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(Court of Appeal, Longmore, Black, Gloster LJJ, 23 July 2013)
In care proceedings involving two children, aged 5 and 9, the judge found they had been exposed to physical violence in the parents' relationship and had suffered emotional harm as a result. In addition the father had been imprisoned for sexual offences against four victims ranging from a 16-year-old boy to a disabled woman. The children were removed from the mother's care when it became evidence that her mental health had deteriorated.
Following their removal, the children had supervised contact with the mother and father but on a number of occasions the mother's behaviour had been inappropriate. The local authority care plan was for adoption of the children and it sought care and placement orders. The judge approved the plan insofar as the children should be accommodated but instead ordered the children to be accommodated via long-term fostering rather than adoption, with regular parental contact. The local authority appealed.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The judge had been wrong to conclude that long-term fostering would serve the best interests of the children. The local authority plan for adoption was approved and care and placement orders were granted.
The trial judge had been persuaded that the children had a strong and valuable relationship with their parents which ought to be preserved. However, the good quality of the father's contact had to be viewed in the context of his inability to care for the children when the mother was having mental health difficulties. The problems with the mother's contact outweighed any potential benefit the father having contact offered the children.