Case Law and Legal Summaries
Case Law and Legal Summaries: monthly overview and analysis of selected public law cases, highlighting implications and recommendations for practice.
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Case 1 summarises an application to adopt twins in two separate homes, severing their legal relationship. The judge highlighted a number of serious practice issues in this case including decision making, case recording and management and Independent Reviewing Officer of cases which required an action plan by the local authority.
Case 2 is an appeal by a mother against a care and placement order. The appeal considered the nature and extent of risk arising from the mother’s alcohol consumption and exposure to domestic abuse, and the affects this could have on the child’s welfare.
Case 3 is the third trial of allegations that a mother and father caused significant injuries to a young baby. The rehearing was conducted without the parents being present or represented. The judgment considered in great depth the expert evidence given at the trials.
Section 20 (s.20) accommodation by a local authority, under the Children Act 1989, may have an appropriate role to play as a short term measure in a Child Protection case where care proceedings are otherwise justified. Prolonged provision under s.20, without commencing care proceedings, is likely to be a misuse of the local authority’s powers rendering such practice unacceptable and subject to judicial criticism. The four cases summarised below address the following key issues in relation to s.20:
- Capacity of a parent to consent to s.20 voluntary accommodation. Hedley J guidance in Re CA
- S.20 written agreements. Re N
- Highlights the exact wording of s.20(7) of the 1989 Act: the word ‘objects’ as opposed to ‘consents’ is specified. Re Williams
- Reviews appropriate and inappropriate use of s.20 accommodation. Re AB
This month we summarise case law relevant to care planning for children. Since Re B (a Child)  UKSC 33, case law has refined the situations in which adoption should be the plan for a child and how evidence presented to court must address all “the options which are realistically possible” for long term care. We focus on Re B-S and subsequent case law which further explored the definition of ‘realistic options’, the use of the welfare checklist and the meaning of the term “nothing else will do”. This month’s issue includes summaries of:
- Overall recommendations for practitioners involved in permanence planning for children following case law
- Re B  which brought to the forefront the expressions ‘nothing else will do’ and ‘last resort’ when practitioners are considering adoption for a child.
- The main implications for practice of Re B-S 
- Re R (A child) , exploring the landscape post Re B-S and clarification of the term ‘realistic options’
- Re S (a Child)  and clarity around ruling out unrealistic options without considering the welfare checklist. This appeal considered whether or not the judge was justified in ruling out the child’s paternal grandmother as a realistic option for the child’s long term care, despite the child previously spending a large proportion of their time in the grandmother’s care.
- W (A Child)  again emphasises the importance of a well –evidenced and analytical welfare checklist - professional assessment and evidence must address the welfare of a child throughout his/her lifetime. This case is an appeal by prospective adopters against a SGO granted in favour of paternal grandparents. The grandparents came forward after the child had already been placed with prospective adopters.