(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Wall and Stanley Burnton LJJ; 13 May 2008)
When the parents separated the four children, aged 13, 10, 7 and 4, remained with the mother in the matrimonial home, but after a very short time the eldest child went to live with the father. Family proceedings began in relation to the other three children; the children were joined as parties to the case and a guardian was appointed. The guardian reported that that the children had suffered emotional harm because of the mother, and recommended that the children move to live with the father, acknowledging that the move would be disruptive but taking the view that it would be less harmful than remaining in the mothers care. The judge found that the mother was neglecting the children, that the mothers series of new partners had impacted adversely on the childrens lives, and that the mother had failed the children in rejecting the guardians advice that any new partner should be introduced gradually. The judge also found that the mother had physically assaulted the eldest child. Concluding that there was no clear basis on which to depart from the guardians recommendations, the judge ordered that the children reside with the father.
The mothers appeal was dismissed. The judge had not expressed her conclusion well but it had been a permissible one; once the guardian had concluded that the children had suffered emotional harm, the case had taken on a quasi-public law complexion.