“It is notable that Baroness Hale refers to the local authority as being “neutral and expert”. In my view and with respect, in this context it seems to me that ‘neutral and expert’ implies a professional detachment that is alive to all the risks and weighs all the evidence in a balanced way bearing in mind all the reasonable possibilities. It does not imply an abandonment of a precautionary approach to child protection but acknowledges that ‘child protection’ encompasses protection for children from mistaken and false allegations as well as those that may be true.
It also occurs to me that where local authorities act in a way that purports to restrict the relationship between a parent and a child, under pain of legal action (as in this case, condensed into the written agreement) they must bear in mind that they may be interfering as a public body in a relationship that has, for want of a better term, special status. That ‘special status’ is reflected in the following observations about this case, which I doubt are exhaustive:
a. This father had parental responsibility for V;
b. This father had a court order that ensured that V lived with him and the mother;
c. This father had an ongoing relationship with his son about which there was ample evidence of a positive nature;
d. V had an Article 8 right to family life with his father that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate; and
e. The father had an Article 8 right to family life with his son that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate.”
This is an interesting case, decided by Recorder Baker. It was a private law case, which had considerable Local Authority involvement. Many of the issues may seem familiar to practitioners, but the Recorder has grabbed the facts and issues and put them together in a very pleasing and digestible way. And produced some useful guidance for other similar cases.
Re V (A child) 2016
The facts are painfully familiar. [Not how ALL cases go, by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve all seen ones pretty much like this before.]
Man and woman meet each other. Love each other very much. When a man and a woman love each other very much they have a special cuddle, and lo a baby is born. Man and woman fall out of love. Man and woman stop living together. Quarrels ensue. Woman makes allegation about man. Man’s contact with child stops.
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