(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, McFarlane, Davis LJJ, 13 March 2013)
The 9-year-old girl was placed in the care of the maternal grandmother and her step-grandfather, under a special guardianship order, due to her parents' serious drug misuse. The mother did not support the placement and when she sought contact and information about the child, the grandmother refused and even changed the child's schooling without notifying the mother despite court orders requiring the mother to be informed of issues concerning the child's care.
Due to the grandmother's negative view towards social workers and the court, findings were made that the child was at risk of suffering emotional harm and an in-depth look needed to be taken at the placement. A welfare report pursuant to s 7 of the Children Act 1989 concluded that the child needed to be removed from the grandmother's care. However, due to concerns that the child may be removed to an unknown location if the grandmother became aware of the forthcoming application, the local authority was permitted to make a without notice application. An interim care order was granted and a with notice hearing later took place where the order was confirmed. The grandmother and step-grandfather appealed.
The appeal would be dismissed. On the totality of the evidence the finding of emotional harm or likelihood of emotional harm was one that was open to the judge. The course that was taken by the judge was not one that was excluded by any statutory provision and the existence of an alternative route did not preclude the judge from acting as he did.