(Family Division, Pauffley J, 7 May 2013)
A fact-finding hearing concluded that the month-old child had sustained a number of serious non-accidental injuries at the hands of the father and that neither parent had given a truthful account of the circumstances of the injuries. The child remained in foster care following his discharge from hospital.
The parents initially had contact with the child once each week but the contact supervisors reported the child's extraordinary reaction to his parents including continuous crying, failure to make eye contact, turning away from the parents and hyperventilating. This behaviour was in stark contrast to his behaviour at home with the foster carers or other adults. After watching the shocking footage of the child's reaction to contact the judge suspended contact with immediate effect and directed that any lawyer seeking to recommence contact should also watch the footage. No further application had been made.
The mother proposed the maternal aunt and uncle as potential long-term carers for the, now 18-month-old, child. However, after an initial positive period of assessment the aunt and uncle decided to withdraw from the process. Thereafter the local authority plan for adoption was approved by the independent reviewing order at a looked after child review.
The father accepted that he was in no position to contest the adoption and recognised that it would in all probability proceed. He was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.
The mother's application for permission to appeal the fact-finding hearing and the refusal to permit a further assessment was dismissed. She sought a further assessment of risk, her emotional and psychological functioning as well as parenting capacity. However, it was accepted during the hearing that as the mother did not accept the findings made against her and that she presented any kind of risk, she could not ask for a risk assessment. She did seek further exploration of her ability to parent before the plan for adoption was approved.
The judge found that there was not the slightest sign that, within an acceptable timetable for the child, the mother would be able to confront and acknowledge the scale of her responsibility for the events leading up to the child's hospital admission. She did not have the capacity to meet his emotional needs and he would suffer further significant harm if he spent time in her care. An assessment would not take matters further and was not necessary within the terms of FPR 25.1, as amended.
It was not possible to reintroduce the child to the mother without him suffering renewed trauma. The mother, however, had no regard for the effect her presence had on her son.
The child's overwhelming need was now to be placed in an adoptive home where he was able to feel secure, settled and free from harm. It was necessary and proportionate to interfere with the mother's Art 8 rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 on the basis that the child's welfare required such an interference to preserve his safety and ensure his development throughout childhood and beyond.