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(Court of Appeal, Sir John Thomas P, Moses, Black LJJ, 14 November 2012)
The mother of three children had a history of mental illness. While the father was on a trip abroad her mental health deteriorated significantly and the local authority obtained an emergency protection order and an interim care order.
At a subsequent hearing it was determined that the children would not be able to return home. As to the question of contact, it was found that at times the father was affectionate towards the children but on occasion he had said things which were distressing and harmful. The judge ordered contact on 8 occasions per year but the father refused to sign a contact agreement.
When a final care order was granted the judge heard evidence that during contact the father had made inappropriate comments which had undermined the foster placement. The judge granted the local authority an order under s 34(4) of the Children Act 1989. The father appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. Procedurally there had been no error in the course adopted by the judge. The father had advance warning of the application and was capable of dealing with the matters which had caused concern. The judge was entitled to make the s 34(4) order given that the earlier identified problems had not been resolved.