(Court of Appeal; Ward, Black and Tomlinson LJJ; 23 May 2011)
There were three children, one of whom claimed that maternal uncle had abused him sexually. The mother had an extremely low level of intelligence and had personality and mental health problems. Both parents accepted that there had been failures in parenting. Court found sexual abuse. A joint assessment of parenting was available. After the separation of parents the judge concluded that he would not order an assessment of the father as sole parent, on the basis of evidence given by the father during the fact finding hearing. The judge considered it would be unrealistic and poor use of public funding. The father appealed, arguing that without an assessment he had effectively already been ruled out as possible carer.
Appeal allowed. A fine balance but the judge had come down on the wrong side. The true abilities of parents could only be assessed by process carried out by professionals outside court. Father, like mother, to be assessed further.