(Court of Appeal; Sir Mark Potter P, Hooper and Lloyd LJJ; 12 February 2008)
The father had no contact with the 17-month-old child; the mother opposed his application for contact on the basis that the father was a violent man and had raped her. Before the case was heard, the child was twice taken to hospital with what appeared to be non-accidental injuries. The local authority initiated care proceedings, which were consolidated with the contact proceedings. The mother claimed that her former partner was responsible for the injuries to the child, and he was joined as a party. However, the child was often in the care of the maternal grandmother, who was also joined, as a possible perpetrator. The mother obtained an order that, although both the local authority and the child's guardian were to be represented at a fact-finding hearing to investigate the rape allegations, neither the maternal grandmother nor the mother's former partner were to be present or legally represented.
Findings made or judgments formed in the course of the rape fact-finding hearing would affect the conduct of the care proceedings in a way that could adversely affect the grandmother's interests. The grandmother should be represented and could be present herself if she wished to be. The issue of both the mother's and the father's credibility was of potential importance to the grandmother's stance in the case as a whole; if the grandmother were acquitted of blame in relation to the non-accidental injuries, it was possible that she would offer herself as a potential carer for the child. Providing the grandmother with a transcript was insufficient. Once the local authority and the guardian were being represented, the addition of a lawyer for the grandmother was a peripheral consideration.