Wakefield Metropolitan District Council v R & Ors
Date posted: 17 January 2020
Our Harry Clayton considers the case of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council v R & Others which was brought before the High Court.
The Local Authority had applied for a Care Order in respect of four children, all under the age of five. The proceedings were initiated after the youngest child was taken to hospital with significant and serious head injuries. A Fact-Finding Hearing was ordered so that the court could consider whether the suspected injuries were non-accidental. This judgement deals solely with this aspect, and the matter will be restored to court once a Final Care Plan has been made by the Local Authority.
The court ordered the instruction of two medical experts, Professor Stivaros and Dr Richards to analyse the treating hospital’s treatment plan and ascertain whether there are any other explanations as to how the injuries may have occurred. Both Professor Stivaros and Dr Richards agreed that the treating hospital had followed good clinical practice, and the normal procedures for a child presenting in the way Child 4 did were applied. In their expert view, the injuries had been caused by shaking the baby, as an acceleration and then a deceleration movement would have caused the injuries that Child 4 suffered.
The decision in Re B means that whilst the medical evidence may be compelling, the court must still examine all the evidence before it before making its decision. The Independent Social Worker’s report was particularly critical of the parents, the report stated that even if no findings were made against the parents in terms of the injuries Child 4 suffered, the parents would still not be able to look after the children.
The Judge felt that the parents conduct throughout the proceedings was not satisfactory. Both had given inconsistent statements and the Judge found they had been deliberately evasive on key points. The Judge felt that the father, in particular, was avoiding or confusing key questions which he did not wish to answer. The conduct of the parents left a clear impression with the Judge, that they were seeking to conceal matters, as they sought to minimise certain issues and failed to disclose other things.
The Court was unable to determine on a balance of probabilities whether the mother or father was solely responsible for causing the injuries that Child 4 suffered. The Court made a finding that both parents are in the pool of perpetrators and, that the parents have deliberately sought to mislead the professionals involved and the court.
The outstanding issue remains if the children are not to be returned to their parents, should they go to live with a paternal aunt, who lives outside the UK, under a Care Order.
If you have a Care Proceedings issue, you need assistance with please contact Mavis for an appointment on 020 8885 7986.