (see transcript of the hearing on 3 July 2014).

    His account is similar:

    “It was agreed by all parties before HHJ Hughes on 13 May that the hearing regarding residence should be adjourned with liberty to the father to restore if and when he believed it appropriate to [E]’s interests … I accept that there are no realistic prospects of a Court allowing [a change of residence] at the present when there is no contact taking place. I accept that [E]’s residence in the immediate future is likely to be with her mother” (see father’s letter to the Court 2 July 2014).

 

This Judge did, however later go on to make an order that the father should have no contact with his child at all, and make a section 91(14) order that he be barred from making any other applications without leave of the Court.  Grounds 1 and 2 of the appeal therefore raise the questions  (1) COULD the Judge do this and (2) SHOULD the Judge have done this?

 

The Court of Appeal ruled that the Judge COULD conduct a conciliation style hearing AND then go on to conduct a traditional hearing resolving a dispute.

  1. We wish to emphasise that the facilitation of in-court conciliation at a FHDRA (or indeed at any other hearing in a private law children case) does not of itself disqualify judges from continuing involvement with the case, particularly as information shared at such a hearing is expressly not regarded as privileged (PD12B FPR 2010 para.14.9). Were it otherwise, the “objective” of judicial continuity from the FHDRA (where, as indicated above, conciliation may have been attempted in accordance with the rules) to the making of a final order (see PD12B FPR 2010 para.10) would be defeated. The current arrangement should therefore be distinguished from:

    i) Old-style conciliation appointments, which operated prior to the implementation of the ‘Private Law Programme’ in 2004, the predecessor to the CAP (see Practice Direction [1982] 3 FLR 448; Practice Direction: Conciliation – children: [1992] 1 FLR 228: i.e. “If the conciliation proves unsuccessful the district judge will give directions (including timetabling) with a view to the early hearing and disposal of the application. In such cases that district judge and court welfare officer will not be further involved in that application”.);ii) Non-court dispute resolution (by way of mediation / conciliation) conducted by professionals outside of the court setting: see Re D (Minors) (Conciliation: Privilege [1993] 1 FLR 932, Farm Assist Ltd (in liquidation) –v- DEFRA (No 2) [2009] EWHC 1102 (TCC)), and the Family Mediation Council Code of Practice for family mediators, paras 5.6.1 and 5.6.4;

    iii) A Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Appointment in a financial remedy case; the judge conducting such a hearing is not permitted to have any further involvement with the application, save for giving directions: see rule 9.17(2) FPR 2010. In a financial case, of course, the Judge is likely to have been armed to conciliate with the provision of all the privileged communications between the parties.

  2. Private law proceedings in the family court have become more than ever “inquisitorial in nature” (Re C (Due Process) [2013] EWCA Civ 1412[2014] 1 FLR 1239 at [47]) in large measure attributable to the overwhelming number of unrepresented parties who require and deserve more than just neutral arbitration; in such cases, particularly at a FHDRA or a Dispute Resolution Appointment, there is presented to the judge “a real opportunity for dispute resolution in the same way that an Issues Resolution Hearing provides that facility in public law children proceedings” (per Ryder LJ at [47] in Re C (Due Process)). We recognise that in exceptional cases, it is possible that a judge may express a view in the context of judicially-assisted conciliation which may render it inappropriate for that judge to go on to determine contested issues at a substantive hearing. Recusal would only be justified, we emphasise exceptionally, if to proceed to hear the substantive case would cause “the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, …[to]… conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased”: see Porter v Magill, Weeks v Magill [2001] UKHL 67, [2002] AC 357, [2002] 2 WLR 37, [2002] 1 All ER 465, [2002] LGR 51.
  3. As we indicated at [18] above at the 13 May hearing the Judge enabled the father to recognise that his residence application was not currently likely to succeed; the father, for his part, appears to have accepted the judicial steer. We do not see why that indication on its own should at that stage of the case have caused the Judge to disqualify herself from maintaining case responsibility. It is not apparent that the parties took any position or made any other offer of compromise which would have given rise to any other potential conflict for the judge.

 

However, ground 2, the father immediately triumphs on the third part – the Judge having said at the conciliation style hearing that she would not go on to decide any contested matters ought not to have later done so.

ii) Did the Judge err in making substantive orders on 3 July 2014 (including a section 91(14) order restricting any application under section 8 CA 1989):

a) In the absence of the father?

b) On the basis of factual findings made without forensic testing of the documentary material, of some of which the father had no knowledge?

And/or

c) Having indicated to the parties that she would not conduct any hearing in relation to residence issues?

 

Starting with (c)

 The father was entitled to the view that the Judge had earlier given the impression that she would not herself deal with such issues, giving him ‘liberty to apply’ at the earlier (13 May 14) hearing. In short, in making these substantive orders (which directly impacted upon the father’s prospective residence claim), the Judge did, in our judgment, precisely that which she had told the parties she would not do. In this respect we have reluctantly concluded that the Judge materially fell into error, leaving the father with an understandable sense of grievance, and reaching a conclusion which is in the circumstances unsustainable.

 

On the other aspects of this ground, the Court of Appeal were content that father had had notice of the hearing and it had not been improper to proceed in his absence (a),  but that it had been wrong to proceed to make serious orders that he had not been put on notice about and to do it on ‘evidence’ which he had not been able to challenge

  1. However, the father’s absence was a significant factor which contributed to two material errors which in our judgment fundamentally undermine the integrity of the Judge’s conclusions:

    i) She made findings of fact on documentary material of which the father had no notice, and on which he had had no chance to make representations;ii) She made substantive orders fundamentally affecting his relationship with his daughter, and his access to the court, having previously told the father that she would not ‘hear the hearing’ of any such substantive application.

    In [39-41] and [42] we enlarge on these points.

  2. The judgment of 3 July 2014, and orders which flow from it, is predicated upon findings of fact which the Judge reached on written documentation (e-mails and position statements) which was not in conventional form (see rule 22 FPR 2010). We make no criticism of that per se, but consider that the judge should have cautioned herself about the possible deficiencies inherent in making findings in these circumstances, particularly where the evidence was not tested. She found that the father’s conversations with Contact Centre A displayed “a truly monstrous display of manipulation” yet the father’s written representations (dated 19 June and 2 July 2014), which she had apparently considered in reaching that conclusion, do not address this evidence in detail; indeed the father makes no specific reference at all in his submission to the e-mail from Contact Centre A (see [22] above). We cannot be certain that the father had even seen it.
  3. Of more concern, the Judge refers to, and appears to rely on as evidence of the father’s generally disruptive and belligerent conduct, an e-mail from a solicitor (unconnected with the case) who is reported to have overheard a heated conversation (“raised voices”) between the father and the Children’s Guardian following the 13 May 2014 hearing. The Judge at the 3 July 2014 hearing told those present that she “has no reason to distrust” the author of the e-mail, which she describes as “quite shocking”. Again, the father, so far as we can tell, was unaware of this evidence and had no opportunity to challenge it; the father had as it happens separately written to the Court complaining that after the 13 May 2014 hearing the Guardian had threatened to report the father to his local social services department, but the Judge does not bring in to her reckoning the father’s complaint.
  4. It also appears that the father had not received the Guardian’s report prior to the 3 July 2014 hearing; certainly he claims not to have seen it at the time he sent in his written representations to the court on the day prior to the hearing. We found no evidence that he had had seen the position statement of the child’s solicitor which (by admission) “went a little further” than the Guardian’s report/recommendation. The father had had no opportunity to comment on any of this material which rendered the judge’s conclusions, in our judgment, highly vulnerable.
  5. More significantly, at the hearing on 3 July 2014 the Judge made orders which went further than had previously been intimated, bringing to a formal end the father’s relationship with his daughter for the foreseeable future, and curbing his ability to pursue an application under section 8 CA 1989 in relation to her for many years.

 

So the appeal would be granted on this basis and sent for re-hearing.  The other two grounds were comfortably made out, that the judicial analysis of the circumstances that would warrant making an order that would mean father having no contact fell far short of what the law requires, and that the legal and procedural protections for a party when making a section 91(14) order had not been met.

 

In final summary, the Court of Appeal had this to say

 

  1. Conclusion
  2. No one should underestimate the challenges to family judges of dealing with cases of this kind. A number of experienced family judges have laudably tried different methods, alternately robust and cautious, to achieve the best outcome for E, but appear to have failed. While we are conscious that the case has presented significant management issues, largely attributable it appears to the conduct of the father, regrettably judicial continuity has not been achieved and this may have added to the faltering process.
  3. By allowing this appeal, we are conscious that we are consigning these parties to a further round of litigation concerning E; this is particularly unfortunate given the history of this case, and the inevitable toll which it is taking on all of the parties, evident from our own assessment of them in court.
  4. In remitting the case for re-hearing, we do not intend to signal any view as to the merits of the mother’s applications, or the likely outcome of the same. We are conscious that E has had virtually no relationship with her father for over half of her life; the Judge could not be criticised for observing, as she did, that a contact regime has thus far proved impossible to sustain. Our own summary of the relevant history above may demonstrate this sufficiently. However, given the life-long implications for E, her parents and family, of the orders which have been successfully challenged by this application and appeal, it is imperative that a proper determination is achieved, as soon as practicable, in order that fully-informed welfare-based decisions can properly be made in the interests of E.

 

 

 

 

Lasting power of attorney, financial abuse (contains ranting and references to tattoos)

 

These financial abuse cases come along with depressing regularity.  On the last one I wrote about, I made the suggestion that the pamphlet of guidance provided to those people who were appointed as attorneys/ deputies to manage the financial affairs of their vulnerable relative should have on the front cover  “It’s not your fucking money”

 

I have changed my position. That succinct advice should instead be tattooed across the back of the Attorney/deputy’s right hand.

 

Re ARL 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/55.html

 

This was decided by long-standing favourite of Suesspicious Minds, Senior Judge Lush.

 

Here are some of the things that the Attorney (the son of the vulnerable person) did with his mother’s money

 

The application was accompanied by a witness statement made by Sophie Farley, who had investigated the case at the OPG. To summarise, she said that:

(a) On 18 July 2014 concerns were raised with the OPG regarding ICL’s management of his mother’s property and financial affairs.(b) There was a debt of £39,000 in respect of unpaid care fees, which ICL was unwilling to pay because he believed that his mother should be receiving NHS Continuing Health Care.

(c) ICL was also in dispute with Hertfordshire County Council and claimed that ARL had been placed in the nursing home in Radlett without his consent. He had instructed Newlaw Solicitors in Cardiff to apply for compensation on his behalf.

(d) He was not providing ARL with an adequate personal allowance.

(e) It was not known known when he had last visited her, but it was thought to have been some time in 2013.

(f) In May 2013 ICL sold ARL’s house in Wheathampstead for £265,000 and used £174,950 from the net proceeds of sale to purchase a flat in his own name in Wheathampstead High Street. The OPG had carried out a search at the Land Registry, which confirmed that ICL is the registered proprietor.

(g) The difference of approximately £90,000 between the net proceeds of sale and the purchase price of the flat had been credited to ICL’s business account, rather than to an account in ARL’s name.

(h) The OPG wrote to ICL on 4 August 2014 asking him to account fully for his dealings with his mother’s finances.

(i) He replied a fortnight, on 18 August, later saying that he had far too many other things to deal with at that time.

(j) He said he was going to meet someone from Labrums Solicitors for advice on his responsibilities under the LPA, “which are now becoming too onerous.”

(k) He has only produced bank statements from October 2012 to October 2013, and an inspection of the bank statements he did produce revealed that he had spent at least £6,641 in a way that was not in ARL’s best interests.

(l) He had failed to account fully for his dealings.

(m) A Court of Protection General Visitor (Christine Moody) saw ARL on 15 August 2014 and confirmed that she has dementia and lacks the capacity to revoke the LPA

 

Now, under my methodology of hand tattooing, he would have been in no doubt that spending £175,000 of his mother’s money on a house for himself was not on, because when he signed the paperwork it would have been staring him in the face. Mandatory tattooing.

 

If this man does happen to have in his possession a mug that reads “Best Son Ever” or similar, it should be confiscated from him, and smashed to pieces in front of him. In fact, if the legend is not “Statistically within the bottom 1 %  of sons ever”  or “not quite as bad a son as Nick Cotton out of EastEnders”, smash it up.

 

Anyway, let’s see what his explanation for all of this was    (the “too long; didn’t read” version is “I needed money, and she had money, so I spent her money”  – to which, I would refer him to the tattoo that reads “It’s not your fucking money”. Sigh.  )

 

“I admit that some of the remaining funds have been used for personal outgoings for me and my family. This was because of difficult personal circumstances. As previously stated, I am fully prepared to pay back the entire amount that I have borrowed from my mother as soon as the sale of my former matrimonial home has completed. In the interests of complying with my duties as an attorney, I set out as far as possible an honest account of the remaining funds:

(a) I was caught drink driving in February 2013 and accordingly I borrowed £3,380 from my mother’s funds to cover my legal costs of defending my position (£2,640) and other related costs such as court fees (£500) and a penalty fine (£240). I attach letters confirming these costs sent to me by Freeman & Co. Solicitors and Sweetmans Solicitors.

(b) I ran out of money in April 2013 and had to borrow £7,500 from a friend, Mrs Pollard, in order to keep afloat financially. I repaid my friend this sum from my mother’s funds.

(c) I was required to pay a deposit of $1,500 (approx. £995) to secure my son’s place at university in the USA and I borrowed my mother’s funds to cover this.

(d) I was also required to cover my son’s college fees whilst he was studying in the USA totalling £7,500. I paid these fees in instalments from my mother’s funds.

(e) I sent £300 to my son on a monthly basis whilst he was living in the USA. These payments totalled £2,400.

(f) I also paid for my son’s flights to and from the USA during his year abroad and also for flights for myself to visit him in the USA totalling £2,774.

(g) During a visit to the USA to see my son in August 2013, I spent a total of $630 (approx. £418) on accommodation and £500 on sundry expenses.

(h) I also paid for my son’s car insurance from my mother’s funds totalling £4,757.17.

(i) During the summer of 2013 I borrowed £6,300 of my mother’s funds for works to my former matrimonial home.

(j) As previously mentioned, JJT borrowed £2,500 of my mother’s funds.

(k) I cannot specifically account for the remainder of the £90,050. However. I am sure that, save for the £2,500 borrowed by my sister, it would have been used by me in order to cover the living costs of my family.

 

 

Now, of course, it is utterly reasonable to raid your mother’s finances, which you’ve been entrusted to manage on her behalf in order to defend yourself when you get caught drunk-driving, and then to pay the fine. I mean, why would you use her money to pay her actual living expenses and nursing fees, when you can be paying your drink-driving fines with it?

 

It is also of course utterly reasonable to not provide your mother with a living allowance out of HER money, but instead use HER money to pay for your SON to have a living allowance whilst he is at College in America.

He also claimed that he didn’t know that the house he purchased with his mother’s money was registered in his name. Of course he didn’t.

 

(e) Until completion of the purchase of the flat in the High Street had taken place, he hadn’t realised that the property was held in his name. He said, “I have subsequently made enquiries of the conveyancer who dealt with the purchase of the property, who confirmed that, as I completed a summary of instructions in my own name, this is the name in which the property was purchased.”

(f) He said it was always the intention that this property was purchased for the benefit of his mother and that he would be happy for the property to be transferred into her name.

 

As ever with financial abuse cases, I find myself looking at the regulations for the provision that says that a deputy who does this shall be placed in stocks in the town centre for a period of forty days and be pelted with rancid fruit, but it seems to have been wrongly omitted from the regulations.

 

Let’s be really clear. Someone who loves and trusts you isn’t able to manage their money for themselves, so they ask you to look after their money for them. And you take that love and trust and repay it by using THEIR money to pay your drink driving fines and buy yourself a house, whilst at the same time running up £39,000 of debts on her behalf in unpaid care fees.  I hope that there really is a special circle of hell for people like this.

 

The Judge was also unimpressed with the Deputy’s behaviour, although somewhat less medieval in the sanctions than I myself would wish to be.

 

 

  1. In this case, ARL’s placement in the nursing home at Radlett was in jeopardy and there was a serious risk that she would be evicted because of ICL’s wilful refusal to pay her care fees. She is settled and content at the nursing home and any action or inaction that might prejudice her placement is not in her best interests.
  2. As is frequently observed in cases of this kind, a failure to pay care home fees, a failure to provide an adequate personal allowance, a failure to visit, and a failure to produce financial information to the statutory authorities, go hand in hand with the actual misappropriation of funds.
  3. In this case, ICL’s misappropriation of funds includes, but is not limited to:

    (a) The purchase of a property in his own name, using £174,950 of his mother’s funds. One of my particular concerns is that ICL is currently going through an acrimonious divorce, and there is a possibility that ARL’s funds could somehow, inadvertently, become part of the settlement in the matrimonial proceedings.(b) Pocketing the rental income from the property for the last two years.

    (c) The funds referred to in paragraph 16 (a) to (i) above, which by my reckoning amount to £36,524.17.

    (d) ICL’s admission at paragraph 16(k) that he cannot specifically account for the remainder of the £90,500, “However, I am sure that, save for the £2,500 borrowed by my sister, it would have been used by me in order to cover the living costs of my family.”

  4. I have no confidence in ICL when he says, “I am fully prepared to pay back the entire amount I have borrowed from my mother as soon as the sale of my former matrimonial home has completed.” He made a similar promise on 15 January 2015, when he offered to transfer title to the flat in the High Street from his name into his mother’s name, but has done nothing about it during the last seven months.
  5. I find it incredible that ICL is ready, willing and able to pursue a claim against Hertfordshire County Council for unlawfully depriving ARL of her liberty, yet is pumped up with tranquillizers and was in no fit state to attend the hearing in this matter.
  6. I also find it curious that he has instructed so many different firms of solicitors or other providers of legal services at his mother’s expense, often to defend the indefensible:

    (a) Rowlington Tilley & Associates drew up the LPA.(b) He was going to meet someone from Labrums Solicitors, St Albans, to advise him on his responsibilities under the LPA.

    (c) NewLaw Solicitors, Cardiff, were advising him on his dispute with Hertfordshire County Council regarding ARL’s placement in the nursing home in Radlett and were also pursuing a claim against the NHS for Continuing Health Care.

    (d) Freeman & Co., Solicitors, Manchester – The Home of Mr Loophole – had been instructed to defending him when he was prosecuted for drink driving.

    (e) He also instructed Sweetmans, another firm of specialist drink driving solicitors.

    (f) Taylor Walton acted for him in the sale of his mother’s house and the purchase of the flat in the High street, and in the proceedings brought against him by the Public Guardian.

  7. I wonder whether this is a smokescreen to ensure that no one firm or company is fully aware of the extent of his ineptitude and deceit.
  8. I am satisfied that ICL has behaved in a way that both contravenes his authority and is not in ARL’s best interests.

 

[I might comment in passing that if you ARE arrested for drink driving, and you consult “Mr Loophole” and he can’t get you off, it is throwing good money after bad to go to a second lawyer to see if they can. It seems to me that you are probably ‘bang to rights’ on the charge.  Of course, when it is NOT YOUR Fucking money, I suppose it bothers you slightly less]

 

 

 

Lost in translation

This is a decision by a Circuit Judge, so informative rather than binding.

 

Re R (translation of documents in proceedings) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2015/B112.html

 

You may be thinking, as I initially did  – “but the President has already ruled on that!”

Indeed he did, and ruled that it was deeply unfair for a parent who doesn’t speak English not to have the documents translated into their own language, but not all of the documents, and not every bit of the documents. In fact, the parent in the President’s case got the generous amount of 51 pages translated (from a bundle of 591 pages) – thus less than 10%, and it was one of the President’s many rages about 350 page bundles, so even assuming a 350 page bundle, he’d have been getting about 15% of the documents.

So why is this even a case?

Well, because in the Presidents case  Re L 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2015/15.html

 

There was no dispute about WHO would pay for the translation, everyone agreed that it would be the parent’s legal aid certificate, but rather about how much should be translated. The estimate was £38 per page, so translating everything would have been £23,000.

 

In this case, there was a dispute about whether the legal aid agency would, or should, pay at all, or whether someone else should pay.  I don’t know why the LAA didn’t raise that as an issue before the President  (or rather, I do, it is because they knew they’d lose) but it wasn’t settled by Re L.

And of course, there’s absolutely no clarity in the LAA guidance, and no consistency around the country. So this issue is going to crop up over and over.

Her Honour Judge Roberts dealt with it in this way, which I think is very sensible

 
1. The LA are responsible for translating the pre-proceedings documents, and the initial statement and care plan, since at that point, the parties don’t have lawyers who have a public funding certificate.

2. After that point, the Legal Aid Agency are responsible for the costs of translating other documents, and it is the decision of the parent’s solicitors which documents they feel the parents need to have translated.

 

Very pragmatically, if you were making the Local Authority pay for the translation in category 2, that would involve them in a decision about which documents the parents needed to see, and that just doesn’t feel right at all.

 

I’m afraid that this is only binding in Suffolk courts (or until the Legal Aid Agency persuade the Minister to give them a get out of jail card in the form of some new regulations about it), but it might be helpful when the issue arises.

 

Without being all Nigel Farage about it, this is a real issue. When I started in family law, a case with a foreign parent happened once or twice per year, now it is about a third of my case load. Translation costs are considerable, and it is of course vital that a parent properly understands the allegations that are being made against them and sees the proper detail that they need to fight the case.

 

If you think that the title of the piece was just a cheap excuse for me to crowbar in a picture of Scarlet Johansson then, how right you are.

If Ms Johansson ever does get offered a part as a family lawyer and wants to shadow anyone for the role, I am available

 

If Ms Johansson ever does get offered an acting role  as a family lawyer and wants to shadow anyone for the role, I am available. *

 

 

*On consultation with my wife, it turns out that I’m not.

 

 

 

 

 

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