(Family Division, Sir Andrew Kirkwood, 10 February 2012)
The 2-year-old child was born with a very low birth weight and developed severe illness due to withdrawal from drugs as a result of her mother's cocaine addiction. Upon her discharge from hospital the child was placed with foster carers and the local authority sought a placement order. The father, supported by the mother, sought to provide long-term care for the child.
During proceedings hair strand tests were performed on both parents and both proved positive for cocaine use. The father challenged those results. Due to delays in proceedings a second test was not conducted for another year but that too proved positive for cocaine use. The father was permitted to instruct an expert to report on the results but in the event the report provided no support to the father's case.
The father's challenge of the drug testing and his denial of cocaine use had taken centre stage in the proceedings and derailed a timely resolution of the issues. The courts had been complicit in that delay in breach of the responsibility to remain fully focused on the likelihood of prejudice to the welfare of the child by any delay.