(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 21 March 2013)
The grandmother initiated proceedings when she raised her concerns of the 16-year-old mother's ability to care for her newborn baby. During the local authority investigations allegations were discovered to have been by three children outside the immediate family, aged 10, 8 and 6, against the, then, 12-year-old uncle who lived with the grandmother.
The child, now 17 months old, had spent the first 4 months of his life at the maternal grandmother's home with the mother but had subsequently been placed with foster carers. The grandmother now sought a residence order so that she could raise the child with input from the mother. Both had been having contact with the child during proceedings.
The three children took part in ABE interviews, however, the procedure had many shortcomings including the officer asking leading questions and making no attempt to disconfirm the allegations. Despite those failings the interviews had significant evidential value and the judge concluded that the children had been subjected to inappropriate sexual experiences by the maternal uncle.
While there were a number of positive aspects of the grandmother's ability to parent she had not always been able to provide a protective environment for children in her household. The threshold had been crossed and it was clear that a placement order was both necessary and proportionate.