(Court of Appeal; Ward and Tuckey LJJ; 14 May 2007)
The parents had three children under 3 years old. Two of the children had medical problems requiring treatment and the third suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The mother had reported to the health visitor that she was not coping. The child with ADHD then disclosed that the father had recently hit him on the bottom with a belt, leaving him badly bruised. One of the other children also had bruises, and the mother admitted that both the other children had been subjected to unreasonable chastisement. At a fact finding hearing the judge found that: the child with ADHD had been struck with a belt; the mother was depressed; the mother had subjected all three children to unreasonable chastisement; and the mother was unable to cope with the children when their behaviour was challenging. At the disposal hearing the psychologist was pessimistic about the risk of emotional harm to the children if they remained with the mother. The judge ordered that the child suffering from ADHD was to be placed in care with a view to placement for adoption. However, he refused to make final care orders in respect of the other two children, ordering a further assessment of the mother's ability to care for them under extended interim care orders.
The judge had not erred in refusing to make final care orders in respect of two of the children. Physical chastisement could not be condoned but in this case had not been of a persistent enough nature to justify the removal of the children into the care of the local authority and placement for adoption. There had been nothing in the judge's profile of the two remaining children that suggested children who were being emotionally harmed. It had been too early for the judge to conclude that the mother could not adequately care for them.