(Court of Appeal, Underhill, King LJJ, 20 September 2016)
Public law children – Interim care order – Balance of harm – Unknown whether a placement would be able to cater for child’s needs
The appeal from an interim care order was allowed.
The local authority became involved with the family in 2009 due to concerns regarding the condition of the home and the mental health, supervision, and the behaviour of one of the children, PL, and his siblings towards one another. It was accepted by the parties that autistic traits were prevalent in the family but no formal diagnosis of the children had been made.
The judge considering an interim care order found that the local authority had failed to intervene when it should have done so in relation to the older siblings and the situation for PL was deteriorating in a similar manner. Although PL’s suspected autism would make it more difficult for him to settle in another home, allowing him to remain at home would compromise his safety and would not be in his best interests.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal from the interim care order. The evidence before the judge did not reveal any imminent or immediate risk to PL which required his removal from home. The judge needed to be in a position to evaluate the risk of distress and emotional damage to PL that would be cause by his removal from the family and he needed to know whether an alternative placement was achievable that would cater to his needs. The decision had been taken without any of that information and the judge had, therefore, been in error. An interim supervision order was substituted and the case was remitted for rehearing.