(Family Division, MacDonald J, 21 March 2017)
Costs – Wardship – Application for legal funding order
The mother’s application for a costs funding order against the local authority was dismissed.
The father of the two young children had been in Syria since 2013 and was presumed dead. The mother was alleged to have taken the children to a town in Turkey close to the Syrian border, that she had sought to provide funds to followers of Islamic State, that she held and sympathised with extremist views and that she had placed her children at risk of significant harm.
When the mother attempted to leave the jurisdiction with large sums of money for a second time she was prevented from leaving the country and the children were placed in police protection. Proceedings were initiated under the inherent jurisdiction and the children were made wards of court. The mother was not entitled to non-means, non-merits tested legal aid as a result of the local authority decision to issue wardship rather than care proceedings. The mother, therefore, applied under the inherent jurisdiction for a legal funding order against the local authority.The mother’s claim was dismissed. The judge held that the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court did not give the court the power to require a local authority to incur expenditure to fund the legal representation of a litigant in wardship proceedings who had been lawfully refused legal aid in accordance with the statutory legal aid scheme put in place by Parliament.