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Aunt successfully retains care of her niece following care proceedings

Date posted: 14 December 2018

Baljit Bains represented the maternal aunt in care proceedings issued by Birmingham City Council. Due to the mother’s lifestyle choices and the father being in prison, the baby was placed in her care at 5 months old. The maternal aunt lived with her partner in Haringey against whom there had been sexual abuse allegations. By the time of the final hearing the baby had been in the care of the maternal aunt and her partner in Haringey for 16 months. The London Borough of Haringey being aware of this sought a fact finding hearing into the historical allegations of sexual abuse allegations despite them having been retracted and the witnesses, who were now adults, being reluctant to give evidence. They also sought a supervision order.

The applications were considered Mr Justice Keehan in the High Court of Justice. With regards to the application for a fact finding hearing Mr Justice Keehan determined that the exercise had no prospect of achieving evidence to enable the Court to make such a finding and it would be wholly wrong to act in breach of the article 6 and 8 rights of the witnesses.

The London Borough of Haringey also sought a supervision order. Mr Justice Keehan saw no reason for why the child should be the subject of a supervision order. There was no evidence that the maternal aunt and her partner would not readily cooperate with the Local Authority in any steps they wish to take to visit, to support or to check upon the wellbeing of the child now or in the future. Accordingly, the application for a supervision order was also dismissed.

It is important to note that at one point the London Borough of Haringey had indicated if the court decided a fact finding should not take place and approved the placement with the aunt and her partner, it would institute its own public law proceedings to remove the child from their care. This was robustly challenged on behalf of the aunt. Mr Justice Keehan stated in his judgment ‘ I failed to see any legal basis upon which the local authority could in those circumstances satisfy the threshold criteria of s.31(2) or s.38 of Children Act 1989’.

This was a very successful outcome for the maternal aunt and most importantly for the child who now has the benefit of being raised by her own biological family member.
Due to the significance of the decisions made in this case, the Judgment has been published and is available through the following link:-