I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time, the Court of Appeal decision that it is perfectly lawful for the Court to make a wardship order as an alternative to a Care Order, where the child’s accommodation can be dealt with by s20.
I blogged about the first instance decision on this case here :-
And the long and the short of it was that the child had a reactive attachment disorder and the placement with her adoptive parents had broken down as a result. The child had been accommodated, and all were agreed that rehabilitation was not possible, but an argument ensued about the nature of the order. The LA sought a Care Order, and the child’s parents sought wardship, arguing that the LA’s shabby conduct towards them meant that they could not be trusted to hold the lion’s share of PR. It was very clear from the judgment that the original judge had a great deal sympathy with the parents case and resolved most of the factual disputes in their favour. He said that wardship would be the best order, but that he was prohibited in doing so by s100, specifcially the prohibition on making a child a ward of Court where that required the LA to accommodate the child, and made a Care Order.
Following my blog post, I was contacted by the MacKenzie friend assisting the parents in their appeal, who was a thoroughly nice chap, and I gave a tiny bit of help on the skeleton, and together with Ms SuesspiciousMinds helped put them in touch with some barristers who were willing to take on their case pro bono (The LSC having scandalously decided that they should not be funded for the appeal – which they WON, which surely suggests that it had some merit?)
I am delighted that justice triumphed in this case, I look forward to seeing the whole judgment, and the parents, who have been treated very badly by the LA here, have been extremely kind in their thanks.
I also understand that as a result, this child, who was in massive need of therapeutic support has finally started to receive some, which is far more important than the law.
When I started this blog I thought it might one day help a lawyer and save them a bit of research, or that it might stir a memory in Court and allow someone to recall that “There’s a case about this”, but I never dreamt that it would actually help a real person in even a small way. So I am chuffed to bits.
E (A CHILD) (2012)
FAMILY LAW – LOCAL GOVERNMENT
CARE ORDERS : CHILDREN : COURTS’ POWERS AND DUTIES : RESIDENTIAL ACCOMMODATION : WARDS OF COURT : WARDSHIP : CHILD ACCOMMODATED UNDER S.20 OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989 : WHETHER S.100(2)(B) OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989 PREVENTS CHILD BEING MADE WARD OF COURT : CHILDREN ACT 1989 s.100, s.20, s.100(3), s.100(2), s.100(2)(b), s.100(2)(a) : FPR PD 12D INHERENT JURISDICTION (INCLUDING WARDSHIP) PROCEEDINGS 2010
The court was required to determine whether it was prevented by the Children Act 1989 s.100 from making a child (E) a ward of court where E was accommodated under s.20.
E had been voluntarily accommodated by the local authority under s.20. The judge in the hearing below had to choose between making E the subject of a care order, as sought by the first respondent local authority, no order at all, or a wardship order. In making that decision the judge noted that s.100(3) prevented the local authority from making an application for wardship without the leave of the court, and that if E’s parents, the appellants, wished to issue wardship proceedings they would face the obstacle of s.100(2) . The judge concluded that for the same reasons in K (Children with Disabilities: Wardship), Re  EWHC 4031 (Fam),  2 F.L.R. 745, a wardship order offered more than a care order, but that were it not for s.100(2) he would have made E a ward of the court. He also stated that notwithstanding Re K and Re F (Mental Health Act Guardianship)  FLR 192, he did not have jurisdiction to make E a ward of court given that she was accommodated pursuant to s.20. In light of that, the judge made a care order ruling that no order at all would have been an even worse outcome.
The appellants submitted, in reliance on Re K and FPR PD 12D, that it could not be the case that s.100(2)(b) rendered it impossible for a wardship order to co-exist with the accommodation of a child pursuant to s.20. The local authority submitted that Re K was of little assistance as it could not be stated authoritatively that the accommodation of the children considered therein was voluntary accommodation; they might have been accommodated under another statutory provision. It further contended in reliance on note 3A-1930 in a handbook on the operation of the Children Act 1989, that FPR PD 12D was erroneous in law.
HELD: The local authority’s submissions were not as persuasive as those of the appellants. In respect of Re K, it was more likely that the accommodation of the children therein had been made under s.20, Re K considered. It was very unlikely that the court had not had proper regard to the statutory limitations stated within s.100. The suggestion that FPR PD 12D had been written in error was bold given the care taken in drafting such guidelines. The note referenced did not support the local authority’s argument, not least because it was directed at s.100(2)(a) and not s.100(2)(b). The effect of s.100 was to prevent a court from making any order which had the effect of requiring a child to be placed into care or under local authority supervision. That outcome could only be achieved by going through the court’s inherent jurisdiction. There was nothing either explicitly or implicitly stated within s.100 which prevented a wardhsip order being made where a child was not required to be accommodated but was voluntarily accommodated. If agreement for accommodation ceased, the court would not be taken to be in a position to require the local authority to accommodate or supervise a child. The judge had not been prevented from making the order that he thought was more likely to address E’s welfare needs. Accordingly, the care order was set aside and replaced with a wardship order.
For the appellant: Martin Downs (Pro bono)
For the first respondent local authority: Lorna Meyer QC, Elizabeth McGrath
For the Guardian: Elizabeth Walker
For the first respondent local authority: In-house solicitor
For the Guardian: Lloyds