(Court of Appeal, Rix, Lloyd, McFarlane LJJ, 7 February 2013)
Care proceedings in relation to three children, aged between 13 and 2, were initiated after police found illegal drugs in the family home. They were made subject to emergency protection orders and placed in foster homes. The local authority thereafter placed to two youngest children with family members sought special guardianship orders while the 13-year old remained in foster care and a final care order was recommended. Their case was that there had been a chronic failure to provide adequate parenting over a long period.
At an issues resolution hearing the parents informed the judge that they would not be contesting the care plan and that now their case focused upon contact with the children. The father expressed his dissatisfaction with his representation but the judge made it clear that the final hearing would take place the following week and that he would not allow time for an adjournment in order to change representation. Prior to the hearing the mother also expressed her intention to change solicitors and sought an adjournment. The judge refused and the mother continued as a self-represented litigant.
The judge made the orders sought by the local authority in reliance of the evidence of the expert and professional evidence. The mother appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. The process had not breached the mother's rights under Art 6 of the European Convention. In the circumstances where there had already been long delays the judge had been right not to allow the adjournment. It was difficult to see how much representation could have achieved when there was no evidence in support of the parents' case.