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Rock bands, impenetrable vocabulary and Peers of the realm making off with wards of Court

There’s a High Court case that I’m going to briefly write about, called Egeneonu v Egeneonu 2017 .  First though it needs an intro.

About eleven years ago, when I was younger and cooler, I had friends who were in a rock band. They were pretty good – it was sort of Swamp-rock before Kings of Leon got big, and they did some decent gigs. We went to a gig, and they were on third. So we got there early, because it was a venue we hadn’t been to before, to check it out and hear the other bands.  So, we all sort of thought we were fairly rock and roll – my friends were in a band, I was a friend of the band (I can’t play an instrument – I got demoted from triangle to ‘scrapey maraca thing’ in the school orchestra).   This venue made us think otherwise. The first clue was the amount of leather the people in the club were wearing , the second was that the only two drinks the bar was selling were Jack Daniels (straight up) and Heineken (in bottles, which were served with the caps still on – everyone else in the club was opening them with their teeth or they had knives). The first band came on, and immediately the lead singer stage-dived. Not that unusual a thing to see at a gig, but it is unusual to see someone do it when the front rows aren’t full of people to catch you, and the floor is concrete.  Once the lead singer got back up, they started their first song, which was called, without irony “I got f**d by Jesus”

 

This was a gig where Jim and William Reid might have thought , “Oh, this is a bit hardcore”

At that point, all of us looked at each other, and you could see that we were all thinking – “I thought I was pretty rock, but I’m out of my depth here”

This case of the President’s – I thought I was pretty law geek, but it was too much for me. I had to keep limping away and try to breathe non-geek air for a bit to recover – (watching You-Tube videos of lumberjacks, adverts for power-drills and such) – I didn’t think it was safe to go from this much geek to normal in one go, in case I got the geek-bends.

So I’m not going to talk about the case much – let’s just say that if you want to be able to distinguish what is a civil contempt of court and what is a criminal contempt of court, and particularly if you want to know THAT, and how that applies where you’re dealing with wardship, this case is (eventually) the answer.

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2017/43.html

 

There were two bits that grabbed me though – and honestly, this might be the least geeky bits in the whole thing, the rest of it is way worse.

 

Firstly, this was a sentence that appeared without further explanation or clarification. To be fair, it’s an extract from a very old judgment, but it is a sentence in which I didn’t understand FOUR of the words. And not just didn’t understand them, had not an inkling or approximation or even a guess at them.

 

Here it is:-

The Court of King’s Bench held that the peerage and its privileges afforded no protection in such a case; and to make the authority more applicable, the Court illustrated the decision by referring to the writ of homine replegiando against which, if a peer was refractory, it was held to be clear that he must be committed; that is, if he eloigned the body of the villein or person sought to be replieved.

 

 

I particularly like that whatever was going on immediately prior to that, the Court felt that it could be ILLUSTRATED by referring to the writ of homine replegiando against which, if a peer was refractory, it was held to be clear that he must be committed; that is, if he eloigned the body of the villein or person sought to be replieved.   I.e this is an attempt at an explanation to make something simpler…

 

Let’s try and unpick it

 

Homine repligiando is a way of getting out of custody (like habeas corpus) but by upon giving bail. So a bit like bail.

If a peer was refractory – he would be stubborn or unmanageable, or resistant to some process.  (I like that, I might end up using it)

If he eloigned  –  to remove or carry away at a distance, or to move yourself a considerable distance away

Replieved –  to have recovered goods or property from their rightful owner.

 

So using an example of bail, if a peer was unmanageable, he must be committed, if he removed someone who ought to have been returned to his rightful place ?  I think.

 

You may need to do something ungeeky now to decompress – read some pages of Andy McNab’s Bravo Two Zero or something.

 

The next bit I liked was this case

 

  • For specific cases where these principles have actually been applied, they refer to two cases in particular which I need to consider in some detail: Wellesley v The Duke of Beaufort, Long Wellesley’s Case (1831) 2 Russ & M 639, (1831) 39 ER 538, and Re Crump [1963] Crim LR 666, 777, fuller report (1963) 107 SJ 682.
  • Long Wellesley was the father of a ward who, by order of the court, had been placed in the custody of third parties in Surrey; the order restrained Wellesley, although he was not a party to the suit, from removing her from their care or custody. Wellesley subsequently removed her from their house, took her to London and then arranged for her to be removed from the jurisdiction. Brought up before Lord Brougham LC, he professed not to know where she was and said that he would never bring her again within the jurisdiction of the court. He was committed to the Fleet for contempt, the order reciting that:

 

“His Lordship does declare the conduct of [Wellesley] in removing the said infant … and in concealing the present residence of the said infant to be a contempt of this Court; and his Lordship doth further declare the conduct of [Wellesley] in forcibly and without consent removing the infant ward of this Court, the king’s subject, beyond the realm, and his refusal now in person coram judice to inform the Lord Chancellor where the said infant is to be found, to be a gross and aggravated contempt of this Court.”

Wellesley sought his release, pleading privilege of Parliament as a Member of Parliament. Lord Brougham held, 665, that privilege protected against civil but not against criminal process. The question, therefore, was whether the contempt committed by Wellesley was criminal or merely civil. The Lord Chancellor held that the contempt was criminal, so Wellesley was returned to the Fleet.

 

  • In the course of his judgment, the Lord Chancellor, 669, posed a rhetorical question:

 

“Who are the persons most likely to be guilty of those very offences which this Court is most frequently called upon to visit with punishment in order to protect its wards? If other Courts have a certain proportion of their suitors in Parliament, this Court, from the importance of the matters brought before it, has a much larger proportion there; and if there be any cases in which members of Parliament – young commoners, and young lords – are more likely than others to become obnoxious to our jurisdiction, it is precisely in cases relating to the safety of heiresses and other wards.”

In which (I think) the Lord Chancellor gives a judgment in which he suggests that the most likely people to run off with young vulnerable female wards of Court are obviously MPs and members of the House of Lords, because that’s just the sortof thing that they do.   Perhaps he means that they were ‘rescuing’ said wards. (Also “to become obnoxious to our jurisdiction” is just lovely)

So there you go, you have learned a few new words, you have found that the President’s lung capacity for law-geekery greatly exceeds mine (by a factor of around fifty, I’d say) and that if you’d been doing wardship law in the 19th century, your biggest concern would have been wayward MPs and Peers scooping up the ward and making off with them.

I shall now eloign myself from your presence and I apologise for my refractory and indeed obnoxious behaviour in writing this piece.

 

Syria, children and electronic tagging

 

In what has been a challenging month, I have to confess that my heart sank right into my boots when I saw  Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, had published a judgment about Emergency Protection Orders.  I’m still recovering from Re X, his last major contribution to this legal domain, and that was nine years ago.

 

But Re X (children) and Y (children) (Emergency Protection Orders) 2015   http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2265.html

[Weird, the link doesn’t seem to be working. Try again

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2265.html      ]

 

is not actually about expanding the fourteen point guidance into a two-hundred and nine point guidance, so you can read on without fear or dread.

 

Note, I am lying. This is a judgment from the President. Have you ever seen a judgment from the President that made a Local Authority lawyer happy?  If I wrote the Top Ten list of case-law that had made my job harder, the President’s fingerprints would be on seven of them – going right back to seven days a week contact.  This does not buck that particular trend.

 

It is one of the cases where a family are accused/suspected/found  (delete as relevant to the particular case) of trying to take their children out to Syria to join up with ISIS (or whatever David Cameron thinks that we should call them this week), and what the State can do about it.

 

At the moment, this responsibility rests on the shoulders of Social Services and the Children Act 1989, and Parliament is more than welcome to produce some proper legislation that takes that off us and gives it to someone else, any time now.

 

A lot of this case is very factual about the circumstances, and I daresay that it will be very helpful to all the LA’s who are making applications to Court about such families.

 

[I have always wondered where the families go after that EPO. If a Court has ruled that you intended to take your child into a warzone and join up with terrorists and removes the child, what sort of assessment gets you the child BACK at the end of the final hearing? Aren’t the EPOs basically determinative of final outcome?  Well, that was the thrust of this case, whether there was some sort of arrangement that would allow the children to be back in the parents care with some form of cast-iron guarantee that they would not leave the jurisdiction. The important thing to remember here is that the Court had not conducted a finding of fact hearing about the parents intentions and plans and thus what risk the children were at – they had just determined that there were REASONABLE grounds to believe that the children were at risk of significant harm requiring interim protections]

 

However, the President would not be the President if he didn’t try to stretch the law a bit, and so that’s the point of interest.    [Occasionally, the President’s approach to the law reminds me of the year at school where all of us were given a brand new white plastic ruler to replace the wooden ones – the rulers were each labelled “Helix – Shatterproof” , an ill-thought out boast, which led to all of us industriously breaking them that very morning to demonstrate that they were not in fact Shatterproof.   I say ill-thought out, but of course, the school had to get on to Helix and order another 250 that same day, so for Helix it was a profitable claim]

 

Thinking about the cases over the intervening weekend, it occurred to me to think about the possibility of electronic tagging. Accordingly, on 5 July 2015 I sent the following email:

“I am sending this email to the advocates in both … cases. Please make sure that it is communicated as soon as possible to all concerned.

It has occurred to me to wonder whether in these cases it may be appropriate to consider the making of electronic tagging orders: see Re C (Abduction: Interim Directions: Accommodation by Local Authority) [2003] EWHC 3065 (Fam), [2004] 1 FLR 653, and Re A (Family Proceedings: Electronic Tagging) [2009] EWHC 710 (Fam), [2009] 2 FLR 891 (setting out a form of order).

Could counsel please consider this possibility.”

This time there are precedents (though fairly obscure ones, which I had to go and read). They relate of course to the powers under the Child Custody and Abduction Act 1985.  Those powers aren’t exactly delineated to require someone to submit to electronic tagging, but in the modern era of law as they don’t say that they DON’T give that power, it could be interpreted thus

5 Interim powers.

Where an application has been made to a court in the United Kingdom under the Convention, the court may, at any time before the application is determined, give such interim directions as it thinks fit for the purpose of securing the welfare of the child concerned or of preventing changes in the circumstances relevant to the determination of the application.

 

Of course here, though, there is not an application before the Court under the Convention. These are EPO applications, governed by the Children Act 1989.   It is beyond my working knowledge to consider whether an attempt by the persons who hold PR (when there are no Children Act 1989 orders) could find themselves foul of the Child Custody and Abduction Act 1985   (if everyone with PR agrees that the children will go to Syria, who are the children being abducted FROM?).   It would be different if the Court had made Children Act 1989 orders, or were seised with such an application, since there’s authority to say that the Court can go on to make orders compelling the children’s return to the jurisdiction.

 

Anyway, let’s see what the President does with the idea of electronic tagging.

 

It is worth noting that the parents were keen on the idea – because it was obviously their best shot of having the children returned to their care  – this being a case where the Court had not found any evidence that the children had been exposed to radicalisation.   So the Court did not have to consider whether there was power to impose it on the family.   (Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward were counsel representing the parents)

 

  1. Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward take as their starting point the fact that, the precipitating events apart, the parents are, in other respects, good parents who are bringing up their children lovingly and well. Although it would seem that all the children are doing as well as might be expected in foster care, there is no doubt that they are missing their parents very much and that they are, in consequence, suffering harm. In these circumstances Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward question both the necessity and the proportionality of the children remaining in foster care. Their safety, both physical and emotional, can, it is submitted, properly be met while the children remain at home; their safety, whether physical or emotional, does not necessitate their remaining in foster care.
  2. In the final analysis, say counsel, my task is to evaluate the risk of harm deriving from the possibility of flight and balance that against the undoubted harm the children are suffering because of continued separation from their parents. Given the adequate safeguards against the risk of fight which they assert can be put in place, the balance, they submit, comes down in favour of returning the children to their parents.
  3. Both local authorities are clear that they feel unable to exercise the parental responsibility vested in them by the interim care orders unless the children remain in foster care. That being so, Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward say that the appropriate order is, in each case, an order discharging the interim care orders, making the children wards of court, and placing them in the care and control of their parents, subject, however, to a raft of stringent protective orders.
  4. What Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward propose is in each case an order containing: passport orders in the usual wide-ranging form and an all-ports alert; injunctions restraining the parents removing the children from the jurisdiction and requiring them to live with the children at a specified address; and provisions for the monitoring of the parents and the children by a combination of unannounced visits by the local authority, regular reporting to a specified police station or local authority office and, in the case of the parents, electronic tagging. It is proposed that the order should include a provision requiring the parents to swear on the Quran that they will abide by each and every provision of the order and that the order should spell out the consequences (including but not limited to committal for contempt of court) in the event of any non-compliance.
  5. There is no need for me to consider whether I would have power to impose such orders on unwilling or recalcitrant parents, for all the parents here are willing to submit to whatever restrictions, including electronic tagging, I think it necessary to impose for the safety of the children. That said, I am inclined to agree with the views expressed by Singer J in the passage from his judgment in Re C (Abduction: Interim Directions: Accommodation by Local Authority) [2003] EWHC 3065 (Fam), [2004] 1 FLR 653, para 46, which I refer to below.
  6. Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward realistically accept that, however stringent the protective measures which might be put in place, there will always be some risk that the parents will be able to flee with the children. But they counsel me against being too concerned by remote or fanciful possibilities. An order the court makes is not, they submit, to be measured by the standard of certainty or infallibility but by reference to what Mr Rowley called real-world possibilities. Judged by that standard, he says, the risk is slight indeed, in reality reduced to an effective nullity if the parents are, as they propose, subjected to GPS electronic tagging (as to which see below).
  7. To get the children to Syria, he says, the parents would: have to cut the tag (thereby triggering an immediate alarm), having made arrangements to travel immediately to a point of exit from the United Kingdom; have to evade detection while in transit there; have to evade detection at the point of exit despite their being in a family group, the all-ports alert, and publicity about them being on the run; have to be able to pass through the immigration controls of a second country without detection; and have to be able to cross from that country (or some third country) into Syria. Whilst he accepts the possibility that the parents have the connections and means to achieve all this, Mr Rowley disputes that there is any evidence upon which I could reasonably infer it.
  8. More tellingly, perhaps, Mr Rowley makes the point that if the parents do indeed have the means to achieve this, the children are not safe in their foster placements. For if they have the resourcefulness and determination postulated by the local authorities and the guardians, the parents would by the same measure be able to track the children down and abduct them. The reality, he suggests, is that nothing short of actual incarceration of the children would ensure the complete eradication of all risk of their being removed to Syria. In truth, he says, the local authorities and the guardians are prepared to countenance a level of risk in the present placements while requiring from the proposed placements with the parents the certainty that all risk has been eradicated.

 

 

Mr Rowley (and no doubt Miss Woodward) go high up on my list of people who have been able to develop a compelling argument from unpromising beginnings.  They manage to make the parents position sound completely reasonable and the Local Authority’s anxieties utterly unreasonable.  In an atmosphere where the pulbic concern about terrorisim and children going to Syria could not be higher. That takes some skill.   One has to remember, of course, that the Court had not conducted any finding of fact hearing about the circumstances and intentions of the parents in making those trips or plans for the trips.

 

To Local Authority lawyers, I’m sorry that I wrongly suggested that you could read this judgment without dread. Of course you know what is about to happen now.

 

  1. The law, even the criminal law in the days of capital punishment, has never adopted a standard of absolute certainty or infallibility. So the mere fact that there is, as Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward accept, some risk that the parents will, if so minded, be able to flee with the children, the fact that it is no doubt possible to construct hypothetical scenarios of how they might achieve this, is not determinative of the question I have to decide. That question, in the final analysis comes down, in my judgment, to two linked inquiries: how great is the risk that the parents will, if so minded, be able to flee with the children, and is that a degree of risk which the court is, in all the circumstances, prepared to accept as tolerable?
  2. Given the potential consequences if the parents, being minded to flee with the children, were able to achieve their objective, it seems to me that what the court needs is a very high degree of assurance, albeit falling some way short of absolute certainty, that the protective measures put in place will be effective to thwart any attempted flight. This is ultimately a matter for judgement and evaluation, in relation to matters, in particular those dealt with DS Y, DS Z and Mr Fearnly, which I am in as good a position to assess as any of the social workers or guardians, none of whom can bring to this particular exercise in evaluation either professional training or (as they all accepted) any previous experience of any remotely comparable case. Accordingly, I have to come to my own conclusion, though obviously feeding into my overall evaluation the expert views of the social workers and the guardians as to the impact on the children of their continuing separation from their parents.
  3. At the end of the day, and having given the matter the most anxious thought both during and since the two hearings, I have concluded that the comprehensive and far-reaching package of protective measures proposed by Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward does provide the necessary very high degree of assurance that the court needs, that I need, if the children are now to be returned to parental care. Taking into account all the points pressed upon me by those opposing such an order, I am at the end of the day persuaded by Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward that I should make the orders they seek, and essentially for the reasons they have articulated.
  4. I accept that there is some degree of risk of successful flight. I cannot go quite as far as Mr Rowley when he asserts that it is reduced to an effective nullity by the protective measures he proposes, but taking a realistic view, though not forgetting that we are here in the realm of unknown unknowns, my considered assessment is that the degree of that risk is very small, indeed, so small that it is counter-balanced by the children’s welfare needs to be returned to parental care. I should add, to make plain, that in relation to their welfare (leaving flight risk on one side), the benefits all of these children will derive from being returned to their parents clearly, in my judgment, outweigh any and all of such contrary welfare arguments as have deployed by the local authorities or the guardians. Conclusion
  5. I shall therefore make orders essentially in the terms proposed by Mr Rowley and Miss Woodward. The orders will contain the additional provisions proposed by Mr Crabtree and Mrs Crowley. The orders will spell out that nothing is intended to prevent the police exercising any powers which would otherwise be available to them, including, in particular, their powers under section 46 of the Children Act 1989. I invite counsel to consider two further matters: whether the proposed oaths on the Quran should be sworn before a notary or an imam, and what, if any, provisions should be included in the orders to enable the relevant local authority to remove the children in an emergency if there has been some breach of the order and there is no time to apply even by telephone tothe duty judge. I am inclined to think that the local authorities should have that power, but strictly confined to circumstances of emergency and subject to an unqualified obligation to make an application to the court immediately

 

 

The judgment then goes on to set out the protocol for such matters. It will, I’m sure, calm the nerves of every social worker who is now going to be driven to leave children like this at home under the protection of their parents wearing electronic tags that the tagging system is provided by Capita, whose record is flawless.

 

I am perhaps missing what actually stops these children’s uncles or cousins taking them to Syria if it is the parents who are tagged?  Yes, the parewnts would be stuck her to face the music, but how great a feature is ‘fear of the consequences’ a major inhibitor to terrorism? I have always rather missed how one is to stop these things happening if the parents book a package holiday to Turkey and then just travel onwards once they are out there. Are we going to stop all families going to Turkey on holiday? Or only those who are on some sort of Watch list?  And if only those on the Watch list, given that social workers don’t have access to that, how are they supposed to intervene?

 

Whilst of course, it can’t be imposed on a parent, I’m sure they will be queuing up to agree to it.

The judgment of course does not set out who will be paying for the tagging and monitoring, but we all know that it will be the Local Authority  (or under what power the Court is apparently imposing this expense on the LA – it will be the theoretically limitless powers of the inherent jurisdiction, if anyone ever challenges it)

I wonder how any parent facing an ICO hearing for neglect, or consumption of alcohol will feel, knowing that they too are meeting the same “Reasonable grounds to believe” test as parents of this type, but that parents suspected of taking their children to join a warzone will keep them at home with electronic tags, whereas they may be separated from their own children.

Where exactly is the bar for removal under Interim Care Order, if a case like this isn’t over it?

 

And if tagging works in the interim, what stops these children being tagged for the remainder of their childhood at final hearing, even if the allegations are proven to be true?

 

 

Inherent jurisdiction – extending an injunction past 18th birthday

 

Regular readers will probably know that I feel uncomfortable about phrases like “the powers of the inherent jurisdiction are theoretically limitless” and that cases are developing which extend the previous usage of the inherent jurisdiction a bit further, and then those cases are relied on next time around to push it a little further still.  It is mission creep, and it makes me nervous.

In this case, Baker J  (who makes my Top Five Judge list, comfortably), had to decide on a mother’s application to extend an existing injunction that prevented a father contacting his daughter or coming near her, past the child’s 18th birthday. In effect, for the rest of her life.

Re SO (a Minor) 2015

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed145192

 

I am somewhat puzzled that the child was not represented in these proceedings, as the orders were all about her, and she was nearly 18 and thus presumably in a position to have a view even if it was felt unsuitable for her to attend Court.

The rationale behind wanting to protect the child was decent. The father had been convicted of offences of arranging to have the mother killed, and continued to deny those offences. One can see why the Court would want, while SO was a child to protect her from her father.  He is palpably not a nice man. I can absolutely see why the mother would be genuinely very fearful of him and genuinely want to protect herself and her child from him.

The issue for me, whilst not really having any sympathy for the father in this case, is whether the State, in the form of the Court should be making orders protecting SO from things as an adult on someone else’s request rather than SO making an application to the Court for protection.

 

The injunction sought (and made) was in these terms, and I think that these are orders that could easily have been made by way of SO making an application for a non-molestation order if she decided she wanted that protection.

“It is ordered that

(1) the respondent, whether by himself or instructing, inciting or encouraging any other person be restrained until further order from

(a) using or threatening violence or attempting the same against the applicant or S;

(b) intimidating, harassing or pestering the applicant or S;

(c) coming within a 50 miles radius of, entering or attempting to enter, any property at which he believes, knows or suspects the applicant or S to be present or living or of any educational establishment or place of work at which he believes, knows or suspects the applicant or S may attend or work;

(d) communicating or making contact with the applicant or S by letter, telephone, Skype, text message, email, any means of electronic communication, or through any social networking sights including Facebook, save through the offices of Messrs Thomson, Snell and Passmore, the applicant’s solicitors;

(2) any person on whom this order served, or who is aware of its terms, is restrained until further order from making disclosure to the respondent, or to any other person on his behalf, which would in any way identify the current whereabouts of the applicant or S, from identifying to the respondent the name or identity under which the applicant and S may be known or is currently living and/or registered;

(3) the applicant and/or her solicitors are authorised to disclose this order and any other information relating to these proceedings to:

(i) the police in the United Kingdom;

(ii) the Home Office, and any agency acting on its behalf, and any relevant government authority in Scotland;

(iii) the Department of Community Services in Australia and

(iv) the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales Police Force and any other relevant police authority and state correctional services, whether publically funded or privately managed.

An obvious question arises about the Australian element, and that might be a reason why not to use the statutory power of a Non-Molestation Order – because there might be problems with enforcing that if the father was living in Australia.  But hold on, it appears that everyone involved was living in Australia

Meanwhile the mother and S, in respect of whom of a series of non-molestation injunctions have been made within the wardship proceedings dating back to an order of Black J (as she then was) dated 14th June 2000, themselves moved some years ago to Australia, living at an address which, it was assumed, was unknown to the father. S has flourished in her mother’s care in Australia and has now embarked upon tertiary education, following the conclusion of the schedule 1 proceedings in the course of which I made a substantial order for her financial provision. Nonetheless, both the mother and S have continued to live under the shadow of the threats by the father to the safety of the mother and, indirectly, S.

[I’m somewhat mystified as to why a High Court injunction in England is the best route to protect an 18 year old girl living in Australia. It is legally permissable because:-

(4) When, as here, the court has jurisdiction at the start of wardship proceedings on the grounds that the child is habitually resident in England and Wales, that jurisdiction continues until the conclusion of the proceedings, notwithstanding the fact that the ward has become habitually resident elsewhere. That is sufficient to provide jurisdiction in this case for the making of the orders sought by the applicant. In addition, the court may have jurisdiction on the grounds that the ward is a British national. In either case, the question is, as Baroness Hale observed in Re A whether it is appropriate to exercise the jurisdiction in the particular circumstances of the case. ]

You will note from the terms of the order, which the High Court made “until further order”  (i.e possibly for the rest of the lives of those involved) that it would prevent the father replying to any attempt by his daughter to contact him.  I’m not sure if she would ever want to, but it seems odd that if she initiated contact he would be unable to respond.  Actually, SO would be in breach of this order if she contacted her father and told him her address or new name…

As a matter of law, I think that Baker J was right to rule that he had the power to make such an injunction on an adult  (I just think that the law that has laid those foundations is wrong, and built on a gradual move away piece by piece from the spirit and intent of the inherent jurisdiction. All of the individual decisions have been the Court doing what they thought was best for a person, but autonomy means that where a person has capacity they and they alone have the right to decide what is best for them. )

Let’s look at, for example, the case that set the Inherent Jurisdiction for adults hare running in the first place.

Re SA 2006  http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed1678  when the issue of Forced Marriage was just becoming apparent and there was not yet a statutory mechanism to protect people from it. The inherent jurisdiction had been used to prevent a minor from being forcibly married, and in Re SA Munby J (as he then was) had to decide whether that protection could continue into adulthood.

“It would in my opinion be a sad failure were the law to determine that [the court] has no jurisdiction to investigate and, if necessary, to make declarations as to T’s best interests to ensure that the protection that she has received belatedly in her minority is not summarily withdrawn simply because she has attained the age of 18.””

But in the same judgment, this passage appears

“There is, however, in my judgment a common thread to all this. The inherent jurisdiction can be invoked wherever a vulnerable adult is, or is reasonably believed to be, for some reason deprived of the capacity to make the relevant decision, or disabled from making a free choice, or incapacitated or disabled from giving or expressing a real and genuine consent. The cause may be, but is not for this purpose limited to, mental disorder or mental illness. A vulnerable adult who does not suffer from any kind of mental incapacity may nonetheless be entitled to the protection of the inherent jurisdiction if he is, or is reasonably believed to be, incapacitated from making the relevant decision by reason of such things as constraint, coercion, undue influence or other vitiating factors.”

 

There’s no evidence here that SO lacks capacity to make decisions for herself about whether she wants to see her father or be contacted by him, or whether she might want to apply for legal orders to protect herself.  I am struggling to see why the Court should use its inherent jurisdiction to make an order that affects the rest of SO’s life when she has not applied for such an order.

 

{I can see why the desire to protect her from something that most people would just as being an unhealthy or unpleasant influence leads to the order being made, but it is not the job of the State to protect adults with capacity from unpleasant events. If SO wants to be left alone by her father and he is not likely to acquiesce to her wishes, then there’s a statutory remedy – non-molestation order. If she applies for it, the State in the form of the Court makes a decision about whether the order is justified. But here the State is deciding for someone who has capacity and is about to become 18 something that will have an impact on her life because it thinks that is what is best for her. I can also see why the mother and the Court felt that the father was so dangerous and toxic that they didn’t want to put SO through the risks of making her own application.  }

 

28. In my judgment, it is imperative that this court makes the order within the wardship jurisdiction, or alternatively under its inherent jurisdiction to protect vulnerable adults, extending the protection provided hitherto beyond S’s 18th birthday. In the circumstances of this case, it is essential that, in order to ensure the protection is extended for S, the mother is also kept within the ambit of the injunction.

 

There is nothing in the case to suggest that SO herself is  a vulnerable person, that there are any inherent characteristics in her that are vulnerable – the reason she is ‘vulnerable’ is because of external things not because she herself has any inherent vulnerability.  She is not a vulnerable person, she’s a person who happens to be vulnerable because of external factors. It might seem a trivial distinction, but I don’t think that it is.

What prevents that line of thinking becoming that the State has the power to forcibly remove a woman from a violent partner? She has capacity to decide that she wants to be with that awful man, but she is ‘vulnerable’ because of the risks that he poses, so  can the inherent jurisdiction  decide that it would be best for her to be protected from that man? The powers are theoretically limitless – if she is considered vulnerable….

A twenty year old decides to have a relationship with a fifty year old who has had some criminal convictions including drug use. Her relatives disapprove and think that she’s vulnerable to getting used and ending up being broken hearted. Is she vulnerable? Can the State be asked to make injunctions to protect her?

A sixty year old man with a large fortune falls in love with a twenty five year old. The family are worried that he is being taken for a ride and that this girl is a gold-digger. Is he vulnerable?

It isn’t problematic or unreasonable in this case to say that SO is vulnerable and needs protection, but the concern is that this case becomes cited in the next case along to make inherent jurisdiction orders about adults who have capacity to decide things for themselves, and then that next case gets cited in the one after that, and so on.  It feels like the classic slippery slope scenario.  As a matter of law now, the inherent jurisdiction is a theoretically limitless power, but should that be the case?

At the very least, when the Court is using such a theoretically limitless power, shouldn’t there be a very detailed analysis of proportionality and necessity, considering article 8 of the Human Rights Act?

ISIS and children being taken to Syria

I have to say, even after years and years of doing child protection law, I never actually thought I’d see cases in Court where parents were trying to get their children to become terrorists and fight in a war. But we are seeing these cases, and as I understand it, the reported cases are the tip of an iceberg.

If you are advising someone in this situation, or advising a Local Authority where such a thing is suspected, the President’s decision in Re M (Children) 2015 is going to be mandatory reading. It is particularly useful since it sets out in detail the orders made to protect the children and to recover them, and is an excellent route-map for future cases. Rather than drafting from scratch and having to invent what needs to be done  (and I’ve an inkling of just how hard that is in such cases), there’s now a source for how to assemble a workable order that will do the job.

 

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/re_m_20_5_152.pdf

There is one final point I must emphasise in this connection. It is the point made by Hayden J in the Tower Hamlets case (para 18(iv)):
“All involved must recognise that in this particular process it is the interest of the individual child that is paramount. This cannot be eclipsed by wider considerations of counter terrorism policy or operations, but it must be recognised that the decision the court is being asked to take can only be arrived at against an informed understanding of that wider canvas.”

There’s a very good summary by Marilyn Stowe here, and I recommend that also  http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2015/05/21/high-court-considers-family-who-vanished-with-their-children/

 

All agencies worked amazingly quickly and creatively to get these children back into the UK and save them from what would really be unthinkable, that they be pushed by their parents into taking up arms in a war zone.

The Ashya King wardship judgment

We have all been eagerly awaiting this, and it is now out.

 

This is the judgment given by Mr Justice Baker in the wardship proceedings, setting out the reasons why on Friday of last week a solution was reached that Ashya would be able to receive proton-beam therapy treatment in Prague. Ashya is no longer a ward of Court, and all decisions about him will be made by his parents.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/2964.html

 

It is not one of those rambling long judgment that would be incomprehensible to non lawyers – it runs about four pages and most of it is in plain English. I don’t often suggest that normal human beings read a judgment, but in this case, I would. It is a very good piece of work by Baker J  (not surprisingly, he writes a good judgment)

 

[It doesn’t answer my law geek question of whether the parents received free legal representation – I hope that they did. They were certainly represented, and the firm they used does do legal aid work. And there’s no debate at the end about costs, so I hope they got legal aid. One suspects that even the Legal Aid Agency had enough common sense to not want to be seen to be saying that the family should spend their treatment fund on lawyers]

The judgment focuses rather more on treatment and the future than a forensic delve into the past and what has gone wrong (understandably, because a solution had been arrived at that would please everyone, and also because if there is to be any suing going on about what happened it is likely to focus on the issue of the European arrest warrant and the arrest and detention of the parents, which is outside of the scope of the family Court)

 

What the Judge does say about the application for wardship itself is this :-

 

32 When Mr and Mrs King took Ashya from hospital on 28th August, the medical staff were understandably very concerned that the boy would suffer significant harm by being removed from the specialist care they were providing. When the local authority was informed about what had happened, and that it was believed that the parents had left the country, the social workers understandably concluded that there were reasonable grounds for believing that Ashya was at risk of suffering significant harm by being driven across Europe without medical assistance at a time when he urgently required post-operative therapy. I therefore conclude that the local authority acted entirely correctly in applying to the High Court, and further that Judge Arthur was right, on the evidence before him, to make Ashya a ward of court. My comments are confined to the matters within the family jurisdiction. I make no comment as to whether or not it was appropriate to seek a European Arrest Warrant. I merely observe that one consequence of this course was that Ashya was separated from his parents and left alone for several days in the Spanish hospital. As I observed at the hearing on 2nd September, whatever the rights and wrongs of his parents’ actions, it was not in Ashya’s best interests to be separated from them in such circumstances.

  1. The steps taken by the local authority and Judge Arthur on 29th August were entirely justified on the evidence then available. As at that date, there were reasonable grounds for believing that Ashya was at risk of suffering significant harm. A week later, the picture had changed and the court was faced with a completely different decision.

 

 

I’m sure that there will be many who think otherwise, but this judgment is very helpful in setting out the facts of the case when there has been so much speculation.

 

I am pleased that Ashya is back with his parents and that he is receiving treatment, and whatever else we might feel about this case, I’m sure that all of us wish him and his parents all the very best for the future.

 

 

 

What is wardship?

 

I suspect that there will be a few people, including some journalists, who want to understand what Wardship is today.  (If it is okay, I’m going to try not to say too much about Aysha King specifically today, because the case is now before the Court and hasn’t been decided – the case is now in the High Court, a wardship order has been applied for and the Judge Mr Justice Baker has adjourned the case until Monday, to give the parents time to get lawyers and put their own position before the Court. But I will touch on what these things might mean for the King family at various points)

 

What is wardship?

 

If you aren’t a family lawyer, the only time you’ll have come across someone being a Ward is Dick Grayson being Bruce Wayne’s ward. (which seemed to involve very little in the form of care and nurture and much more in the form of dressing up garishly and fighting armed goons)

Wardship is quite an old phenomenon whereby a High Court Judge makes decisions about what is best for a child and no significant steps can be taken in relation to that child without the Court approving it. They were very common pre Children Act 1989 and were at that stage a creation of common law (i.e the law about Wardship was invented and adapted by Judges, rather than having been a law invented by Parliament and set down in an Act)

 

In fact, pre Children Act 1989 they were often a route for children being taken away from parents and placed into the care of a Local Authority.  (there was a power in the Family Reform Act 1969 to let them do just that, so the power kicked around for twenty years)

 

{Edit – am grateful to David Burrows for advising me that the child becomes a ward of Court on issue of the application, though the Court can of course decide whether that continues once they hear the case}

 

What are the powers of Wardship?

Wardship is part of the High Court’s Inherent Jurisdiction, and as long-term readers will know, the High Court is very fond of using the Inherent Jurisdiction as authority for doing just about anything, and often use the phrase “the powers of Inherent Jurisdiction are theoretically limitless”

 

The Practice Direction 12 D is quite helpful in explaining Wardship

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/family/practice_directions/pd_part_12d
1.1
It is the duty of the court under its inherent jurisdiction to ensure that a child who is the subject of proceedings is protected and properly taken care of. The court may in exercising its inherent jurisdiction make any order or determine any issue in respect of a child unless limited by case law or statute. Such proceedings should not be commenced unless it is clear that the issues concerning the child cannot be resolved under the Children Act 1989.
1.2
The court may under its inherent jurisdiction, in addition to all of the orders which can be made in family proceedings, make a wide range of injunctions for the child’s protection of which the following are the most common –

(a) orders to restrain publicity;
(b) orders to prevent an undesirable association;
(c) orders relating to medical treatment;
(d) orders to protect abducted children, or children where the case has another substantial foreign element; and
(e) orders for the return of children to and from another state.

 

[You can see that (c) and (e) are pretty relevant to Aysha’s case]

Let’s look at it this way – the Children Act is like Batman – there are all sorts of powers and tools and gadgets in there, but they are all prescribed and laid out. You know if you bump into Batman that he has fighting prowess and Batarangs and Shark Repellent. But he can’t suddenly fly or shoot laser beams from his eyes or lift up a train. There are limits to Batman’s capabilities and we know what they are.  The Inherent Jurisdiction is more like Superman –  he can do pretty much anything you can think of (including, if you rely on the movies, flying around the world backwards to turn back time…  LET IT GO, Suesspicious Minds, get over it)

 

And just like Superman, Inherent Jurisdiction has huge power, but it also has Kryptonite

 

What can’t be done under wardship?

 

When the Children Act 1989 was being devised, there were people who wanted to get rid of wardship altogether, but they were finally persuaded to keep it, but to put into the Children Act 1989 a limit to its power.

 

s100 Children Act 1989 Restrictions on use of wardship jurisdiction.

(1)Section 7 of the M1Family Law Reform Act 1969 (which gives the High Court power to place a ward of court in the care, or under the supervision, of a local authority) shall cease to have effect.

(2)No court shall exercise the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction with respect to children—

(a)so as to require a child to be placed in the care, or put under the supervision, of a local authority;

(b)so as to require a child to be accommodated by or on behalf of a local authority;

(c)so as to make a child who is the subject of a care order a ward of court; or

(d)for the purpose of conferring on any local authority power to determine any question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

(3)No application for any exercise of the court’s inherent jurisdiction with respect to children may be made by a local authority unless the authority have obtained the leave of the court.

(4)The court may only grant leave if it is satisfied that—

(a)the result which the authority wish to achieve could not be achieved through the making of any order of a kind to which subsection (5) applies; and

(b)there is reasonable cause to believe that if the court’s inherent jurisdiction is not exercised with respect to the child he is likely to suffer significant harm.

(5)This subsection applies to any order—

(a)made otherwise than in the exercise of the court’s inherent jurisdiction; and

(b)which the local authority is entitled to apply for (assuming, in the case of any application which may only be made with leave, that leave is granted).

 

 

English please?

 

(i) The Court can’t use wardship to put a child in the care of the Local Authority.  That is important because otherwise it would let Judges put children into care even where the threshold criteria for making Care Orders wasn’t met.    [For Aysha’s case, that means that even if the Court make a wardship order, that does not amount to the child coming into care]

(ii) The Court can’t make a wardship order and then say “Local Authority, you make the decisions, I’ll leave it to your discretion”  – if there’s a wardship order, the High Court have to make the individual decisions

(iii) The Court can’t use wardship to do something that could be achieved by any other power in the Children Act   (i.e if you can get the job with Batman, Superman won’t be able to show up and help even if you prefer Superman)

 

Also, although this is not spoken of very often, all of the Human Rights Act provisions apply to wardship cases – so there is the article 6 right to fair trial and the article 8 right to private and family life which means that wardship can only be made if it is PROPORTIONATE and NECESSARY.    [There’s an intriguing section of the Supreme Court judgment in Re B, where Lord Neuberger is talking about article 8’s “necessary” test and says that for those purposes he adopts Lady Hale’s formulation of “nothing else will do”   – that doesn’t seem to have been picked up on generally yet to the extent that it was picked up on for Adoption cases]

 

Who can apply for wardship?

 

As you can see from the Kryptonite section, the Local Authority can apply, but ONLY if they can satisfy the Court that there is reasonable cause to believe that failure to apply would be likely to cause significant harm to the child. That is not an easy hurdle to cross – particularly since if that test applies they would have remedies under the Children Act 1989  (Emergency Protection Order, Interim Care Order, Recovery Order)

They can also be issued by a connected person, generally a parent  – and that’s usually where there’s a fear of abduction of the child to another country or an attempt to get the child returned.

Wardship applications can, and have, been issued by hospital Trusts seeking a declaration from the Court about medical treatment for a child, and that’s probably what has happened in Aysha’s case.

It is theoretically possible that the police could apply, but I’ve never come across such a case.  They might be reluctant to do so, since making the child a ward of Court means that the child can’t be interviewed without approval of the Court.

 

When does wardship run out?

 

It runs for as long as the Court want it to last, but the longest it can last is until the child is no longer a child. There aren’t any formal applications to discharge or revoke a Wardship order, but in practice, a person would seek a hearing before the High Court to persuade the High Court that wardship was no longer needed.

 

What about getting free legal advice?

 

This is a tricky question. If there’s an application for care proceedings, then the parent automatically gets what is called “non means, non merit” public funding  – what does that mean? Well, it means that a parent gets free legal advice and representation to fight the case even if they are a millionaire  (non means) or even if someone looking at the case would think that their argument is poor (non merits)

The next tier of public funding is those matters set out in Schedule 1 of LASPO http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/10/schedule/1/enacted  which can get public funding if they meet a means and merit assessment. Wardship is NOT in there.

Eep. What now?

Well, the final tier is Exceptional funding under s10* of LASPO.  If you are a lawyer, you are already wincing. This allows the Legal Aid Agency to grant free legal advice to exceptional cases where not having free legal advice would breach a person’s human rights.  Hardly ANY of these have been granted.

http://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/four-family-law-applications-for-exceptional-case-funding-have-been-granted-between-april-and-june-2014#.VAXrAGOgktV

In the last year, of 821 applications, 8 were granted. And only 4 for family cases.

 

Even if you could get public funding on exceptional circumstances – well the bad news is that that is still means tested.  What does that mean? Well, it means that if you have capital over £8000, you can’t get free legal representation.

(If you are wondering, yes, the Legal Aid Agency would treat all of the King family’s savings, and any donations for the treatment fund as capital.  It is not money that they would disregard or ignore. At the moment, this case is a police/nhs scandal, but it is about to become a legal aid scandal too)

 

What are your options if you CAN’T get free legal advice?

 

You could represent yourself. Not ideal in the High Court, dealing with life-changing and complicated things.

You could arrange a McKenzie Friend. There are some good and helpful ones, but a stand-alone wardship case is really very difficult.

You could contact the bar pro bono unit  (there are lawyers who will represent you for free.  http://www.barprobono.org.uk/

Or you could instruct lawyers paying privately and hope to win the case and get a costs order against the applicant. Cost orders aren’t easy, since if the applicant made the application in good faith and has not behaved dreadfully, it isn’t as simple as just “If there’s no wardship order the other side will have to pay costs”   – having said that, in a case like this, where the parents would be spending money that they want to spend on treatment, there might well be a sympathetic consideration of any costs application.

 

 

 

*{corrected, from s11 LASPO, my mistake. Thanks to David Burrows for spotting it}

Secure accommodation and seventeen year olds

 

This is a decision of His Honour Judge Wildblood QC, sitting as a High Court judge

A County Council v B 2013

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/4654.html

 

It involved a seventeen year old whose behaviour was such that the Local Authority wanted her to be placed in secure accommodation.  However, given that she was 17, that causes some problems with the statutory provisions.

This is undoubtedly an extraordinary case. It is also one where, on paper, there is every reason to have grave concern for C. The psychiatric evidence that has been prepared by Dr Yates and Dr Leonards ultimately concludes that C is of capable of detention under the Mental Health Act 1983. There are various suggestions about her state of health, including a suggestion that C may have a conduct disorder, which Dr Yates thought has increased in severity. I make no adjudication, of course, in relation to that. The anxiety about C’s vulnerability and potential for harm is entirely genuine and requires analysis of fact at a subsequent hearing. The extraordinary circumstances of this case include, however, the following: (1) C’s age; (2) the fact that she has herself had a child; (3) the fact that, at the time these proceedings started, she was not in local authority accommodation or subject to any other statutory scheme relating to her; (4) the reported degree of vulnerability that she bore.

 

In this particular case, the Local Authority were NOT accommodating C, and would have been in some difficulties in doing so  (they could not obtain a Care Order or Interim Care Order on her, because she was over 17, voluntary accommodation becomes tricky because the grandmother who had a residence order and hence PR was objecting to C being placed in secure accommodation)

The issue therefore was whether the Court had the power, using the inherent jurisdiction, to detain C in secure accommodation.

 

  • The orders that were made in the X District Registry are undoubtedly orders that require the provisions of section 100 of the Children Act 1989 to be considered. By subsection (1) and (2) of that section, it is provided as follows:

 

 

“(1) Section 7 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 (which gives the High Court power to place a ward of court in the care, or under the supervision, of a local authority) shall cease to have effect.

(2) No court shall exercise the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction with respect to children—

(a) so as to require a child to be placed in the care, or put under the supervision, of a local authority;

(b) so as to require a child to be accommodated by or on behalf of a local authority;

(c) so as to make a child who is the subject of a care order a ward of court; or

(d) for the purpose of conferring on any local authority power to determine any question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.”

Where a child is made a ward of court, custody of the child vests in the court. Therefore, an order making C a ward of court, but granting custody of her to the local authority, is, I think, inherently contradictory. Further, the provisions of paragraph 1 of the orders made in the X District Registry, by which care, custody and control were granted to the local authority, must, in the manner of their drafting, be exactly that which is intended should not be ordered by reason of section 100 of the Children Act 1989. The much more difficult points that have arisen and which have occupied my mind for much of the weekend are these: (1) whether it could be said that C was a looked after child within the terminology of the Children Act 1989 at the time of the initiation of these proceedings; (2) whether, absent an order granting care, custody and control of C to the local authority, it would be permissible for the inherent jurisdiction to be used for C to be made a ward of court, and for the court then to direct her detention in secure accommodation.

 

Obviously the Court CAN’T ward C in order to compel the LA to provide her with accommodation, since this is barred in the Act. In this case, the LA were willing to provide that accommodation, so the Court was not compelling them to do this.

 

But, COULD the Court use their inherent jurisdiction in this way?

 

 

  • The case therefore has been argued on the basis that, under the inherent jurisdiction of the court, the court can direct the detention of a minor in secure accommodation. That is a point upon which Miss Campbell has done some considerable research, and has finally persuaded me, and indeed the other advocates, that her submission on this point is correct. It is a demonstration of what skill and hard work can produce.

 

 

 

  • There is case law that of course needs to be considered. I have looked at the decision of Wall J in Re C [1997] 2 FLR 180. That case related to the detention of a minor in a clinic. The facts of the case were, therefore, essentially different. The learned judge however had to consider whether the clinic concerned was secure accommodation, and concluded that it was not. The headnote to the case reads as follows:

 

 

 

“In exercising the court’s inherent jurisdiction over minors, the test to be applied by virtue of section 1 of the Children Act 1989 was whether or not the order sought was in the minor’s best interest.  There was no doubt in the present case that the treatment offered by the clinic was appropriate to C’s needs and that detention was an essential part of the treatment and therefore that the order fulfilled that test. C’s objection to the order, though a matter to be considered, could be overridden for the same reason, particularly in view of the psychiatrist’s opinion that she was unable to weigh treatment information and accordingly lacked the capacity to give valid consent or refusal to the treatment proposed. 

 

The court’s powers under the inherent jurisdiction were not ousted by the statutory scheme laid down by Parliament in section 25 of the Children Act 1989 and regulation 7 of the Children (Secure accommodation) Regulations 1991, because all the evidence as to its regime demonstrated that the primary purpose of the clinic was to achieve treatment, and that the restriction of liberty was only incidental to that end and therefore that the clinic was not “secure accommodation” within the meaning of the Act and the regulations.

 

Accordingly, this was a proper case for the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction. In making an order under that jurisdiction the court would have regard to the scheme laid down by Parliament in the Act so as to ensure that the rights and safeguards provided for the child by section 25 were available and would extend the period of the order made at the previous hearing to a date not later than a specified date.”

 

Therefore, that case is one of some value on this point, but is not determinative of it. Specifically in relation to secure accommodation, Wall J said this:

“C is not a child who is, or who ever has been looked after by a local authority. She has never been in care, nor has she been provided by the local authority with accommodation within section 22(1) of the Children Act. The local authority is not funding the current placement at the clinic. That, however, is not the end of the matter. By regulation 7 of the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991, section 25 applies to children who are accommodated by health authorities.”

He went on to consider that. He went on to say:

“The use of the words ‘application to the court under section 25… shall… be made only by…’ clearly limits the persons or bodies who may make applications for secure accommodation orders, and thus restricts the powers of the court to make such orders. It follows that if (1) the clinic is secure accommodation and (2) falls within the category of persons set out in either limb of regulation 2 of the Children (Secure Accommodation) (No 2) Regulations the inherent jurisdiction of the court is ousted and for C to be detained in a clinic, an application under section 25 of the Act will need to be made pursuant to the regulations. I have to say that I find the regulations difficult to construe. Mr Munby conducted a detailed analysis of the regulations in the skeleton argument. I do not propose to repeat that exercise in this judgment, helpful as it was. The critical question seems to me to be, is the clinic secure accommodation? If it is, then the question of the construction of the regulations and their application to the instant case must be addressed. But, if it is not, detention in the clinic is outside the statutory scheme and the major inhibition on the use of the inherent jurisdiction disappears.”

 

  • In the course of argument, Miss Campbell considered that point, and then went on to refer me to the case of Re PS (An Adult) [2007] EWHC 623 (Fam), in which Munby J (as he then was) considered the extent of the wardship jurisdiction and said this:

 

 

“Is there power to detain?

16. It is in my judgment quite clear that a judge exercising the inherent jurisdiction of the court (whether the inherent jurisdiction of the court with respect to children or the inherent jurisdiction with respect to incapacitated or vulnerable adults) has power to direct that the child or adult in question shall be placed at and remain in a specified institution such as, for example, a hospital, residential unit, care home or secure unit. It is equally clear that the court’s powers extend to authorising that person’s detention in such a place and the use of reasonable force (if necessary) to detain him and ensure that he remains there… 

17. So the jurisdiction is clear. How should it be exercised?”

Munby J (as he then was) went on to say:

“18. Detention in the sense in which it is here being used will inevitably involve a “deprivation of liberty” as that expression is used in Article 5. Since the court is a public authority for this purpose…any exercise of its inherent jurisdiction must…be compatible with the various requirements of Article 5.”

 

  • The interplay between Article 5 of the European Convention and the secure accommodation provisions has been considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Re K (Secure Accommodation order: Right to Liberty) [2001] 1 FLR 526. Article 5 provides, insofar as relevant, as follows:

 

 

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law…

d. the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority.”

The term “educational supervision” has been given a broad definition within the case of Re K (to which I have already referred), and secure accommodation of the sort that arises in this case would not offend the provisions of Article 5, as long as it is demonstrated that it is for the purposes of educational supervision as defined in that case. The consideration of the Convention does not end at Article 5 however. Article 6, of course, provides the right to a fair trial. C is represented at this hearing very ably by Mr Farquharson, and there has been an open and full debate about the merits of the case and the legal jurisdiction for the application. There is no suggestion of unfairness in the trial process. Article 8 of the European Convention is also engaged. It provides that:

“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary…for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

I have omitted certain parts of the Convention Article where they do not bear relevance to this case.

 

  • The right to respect for one’s private and family life must bear with it a right not to be detained in secure accommodation. Secure accommodation can only be justified on a number of legal bases, that amongst them includes the provisions of Article 8(2). For Article 8(2) to be satisfied, the action of the public authority, here the court, must be demonstrated to be in accordance with the law; secondly, necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of C; and, thirdly, proportionate. I remind myself, of course, that secure accommodation involves the deprivation of liberty, and thus the liberty of the subject is engaged, and it is also one of the most draconian orders that can be made in relation to the placement of a child within the available armoury of the court. Therefore, very serious issues indeed arise under this provision, and there has to be strong and legal justification for intervention under the secure provisions.

 

 

 

  • The position that has ultimately been achieved at this hearing through the diligence of counsel is that the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is theoretically limitless. In circumstances where the statutory code under section 25 is satisfied in relation to a 17-year old child, with the exception of the requirement that the child is looked after by the local authority, it is open to the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to direct that a child be detained in secure accommodation. I accept Miss Campbell’s submission, on reflection, that the guidance and the authorities suggest that where the wardship court does exercise that jurisdiction, it must do so in a way that is compatible with the limitations imposed by statute. But the existence of the jurisdiction to make orders detaining children under the inherent jurisdiction is now established in argument before me, and therefore I conclude, as a matter of law, that it is permissible to order that a ward of court be detained in secure accommodation. The individual facts of individual cases have to be considered, and I am not, by this decision, indicating any conclusions about whether C should be further detained in secure accommodation. That will be for another day.

 

This is, therefore, authority for the proposition that the inherent jurisdiction can be used to authorise the detention of a 17 year old in secure accommodation if it is not possible to achieve the same outcome using section 25 of the Children Act 1989.

 

I have to share my disquiet about this – not that I think that the Judge is wrong in law – the authorities cited do indeed lay those foundations, but about where this takes us.

I really am increasingly uneasy about the expansion of the inherent jurisdiction – and phrases like “the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is theoretically limitless” don’t reduce that feeling in the slightest.  The problem is that inherent jurisdiction gets used in cases as the “get out of jail free card”  (or the reverse in this case), coming to the rescue where there is a desired result but one that can’t be achieved within the Statute.  That decision then gets cited in the future as authority for ‘theoretically limitless powers” and we keep building up these powers to do things that cause me a considerable amount of anxiety.

 

Don’t get me wrong – if someone in this country has to have ‘theoretically limitless power’,  I’d rather it was High Court Judges than anyone else, but I just don’t think anyone should have limitless power. Nobody.  Limits to power are what help us sleep soundly in our beds.

If the inherent jurisdiction can be used to achieve secure accommodation on someone (who let us not forget is old enough to join the army) then do we end up sidestepping the statutory requirements in s25 – the LA need to meet a rightly high hurdle to seek secure accommodation, but there is no statutory test for the use of inherent jurisdiction in this way.  Parliament set the framework for s25, and could easily, if they had wished, said that the Local Authority could seek such orders up until the young person’s 18th birthday, with any detention after that being through either the Mental Health Act or the Mental Capacity Act.