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News | Thu 9th Mar, 2017
The Court of Appeal granted an appeal against a Placement Order made in respect of a two year old girl last week. The Appellant, the two year old girl acting through her Children’s Guardian, was represented by Laura Briggs of 9 Gough Chambers’s family team. The mother had a history of drug misuse and mental health problems, rendering her unable to meet the needs of her children in the long term. The little girl had three half siblings, each in different types of legal placements and at the first instance hearing the children’s guardian had disagreed with the local authority’s plan for adoption for the two year old girl in the particular circumstances of the case. The Court of Appeal found that the Judge hearing the case had erred by failing to apply the proper legal test for dispensing with a parent’s consent to adoption and had failed to address in any proper sense the Children’s Guardian’s arguments in relation to the Placement Order.
In its judgment, to be published in full shortly, the Court of Appeal repeated its guidance about the vexed question of how a Court at first instance is to assess the ‘realistic’ options. The issue of whether an option is ‘realistic’ or not should, it held, be resolved at an early stage. A judgment at final hearing must then address all realistic options rather than attempting to exclude one (in this case the mother) at the very last moment (Re R (A Child) (Adoption: Judicial Approach)  EWCA Civ 1625). The Court of Appeal added that a judgment should consider the welfare checklists and perform the appropriate balancing exercise before reaching a conclusion rather than announcing its decision and then looking at the statute to justify that decision.
The Court reiterated the fact that where the issue is long term fostering or adoption, the court should use the Adoption and Children Act checklist rather than the Children Act checklist and should have regard to the points raised in Re V  EWCA Civ 913 in respect of the pros and cons of adoption and long term fostering.
Laura’s submissions about the inadequacies in the analysis of the Judge at first instance were accepted by the Court. The Placement Order application has been remitted for rehearing.
Laura acted for a two year old girl appearing through her Children’s Guardian. Instructed by TV Edwards solicitors.
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