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February Family Law Case Comments – Highlights

Date:5 FEB 2014
Law Reporter

Samantha Bangham - Family Law Reporter2014 is storming on already – quite literally – and already the February edition of Family Law is out, providing you with a comprehensive run down of all the latest news, cases and legislation in the field of family law.

Starting off on an unusual note, this month’s Family Law provides commentary on two cases from the Supreme Court and Magistrates’ Court of the Falkland Islands which in this case applied legislation identical to the Children Act 1989 alongside English authorities. The two judgments reported are Re A and B (Wardship and Supervision Orders) and Re A and B (Reporting of Judgment). This case involved care proceedings in relation to two children, one of whom had been sexually abused by a man, not the father, in the family home. While the children were placed with family members under an interim care order a package of counseling and therapy was put in place. Given that the parents had engaged and had good contact with the children the care plan was for rehabilitation of the children to their parents’ care. The judge approved the care plan and made interim wardship and supervision orders, finding that the children would need that protection given the level of disruption in moving home they would be facing. In the second judgment permission to report the judgment was granted despite claims by the Crown that publishing the judgment and its criticisms of social services would undermine public confidence which was found to be an unappealing and unconvincing suggestion.

Meanwhile, in this jurisdiction the Court of Appeal judgment in Re A-C; Re A (Fact Finding: Possible Perpetrators) [2013] EWCA Civ 1321 concerned a father’s appeal against findings that he had deliberately inflicted 8 rib fractures to the young baby who died of natural causes. In allowing the appeal the Court of Appeal concluded that although there was ample evidence of a real possibility that either parent had inflicted the injuries that was insufficient evidence to find on the balance of probabilities that one of the parents was the perpetrator.

Also in the Court of Appeal judgment was given in Re W (Change of Name) [2013] EWCA Civ 1488, [2014] FLR forthcoming. The mother appealed a decision permitting one of the children’s names to include the addition of a middle name, chosen by the father. The mother had previously agreed to the addition before changing her mind and the Cafcass report found that there were no welfare implications of the proposal. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and held that a change of name was a question of upbringing to which the welfare checklist applied. The question of harm would always arise in a change of name case and therefore the judge had applied to wrong test.

This month’s commentary on the case of X Local Authority v Trimega Laboratories [2013] EWCC 6 (Fam), [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming, provides on interesting, if not slightly concerning, read. This case involved alcohol testing by Trimega Laboratories of a mother who had been successful for a number of months in abstaining. Plans were put in place for the rehabilitation of her children into her care when a positive test result appeared. On that basis the local authority and a consultant psychiatrist altered their opinions. Trimega discovered the result had been due to a clerical error, made a full apology and offered to pay wasted costs. As the commentary makes clear, the case is reported to offer transparency in the family courts and to highlight the need for close scrutiny of expert evidence.

Moving on to the subject of international family law, following the Supreme Court decision in Re A (Jurisdiction: Return of Child) [2013] UKSC 60, [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming, Parker J had to consider whether the youngest of four children should be brought to England, having never step foot here, on the basis of his British nationality as opposed to habitual residence. The comprehensive case comment details Parker J’s reasoning for directing the father to return all four children of the family on the basis of a number of factors set out by the Supreme Court for consideration. It was emphasized that in only the rarest possible cases the nationality jurisdiction would be invoked in these cases. In addition Parker J continued freezing orders over the father’s assets as a further measure to encourage the father to affect the return of the children.

The last of my month’s highlights is the case comment on a further judgment from His Honour Judge Bellamy in Re K (Wardship: Publicity) (No 2) which adds to the current jurisprudence pertaining to transparency of the family justice system. Readers will recall from the first judgment that this case concerned the breakdown of an adoptive placement of a 16-year-old girl who suffered from reactive attachment disorder. The parents now sought orders permitting them to discuss matters surrounding their experiences in the media. The parents were granted permission to identify themselves by the initials referred to in the judgments and for an earlier judgment to be published. The parents were not, however, entitled to refer to themselves by their real names and thus to identify the girl. No further relaxation of the restrictions imposed by s 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 was necessary as the rubric contained in the earlier judgment did not prevent the parents from discussing matters which were already in the public domain.

In addition to these reports, the following case comments are also available in this month’s edition: Re A (Children) (Abduction: Objections: Non-Return) [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Re M (Contact Refusal: Appeal) [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Brown v Davies; Re Davies; Joyce v Joyce; London Borough of Ealing v Connors [2013] EWHC 3493 (Fam), [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Re S (Appeal from Sexual Abuse Findings) [2013] EWCA Civ 1254; Re W (Fact-Finding: Hearsay Evidence) [2013] EWCA Civ 1374, [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; TW v PL (Agreement) [2013] EWHC 3078 (Fam), [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Pakhomova v Russia (Application No 22953/11), [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; N v N (Jurisdiction: Maintenance) [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Re F (Appeal from Placement Order) [2013] EWCA Civ 1277, [2014] 1 FLR forthcoming; Re R (Appeal from Placement Order: Change of Circumstances) [2013] EWCA Civ 1240.

February’s issue of Family Law should already be on your desks. If you don’t currently subscribe you can do so here, for either the print or online version, or alternatively sign up for a free online trial. In addition to the case reports, Family Law also covers the latest news of legislative change, invaluable articles and news items written and compiled by experts for the practising family law professional.

Samantha Bangham is the Law Reporter for Family Law Reports. Judgments can be submitted for consideration via: editor@familylaw.co.uk.

She can be contacted on Twitter: @ladybangham, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

The content of this article should not be considered as legal advice.