Recent cases have shown an increasing dissatisfaction
amongst the judiciary with non-compliance with court orders. The President of the family division, Sir
James Munby, has been particularly vocal in his concerns about
non-compliance. In Re W (Adoption Order: Leave to Oppose); Re H (Adoption Order: Application for Permission for Leave to Oppose)
 EWCA Civ 1177,  1 FLR 1266
President stated that failures of parties in proceedings to comply with orders
symptomatic of a deeply rooted culture in the family courts which, however long
established, will no longer be tolerated'.
This reinforced the earlier position of Lord Justice Ryder in Re W (Care Proceedings: Functions of Court and Local Authority)
 EWCA Civ
1227,  2 FLR 431
and was followed by later decisions such as that of Mr Justice Keehan in A
Local Authority v DG and Others
 EWHC 63 (Fam),  2 FLR 713
of Mrs Justice
Theis in Kent County Council v C, G and A
 EWHC 604 (Fam),  1 FLR 115
; and the later decision of
the President in Re W (Strict Compliance with Court Orders)  EWFC 22
,  1 FLR (forthcoming) in which he referred to the 'lamentable
failure' of the local authority in the case to comply with court orders.
The courts have been clearly indicating that they will no longer
tolerate non-compliance and no more is this demonstrated than in the 2015
decision of Northamptonshire County Council v AS and Others  EWHC 199 (Fam)
In that case, Mr
Justice Keehan considered the 'lamentable' failures of the local authority and
stated that 'the Family Court will not tolerate a party,
let alone a public body charged with the care of so very young a child,
ignoring court orders'. The failures of the local authority included:
a 15-day-old child with the mother’s purported s 20 consent but without the
use of an interpreter; the mother being of Latvian origin. Mr Justice Keehan said in his judgment: 'I question how effective that consent was when it was sought
without the mother having the benefit of an interpreter.'
a young and inexperienced social worker to deal with a case involving a very
young baby, and then not offering any support to the social worker in the
proceedings despite the need for this support being identified.
to issue proceedings promptly. The child
was accommodated in January 2013, the decision to issue was taken in May 2013,
but the proceedings were not actually issued until November 2013.
to manage the proceedings and file evidence promptly.
In that case, the child's Guardian and the mother
issued proceedings for breach of their Article 6 and Article 8 rights, which
were conceded by the local authority and damages agreed in the sum of £12,000
for the child and £4,000 for the mother.
However, the real
impact of the judgment in this case is not the damages awarded against the
local authority or the willingness of the court to take action for
non-compliance by parties. In fact, the major
impact is on the parties concerned in the case; the mother and the child. As Mr Justice Keehan said in his judgment:
' The catalogue of errors, omissions,
delays and serial breaches of court orders in this matter is truly
lamentable. They would be serious enough in respect of an older child but
they are appalling in respect of a 15 day old baby. Each day, each week
and each month in his young life is exceedingly precious. Where so young a
child is removed from the care of his mother or father his case must be
afforded the highest priority by the local authority.
 The use of the
provisions of s.20 Children Act 1989 to accommodate was, in my judgment,
seriously abused by the local authority in this case. I cannot conceive of
circumstances where it would be appropriate to use those provisions to
remove a very young baby from the care of its mother, save in the most
exceptional of circumstances and where the removal is intended to be for a
matter of days at most.
 The accommodation
of [the child] under a s.20 agreement deprived him of the benefit of
having an independent children's guardian to represent and safeguard his
interests. Further, it deprived the court of the ability to control the
planning for the child and to prevent or reduce unnecessary and avoidable
delay in securing a permanent placement for the child at the earliest
 I trust that the
events of the first 23 months of [the child’s] life will not have a
detrimental impact on his future development and his emotional and
psychological well being. There is a real risk they will do so.'
court orders is likely to remain a hot topic for the judiciary and the very
real impact of non-compliance cannot be ignored.'
with court orders is likely to remain a hot topic for the judiciary and the
very real impact of non-compliance cannot be ignored.