Re R (A child) and R (Children) 2013
In this one, the LA had obtained Placement Orders for two children, with a plan of placing them together for adoption. The mother’s appeal against that order didn’t get heard by the Court of Appeal until a year after the orders were made, by which time, the landscape had changed, not only in terms of the developing jurisprudence but that the search for a placement together, whether that be adoption or long-term fostering had not been successful.
The Court at the time the Placement Orders were made had been adamant that the children had to stay together, no matter what.
The LA had already revoked the Placement Order for the eldest child (who is eleven now, and had been ten at the time of the Placement Order) accepting that they had no prospect of finding an adoptive placement for her. They took a pragmatic decision to revoke the Placement Order in relation to the youngest child as well (that child being five).
In the course of mounting the appeal Mr Naish seeks to challenge as a matter of principle the judge’s decision to make a placement for adoption order, notwithstanding the fact that he gave the priority that I have already indicated to the need to keep the children together, and although the mother now has an extant application to revoke the placement order for N – that in fact is due to be heard next week before the court in Taunton – Mr Naish says as a matter of principle that, if the original placement order was not justified as a matter of evidence and law, it should be set aside and the mother should not be in a position of having to now apply to revoke the placement order, as she is doing.
6. During the course of submissions this morning we have been greatly assisted by counsel, Mr Naish, but also Mr Powell for the local authority who, rather than solely addressing the legal issues which are raised in this appeal, have grounded their observations to this court in the reality of the fact that the situation which everybody hoped could be achieved when the case was determined in May last year now on the local authority’s case cannot be achieved. It is not simply a matter of making a choice between placing the children together or separating them; the local authority says that there is no home available that could meet the first option of that choice, namely providing a home together. It therefore seemed to us, as a matter both of trying to meet the welfare of the children but also the essential justice of the case and the need to respect the parents’ position, that it was appropriate now that, instead of applying to revoke the placement order, the whole question of whether placement for adoption for N was justified should be considered from a standing start, as it were, before the court, in the light of the circumstances which are so totally different from the ones that it hoped would be in place with both children settled in one home.
7. Mr Powell has taken instructions and he indicates that the local authority agree that the right way forward is for the placement order for N to be revoked and for such proceedings that now move forward in the Taunton County Court to be including, if the local authority choose to do so, a fresh application for a placement order which would be determined – and in particular the parents’ consent being determined – in the light of the circumstances as they now are.
8. We welcome that concession by the local authority; the local authority therefore do not oppose the appeal made in relation to N’s placement order, and Ms Taurah, on behalf of the children, similarly makes no opposition to that course. Therefore it seems to me neither wise nor necessary for this court to descend to the detailed legal arguments that have been put before us by counsel in this unusual case. For my part, I would simply accept that this is a pragmatic and child-centred outcome, which allows Judge Bromilow to re-evaluate N’s welfare in the light of the circumstances that now obtain, and so for my part I would allow the appeal and set aside the placement order that has been made in relation to N on 9 May 2012.
So more of a tactical retreat than the Court of Appeal granting the mother’s appeal, but I think one could guess which way the wind was blowing here. The LA were probably also not wanting the Court of Appeal to get too heavily stuck into the issue of sibling placement and the Judge’s view that the children should be kept together ‘no matter what’, given that in the real world that had not been achieveable.