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Role of the appellate Court

This case was decided in December but only just reported. It relates (of course) to an appeal arising from a failure of the Court at first instance to properly balance the issues and pros and cons in a Placement Order case.

 

Re B (A child) 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/565.html

 

This one is interesting because it involves an appeal initially from what was the Family Proceedings Court (and is now Tier One of the Family Court, or Tier Three of the Family Court, nobody seems absolutely sure whether a higher number is good, or bad, we just know that District Judges are in the middle and are Tier Two).   It was one of my Burning Questions post Re B-S months ago, as to whether the expectations of Re B-S bore down on the Justices as they did on the Circuit Judge  (which seems to be common sense, but there’s existing authority that you can’t expect the same degree of analysis and rigour from three lay Justices as from one Judge).

The first time this issue came up in appeal, it wasn’t decided because the Court of Appeal wisely and sagely decided that the Justices reasons were marvellous rather than flawed  (one of those moments when you know you’ve lost your appeal in the first ten seconds), and the case wasn’t a reported one.

However, second time lucky

 

It is common ground that the FPC’s Reasons did not involve a sufficient analysis of the evidence that they had heard and read and in particular, did not set out with any sufficient particularity a welfare analysis which identified the benefits and detriments of the realistic welfare options. There was an insufficient proportionality evaluation that is, an evaluation of the interference with the article 8 ECHR [Convention] right to respect for family and private life that the local authority’s care plan and the court’s orders would involve. As I shall describe, in fairness to the magistrates, the evidence before the court did not contain the material that would have been necessary to conduct that analysis and evaluation. Furthermore, as the magistrates’ Reasons betrayed, the FPC adopted a ‘linear approach’ to decision making thereby excluding the parents as carers without any comparison of them with the other realistic options for B’s long term future care.

 

  • It is common ground in this appeal that Judge Clarke held and was entitled to hold that, among other errors, the FPC were wrong in law in the following respects:

 

 

i) they adopted a linear approach to their decision making;

ii) they failed to carry out a welfare analysis of the realistic options for B’s long term care; and

iii) they failed to conduct a proportionality evaluation of the proposed interference in the family life of B and his parents.

 

  • In this case and having regard to the first court’s Reasons, which this court has had the opportunity to consider, I can take these conclusions as read. Furthermore, it is not suggested that the magistrates’ failings led to their analysis and evaluation being other than wrong within the meaning of Lord Neuberger’s formulation at [93 (v) to (vii)] and [94] of In the Matter of B (A Child) [2013] UKSC 13 [Re B]. On that basis alone, it was open to Judge Clarke to have considered allowing the appeal and if she had set aside the orders, to have directed the applications be re-heard. She did not do that, but instead undertook her own welfare analysis and proportionality evaluation. Although that analysis is itself criticised for a lack of reasoning and detail in the necessary comparative exercise, the judge felt able to come to the same conclusion as the FPC and dismissed the appeal.

 

That’s pretty damn clear authority for the fact that Justices Facts and Reasons in an adoption case had better damn well cover all the requirements of Re B and Re B-S, otherwise they have done it wrong.  [It has taken SIX MONTHS for any of my Burning Questions http://suesspiciousminds.com/2013/11/01/burning-questions/ to be answered, and now I've had two in a week]

 

Anyway, the Court of Appeal was far less interested in satisfying my innate curiousity and more interested in the actual appeal in question, which was – having found that the Justices had got their decision wrong on a number of levels, should the Circuit Judge who heard the appeal have sent the case for re-hearing, or just made the decision herself and done it right? What happened in this case was that the Judge did deliver a judgment, containing all of the necessary ingredients, had done the job properly and made orders, that the father, though Mr Weston QC appealed.

 

Mr Weston, for the father was arguing broadly that having not heard the evidence, the County Court ought to have stopped at the point where they resolved to grant the appeal and that the Justices reasons were so flawed as to make their decision wrong, and not go on to “fill in the gaps”  themselves.  And further that even if the Judge was right to attempt it as a general principle, to do so in this case ignored the gaps in the evidence that would make such a process unfair.

 

  • In this case, Judge Clarke held that the magistrates reasoning was insufficient and thereby wrong and the question arises whether a judge was permitted to ‘fill the gaps’, provide her own reasoning or substitute her reasons for those of the first court.

 

 

 

  • Mr Weston for the appellant makes a strong and clear case about what he submits was the irregularity of what happened. He submits that the judge rightly decided that the FPC had to consider the substance not just the letter of the statutory provisions. They had to undertake an analysis rather than pay lip service to the words. He submits that the FPC could not do that because the evidential materials were missing. Not only were they missing in the FPC, but at the hearing where the judge conducted her own analysis and evaluation, the evidence was still missing. Any new evidence relating to new issues of fact and changes of circumstance (and there was at least one new and potentially significant allegation that may have been relevant) or the implications of the same for the welfare analysis and proportionality evaluation, was also missing. Furthermore, the benefit of listening to and appraising the witnesses including the parents was lost in a procedure which was not a true re-hearing. Mr Weston accordingly submits that the procedure adopted was wrong and that its consequence was a welfare analysis and a proportionality evaluation that were inevitably flawed.

 

 

 

  • Mr Weston also submits that a judge conducting a review has a decision to make as respects any evidence that needs to be heard or re-heard when a determination is wrong as a matter of substantive or procedural law. He or she may conduct a limited re-hearing on a discrete point if the material exists to enable that to be done. That may involve considering an application to adduce additional evidence but in any event will involve a careful appraisal of whether the evidence exists to decide the issue in question and how that exercise is to be conducted to ensure procedural regularity.

 

 

 

  • Mr Weston’s final point is that the evidence in these proceedings was so defective on the point that it was not available to the judge to fill the gaps that existed. Accordingly, even if she had allowed the appeal and moved to re-hear the case, she could not have done so immediately without the benefit of case management to ensure that the court had the evidence that it needed to conduct its own analysis and evaluation.

 

 

 

  • Mr MacDonald like Mr Weston carefully identified the difference between a review and a re-hearing but was astute to identify cases in which a review and a re-hearing may be a continuum. He submitted, correctly, that the duty of the judge conducting a first appeal is to decide whether the proportionality evaluation of the first court was wrong. A proportionality evaluation is not a discretionary decision: it is either right or wrong and whether a decision based upon it should be set aside on appeal depends upon an analysis of the kind formulated by Lord Neuberger in Re B at [93] and [94]. Mr MacDonald submitted that the judge on appeal having identified the deficiencies in the first court’s decision making was obliged to consider whether the proportionality evaluation was thereby or in any event wrong. In an attractive submission he demonstrated that in every case where the first court has made an error in the welfare analysis (even where that analysis is based on a sufficient evidential base) the proportionality evaluation will be affected such that it may have to be re-made. He rhetorically asks the question whether in every such case the appeal court is required to remit the proceedings for a re-hearing when everything else in the case is intact and procedurally regular.

 

 

 

  • The continuum described by Mr MacDonald is very real in two senses: a) the welfare analysis and proportionality evaluation are intimately connected because an error in the analysis will inevitably have an effect on the evaluation with the consequence that an appeal court has to consider them together and b) the appellate court’s review of welfare and proportionality will involve having to consider whether there would be any difference in the ultimate conclusion, that is the order made, if the welfare analysis and proportionality evaluation were to be re-made. Aside from other considerations, that is because an appeal lies against an order and not the reasons for it (see Lake v Lake [1955] P 336). That at least involves, where practicable, a hypothetical exercise in seeing what the evaluation would be if it were to be re-made on a correct welfare basis.

 

 

 

  • Mr MacDonald acknowledged that the decision by an appeal court whether to re-make a welfare analysis and proportionality evaluation or remit for a re-hearing is itself a discretionary exercise. He identified the question which the appeal court needed to ask in relation to that discretionary exercise as being: “is the error rectifiable by the appeal court or is it too big?” That tends to suggest that there is an identity of approach by the appellant and the respondent to the question this court is asked to answer.

 

 

This is a big issue – if during the process of an appeal, the appellate Court is satisfied that the original decision was made wrongly, what are they supposed to do about it? Granting the appeal is easy, but that’s only half the story. Do you send it back for re-hearing, or give your own subsituted judgment addressing all of the issues? Which is the right thing to do? If either are possible in certain circumstances, what are those circumstances?

Conclusion in principle:

 

  • I have come to the following conclusion about the question asked of us. On an appellate review the judge’s first task is to identify the error of fact, value judgment or law sufficient to permit the appellate court to interfere. In public law family proceedings there is always a value judgment to be performed which is the comparative welfare analysis and the proportionality evaluation of the interference that the proposed order represents and accordingly there is a review to be undertaken about whether that judgment is right or wrong. Armed with the error identified, the judge then has a discretionary decision to make whether to re-make the decision complained of or remit the proceedings for a re-hearing. The judge has the power to fill gaps in the reasoning of the first court and give additional reasons in the same way that is permitted to an appeal court when a Respondent’s Notice has been filed. In the exercise of its discretion the court must keep firmly in mind the procedural protections provided by the Rules and Practice Directions of both the appeal court and the first court so that the process which follows is procedurally regular, that is fair.

 

 

 

[Suesspicious Minds interruption - this is saying that the appellate Court have the power to do either - to remit for rehearing OR make their own decision, but they have to be sure that the course that they take is FAIR]

 

  •  If in its consideration of the evidence that existed before the first court, any additional evidence that the appeal court gives permission to be adduced and the reasons of the first court, the appeal court decides that the error identified is sufficiently discrete that it can be corrected or the decision re-made without procedural irregularity then the appeal court may be able to rectify the error by a procedurally fair process leading to the same determination as the first court. In such a circumstance, the order remains the same, the reasoning leading to the order has been added to or re-formulated but based on the evidence that exists and the appeal would be properly dismissed.

 

 

 

  • If the appeal court is faced with a lack of reasoning it is unlikely that the process I have described will be appropriate, although it has to be borne in mind that the appeal court should look for substance not form and that the essence of the reasoning may be plainly obvious or be available from reading the judgment or reasons as a whole. If the question to be decided is a key question upon which the decision ultimately rests and that question has not been answered and in particular if evidence is missing or the credibility and reliability of witnesses already heard by the first court but not the appeal court is in issue, then it is likely that the proceedings will need to be remitted to be re-heard. If that re-hearing can be before the judge who has undertaken the appeal hearing, that judge needs to acknowledge that a full re-hearing is a separate process from the appeal and that the power to embark on the same is contingent upon the appeal being allowed, the orders of the first court being set aside and a direction being made for the re-hearing. In any event, the re-hearing may require further case management.

 

 

 

  • The two part consideration to be undertaken by a family appeal court is heavily fact dependent. I cannot stress enough that what might be appropriate in one appeal on one set of facts might be inappropriate in another. It would be unhelpful of this court to do other than to highlight the considerations that ought to be borne in mind.

 

 

 

 

Thus, if the error that led to the appeal is sufficiently narrow or discrete that the appellate Court can fairly make their own decision, then they can do so, but if it is wife and arises from missing evidence or the failure to answer a key question, or the credibility of witnesses is at issue, then a re-hearing would be the right outcome.

 

Application of the conclusion in this case:

 

  • Mr MacDonald’s primary submission is that at least initially Judge Clarke correctly identified what was required of her in this passage of her judgment at [50] that I have cited at [10] above. Later in judgment and perhaps as a consequence of a discussion on the transcript to which this court has been taken, Judge Clarke appeared to conflate the issues she had so carefully identified by regarding McFarlane LJ’s analysis in Re G at [69] as being a mandatory requirement to re-make a proportionality evaluation where errors are identified which vitiate a first court’s analysis. I do not read that part of McFarlane LJ’s judgment in that way. He was identifying the logical consequence that errors in the decision making process would necessarily have an effect on the proportionality evaluation rather than that in every case the appeal court should substitute its own proportionality evaluation for that of the first court. The latter formulation would be contrary to the dicta of the majority of the Supreme Court in Re B. Had Judge Clarke not been deflected from her task, she would have reached the point where the discretionary decision identified should have been made. Mr MacDonald submits that had she done so, she had all the material she needed to re-make the decision. He submits that the error of the FPC was not critical to the determination because the evidence existed in support of a welfare analysis and a proportionality evaluation that were and are coincident with the orders made by the FPC. To that extent, he says, the judge was able to fill-in the gaps and avoid a full re-hearing that would have involved inevitable delay. He has taken this court through the judge’s decision making process in an attempt to support the exercise she undertook.

 

 

 

  • The final evidence of the social worker does not include any welfare analysis or balance. It also fails to deal with why the adoption of B was necessary or required. The local authority’s permanence report which was exhibited to their Annex B report in support of the application for a placement order ought to be one of the materials in which a full comparative analysis and balance of the realistic options is demonstrated. I need say no more than that both reports are poor and demonstrate a defective exercise in identifying the benefits and detriments for the child of the realistic long term options for the care of B. That was necessary not just for the court’s purposes but also for the local authority’s (adoption) agency decision maker whose decision is a pre-requisite to a placement application being made. The revised care plans and statements of evidence filed after the local authority changed its mind contained statements relating to their concerns about whether the parents had the capability to work openly and honestly with them. Beyond that they are devoid of any welfare analysis of the alleged change of circumstances or of the options for the long term care of B. There is no evidence relating to the proportionality of the plan proposed.

 

 

 

  • Although the children’s guardian’s analysis makes reference to both exercises and supports the local authority’s plan for adoption, it likewise does not descend to an analysis of the welfare of B throughout his life except for just one opinion in one of 36 paragraphs where she says: “My own view until very recently was that this is a finely balanced case; although I had significant concerns about the parents’ ability to work in partnership with professionals. I balanced against that the potential loss to [B] of the opportunity to live in the care of his birth family if such an outcome could be achieved. I was particularly mindful of his right to family life and the loss to him of a relationship with his siblings.” So far as it goes, that is a relevant opinion, but in my judgment not a sufficient analysis for the purposes of the ACA 2002 or the authorities. There is no evidence directed specifically to why it is necessary to dispense with the consent of the parents to adoption.

 

 

 

  • With the benefit of access to the original evidence that this court has had, it is clear that that evidence could not in itself have supported the conclusions reached by the FPC had it been adopted as the reasoning for the same. In particular, there is no comparison of the benefits and detriments of the realistic welfare options for B upon which the FPC could have relied. In the absence of a sufficient welfare analysis by the FPC, there was simply no analysis at all. Accordingly, there was nothing of substance to be evaluated to decide whether or not it was proportionate. Judge Clarke did not hear any additional evidence with the consequence that the evidential basis for the orders remained as defective in the County Court as it had been in the FPC. No amount of elegant language could disguise that fact. It is of course open to a specialist judge to construct an analysis required by statute from the evidence of fact, expert opinion and evaluative judgment that she has heard and that is a distinct exercise from a professional assessment that is required because it is outwith the skill and expertise of the court: Re N-B (Children) (residence: expert evidence) [2002] EWCA Civ 1052, [2002] 3 FCR 259. In this case there was no evidential basis for that exercise.

 

 

 

  • Where the appeal court cannot comfortably fill the gaps in the analysis and evaluation of the first court and where as a matter of substantive or procedural law the decision has been demonstrated to be wrong, the appeal court should allow the appeal and remit the applications to be re-heard. There is a continuum between the functions of the appeal court to review the proceedings of the first court and to conduct discrete decision making functions that fill identified gaps in analysis or evaluation that represents an appropriate exercise provided it not be used so as to create a situation of procedural irregularity. It is not helpful for this court to be prescriptive. Each appeal will have its own matrix of fact and value judgments. In this appeal, the evidential shortcomings could not be corrected by what were no doubt the good intentions of the appeal judge.

 

 

 

  • At the conclusion of the appeal we allowed the appeal with reasons to follow. We set aside the care and placement orders and remitted the proceedings for a re-hearing of the welfare decision relating to B by a different judge in the County Court who had already been allocated to consider the local authority’s applications relating to the parents’ new baby.

 

 

That all seems perfectly proper to me, and it is nice to have it clarified. My suspicion is that we will see more re-hearings than substitutions of judgment. That does raise its own question, as to what happens with very time-sensitive decisions (like an ICO removal) where hearing-appeal-rehearing seems to build in quite  a delay – and if the first court granted the removal, is the child to be returned after the successful appeal pending the rehearing? It will probably be case specific.

 

Successful appeal against placement order

 

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Re R (A child) 2014 and why an appeal is now even worse news for a Local Authority

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/597.html

 

It has been a little while since we had one of these “non B-S compliant” appeals, but just to let you all know that they haven’t gone away.

 

This was an appeal about four children, who were all made subject to Care Orders in August 2013, and the youngest two were made subject to Placement Orders.

 

The mother appealed, and when the case got to the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal were very troubled that from the original judgment, it simply wasn’t possible to tell whether the Court had really looked at the other options available, the positive benefits of those other options and whether adoption really had been the last resort.

 

The fundamental concern in the case had been the risk posed by the father. The Court of Appeal quoted what Lewinson LJ had said when granting the permission to appeal

 

“The risk …. that the judge found was clearly tied to Mr J and his inappropriate sexual behaviour. The material submitted by the local authority, which I have read and which is confirmed by the mother’s grounds of appeal, shows that the mother and Mr J are now divorced, no longer living together and the mother has no intention of resuming any relationship with Mr J. In those circumstances, I have a considerable concern that the judge did not make any clear findings about whether the risk which he identified continued to exist after the disappearance of Mr J from the life of the mother and her children. I have a concern also that the judge did not expressly deal with less draconian outcomes than the orders which she eventually made.”

 

And the final conclusions that the Court of Appeal reached were not markedly different to that.

 

On risk

 

21 The central issue in this case, as the judge saw it, was the sexual risk posed by Mr J. That risk was based upon the 2006 conviction although the judge referred to the allegations made by S as particularly troubling too. Plainly, she was entitled to take into account the existence of those allegations and M’s response to them but given that she had not made a finding that the disputed events in relation to S had taken place, she was not entitled to proceed on the basis that Mr J was a risk because he had sexually abused S. This is appropriately reflected in her formulation of the risks.

22 Two points immediately stand out in relation to the sexual risk posed by Mr J.

23 First, Mr J is only a risk to these children if he remains on the scene or is going to return to it. M’s case is that she separated from him within weeks after the events of August 2012 and has since divorced him. LA say that there is no direct evidence that she has continued to associate with him but they remain suspicious on grounds which they explained. However, the important point for the present judgment is that no finding was made by the judge about whether M was still associating with Mr J or would be likely to do so in future. Without a finding that he was likely to feature in her life or the children’s in some way, it is difficult to see how he could be said to pose a risk to these children. If he did not pose a risk, then it was academic whether M would be able to protect the children against him and no finding was made that she would be likely to take up with another man who would pose a similar risk.

24 Second, even if the evidence were to establish that Mr J may be part of the picture in future, any evaluation of M’s attitude to the risk he poses would have to take into account LA’s own attitude to that risk in May 2012. The risk flows principally from Mr J’s 2006 conviction and, knowing about that, LA permitted Mr J to live in the family home with the children from May 2012 onwards, without even supervisory oversight by LA who had closed the case. A rather sophisticated analysis of the situation would be required in order to accommodate this feature. The analysis may be further complicated by the need to take into account also M’s attitude to the August 2012 allegations that S made. Although it was not proved that things had happened as S said, there was no question but that she made serious allegations and LA would say, no doubt, that M’s failure to keep an open mind about them shows that she lacks the capacity to behave protectively. However, whether M’s attitude to the allegations counted for anything in the analysis of her ability to protect the children from risk in future would depend upon what facts were available to her about the situation in relation to S, either from her own knowledge or from elsewhere. Particularly careful evaluation of this feature of the case would therefore be required. The fact is that the judgment does not deal with these factors at all, neither referring to the older history of the case leading to it being closed in May 2012, nor dealing with the complex situation in relation to the August 2012 allegations.

25 This is a deficiency in the judgment which undermines the judge’s welfare decision fatally in my view.

26 Without a sufficient evaluation of the risk flowing from Mr J’s sexual activities, all that was left as a foundation for the judge’s view that M could not provide the children with emotional care and was unable to protect them was what she set out in §38.3 (supra). It would be difficult to argue that that alone was enough to justify the orders that she made.

 

On a failure to properly explore the other options

 

 

27 Lewison LJ questioned whether the judge had dealt sufficiently with the less draconian outcomes that might have been possible for these children. We explored this question further during the hearing and I concluded that the judgment did not, in fact, deal sufficiently with this.

28 Exactly what might be possible for the children will depend upon the precise nature of the risk that is found to exist – what is at risk of happening, how likely it is to happen and what the consequences would be for the children if it did happen. However, there is an obvious need at least to consider, in every case, whether the children could be protected whilst living at home by LA maintaining a supervisory role through the medium of a supervision order or even a care order. I note that M’s case was that the children would live with her and her parents (judgment §17). The judgment reports that the social worker did not see this as a viable arrangement for the children but there is no explanation as to why not. The social worker gave evidence about the difficulties of communicating effectively with the children and gaining an understanding of what was happening in their home (judgment §15) and also about the near impossibility of establishing a working relationship with M (§18). That may weigh heavily against a placement at home under supervision but whether or not it did would depend upon the nature of the risks against which the children needed to be protected, as to which I have already expressed my views above.

29 Part of the overall welfare evaluation needed to be a thorough examination of the implications for the children of being removed from home permanently, split up from their siblings (the plan being for them to be placed in two pairs) and, in the case of the youngest two, removed from their family permanently. These were not infants by any means. The evidence was that they were very loyal to M. The judge recorded that the oldest two were expressing a desire to go home. There was evidence that the youngest two, whose primary carer had consistently been M, seemed to have largely secure attachments and were resilient children, engaging and sociable and not giving rise to any concern in relation to their behaviour or social presentation (see the report of the clinical psychologist who assessed the children).

30 The judge précised some of the evidence of the clinical psychologist in her judgment. She reported, for example, that the psychologist said it was difficult to balance the sibling relationship against the individual needs of the children for stability and permanence in a placement (judgment §20) but this was in the context of a consideration of what should be done about the children’s placements away from home i.e. whether they should all be placed together or split so as to give the younger children the chance of being adopted. That was predominantly the focus of the rest of the evidence précised by the judge as well, from the social worker and the guardian.

31 As Re G [2013] EWCA Civ 965 has made clear, the decision whether an order should be made which will result in the children not going home has to be taken following a global, holistic consideration of all the factors in the case and each of the options available for the children. The judgment in Re G was, of course, only handed down on 30 July 2013, which was during the hearing of evidence in this case. It is well understood that its implications would not have been digested by the time that submissions were made and judgment given. Indeed, it is only fair to observe that 2013 was a year of upheaval for family law and I have no doubt at all that keeping abreast of developments must have been very difficult indeed for practitioners and judges alike.

32 For whatever reason, however, even taking the judgment as a whole and concentrating on substance rather than form, it cannot be said that the judge carried out “a balancing exercise in which each option is evaluated to the degree of detail necessary to analyse and weigh its own internal positives and negatives and each option is then compared, side by side, against the competing option or options” (see §54 of Re G). What was required was not only a comparison of adoption vs fostering and splitting the children vs not splitting them. The judgment needed also to deal with the possibility of returning them to their home, taking account of losses that the children would suffer if this were not to happen. Those losses needed, in turn, to be taken into account in considering the case for adoption/long term care. It may well be that the judge considered that she had covered the possibility of a return home in her précis of the evidence of the social worker and the guardian, whose evidence she found impressive and who considered that it would not be feasible because it would not be possible to work with M or the children. However, more was needed in my view, and I am confident that the judge would have dealt with these issues more fully had she had the benefit of all the observations that emerged from this court and the Supreme Court during the course of 2013.

 

 

The Court of Appeal therefore discharged the final orders and sent the case back for re-hearing.

 

 

They also raise a practice point, one which will make the average Local Authority lawyer’s hair stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine. They point out that as the appeal was brought by a litigant in person, the procedural formalities (making sure everyone was served, setting out clearly the issues, having all of the relevant documents in the bundle) weren’t complied with. They then say “there’s no resources for the Court to do all of this”

 

And of course they then say “So, Local Authorities, with their bottomless resources and pockets, will have to sort it out”   (bear in mind that the LA are opposing these appeals, not bringing them)

 

6 This case is illustrative of an increasing problem faced by this court. More and more litigants appear in front of us in person. Where, as here, the appellant is unrepresented, this requires all those involved in the appeal process to take on burdens that they would not normally have to bear. The court office finds itself having to attempt to make sure that the parties to the litigation are notified of the appeal because litigants in person do not always know who should be served; the only respondent named by M here was LA. The bundles that the court requires in order to determine the appeal are often not provided by the litigant, or are incomplete, and proper papers have to be assembled by the court, not infrequently at the request of the judges allocated to hear the case when they embark upon their preparation for the hearing just days before it is due to start. The grounds of appeal that can properly be advanced have to be identified by the judge hearing the permission application and the arguments in support of them may have to be pinpointed by the court hearing the appeal.

7 The court has no extra resources to respond to these added challenges. It needs to be understood that the file from the lower court is not available to the appeal court which is dependent on the papers supplied for the appeal by the parties. If it is to be able to deal properly with an appeal in care proceedings, and to do so speedily (as most local authorities require so that undue delay is avoided for the children who are the subject of the proceedings), then local authorities will have to expect to assist by ensuring that the court is provided with appeal bundles. Three copies of the appeal bundles are normally required, unless the appeal is ordered to be heard by two judges in which case only two copies need be supplied. The bundles will often have to include the documentation that was available to the court below, although there can be appeals in which the issue is so discrete that a more limited selection of papers will suffice. It is so frequently the case that the papers supplied by the appellant are deficient that it should be standard practice for the local authority to take steps itself, well in advance of the hearing, to consider the appellant’s proposed bundle and, if it is deficient or apparently non-existent, to contact the court to see whether it is necessary to supply alternative or supplementary bundles.

8 It is important also that the respondents to the appeal make themselves aware of the issues that will be aired at the hearing. If permission is given in writing there will be an order which sets out shortly what the Lord Justice decided and why. If permission is given at an oral hearing, a short judgment will almost invariably be given explaining why and a transcribed copy of this should be sought.

9 I said more about the cost to individuals and to the legal system of the absence of legal assistance in Re O-A, a private law children case decided on 4 April 2014. Everyone involved in public and private law children cases is attempting to achieve the best possible result for the children whose welfare is at the heart of the proceedings and, without legal representatives for the parties, that task is infinitely more difficult

 

 

In effect, if an appeal is brought by a litigant in person, the Local Authority should undertake all of their requirements as a Respondent, but also now do everything that the Court would normally expect an Applicant to do.

 

(And of course, remembering that whilst there’s no chance of the LA recovering THEIR costs if the appeal is hopeless or lost by a country mile, there’s authority to say that if the appeal succeeds costs orders can be made against the LA.  )

Proportionality and harm

 

Holman J has given judgment in an appeal, London Borough of Ealing v JM and Others 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/1084.html

 

The appeal is not concluded (the Judge has asked for some more information about the placement proposals and family finding) and I hesitated a bit about writing at it whilst it is still ongoing, but the judgment was published, and it does raise one interesting aspect, which I don’t think we have seen the last of.

Now that the European jurisprudence about proportionality has been echoed by our Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the underlying context to that is that when deciding whether adoption is proportionate one has to be looking to what would happen or be likely to happen to the children at home.

In this particular case, the mother tried unsuccessfully to run a “Kenneth Williams defence”   (Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me)

 

  • The sad and worrying part about this case is that, between her decision and judgment in mid July 2013 and the outcome hearing which began in late November 2013, the district judge had deliberately afforded a significant period of time within which there could, amongst other matters, be an assessment of the mother by an expert in order to try to find out why she had injured her two children in the ways described. Unfortunately, the mother did not cooperate with, or properly participate in, that assessment and therefore it is not possible to know whether she injured the children as a result of manageable stress or some other force of circumstances which could be recognised and managed in the future, or whether she did so out of, frankly, callousness or brutality. Unfortunately, the reaction of the mother to these proceedings and to the fact finding decision of the district judge in July has effectively been one of almost total denial. Instead of acknowledging and facing up to what she had done and seeking help about it, the mother adopted what the district judge was later to describe as a “conspiracy theory”. She has said and continued to say that the allegations had been fabricated; hospital documents, including photographs of the injuries, faked or forged; and she has said even that the examining doctor at the hospital is a non-existent person.

 

The part of the appeal that I am going to focus on relates to the findings of harm, and the case run by the parents that even if those findings were correct, this was not the sort of harm that justified adoption. (In effect that there are two separate thresholds – “significant harm” in the context of s31 of the Children Act,  but then the sort of significant harm which would make adoption a proportionate response).  Almost certainly what was in their mind was the finding of the original judge that the injuries to the children had been ‘relatively minor’

 

 

  • As I understand it from the judgment of the 7th January 2014, these children were living together with both their parents who were, and still are, themselves living together. In October 2012 the daughter, then aged three-and-a-quarter, said certain things at the children’s nursery which led to the children being examined first at the nursery and later at a nearby hospital. The hospital observed and recorded a number of scratches and other minor injuries on them, and the daughter gave what was described as “a vivid account” of how they had happened and blamed her mother. In the upshot, after the five-day hearing during June and July 2013, the judge concluded that the perpetrator of all the injuries was the mother. She concluded that the daughter had sustained nine minor injuries to her body, and the son had sustained five minor injuries to his body, all of which were caused non-accidentally. In other words, no less than 14 minor injuries, essentially scratches, had been deliberately caused to these two children by their mother. Additionally, and seemingly of even greater concern, the mother had caused two non-accidental -that is, deliberate – boot mark injuries to the shoulders of her daughter.

 

 

 

 

  • The district judge herself very clearly acknowledged and recognised, as had the children’s guardian, that the injuries themselves were not of a serious kind nor requiring any medical treatment. She said, at paragraph 122 of her outcome judgment of the 7th January 2014:

 

 

 

 

“The injuries … were not very serious. They were relatively minor.”

 

 

And this is how the parents developed that argument

 

As proposed ground 6 of the proposed appeal (namely at paragraph 41 of their skeleton argument for today) Mr and Mrs Haines have argued that:

 

 

“This placement order is made as a result of injuries to [the girl] which were very much on the lower end of the scale, to the extent that they did not even require any medical treatment, and it is submitted that a placement order is a disproportionate response to such injuries.” 

 

That is a point which Mrs Julie Haines further developed and submitted this afternoon. It does not, in my view, afford the slightest ground of appeal. First, as I have observed, the district judge herself was well aware that the injuries in question were not very serious and were relatively minor. Second, it is not actually correct to limit the injuries only to those to the daughter, for, as I have said, it clearly emerges from paragraph 9(1) of the outcome judgment that there were also five minor injuries to the son. So the picture here is of deliberate infliction of injury, albeit minor, to both children. Third, although overall the injuries may be described as “minor” they do include non-accidental, that is, deliberate, boot mark injuries to a girl who was at the material time aged about three. All this is evidence of a deliberately abusive attitude by a mother to both her young and vulnerable children.

 

And as you can see, Holman J, simply wasn’t convinced by that as a ground of appeal at all.   IF Re B ever gets to the European Court of Human Rights, this issue might be revisited. For the time being, crossing the threshold is sufficient, without needing a two tier significant harm test (one for orders that involve the child not being permanently separated, and one for orders that do)

A word in your shell-like

Appeals, adoption, writing a cheque for costs and ‘informal discussions’

 Re C (A Child) 2014

 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/70.html

 It is no longer any great surprise when the Court of Appeal overturn a Placement Order, but just when I was getting jaded with this new spirit, along comes something to raise an eyebrow. In this one, the Court of Appeal overturned the Placement Order AND made an order for costs, in the sum of £22,000 against the LA.

 It also raises a couple of important issues of principle.

 The first is the need for a Judge to take care on an appeal – in this case, the whole thing started with a DJ refusing a placement order and the Local Authority appealing it to Keehan J.

 Keehan J found all five grounds of their appeal met, granted the appeal (fine) but then went on to make the Placement Order.

 As the Court of Appeal pointed out, Keehan J therefore made a Placement Order whilst only seeing the documents in the appeal bundle (which were of course very limited) and had not seen all of the documents that would be necessary to properly consider whether or not a Placement Order was the right order.

 It is quite obvious that Keehan J was concerned at the delay in planning for S’s future care needs, which delay is statutorily recognised as inimical to the welfare of the child (Children Act 1989, s 1(2)). Unfortunately, his understandable desire to move the matter forward appears to have blinded him to the significantly defective appeal bundle created and provided by the appellant which actually rendered him incapable of proceeding with the hearing on the notice of appeal filed, let alone providing the necessary evidence to support the making of a placement order. Put shortly, there were no transcripts of evidence and some of the documents before the district judge had been removed from the bundle….

 

There was an obvious lacuna in the materials presented to Keehan J in his appellate capacity to dispose of the appeal, still less to subrogate his own assessment of the facts in making a placement order. (See paragraph 8 above). I know that he would now only too readily acknowledge that his expressed reasoning in deciding that it was right to do so is insufficient and does not comply with the subsequently reported Re B-S (CHILDREN) 2013, EWCA Civ 1146.

 

 The Court of Appeal raise an interesting point, which may well come back to bite them, about transcripts of evidence rather than just the judgment. I happen to agree with them, but it is still something of a hostage to fortune.

Keehan J’s judgment was that the district judge “misconstrue[d] the evidence of Dr Bourne”, “was wrong to conclude that [an option] was viable or available…because the social worker gave evidence to him…”; reached “a conclusion which…he was [not] entitled to reach on the totality of the evidence before him”; and, that in relation to the care plan “was plainly wrong to come to that judgment and assessment”. He concluded that “The care plan of the local authority was entirely clear”. In my judgment, these findings and conclusions simply cannot subsist in the absence of a critical appraisal of all the evidence that was before the district judge (rather than relying on such statements as he had and the summary within the district judge’s judgment. Oral evidence will necessarily colour the picture otherwise presented by the statements and reports prepared before hearing. As is obvious from the judgments of District Judge Simmonds, that is precisely what happened in this case.

 

 

  1. In challenging Counsel for the Respondent local authority as to the absence of any transcript of evidence before Keehan J when hearing the appeal, her response clearly reflected the position taken by the local authority in the first appeal. That is, that transcripts were unnecessary since the district judge had specifically summarised the oral evidence as was obviously relevant to the judgment.
  1. This submission reflects an inability to recognise the failures of the local authority in the first appeal process which I would otherwise have hoped may have occurred to its legal advisers after reflection upon the contents of the present appellant’s notice and recourse to notes of evidence. It also flies in the face of paragraph 9 of District Judge Simmonds’ first judgment, vis:

“The fact that I do not mention something in this judgment does not mean that I have not fully considered it, but it is impossible to set out in this judgment everything that I have heard and read. My analysis of the evidence and findings, although made after each witness, are on the basis of hearing and reading the entire evidence and analysing the evidence in its totality.”

  1. This observation is entirely consistent with the well established principle derived from the speech of Lord Hoffmann in Piglowska v Piglowski [1999] 1 WLR 1360 at p 1372:

“The appellate court must bear in mind the advantage which the first instance judge had in seeing the parties and the other witnesses. This is well understood on questions of credibility and findings of primary fact. But it goes further than that. It applies also to the judge’s evaluation of those facts. If I may quote what I said in Biogen Inc v Medeva plc [1997] RPC 1 , 45:

The need for appellate caution in reversing the trial judge’s evaluation of the facts is based upon much more solid grounds than professional courtesy. It is because specific findings of fact, even by the most meticulous judge, are inherently an incomplete statement of the impression which was made upon him by the primary evidence. His expressed findings are always surrounded by a penumbra of imprecision as to emphasis, relative weight, minor qualification and nuance … of which time and language do not permit exact expression, but which may play an important part in the judge’s overall evaluation.”

  1. Over time, inevitably and regrettably, this conspicuously articulated wisdom is diminished by familiarity and may often, as in Keehan J’s judgment, become eroded by a concisely expressed but imprecise phrase. Lord Wilson’s judgment, endorsed in this respect by Lord Neuberger in RE B (A CHILD) (CARE PROCEEDINGS:THRESHOLD CRITERIA) above is a potent reminder of the need for all appellate courts to do more than pay lip service to the doctrine. At paragraph 42, after quoting Lord Hoffmann in Piglowska he said:

“Lord Hoffmann’s remarks apply all the more strongly to an appeal against a decision about the future of a child. In the Biogen case the issue was whether the subject of a claim to a patent was obvious and so did not amount to a patentable invention. Resolution of the issue required no regard to the future. The Piglowska case concerned financial remedies following divorce and the issue related to the weight which the district judge had given to the respective needs of the parties for accommodation. In his assessment of such needs there was no doubt an element of regard to the future. But it would have been as nothing in comparison with the need for a judge in a child case to look to the future. The function of the family judge in a child case transcends the need to decide issues of fact; and so his (or her) advantage over the appellate court transcends the conventional advantage of the fact-finder who has seen and heard the witnesses of fact. In a child case the judge develops a face-to-face, bench-to-witness-box, acquaintanceship with each of the candidates for the care of the child. Throughout their evidence his function is to ask himself not just “is this true?” or “is this sincere?” but “what does this evidence tell me about any future parenting of the child by this witness?” and, in a public law case, when always hoping to be able to answer his question negatively, to ask “are the local authority’s concerns about the future parenting of the child by this witness justified?” The function demands a high degree of wisdom on the part of the family judge; focussed training; and the allowance to him by the justice system of time to reflect and to choose the optimum expression of the reasons for his decision. But the corollary is the difficulty of mounting a successful appeal against a judge’s decision about the future arrangements for a child. In In re B (A Minor) (Adoption: Natural Parent) [2001] UKHL 70, [2002] 1 WLR 258 , Lord Nicholls said:

“16 …There is no objectively certain answer on which of two or more possible courses is in the best interests of a child. In all save the most straightforward cases, there are competing factors, some pointing one way and some another. There is no means of demonstrating that one answer is clearly right and another clearly wrong. There are too many uncertainties involved in what, after all, is an attempt to peer into the future and assess the advantages and disadvantages which this or that course will or may have for the child.……Cases relating to the welfare of children tend to be towards the edge of the spectrum where an appellate court is particularly reluctant to interfere with the judge’s decision.”

 

 

Is that authority for “in an appeal, a transcript of the entireity of the evidence should be obtained?”    – well, not quite, but I would certainly say that attention should be paid as to whether it should be obtained, and advocates be prepared to defend their decision about it either way. (Frankly, I would cover my back and include within the appeal notice a position as to whether the oral evidence given is intrinsic to the appeal and the Court is invited to direct whether a transcript be obtained)

 

A major issue in the case was whether in the original hearing, the oral evidence developed to a point where an alternative to adoption (namely the child continuing to be fostered by the existing foster carers) emerged as a credible alternate plan. That plan was the one that the District Judge approved – hence him making a Care Order but no Placement Order. At the appeal before Keehan J (who of course saw the written evidence and submissions that this was not an option on the table) what appeared to be the case was that the DJ had refused the LA plan and tried to foist upon them a plan that did not in truth exist as an option, which would of course have been wrong in law.  The Court of Appeal, having seen the transcripts of the oral evidence, felt that the option that the DJ selected was in fact an option open to him based on the evidence, and that thus not only was Keehan J wrong in granting the appeal but the LA had been wrong in issuing it.

An interesting aspect of the case was the Court of Appeal’s take on the ‘informal discussions’ that took place between counsel for the LA and the original District Judge. There is obviously a fine line between the duty to raise points of clarifications before an appeal and back-door pressure, and the Court of Appeal felt that this was wrong side of the line territory.

  1. Counsel for the local authority e-mailed the district judge timed at 3.33 am on 25 February seeking to “clear misunderstandings” as to the thrust of her closing submissions which had apparently not been accepted. The district judge responded at 9.07 in short order restating the pertinent bases of the decision reached and indicating that the order would follow. Remarkably, and with great temerity in my view, Counsel then responded “with the greatest of respect, I do not agree with your analysis”. Having re-iterated shortly the basis of his decision the district judge quite properly made clear that he was “not prepared and [would] not deal with this matter in e-mail correspondence.”
  1. Whilst other advocates were copied into the second e-mail and the first e-mails disclosed to them subsequently, apparently have made no complaint and may well regard it to be orthodox procedure, I regard this to be an entirely inappropriate, unacceptable and unsatisfactory practice. Not only was this an unwarranted ex parte approach by unconventional medium but it is a practice that lends itself to accusations of taint, bias, closed door justice and “stitch up” in the absence of an adequate and reliable method of recording what transpired. In the circumstances, the district judge was extraordinarily restrained in his responses.

And

I agree with the reasons given by Macur LJ for allowing this appeal and I agree with the order proposed. I would particularly like to associate myself with the remarks that Macur LJ has made at paragraphs 11 and 16 of her judgment. The attempt to get the District Judge to change his judgment and order after the he had delivered his judgment was quite unjustified and inappropriate. Counsel should know better than to attempt such an inappropriate exercise, even if the client urges it. (I do not say that happened in this case; I do not know).

 

 

And

  1. I agree with both judgments. Having seen the judgments in draft, Ms van der Leij has expressed concern about the comments at paragraphs 10-11 of Macur LJ and paragraph 36 of Aikens LJ dealing with the e-mail exchanges subsequent to the hearing. She observes that “it is by no means unusual for practitioners in the Principal Registry to e mail district judges directly seeking clarification of matters raised in a hearing”. It is one thing, if invited, to make submissions in relation to the terms of an order provided that every communication is copied to every party; it is another to express dissent and seek to engage in further argument. If that is not unusual, it is important that the problems which it generates should be recognised and that the practice should cease. First, it suggests (even if it is not the case) that advocates can go behind the scenes to resolve issues in favour of their clients and, as Macur LJ observes, will give rise to allegations of ‘stitch up’. Secondly, it will encourage litigants in person (who do not have the same understanding of the law or practice) to adopt a similar approach thereby disrupting the finality of the judgment of the court and generating continued uncertainty.

I completely agree with all of this – it is hard to know what was going on here, but the best way to deal with this sort of thing is transparently, where everyone (including and particularly the parents) sees exactly what is being said to the Judge and has an opportunity to comment.

 On to costs.

The Court of Appeal point out, with a degree of acidity, that if the parents had been legally represented at the first appeal, to the circuit judge, it would have emerged that the oral evidence had been markedly different to the papers that Keehan J had seen and that the DJ had been within his rights to view that oral evidence as being that an alternative plan than adoption – namely long term fostering with the existing foster carers, was not only an option that he could chose, but one that he should.

They point out that in saving a very small amount of costs in legal aid for that hearing, substantially greater costs, and delay for the child have been incurred because that appeal itself had to be appealed.

The fact that the parents were faced with an appeal before Keehan J without any professional representation because their legal aid had been withdrawn must have been a factor which unfortunately led the judge to be persuaded to act as he did, despite the fundamental procedural failure of the respondents’ lawyers. This was, of course, their failure to produce on appeal the transcripts of the very oral evidence which the appellant alleged that the first instance judge had misconstrued/misunderstood. As Macur LJ has commented, if the parents had been represented by competent counsel this failure would doubtless have been pointed out and the appeal may never have seen the light of day. As it is, further public expense has been incurred because of the need for a further appeal to this court. What might have been saved in legal aid fund costs has been lost by incurring public expense on another (but related) part of the public purse.

They did refute the parents claim that because they had not been represented at the original appeal their article 6 rights had been breached – i.e this would not be a ground for appeal in and of itself, although it provided context as to why the original appeal had gone awry and needed to be appealed

 

 The fact that parents comprise the vastly increased number of litigants in person which appear before the courts in child public law cases since they do not qualify for non means tested legal aid is all too apparent and unavoidable as a consequence of the present regime. As here, non represented parents will often be ranged against legally qualified advocates opposing them. They have access to justice in accordance with their “Article 6 rights” but are often daunted by the process and feel understandably outgunned. In itself, this fact does not found a meritorious ground of appeal but necessarily it comprises a context for the other complaints that are raised in this application. I have every reason to expect that, if they had been legally represented by a competent advocate, this appeal may never have seen the light of day.

 

 

An application for costs was made. As readers will know, costs in care proceedings are fairly unusual, although possible,

  1. The mother is now legally aided. However, during the preparation for this appeal it appears that there were periods when it was withdrawn. In any event, the mother apparently is at risk of future recoupment from the Legal Aid Agency. She applies for costs of the appeal. Written submissions and revised cost schedules have been submitted.
  1. The local authority relies on Re T (Costs: Care Proceedings: Serious allegation not proved) [2012] UKSC 36 to resist the application. It argues that it has not adopted an unreasonable stance or been guilty of reprehensible behaviour. For the reasons above I believe that the position that it has taken to have been unreasonable. In the alternative, it cites London Borough of Sutton v Davis (Costs) (No 2) [1994] 1 WLR 1317 as authority to the effect that this court should not make an assessment but should order costs to be paid in a sum assessed by the director of the LAA. This proposition is based upon the obiter dicta remarks of Wilson J, as he then was. He urged reform of the then current legal aid regulations. They do not endure in the light of the 2010 Standard Civil Contract entered into between the mother’s solicitors and the Legal Aid Agency, section 1, General Provisions 1.50B of which provides: “This paragraph represents our authority pursuant to section 28(2)(b) of the Act, for you to receive payment from another party….and to recover those costs at rates in excess of those provided for in this Contract or any other contract with us. This court must address the claim for costs with a view to the context in which it arises. The director of the LAA is not in a position to assess whether the same have been unreasonably incurred.
  1. The necessity for this appeal emanates from the local authority’s failures to address the issues correctly in front of Keehan J. I would order them to pay the costs of the mother claimed in the sum of £22,756.68

The Court of Appeal don’t formally say that the informal approaches by counsel to the DJ played any part in this decision, but they hardly take pains to point out that they played no part. Those might have been very expensive emails.

 

[I am grateful to one of my readers for politely, judiciously and correctly letting me know that Keehan J is of course not a Circuit Judge, as I had been wrongly designating him - I have now edited out those incorrect references. ]

“You’ve lost your lipgloss honey”

Whether the test is “wrong” or “plainly wrong” for an Appeal, and we shall know definitively after Re BS,  when deciding whether to give permission, where is the bar set?  What does the appellant have to demonstrate in order to get permission to appeal?

The High Court looked at this in Re H v G (adoption appeal) 2013 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/2136.html

And the Judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, pretty much layeth the smackdown on the gloss that was put on the test by the judge who granted permission for the appeal  (I won’t name said Judge, but you can read it in the judgment, which was delivered on 13 June 2013 and NOT as the transcript would seem to indicate 13th June 2013 hint hint)

The test, which appears at Rule 30.3(7) of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 is that an applicant must show ‘a real prospect of success.’

As so often happens with any sort of test laid down by Statute or statutory instruments, judges tend to add their own gloss on it, and that gloss then gets adopted and absorbed into part of the legal test. We had a VERY long-running issue with this on the “soundbite” of “imminent risk of serious harm” and whether that was, or was not a gloss; and if so, whether it should or should not be followed.

What happened in THIS case is that the Judge who granted permission put a gloss on the “real prospect of success” as meaning that the case wasn’t “fanciful” or  “capricious, whimsical or absurd”

(Of course, if that gloss were accepted, the test for the appellant would be relatively low, meaning really that there were just SOME argument to be had, rather than that the grounds for appeal showed a real prospect of success)

The High Court Judge hearing the appeal felt that this ought to be nipped in the bud.

I respectfully suggest that to allow permission to appeal in any case where the application is not capricious, whimsical or absurd is to set the threshold too low. It does not, in my view, give effect to the rule that simply requires a real prospect of success to be shown.

 

 The Judge then referred to the case of CR v SR 2013, which dealt carefully with this point

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/1155.html

In THAT case, the Court were dealing with a debate as to whether “real prospect of success” meant that the appellant seeking permission had to show that it was more likely than not that they would succeed in the appeal.

(So in CR v SR 2013, the issue was whether the ‘gloss’ on the test pushed it higher, and made it more difficult for the appellant, and in Re H v G 2013, whether the ‘gloss’ on the test pushed it lower and made it easier for the appellant.  I have again removed the name of the Judge who originally set the gloss that CR v SR was addressing, cough cough, same Judge glossed the test in two different directions)

The “more likely than not to succeed gloss” was set in NLW v. ARC [2012] 2 FLR 129.

Our anonymised judge  says, in para. 8: (underlining mine)

“In his skeleton argument Mr. Chamberlayne has suggested that the object of the test is only to weed out the hopeless appeal. I would not go that far. I would suggest that the concept of a real prospect of success must mean, generally speaking, that it is incumbent on an appellant to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the appeal will be allowed at the substantive hearing. Anything less than a 50/50 threshold would of course, by linguistic definition, mean that it is improbable that the appeal will be allowed and in such circumstances it would be hard to say that any appeal had a real prospect of success; rather, it could only be said as a matter of logic that it had a real prospect of failure“.

The Judge in CR v SR disagreed, and relied on some Court of Appeal authority to prove the point.

  1. In a later decision, AV v. RM (Appeal) [2012] 2 FLR 709, Moor J. reaches a different conclusion to that of [NAME REMOVED]. as to the meaning of the phrase “a reasonable prospect of success”. He says at paras. 9 and 10 of his judgment:

“9) It has been on said on many occasions that judges should not place a judicial gloss on the words of either the statute or the rules. With the greatest of respect to [NAME REMOVED]., it may well have been that this aspect was not argued fully before him and that his attention was not, in particular, drawn to a decision of the Court of Appeal, of Tanfern Limited v. Cameron MacDonald & Anor. [2000] 1 WLR 1311, in which Brooke LJ. said the following (at para.21):

“21. Permission to appeal will only be given where the court considers that an appeal would have a real prospect of success or that there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. Lord Woolf MR has explained that the use of the word of ‘real’ means that the prospect of success must be realistic rather than fanciful [see Swain v. Hillman, The Times, 4th November 1999; Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Transcript No. 1732 of 1999].

10) The test for permission to appeal is, of course, exactly the same in the Court of Appeal. It, therefore, follows that this court is bound by Tanfern Limited v. Cameron-MacDonald and I consider that there should be no gloss placed on the words of the rules other than to say that ‘real’ means that the prospect of success must be realistic rather than fanciful”.

So there you have it, a Judge considering permission to appeal  (and that can of course include the trial Judge who made the decision, as that is the first port of call when seeking permission to appeal) hears the application to appeal and decides

Does this appeal have a real prospect of success, OR is there some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard?

And does not interpret “Real prospect of success” as being either – more likely than not, OR that it is not capricious absurd or fanciful.

Of course, if BS confirms that the test for almost every appeal in children cases, following the Supreme Court in Re B, is has the appellant shown that the Judge was “wrong” rather than “plainly wrong”, there MUST be an argument that the ability of the appellant to have a real prospect of success must increase, as the test is lowered.

Perhaps the Court of appeal in Re BS will take the view, as is hinted at by some of the Judges in Re B, that the difference between “wrong” and “plainly wrong” is a small crevice rather than a grand canyon.

So both Judges considering an application to appeal AND the lawyer advising their client as to whether there is a real prospect of success in appealing are, for the moment, slightly in the dark,  but will need to consider that it is PROBABLY at least slightly easier to pass the test for permission than it previously had been.

It’s as plainly wrong as the nose on your face

In family cases now, is the appeal test “plainly wrong”  or “wrong?”  – Court of Appeal to grapple with this issue.

I remarked during my commentary on Re B, that I thought the Supreme Court might come to regret their decision that where an appellate Court is considering an appeal about threshold, there was no distinction between wrong and plainly wrong.

I didn’t think it might happen so quickly.

In Re BS (Children) 2013,  Permission was granted by MacFarlane LJ for an appeal from a decision of Parker J to refuse leave to oppose an adoption hearing, and it seems, from the reading of his decision, that he probably would have refused permission to appeal prior to Re B.

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed114967

In particular, MacFarlane LJ felt that the issue of whether the test for appellate Courts now dealing with family appeals had lowered, in the light of Re B, from “has the applicant shown that the Judge was plainly wrong” to “has the applicant shown that the Judge was wrong”

The first of those two formulations has always been the test, and of course is a much higher hurdle, both in the appeal, and any application for permission. It reflects that with the majority of judicial decisions, a Judge might reasonably decide the case one way or another, providing that they give a detailed and reasoned judgment considering those things that are relevant and not considering things that are irrelevant, and applying the correct legal tests. With that in mind, a Court of Appeal can have all three Judges look at the case and think that they would have made a different decision to the original Judge, but still refuse the appeal, if the decision was within a reasonable spectrum of the decisions that the original Judge could have made. In essence, an appeal ought to be allowed if the Judge made a decision that on the facts before them a Judge could not have reasonably made.

You might well think that an appeal court ought to just decide if they think the judge got the case right, and that’s certainly a legitimate public debate to be had, but it isn’t what the law is.

Or at least, it wasn’t.

The problem with the Supreme Court hearing a case is that if they decide something, that can override any other previous decisions, and whilst they might, as in Re B, believe that they are making a very narrow qualification and adjustment to the law, it can result in far far bigger consequences.

Here’s what MacFarlane LJ said in the permission judgment

17. The short description of the matters I have in mind are as follows.  Firstly, at two stages in her judgment, the judge apparently referred to the test that she had to apply being a three stage test.  The judge quoted from Re W (paragraph 18), as I have just done, and then went on to say: “The second and third hurdle are conflated into one test”.  Then later in the next page of the judgment, she said again, “2nd and 3rd test have to be looked at together”.  I consider it is arguable that that displays an erroneous understanding of the test.  My reading of Re W is that the third fence that Thorpe LJ describes is one that is only faced by the parent if they succeeded in getting leave to oppose the adoption and they are sitting in court arguing the point in the full hearing.  That justifies to a degree granting permission to appeal, but if that was the only point in the case, I would have been reluctant to grant permission because the judge’s general approach to the determination of the issue before her seems to have been more generally in line with Re W and the threshold described there.

18. The second reason for granting permission to appeal arises from Re B.  First of all, in the judgments both of Lord Neuberger and of Baroness Hale, in particular at paragraphs 82 and 104 in the former, and 145, 198 and 215 in the case of the latter, very clear and firm descriptions are given of the high level of evidence that has to be established before a court can go on to make an adoption order in circumstances where the child’s parents do not consent to adoption.  Having read those judgments, and having read the Court of Appeal decision in Re W, I am concerned that the test in Re W may now need to be reconsidered in the light of the approach to adoption which has been restated in these very clear terms by the Supreme Court.  In particular, I am concerned that the words of my Lord, Thorpe LJ, that I have quoted from paragraph 17, where he describes as “exceptionally rare” a parent succeeding in an application of this sort may no longer be tenable.  Particularly I have in mind that a parent can only be in the position of making an application under section 47(5) if there has been a care order, a placement order, the placement of the child for adoption and an adoption application being lodged.  Those are the very circumstances that trigger the jurisdiction under section 47(5).

19. There is justification therefore in my view in giving leave so that the test to be applied in these applications for leave as cast in Re W can now be audited in the light of the judgments of the Supreme Court in Re B to ensure that it sets the threshold at a proportionate level.

20. Thirdly, and in a different context, each of the Justices in the Supreme Court describes the approach that is now to be taken at appellate level in relation to decisions which are not simply discretionary determinations by a judge, but are decisions which impact upon Convention rights, the human rights, of one or more of the parties.  Where an appeal takes place, Re B makes it plain that the appellate court has a duty to review the first instance judge’s compliance or otherwise with her obligation not to determine the application in a way that is incompatible with the Article 8 rights that are engaged.  Arguably such a review is, in my opinion, justified on the facts of this case.

21. Previously I would have applied a test of considering whether the prospective appellant here has a reasonable prospect of establishing that Parker J was “plainly wrong” in refusing permission to oppose.  Now it seems that the test is one that is potentially lower, namely of considering whether Parker J was “wrong”.  There is a need first of all to clarify which of those two tests does apply to an appeal of this sort on this topic, and if the lower level is applicable, namely that the judge was “wrong”, then on the facts of this case it becomes less clear that the mother has no reasonable prospect of persuading the full court that Parker J was indeed “wrong”.  That is particularly the case where, as I remind myself, the issue here is not the ultimate question of whether or not an adoption order should be made, but simply whether the mother can oppose the making of the order at a full hearing where the issue of parental consent is then determined afresh in the light of all the current circumstances.

Let’s look quickly at what the Supreme Court decided on the issue of the test for an appellant Court on threshold

They refer to all of the important cases on the test for appellant courts – G v G, Piglowska .

The Supreme Court then drew a distinction between cases where the Judge was exercising a discretion (presumably meaning that in those cases, Piglowska et al still applied, and the formulation was ‘plainly wrong’)  and cases where the Judge was not exercising a discretion, such as in answering the question as to whether threshold was met

(The underlining in this quotation from Re B is all mine, and it may help in your reading if you imagine me raising my eyebrows on those bits)

44. On any view there is nothing discretionary about a determination of whether the threshold is crossed. I consider that in the Court of Appeal Black LJ was correct, at para 9, to categorise it as, instead, a value judgement, particularly, but not only, when the court is surveying likelihood. Black LJ proceeded to adopt the approach of Ward LJ in the Court of Appeal in Re MA (Care Threshold), cited above, at para 56, that the question on an appeal against the refusal of a judge to hold that the threshold had been crossed was whether it exceeded the generous ambit of reasonable disagreement. In my judgment in that case, from the outcome of which I dissented, I asked, at para 34, whether it had been “open” to the judge to refuse to do so. In her judgment Hallett LJ asked, at para 44, whether the judge had been “plainly wrong” to refuse to do so. Although these are matters of little more than nuance, I consider in retrospect that in that case none of the three of us afforded sufficient weight to the evaluative, as opposed to the discretionary, nature of a determination whether the threshold is crossed. Ward LJ’s reference to the generous ambit of reasonable disagreement seems apt only to the review of an exercise of discretion, as in G v G. My own reference to whether the judge’s determination had been “open” to him now seems to me to have been singularly uninformative. Perhaps Hallett LJ came closest to the appropriate test in her reference to whether the determination had been “plainly wrong”. But it is generally better to allow adjectives to speak for themselves without adverbial support. What does “plainly” add to “wrong”? Either the word adds nothing or it serves to treat the determination under challenge with some slight extra level of generosity apt to one which is discretionary but not to one which is evaluative. Like all other members of the court, I consider that appellate review of a determination whether the threshold is crossed should be conducted by reference simply to whether it was wrong.

 

 

Given that the Supreme Court is binding on all of us, unless and until either Parliament changes the law, or the European Court of Human Rights says that the Supreme Court were wrong in Re B  (cough, cough), the effect of that passage is fourfold

  1. Indisputably, the test for an appeal about threshold is NOW whether the Judge was wrong, not whether the Judge was plainly wrong.
  1. As determining threshold often arises from the way a Judge determined FINDINGS of fact about an alleged injury or alleged abuse, an appeal about a Judge concluding that as a result of those findings, threshold is met, might well now be decided on “wrong” rather than “plainly wrong”
  1. The Supreme Court have developed a two tier test for appeals – one where the Judge was exercising a discretion (where they have to be plainly wrong)  and one where they are not (where they just have to be wrong)
  1. Given that the Supreme Court forgot to set out a test for which category any given decision would fall into, there is going to be satellite ligitation, as here as to which category the case falls into.

For what it is worth, my own view is that on the Re B  “plainly wrong v wrong” issue, the existing caselaw on refusing / granting leave to oppose an adoption order is extraordinarily plain that the Judge is exercising a discretion and thus I believe that it is untouched.

Having said that, I still cannot FATHOM why the Supreme Court considered that in determining whether threshold was met, the Court was not exercising judicial discretion, still less that this was the case “on any view”  and when one looks at what a Judge has to do when determining if given behaviour or allegations of such behaviour constitutes the threshold criteria, it is hard to argue that such process is markedly different to the test in the leave to oppose adoption (does the change warrant a reopening of the case).

I can see potentially that if a Court found that there HAD BEEN NO change in circumstances (the first limb of the test in leave to oppose adoption), post Re B, an appeal about that would probably be on the basis of whether the Judge was wrong, the second limb (given that change, is it in the child’s interests to reopen the case) would, in my mind, be on the basis of whether the Judge was plainly wrong.

But until the Court of Appeal tell us what they think about any suggestions that the Re B formulation will bleed out beyond simply threshold cases, we won’t know. Nor do we know whether that ‘wrong’ versus ‘plainly wrong’ formulation will bleed out into cases much wider than the Children Act 1989 and Adoption and Children Act 2002.

I remain amazed, that the Supreme Court ever considered that introducing a two tier test for appeals, and not clearly setting out how one is to sift categories, was something that they needed to do, or that it was ‘little more than nuance’

“All right then, I WILL give evidence

 

A discussion of the very tricky problem in Re R (A Child) 2012. It never ceases to amaze me how many appeals are not so much about difficult points of law so much as truly peculiar things happening in a Court room and a Judge trying and failing to get an impossible situation right. This is one of those.

 

 

This Court of Appeal decision relates to a very difficult position a Recorder found themselves in, towards the end of a finding of fact hearing in care proceedings.

 

You can find the case here:-

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed111044

 

 

The father was facing very grave allegations of sexual abuse, and the two primary witnesses would be the child victim, who was 8, and it was ruled not appropriate for her to give evidence, and the mother, who had refused to give evidence and about whom there was expert evidence to the effect that it would be wrong to make her give evidence against her will.

 

The Recorder delivered judgment, and uttered this phrase, which must have made alternating hearts on the bench sink or soar, depending on the briefs they held

 

 

“One would normally expect me now to go on to say what my conclusions are in relation to the sexual abuse allegations. However I must deal with the issue of fair trial.”

 

I like to imagine at that point, that the pen belonging to the father’s advocate wobbled hopefully on the page, if only just slightly.  The words “Oh, hello!” may have passed, albeit silently, over their lips.

 

8. He then expressed his hesitation in proceeding on the conventional path by saying at paragraph 47:

“What causes me considerable difficulty is what is submitted in paragraphs 169 to 175 by Mr Jackson. The father has an absolute and fundamental right to a fair trial on the issue of sexual abuse. The allegations against him and the findings sought against him are extremely serious.  They depend solely on the assertions of an 8-year old child, who I rule cannot be cross-examined and, as I have been at pains to point out earlier in the judgment, the court is entitled to make findings based on such evidence but must exercise a great deal of care.”

9. He then came to his conclusion in paragraph 50:

“The fact is father has been hit with ‘a double whammy’.  Not one but two of the most important witnesses in this case are unavailable to him for cross-examination. In my judgment, that is unfair or at least creates the perception of unfairness in father’s eyes and probably in the eyes of an officious bystander.  Whatever the findings I have made of father’s presentations of witness, he is entitled nevertheless to a fair hearing.  In the circumstances I am persuaded that the father’s right to a fair trial on the issue of sexual abuse has been prejudiced and that it would be unfair to make the sexual abuse findings sought by the Local Authority. “

Paragraphs 1, 2A, 3 and 5 of the schedule, insofar as they relate to father, were accordingly to be deleted. 

 

 

The Court of Appeal were not terribly flattering about this:-

 

10. Now, with all due respect to the Recorder, I find that a bizarre piece of reasoning and a bizarre conclusion.

11. In these cases the opportunity of the accused parent to cross-examine the eight-year-old informant is effectively zero.  So the Recorder has effectively argued that, because the mother did not testify and thus the father had no opportunity to cross-examine her, that amounted to a breach of his Article 6 rights.

12. It seems to me that, on a proper view, the husband’s litigation case was not prejudiced but rather aided by the absence of the mother, whose evidence was discounted but whose evidence, had it been available, might have been a nail in his coffin.  So for my part, although it is not the issue before us, I think the judge was wrong to hold himself debarred from proceeding to rule on the local authority’s numbered paragraphs of the schedule by the absence of the mother’s evidence.

 

 

But this wasn’t actually the point of the Appeal, we move on

 

13. But I must move to the developments over the lunch hour.  Counsel for the local authority, who had the mother available, explained to her that the judge had announced that he was not going to make adverse findings because she had not testified.  Her reaction was “Very well I will go into the witness box“, and that was the application Miss Greenham advanced to the judge on the return of all at 2.00.  Obviously for the Recorder that was a totally unexpected and difficult situation, and it is always these totally unexpected and difficult situations that are the hardest for a Recorder to get right.

14. The judge decided, having heard argument, that he was not going to take the course that Ms Greenan invited and again he explained himself by reference to the father’s asserted rights as advocated by Mr Jackson.

15. Paragraph 56 is in these terms:

“Mr Jackson submits that if I reopen the evidence now, and hear from the mother on the issue of preoccupation and false memory and on all the other matters he wants to cross-examine her about and here evidence about [S], that I will not be coming to it with an open mind.  I can say until I am blue in the face that I will come to it with an open mind and I would like to think that I would come to it with an open mind but justice not only has to be done but has to be seen to be done and I well understand that Mr R [the father] would have no confidence in any decision I made after hearing fresh evidence because he would always be of the view that I made my views fairly clear and prejudged those issues. This would, in effect, compound his complaint that he has not been given a fair trial and it is for that reason that I agree with Mr Jackson that it would not be fair to father to re-open the issues upon which I have already ruled.”

16. The judge had not, effectively, ruled beyond saying that the fair trial argument precluded him from ruling, and here we see the fair trial argument being deployed equally effectively in the reverse direction.  Earlier it was advanced, “Absent mother; can be no fair trial“.  Then when mother appears it is said “Well, to admit her evidence would preclude a fair trial.”

 

 

I’m sure that you can read between the lines on this and see where the Court of Appeal are about to go…

 

I think, with great respect, that the judge in the heat of the moment reached the wrong conclusion.

17. The question of fairness is objective and not subjective to one of the parties.  It was all extremely unfortunate.  It should not have happened as it did, but once it had happened the judge really had no alternative but to labour further in this rather unpromising field.  I think he had already spent ten days and of course it was unattractive to all that time would have to be found maybe for another two days in order to complete the process.

18. But, as these appeals have demonstrated, there was effectively no other practical choice.  There was no other practical solution and accordingly I would allow the appeal and send the case back with a request to the Recorder to resume the trial process, keeping it within the tightest possible bounds, hearing the evidence of the mother and then in the light of submissions deciding what other evidence he was compelled to hear.  But Ms Greenan has said that she is confident that the re-opening of the case can be kept within tight bounds and it is important that it should be.

 

 

I have to say that I feel for the Recorder here, having delivered a judgment, a key witness then decides that not being content with the outcome, they would wish to give evidence.   It does seem to me that the Recorder may well have been positioned somewhere between K2 and one of those boozers visited by Ross Kemp in “Britain’s most violent pubs”    – or between a rock and a hard place, if you prefer.

 

Don’t hear the evidence of the mother and you get appealed by the LA / the mother.

 

Hear the evidence – after having concluded the trial and given a judgment that finds that the facts against father can’t be safely made out,  and the father is going to appeal you if you alter your findings.  If you don’t alter your findings, the LA and mother are probably going to say that you couldn’t have approached mother’s evidence with an open mind given that you’d already given a judgment which didn’t make the findings against father.

 

 

If I had been faced with that dilemma, I think I would have taken the same way out as Basil Fawlty does in “Gourmet Night” faced with the grisly task of having to introduce a Mr and Mrs Twitchen, to two other dinner guests, one of whom has a facial twitch.  He attempts with “Colonel and Mrs Hall, may I introduce you to Mr and Mrs… phahbarma…”  and when that doesn’t work, fakes an fainting episode.

 

“So sorry, I fainted”

 

 

[I had hoped to put the clip here, but can’t find it online. Anyway, from the same episode, Basil losing it with his car “I’ve laid it on the line to you time and time again.... I’m going to give you a damn good thrashing”]

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78b67l_yxUc

 

fawlty

“Oh don’t leave me alone like this” – the legal test on Stays

Apologies both for the lack of blogging (have been on puppy-adoption leave) and bringing East 17 into this. Possibly the first time East 17 and the Children Act 1989 have been combined together, unless there was a case conference about whether having your child dressed head to toe in Burberry was emotionally harmful…

I thought I’d share the relatively recent decision on applications for Stays in care proceedings, firstly because it filled a gap in caselaw  (it remains a source of amazement and inspiration to me that nearly twenty years after the Children Act took effect, there are still gaps to be filled in), and secondly because I was trying to find this the other week, knowing that it existed and what the gist of it was, and I had a hell of a job…

The tl:dr version is that the case (Haringey 2011) derives these five principles to be applied in any application for a stay :-

  1. The Court must take into account all the circumstances of the case
  2. A stay is the exception rather than the general rule
  3. The applicant seeking the stay should provide cogent evidence that the appeal will be stifled or rendered nugatory unless a stay is granted
  4. The court applies a balance of harm test, in which the prejudice to the successful party must be carefully considered
  5. The Court should take into account the prospects of the appeal succeeding, and only consider a stay where there are strong grounds of appeal or a strong likelihood of success.

 

 

The word nugatory struck me as being potentially interesting, as well as having good ‘mouth-feel’  (like the word I got from Inky Fools this week ‘apricate’ meaning to bask in the sun)  and so I double-checked it  – it means ‘trifling’ or ‘of no value’  and derives from Latin meaning ‘jester’ or ‘trifler’

 

 

Neutral Citation Number: [2011] EWHC 3544 (Fam)

Case No: BT 09 C 00235

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

7th October 2011

B e f o r e :

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN
____________________

Between:

NB

Applicant

- and -

LB OF HARINGEY

Respondent

____________________

____________________

MISS TERESA PRITCHARD (instructed by Eskinazi & Co.) for the Applicant
MR. JUSTIN AGEROS (instructed by LB Haringey) for the Respondent
MISS JANE PROBYN (instructed by Donald Galbraith & Co.) for the Guardian

____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN:

  1. Yesterday, at 5.30 p.m., the North London Family Proceedings Court made an interim care order in respect of JG, who I think is nearly 3 years old. The application before me today is for a stay pending an appeal of that decision, which appeal would likely be heard on 28th October 2011 by the Circuit Judge in the Barnet County Court.
  1. Given the nature of the application and of the decision I have to make, it is important that I do not say more than is strictly necessary to decide the application and do not say anything which might influence the outcome of the appeal one way or the other.
  1. The application was made against a backdrop of considerable chaos in the life of this child. His mother is an admitted drug user who claims to have foresworn the use of drugs until comparatively recently, six weeks ago. She is a person who has not complied with agreements and directions for testing for drugs notwithstanding the plainest warning to her on the face of an interim order of the court that were she not to do so the inevitable inferences would be drawn; and she is a person who maintains a close relationship with her partner who is in prison convicted of serious domestic violence upon her.
  1. The position of the mother before the justices was that the interim threshold was not passed. In contrast, the position of the guardian was that the interim threshold was indeed passed but that an interim supervision order rather than an interim care order should be made. The position of the local authority was that the interim threshold was passed and an interim care order should be made. The result of the case was that an interim care order was made. The magistrates produced their reasons in an extremely abbreviated period of time. Inevitably, analysis of those reasons reveals that they may have been better put but the pressure of time meant that defects were almost inevitable.
  1. A complaint is that section 5 of the written decision relies only on the risk of domestic violence at the hands of a man who is in prison and will remain in prison until the matter is next considered by the justices, and does not make any explicit reference to the other matters, although in their account of the history it is clear that those other matters were at the forefront of their mind, which is hardly surprising given that the mother herself had given oral evidence before them.
  1. The appeal is governed by Part 30 of the Family Procedural Rules 2010 and Rule 30.8 states that an appeal notice does not operate as a stay of any order or decision of the lower court unless the lower court or appeal court orders otherwise. There are numerous authorities bearing on whether a stay should be granted although, rather surprisingly, there is none so far as I am aware on whether those tests are modified in a case involving a child, whether in private law proceedings or public law proceedings. Plainly, the test which I will adumbrate in a moment has to be seen through the welfare prism that overarches all family proceedings. That said, the principles cannot, in my judgment, be materially different whatever the nature of the dispute in hand.
  1. The leading authorities are Hammond Suddard Solicitors v Agrichem International Holdings Ltd http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2002/474.html<br />
    Link to BAILII version” href=”http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2002/474.html&#8221;>[2002] EWCA Civ 474, Contract Facilities Ltd v The Estates of Rees (decd) [2003] EWCA Civ 465, the old Court of Appeal case of Wilson v Church (No. 2) [1879] 12 Ch Div, 454, an unreported decision of the Court of Appeal, Winchester Cigarette Machinery Ltd v Payne (No. 2), 15th December 1993, and a helpful decision which seeks to draw all the authorities together given by the Chief Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong, Ma J, Wenden Engineering Services Co Ltd v Lee Shing UEY Construction Co Ltd, HCCT No. 90 of 1999. In that latter case the Chief Judge stated:

“7. The existence of merely an arguable appeal cannot by itself amount to a sufficient reason to justify a stay. It can be put this way, the existence of an arguable appeal, that is one with reasonable prospects of success, is the minimum requirement before a court would even consider granting a stay. In other words, however exceptional the circumstances may be otherwise justifying a stay of execution, if the court is not convinced that there exists arguable grounds of appeal no stay will be granted. Conversely, however, the existence of a strong appeal or a strong likelihood that the appeal will succeed, will usually by itself enable a stay to be granted because this would constitute a good reason for a stay. (See Winchester Cigarette Machinery Ltd)

8. In most cases the court will not be dealing with the extreme situations I have referred to. Often, it will be faced with simply the existence of an arguable appeal. Here, it becomes necessary for the appellant to provide additional reasons as to why a stay is justified. The demonstration of an appeal being rendered nugatory is one example albeit a common one. Here, where it is demonstrated that an appeal would be rendered nugatory if a stay was not granted the court may require no more than the existence of an arguable appeal. Correspondingly, where it cannot be shown that an appeal would be rendered nugatory if a stay were not granted, the court will require in the absence of any other factors the applicant to demonstrate strong grounds of appeal or a strong likelihood of success.

From these authorities I derive the following five principles in relation to the application before me. First, the court must take into account all the circumstances of the case. Second, a stay is the exception rather than the general rule. Third, the party seeking a stay should provide cogent evidence that the appeal will be stifled or rendered nugatory unless a stay is granted. Fourth, in exercising its discretion the court applies what is in effect a balance of harm test in which the likely prejudice to the successful party must be carefully considered. Fifth, the court should take into account the prospects of the appeal succeeding. Only where strong grounds of appeal or a strong likelihood of success is shown should a stay be considered.”

  1. In this case, given the proximity of the appeal hearing and given the nature of the dispute, namely, the effective residence of the child for the next three weeks and one day, there is no question that the appeal will be stifled were a stay not to be granted. It therefore follows, in my view, that in order for a stay to be awarded it has to be demonstrated today that there are strong grounds of appeal or a strong likelihood of success. I find it impossible on the material before me to reach that conclusion. Indeed, in circumstances where it was accepted by the guardian, and indeed positively asserted by the local authority, that the interim threshold had been passed, it likely becomes a simple question of analysing whether the exercise of discretion made by the justices to award an interim care order rather than an interim supervision order has miscarried or it is otherwise demonstrated to be plainly wrong. On the material before me I cannot say that that is the case, although I am not, I emphasise, deciding the appeal. What I am deciding is that I am not satisfied on the material before me that there are strong grounds of appeal or a strong likelihood of success and the application is therefore refused.
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