FM (A Child)  EWCA Civ 189 (23 March 2016)
This was a Judgment given by Mr Justice Baker, Lord Justice McFarlane and Lady Justice Sharp in respect of an Appeal against a Special Guardianship Order. The Appeal was issued by the mother in relation to the Special Guardianship Order made in respect of her son, F, on 03/11/15 by His Honour Judge Bond.
The background to the proceedings was that the mother had suffered from episodes of depression for much of her life. In 2012 the mother commenced a relationship with the father of the child, who had a long history of drug abuse and had recently been released from prison. Prior to the mother finding out she was pregnant, her father committed suicide, which resulted in the mother stopping her anti-depressant medication. In the late stages of her pregnancy the mother was admitted voluntarily into a hospital mental health unit.
The mother subsequently gave birth in August 2014 and an agreement was signed that the child would be placed with Mr & Mrs W, the mother’s brother-in-law and sister. In September 2014 the mother stated that she wanted to resume care of the child once her health had recovered. On 03/09/15 Mr & Mrs W applied for a Prohibited Steps Order and a Child Arrangements Order as they believed that the father was planning to take over care of the child. These Orders were granted on 12/09/14. Mr & Mrs W also gave notice of their intention to apply for a Special Guardianship Order.
Over the next few months the mother spent several periods in a residential psychiatric unit and in December 2014 the Local Authority issued Care/Supervision proceedings. During the course of these proceedings a range of assessments were undertaken including psychiatric, parenting and hair strand testing. After cross Applications and an extended final hearing, a Special Guardianship Order was made in respect of the child in favour of Mr & Mrs W and a Supervision Order was made in favour of the Local Authority for 12 months. A Prohibited Steps Order was also made preventing the removal of the child from the care of Mr & Mrs W and a Non-Molestation Order was made against the father protecting Mr & Mrs W from harassment.
The mother issued her Application for leave to Appeal on 15/11/15, with permission being granted on 18/12/15. The mother issued her Application on the grounds that the making of a Special Guardianship Order was an unnecessary and disproportionate interference with family life, that the Judge had not fully considered the implications of the Order given the attitudes between the parents and Mr & Mrs W and that the Judge had given undue weight on the need to avoid delay.
In his Judgment in relation to the mother’s Appeal, Mr Justice Baker considered all the evidence which His Honour Judge Bond had used when making his decision. Mr Justice Baker concluded that none of the grounds put forward by the mother demonstrated that the previous decision was wrong. Mr Justice Baker stated that His Honour Judge Bond was clearly aware of the Article 8 rights of the child and his parents, that he had considered the mother’s mental health issues at considerable length and had considered all other factors including the father’s history of drug use and his volatile temperament. Mr Justice Baker also stated that His Honour Judge Bond’s view that a decision needed to be made in respect of the child sooner rather than later due to the welfare needs of the child, could not be said to be wrong. Accordingly Mr Baker dismissed the mother’s Appeal Application, with Lord Justice McFarlane and Lady Justice Sharp agreeing with the decision.
The full judgment can be read here