October 31, 2022
In the case of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council v VW and others  EWFC 83, Mostyn J sitting in the High Court of the Family Division reaffirmed previous decisions that the Court must be satisfied that a fact finding hearing is necessary meaning that findings if made would produce something of importance for the welfare decision.
In this case, the mother’s first child born in 2016 was placed in care and the threshold document (the Local Authority’s reasons for bringing court proceedings) included a rib fracture and ingestion of medication which ‘recklessly endangered the child’s life’. The mother’s own background was one of abuse and neglect which led to significant mental health issues including suicidal attempts and diagnoses of a borderline personality disorder and factitious disorder.
The mother’s second child was born in March 2020. The child remained in foster care and the mother had no involvement. The Local Authority made an application for a care order and produced a lengthy threshold document. The mother made extensive admissions in that she accepted that she could not care for the child but refused to accept the professional labels. The mother was therefore not opposing the making of the care order.
Despite this, the Local Authority sought a 5 day fact finding hearing to determine the unadmitted allegations. The Court held that this was disproportionate and reduced the final hearing to one hour when unopposed care and placement orders would be made. The court reiterated that the role of the court is to determine the evidence in the case before it rather than bringing into existence a fact finding judgement for use in any future proceedings in respect of an as yet unborn child. The court’s role is simply ‘to settle the future of a single child’ as in this case where sufficient admissions had been made and the orders sought were unopposed. The impact on the mother of a fact finding hearing and the cost to the public purse was also considered as part of the Court’s decision.
If you need help with a case such as this, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 for an appointment with a member of the family team.
If you have a family case where you require some advice or representation, please contact Mavis for an appointment with a family solicitor on 020 8885 7986.