(Court of Appeal; Mummery, Hughes and Stanley Burnton LJJ; 10 August 2010)
The mother had a learning disability. The children were removed from the parents care because of neglect and care orders were made. The children were eventually returned to the parents and the care orders were discharged on the basis of a report by the social worker that the parents had made real changes. There was a subsequent allegation by a third child that the father had kicked and punched him which led to the removal of all six children for a short period. All but the complainant later returned to the parents but then removed again because of an allegation by a fourth child. A psychological assessment of the parents concluded that the personality of parents, especially the mother, meant they could not parent one or more of the children. The issue for the Family Division judge was whether this evidence should prevail over empirical evidence, which was that the parents were coping sufficiently well. The judge suggested that the psychological evidence was infected with ideological zeal and lacking in objectivity. The local authority appealed.
The judge must weigh all of the evidence taken together and had been entitled to prefer the empirical evidence that the parents were capable of caring for their children to that of the expert psychologist. The test under s 31(2) Children Act 1989 was an objective one. The use of intemperate language in highly charged care proceedings must be avoided.
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