E (A Child) Re 2017 EWHC B11 (Fam) (23 February 2017)
This case related to Public Law Proceedings commenced by the Local Authority in the High Court in relation to the child E, who was 11 years old and living in foster care under a Care Order made in June 2016. The care plan for E was for his placement with his Maternal Aunt, who had applied for a Special Guardianship Order but as she lived in the Republic of Ireland, the Local Authority issued an application for permission to place him outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales. This application was made pursuant to Section 124 of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014.
E’s Mother had died when he was 9 and his Father, who was serving a prison sentence, had remarried and had another 2 children, who had been subject to the Care Proceedings along with the Step-Mother’s eldest child. The Step-Mother’s 3 children were rehabilitated to her care under a Care Order. However, it was decided that she could not care for E and she did not oppose this decision.
E wished to try a placement with his Aunt, in preference to remaining in foster care, but he did not wish to make a final commitment just yet. The Aunt therefore decided not to pursue her application for a Special Guardianship Order and wished for the placement to proceed by way of an Order under Section 214 of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014, which would provide the legal framework for a possible return. This position was supported by the Children’s Guardian and the Local Authority but not by the Father.
The Father, who was a litigant in person, wished for E to be placed in the care of the Step-Mother and had attempted to influence E in relation to this. During the course of the proceedings, his position seemed to shift with his acceptance that E’s placement with the Maternal Aunt was the preferred option over remaining in foster care. However, he then sought an adjournment to allow himself to seek legal representation and to allow the Step-Mother to become involved in the proceedings. This application was refused on the basis that they had had ample opportunity during the course of the proceedings to respectively seek legal representation and involvement. There was also concern that the Father may use any period of adjournment to manipulate the proceedings by exerting pressure on E, undermining/frustrating the Maternal Aunt’s application and unintentionally harming E in the process.
E’s placement with the Maternal Aunt under Section 124(1) of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 required Court approval to enable him to live outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales. However, under Section 124(3) of that Act it was stated that such approval must not be given unless the Court was satisfied that: (a) it was in the child’s best interests; (b) suitable arrangements had been made for the child; (c) the child consented; (d) every person who had parental responsibility for the child had consented.
In this instance (a), (b) and (c) were satisfied but as the Father did not consent (d) was not. However, Section 124(5) of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 stated that the Court may dispense with that person’s consent if it was satisfied that the well-being of the child required it to be so which in this case it did.
The Father’s consent was therefore dispensed with and pursuant to Section 124 of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014, E’s placement with his Maternal Aunt in the Republic of Ireland was approved.
The full judgment can be read here.
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