(Family Division; Bennett J; 30 October 2007)
Placement orders were made in respect of two children born into a family affected by alcoholism and domestic violence. The authority agreed with the mother that contact should continue post-placement, but proposed direct contact only once a year, with indirect contact by letters and photos twice a year, on the basis that contact would prejudice the likelihood of placement. The guardian recommended that direct contact should take place twice a year, and suggested that the need for contact was so great that the need for adoption ought not to take priority. The district judge held that direct contact should take place once a year, and that it was not in the interests of the children to make a contact order under Adoption and Children Act 2002, s 26. The mother and guardian appealed; the guardian argued that, even if the frequency of contact was upheld, a contact order was required to prevent any need to police the commitment of the authority to post-placement contact.
The judge had been compelled to make choice between two witnesses; it was implicit in her judgment that she had preferred the evidence of the local authority to that of the guardian, and she had clearly explained that preference. The judge had been entitled not to make a contact order; she had reached a factual conclusion, not susceptible to appeal unless plainly wrong, that the authority was committed to post-placement contact and it was impossible to say that her conclusion was perverse.